Maree Sheehan is founder of The Sydney Connection, one of the city’s leading food and wine walking tours. Auckland-born Maree came to Sydney twenty years ago, fell in love with the city and never left.

Since 2013 she’s been showing out-of-towners the best of our inner city suburbs. Now, she is collaborating with the Surry Hills Creative Precinct to bring you Al Fresco Festival, a long-table lunch event in Shannon Reserve in March next year.

I love showing off my adopted city.

How did you get started?

My background is in events management, but the idea to start hosting walking tours actually came from a date. This guy from Texas I’d been chatting to was visiting Sydney and asked if I’d take him around. I thought it would be more interesting than having a coffee, so I said yes.

I took him to the Galleries of Victoria for a bowl of ramen, we walked through Hyde Park and then to the Art Gallery of NSW. The whole way we talked about Sydney’s history, and I gave him transport tips only a local would know. At the end of the day he said, ‘Wow, you’re really good at that. You should do that for a living.’

I started researching and saw there were lots of shopping and history tours, but there wasn’t a local-focused tour about food and wine.


Room 10 Espresso Llankelly Laneway Degustation Dinner. Photo supplied.

What does The Sydney Connection offer?

We curate dining walks around Surry Hills, Darlinghurst Potts Point and Manly. On each walk we’ll visit 3 – 4 venues and enjoy a course at each one, paired with a matching wine or cocktail. We also stage food events as part of big Sydney festivals like Good Food Month, Sydney Craft Week and Mardi Gras.

What do you love about the dining walks?

I love sharing travel stories and food knowledge, and the ritual of sitting down with people. I feel quite privileged sometimes to meet people I would never have met otherwise. I also enjoy the relationships I’ve built with local restaurants and bars, and being part of the hospitality community.

What can we expect from Al Fresco Festival?

I’m envisioning an informal lazy lunch atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon in Shannon Reserve. We’ll have local venues offering food and drinks at their own stalls, and the idea is that people can come and go as they like throughout the festival.

Visit The Sydney Connection for more info about Maree’s dining walks, and like the Surry Hills Creative Precinct on Facebook to stay up to date with Al Fresco Festival.