With its dazzling harbor and beautiful surf beaches, Sydney Australia has it all. Add their sun-drenched weather, fragrant frangipani, and tantalizing outdoor pools and parks, and you’ve got the perfect holiday. Visit Sydney with it’s timeless must-see attractions, exciting new developments, local favorites, and off-the-beaten-path activities.
Sydney is cosmopolitan, but as breezy and casual as any sun-soaked harbor town. It’s best known for the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge, as well as for its access to nature at Bondi Beach and along the water. Coastal walks, scenic ferry rides, and cooling dips are all highlights, but there’s more to Sydney than just the great outdoors. You’ll also find a first-rate museums and places to learn about Australia’s Aboriginal heritage. They have restaurants, bars, and cafés that showcase creative Aussie food and wine. The city’s nightlife scene has everything from all-nighters on the beach to intimate craft cocktail bars. Independent shops have local fashion and design labels, and you’ll find galleries, museums, theater, and festivals to feed your cultural taste buds. You’ll find a bit of everything in Sydney, on top of their beautiful beaches. Read on and let our Sydney Travel Guide give you everything you need to start planning your Sydney vacation today.
Weather – When to Visit Sydney
Sydney enjoys a sunny climate with mild winters and warm summers, perfect for making the most of the outdoors. Plan ahead with this information on temperature and rainfall. To dodge peak season (around Christmas, New Year, and early January), visit from late September to early December (Avg. 52 – 73°F) or February to April (Avg. 58 – 72°F). You’ll still enjoy sublime weather, but with fewer crowds. Sydney’s winter low season June thru August brings cooler days (Avg. 48 – 63°F) but hotter hotel deals.
What Should You Pack?
When figuring out what to pack for the beach, there are two tips to keep in mind. First, forgetting an item isn’t the end of the world. Unless you’re heading for a remote, deserted island, chances are you can find a store where you can pick up the extras. Second, don’t stress out over making a packing list when there’s a stress-free beach travel essentials list for you below:
- Sunglasses and hats offer much-needed sunscreen and flip flops are perfect for navigating hot, sandy beaches. Go pack them now so you’re not kicking yourself later.
- What about those little items that make beach visits so much more enjoyable? For a little extra comfort on your trip, make sure you pack: Lip balm, sunscreen, bug spray.
- Beach toys and goggles are a must for kids. Building sandcastles and viewing the underwater wonders are perennial favorites.
- Take a first-aid kit with you. Hopefully you’ll only have to worry about a few minor scrapes from seashells, but having your own kit handy is a good precaution.
- Beach Bag – Your beach bag will likely contain a few of the items mentioned above. For a well-rounded bag, consider tossing in sunscreen, lip balm, bug spray, first-aid kit and water-proof baggies.
- Beach Gear – No matter who’s supplying the gear, look to have the following items on hand: beach bag, beach chairs, beach towels, beach umbrella or tent, beach cart and a cooler.
- Remember: Don’t wait until you’re parched to drink. When you’re out in the heat and sun, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking regularly. So take along a water bottle as well.
Best Sydney Beaches
Manly Beach has the best of both waterfront worlds and is a popular place to swim, windsurf, parasail, snorkel, kayak, surf and scuba dive. The palm-tree lined Corso leads you onto the promenade, where you can take a bike ride or roller-blade along the front or relax and enjoy the sea breeze in one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Shelly Beach has become popular with Scuba Divers and Snorkelers alike with a large variety of marine life which can viewed in relatively shallow water. Take a walk around the bush track which hugs the headland offering spectacular views of North Head and the Northern Beaches. Shelly Beach has showers, toilets and a kiosk along with two free electric barbeques, perfect for that family picnic.
Palm Beach offers activities and water sports for the whole family. The south side is a perfect spot for picnics. Kids can splash about in the calm water, swim in the 35-meter ocean pool, and build sandcastles along the shore. On the north side, the waves are great for surfing.
Balmoral Beach is great for families. Calm waters lap this harbor beach, and a shark net ensures safe swimming. You’ll also find plenty of cafés nearby, as well as idyllic picnic spots in the adjacent park. Other activities include stand up paddle boarding (SUP), kayaking, SCUBA diving, and windsurfing.
Definitively Sydney, Bondi is one of the world’s great beaches. It’s the closest ocean beach to the city center (5 miles away), has consistently good (though crowded) waves, and is great for a rough-and-tumble swim. The average water temperature is a considerate 69°F. If the sea’s angry, try the child-friendly saltwater sea baths at either end of the beach.
Best Sydney Tours & Activities by Viator
Sydney Taronga Zoo & Wild Australia Experience
Enjoy an insider’s view of Taronga Zoo, a top attraction located on scenic Sydney Harbour. A zoo keeper gives you exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the animals and other amazing experiences that you won’t get with regular admission. This small-group tour has a limit of eight participants, ensuring that you receive a personalized 2-hour experience with ample time to mingle with the kangaroos, take photos with koalas and wombats, and have close encounters with a variety of other Australian wildlife. Read more about Sydney Taronga Zoo Tickets: Behind-the-Scenes Access
Sydney Harbor Hop On Hop Off Cruise
Explore Sydney aboard a hop-on hop-off Sydney Harbor cruise that stops at top destinations including Darling Harbor, Circular Quay, Watsons Bay, Manly and Luna Park. Get a great vantage point for photo ops of icons such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. Simply jump on and off at as many stops as you like; when you’re ready to move on to your next destination, just catch the next boat. Read more about Sydney Harbor Hop-on Hop-off Cruise
Sydney Bridge Climb
Climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge for unrivaled views from a height of 440 feet (134 meters) on this Australian landmark. Select a 3.5-hour Bridge Climb with a guide in the morning or afternoon, or climb at dawn, twilight or night. Choose from several other options, including a 1.5-hour Sampler Climb that takes you halfway up, or a 2.25-hour Bridge Climb Express for a rigorous ascent at a faster pace. Read more about Sydney Bridge Climb
Sydney Opera House Guided Walking Tour
Go behind the scenes at the Sydney Opera House for a fascinating look at this Sydney icon. Your knowledgeable guide leads you through the World Heritage–listed building on a 1-hour walking tour, sharing entertaining stories about the revered performance center’s history and providing access to off-limits parts of the house. Tours take place every 30 minutes throughout the day, so it’s easy to fit into your sightseeing schedule. Read more about Sydney Opera House Guided Walking Tour
The Rocks History & Pub Walking Tour
Join a knowledgeable local guide for a walking tour in the Rocks, one of Sydney’s most popular and atmospheric neighborhoods. The Rocks district boasts a colorful history that dates to the early days of the British colony, in evidence when strolling through alleys lined with heritage buildings and convict-era artifacts. Learn about the district’s seedy past and experience its stylish present day incarnation when you sip craft beers at historic pubs with a small-group limited to 12 participants. Read more about The Rocks History and Pub Walking Tour
Best Sydney Restaurants
Quay $101 and Over
What many consider to be Sydney’s best restaurant matches a peerless bridge view with brilliant food. Chef Peter Gilmore never rests on his laurels, consistently delivering exquisitely crafted, adventurous cuisine. A shake-up of decor and menu in 2018 has left it better than ever. Book online well in advance. Telephone: 02 9251 5600 Web: Quay
Aria $101 and Over
Aria is a star in Sydney’s fine-dining firmament, an award-winning combination of chef Joel Bickford’s stellar dishes, floor-to-ceiling windows staring straight at the Opera House, a stylishly renovated interior and faultless service. A good-value pre- and post-theater menu is perfect for a special meal before or after a night at the Opera House (two/three courses $90/120). Telephone: 02 9240 2255 Web: Aria
Mr Wong $36 – 70
Classy but comfortable in an attractive, low-lit space on a CBD laneway, this has exposed-brick colonial warehouse chic and a huge team of staff and hanging ducks in the open kitchen. Lunchtime dim sum offerings bristle with flavor and the salad offerings are mouth-freshening sensations. Mains such as crispy pork hock are sinfully sticky, while Peking duck rolls are legendary. Telephone: 02 9114 7317 Web: Mr Wong
Chin Chin $41 – 100
A quintessentially Australia take on Asian Food, the trademark Chin Chin taste is a carefully blended mix of freshness, spice, heat, exotic herbs and an obsessive need to perfectly balance all of these elements. Being one of the highly regarded and popular restaurants in Sydney, well worth visiting. Telephone: 02 9281 3322 Web: Chin Chin
Firedoor $135 per person avg.
All the dishes in this moodily attractive sunken space are produced over a blazing fire, chef Lennox Hastie matching different woods to the flavors of meat, seafood and vegetables to create extraordinary dishes with huge depth of flavor. The intriguing menu changes on a daily basis. Look out for the fleshy pipis (saltwater clams) with their garlicky sauce that’s perfect for mopping. Telephone: 02 8204 0800 Web: Firedoor
Best Sydney Nightlife
Right on the harbor with the Opera House on one side and the bridge on the other, this perfectly positioned terrace manages a very Sydney marriage of the laid-back and the sophisticated. It’s an iconic spot for visitors and locals alike. There’s live music or DJs most nights and really excellent food, running from oysters to fabulous steaks and fish. Telephone: 02 8587 5900 Web: Opera Bar
Dark and sexy, Monopole seduces with its stylish interior, complete with hanging strips of black sound-absorption material and discreet front screen. A fabulous wine list of small Australian and international producers offers over 20 vintages by the glass or carafe, so an impromptu tasting session is easy. The food is great too, with house-cured charcuterie and intriguing cheeses a highlight. Telephone: 02 9360 4310 Web: Monopole
Bibo Wine Bar
Bibo Wine Bar focuses on the under-appreciated wines of Portugal (head chef Jose Silva is Portuguese). There’s a list of cellared wines, which you can try by the glass (starting at about $50 a pop), but you could just as easily spend the night sampling the terrific selection of reasonably priced glasses, all while digging into the knockout Mediterranean fare. Telephone: 02 9362 4680 Web: Bibo Wine Bar
With numerous indoor and outdoor bars, a kids’ play area and a glorious adults-only rooftop, this vast complex has brought a touch of inner-city glam to Coogee. Built in 1887, the building originally housed an aquarium and swimming pools. Now, space, light and white wood give a breezy feel. It gets totally packed at weekends. Telephone: 02 9114 7321 Web: Coogee Pavilion
Watson’s Bay Beach Club
One of the great pleasures in life is languishing in the pumping beer garden of the Watsons Bay Hotel, mere metres from the ferry wharf, after a day at the beach. It goes off here at weekends, with a rowdy good time had by all. Stay to watch the sun go down over the city. Telephone: 02 9337 5444 Web: Watson’s Bay Beach Club