An attempt to visit every suburb in Sydney.

2019 has come and gone and with it we're a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and my feet are a little bit sorer. In what has b...

The Golden Ibises 2019: The (Second) Completing Sydney Awards

2019 has come and gone and with it we're a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and my feet are a little bit sorer.

In what has become a tradition, with the end of the year comes the Golden Ibis Awards, the annual Completing Sydney awards named in honour of our iconic bin chickens. Here, I look back over the suburbs visited during the past year and reflect on some of this city's best - and worst - spots. 

But first, just like last time, let's start off with a summary of the year gone by:

2019 Quickstats

  • Suburbs completed this year: 114
  • Most suburbs visited in one day: 6
  • Transport caught: 43 trains, 30 buses, 8 ferries, 1 light rail, 1 friendly stranger giving me a lift
  • Number of times I've been questioned for taking pictures of people's houses: 2
  • Pairs of shoes ruined: 1

Eligible Suburbs

    Here are the suburbs I've visited this year (in order)

    Click to show suburbs (+)

    The Awards

    The Wasting Everyone's Time Award

    Sydney has over 650 suburbs in it. Most of these don't need to exist. The Wasting Everybody's Time award is for the 2019 suburb which most... doesn't need to be there.

    Winner: The Denistones (Denistone West, Denistone and Denistone East)
    This is the first time multiple suburbs have shared an award. The Denistones win the Wasting Everyone's Time award for 2019 for the simple fact that there are three of them and there really doesn't need to be. Had this been a single suburb, it would have just been another anonymous residential suburb vaguely in Sydney's northwest, but instead they got greedy. Shame.

    Honourable Mention: Englorie Park
    As the smallest suburb in Sydney, Englorie Park is the pinnacle of "wasting everyone's time". The entire suburb comprises of a few houses on one looping street (plus a couple of cul-de-sacs) stolen from the neighbouring (and actually useful) suburb of Campbelltown.

    The Ambassador Award

    It's not an unknown fact that Sydney is an extremely multicultural city. The Ambassador Award is a Golden Ibis awarded to the suburb that best takes you on a cultural excursion. Interesting food, unusual businesses and (usually) a general sense of bustle characterise these suburbs for me. 

    Winner: Cabramatta
    It was a close one this year but Cabramatta takes out the prize. Save yourself a flight to Vietnam and spend an afternoon exploring the dynamic streets of Cabramatta.

    Honourable Mention: Harris Park
    Harris Park is a suburb I always come back to for a little bit of domestic South Asian tourism. The suburb's highlight is Wigram Street, a street of old houses converted into Indian-focused shops and restaurants.

    There Was an Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe Award

    Since I spend a lot of time strolling the streets, I run into a fair number of weird and wonderful houses. Here are my picks.

    Winner: Colgate-Palmolive Factory (Balmain)
    I'd live in a former toothpaste factory. Would you?

    Honourable Mention: The entire suburb of Schofields
    Schofields is one of those "new development" suburbs. Which architect left his computer unlocked while he went to lunch?

    The Punching Above Its Weight Award

    This award is for a suburb that you expect to suck, but for some reason doesn't.

    Winner: Guildford West
    Don't get me wrong, Guildford West may not necessarily not suck, it's just that it's actually a fairly interesting place to stroll through. My highlight is the outrageously long heritage-listed pipes running the length of the suburb.

    Honourable Mention: Penrith
    The Riff's reputation is bigger than the suburb itself. In fact, people regularly find my Penrith post by Googling for "Penrith stereotypes". Penrith is an interesting enough place, but the suburb's real gem is the incredible Nepean River. 

    The Diamond in the Rough Award

    This is a new award for 2019. Sometimes on this journey, I explore a suburb which appears to have nothing of interest in it, until I hit an unexpected and amazing spot. This category is for the suburb that has one single, really cool, thing.

    Winner: Rossmore
    Rossmore is a suburb in Outer Western Sydney with nothing in it but trees, farms and massive blocks of land. Oh and an amazing Khmer Buddhist Temple.

    Honourable Mention: Greystanes
    The Western Sydney suburb of Greystanes contains some fairly stock standard Western Sydney suburbia, but also the impressive Boothtown Aqueduct, a former piece of water infrastructure which has since been converted into part of an extensive cycle path through Sydney's west. 

    Honourable Mention: Northbridge
    Now that's what I call a bridge. 

    The Bin Night Award

    Although this is by no means a food blog, if I was exploring Sydney without running into some fantastic food, I'd be doing it wrong. We all know that the ibis loves a good feed of garbage, hence this is the award for the best thing I've eaten while suburbsing this year.  

    Winner: Xiao long bao (Ashfield)
    If you've never tried xiao long bao, stop reading this and get on a train to Ashfield right now. These are incredible, delicate Shanghainese dumplings filled with steaming-hot soup and pork mince. I got my fix from New Shanghai in Ashfield, a restaurant which has now branched out into a few locations around Sydney.

    Honourable Mention: This really big Persian sandwich (Merrylands)
    This offensively large sub (apparently called a bandari) came from a store simply called "Persian Fast Food", which I can only assume is the Iranian equivalent of subway.

    The Sore Feet Award

    For some suburbs I cover on this blog, I can be in and out in twenty minutes. Others, like the contenders for The Sore Feet Award, are so big and so full of stuff that you need hours to even scratch the surface.

    Winner: Campbelltown
    Campbelltown easily takes out the Sore Feet Award for the year. Between the multiple shopping centres, two entire train stations, a university campus, a hospital, many parks, the wondrous strip that is Cholesterol Corner, not to mention one of Sydney's finest snack packs, Campbelltown is one behemoth of a suburb.

    Honourable Mention: Carlingford
    Carlingford seems like it would be a rather forgettable suburb, and don't get me wrong, it is. That being said, it's still very much a Sore Feet kind of place, with many schools, the single-tracked end of the Carlingford Train line, some hilariously out of place sky-scraping apartment blocks, two shopping centres, a huge Mormon temple, and even a waterfall. 

    The Derek Zoolander Award

    It's no secret that Sydney can be a very pretty place, which is why I've added this new category this year. This award is for the suburb which is really, really ridiculously good looking.

    Winner: La Perouse
    Sitting in Southeast Sydney, La Perouse is absolutely gorgeous. Start off with a coastal walk with tremendous views, add in some leftover colonial buildings (including the impressive Bare Island), and finally sprinkle in some interesting industry in the horizon, and you truly end up with a very handsome suburb, worth spending a day in.

    Honourable Mention: Balmain East
    Balmain East is another gorgeous place to scamp around in, with harbourside parks overlooking the city, and beautiful old architecture.

    Honourable Mention: Brooklyn
    It's Sydney by Technicality, but this slice of The Hawkesbury is incredible.

    The Wooden Ibis

    Back for 2019, The Wooden Ibis is, simply put, the crappiest suburb I visited this year.

    Winner: Clyde
    Where do I start? Sitting on Parramatta Road (which is bad enough by itself), Clyde is an industrial suburb with literally zero inhabitants. The suburb's only function is to act as the terminus to the Carlingford Train line, a job it's done so poorly that they're tearing the line out in January 2020.

    Runner Up: Woronora Heights
    Okay, Woronora Heights itself isn't that bad a place. It's a relatively pleasant suburban suburb down in The Shire. The reason it's mentioned here is that the entire bloody suburb is built on a steep hill. Doing this blog is tiring enough without having to endure a vertical suburb.

    The Platinum Ibis

    Finally, it's time to wrap up the year with the 2019 Platinum Ibis. All you need to know about this award is that it's simply my favourite suburb of the year.

    Winner: Burwood
    So what's in Burwood to make it worthy of the much-coveted Platinum Ibis? A lot, it turns out. Firstly, the suburb's busy commercial centre is quite an exciting place to be, offering up pianos, Chinese vases, fishing bait and, of course, Chinese restaurants both trendy and traditional, with my personal highlight being a shiny new arcade full of street food. Secondly, there is the suburb's residential south, populated with dozens of gorgeous old heritage and federation homes. Thirdly, you've got the beautiful Burwood Park, composed of memorials, paths, a lake, and ducks. Finally, and most surprisingly, it's a suburb that actually has some activity after dark, something we know is a rarity in this town.

    Honourable Mention: Campsie
    An afternoon spent in Campsie's commercial centre is an afternoon spent in a foreign country, although it's not clear which one. Campsie gets a mention here due to how diverse, interesting and busy Beamish Street - its main drag - is. From the dollar store ripping off Walmart's logo, to the dude sitting on the footpath selling fake sunglasses and perfume, to the flea market selling God knows what, to the endless food and grocery options from what seems to be every corner on earth (or at least every corner of Asia), this is a unique suburb which is absolutely worth a visit.

    And that's it

    Thank you for reading this celebration of the year gone by.

    2019 has been a great year for this blog, with a sudden wave of media attention, and more and more familiar faces following along. It can sometimes be hard keeping up with this mammoth task I've given myself, but each and every person that reads these posts makes it worth the effort. If you liked this, you can follow along by subscribing by email in order to be the first to see when I put up a new suburb, joining my Facebook page or following my Instagram, and please share with your friends too!

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I'll see you back in 2020.

    Finally, and most importantly, if your home or family has been caught up in the recent bushfires, good luck and stay safe. 


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      1. Was meant to say: Great job! Can't wait for what's in store for 2020. Also, The Denistone's are mighty greedy as they even have a super under-utilised train station.

      2. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

    2. Thank you so much for the entertaining and educational (edutaining?) posts this year. I hope Santa bought you some new shoes for Christmas so you can wear them out in 2020.

      1. Thank you. Bringing edutainment to the masses like one of those maths PC games they had at school.

    3. Thank you for the fantastic tour around this great city. I love getting my emails and head straight over to see where you have visited. Looking forward to next year!