Four ways to spend Sunday in Sydney
End your week right with these alternative Sunday sessions, from picnics to cruises, markets to sporting matches.
Sydney has its share of venues hosting epic Sunday sessions – think live music, chilled vibes, free-flowing cocktails, plenty of sunshine. But if you’re looking for another way to spend the last day of your weekend, picnics, harbour cruises, sporting events and action-packed neighbourhoods also await the relaxed traveller.
Take to the water
You could spend every day on Sydney Harbour and never tire of your backdrop, whether it’s the dramatic steel arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the pearly sails of the Sydney Opera House, the gleaming towers of the city centre or the hidden coves carving the coast. Experience it all for a few dollars when you jump aboard the Manly ferry, linking Circular Quay with the beaches and bars of the Northern Beaches.
If you’re feeling flush, hire a private yacht to explore this dazzling waterway, ideally with a chef on board to grill lobster, peel prawns and pop bubbly. Somewhere in between is Glass Island, a three-tiered party boat cruising every weekend with relaxed DJ beats and a well-stocked bar.
Diving in is a temptation hard to resist, regardless of the season. And many devotees of ocean pools, such as the postcard-perfect Bondi Icebergs, do just that – day in, day out, lingering on Sundays to mingle by the water or reward swimming efforts with a cocktail at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar overlooking the beach.
From Palm Beach in the north to Cronulla in the south, Sydney boasts more than 35 such swimming holes – and many, like Icebergs, come with million-dollar views and neighbouring restaurants inviting you to recuperate over a lazy lunch.
For a surface-level perspective of the harbour, hire a kayak and paddle out to explore sandy hamlets and yacht-studded marinas. A number of outlets rent gear for your own exploration, but others offer guided kayaking tours, perhaps under the Sydney Harbour Bridge or along Middle Harbour to Garigal National Park. Make a full Sunday of it, and head north to float along the Hawkesbury or around sparkling Pittwater alongside Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Explore a precinct
Take in the aroma of freshly baked bread, brewing coffee and buckets of seasonal blooms, as well as the chatter of stallholders behind neat piles of fruit and vegetables at Kings Cross Market, a lively destination to stock up on produce. Indulge in a tasty egg-and-bacon breakfast roll to see you through your shopping. The weekends-only event in Fitzroy Gardens sees many picnickers set up on the grassy patch with Turkish gozleme or steaming bowls of Malaysian noodles from one of the food stalls.
If you prefer to eat at a table, this Potts Point precinct – one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods – hosts some of Sydney’s more interesting restaurants and bars. Linger over saganaki drizzled with honey or baked lamb-shoulder and yogurt at mod-Greek eatery The Apollo, or cross the street to dine at oh-so-cool Japanese sister restaurant Cho Cho San – think hibachi-grilled duck with shiso, prawns in kombu butter and tempura okra. Next door is Potts Point Galleries, a mini-bazaar with top homewares dealers selling everything from fine antique China to jewellery and curios. Stroll on to Macleay Concept Store for a curated collection of vintage homewares, fashion and furniture.
When it’s time to refuel again, enjoy city views and creative cocktails in the Hamptons-inspired spaces at The Butler; linger over vegetarian and vegan tasting menus at the innovative Yellow; or transport yourself to Italy with scampi spaghetti, pork-and-fennel pappardelle and a glass of Tuscan sangiovese at cult favourite Fratelli Paradiso, where hard-to-find Italian staples are also available to take away.
Cheer on your team
From Australian rules football in winter to cricket in summer, Sydneysiders take their sport seriously. Follow the crowds to the Sydney Cricket Ground in Moore Park to cheer Sydney’s home AFL team, the Sydney Swans, as they kick and handball their way across the ground, from March through September. It doesn’t matter if you understand (or even like) the game – the atmosphere is always electric. Grab a beer and pie at half-time then, when the final siren sounds, file into one of the nearby pubs to celebrate (or commiserate, or both): the Cricketers Arms, The Bat and Ball and The Captain hotels are all a short stroll away.
The National Rugby League (NRL) follows a similar annual match schedule over the cooler months, from May through to the grand final in October. Sydney teams – think Roosters, Rabbitohs and Panthers – play across the city and country, including at Lottoland stadium in northern Brookvale. Spend the rest of your Sunday at the Dee Why Hotel, for burgers and seriously good cocktails just steps from the beach.
Meanwhile, the soccer season culminates with a grand final in autumn, with Sydney FC also regularly on the grass at the Sydney Cricket Ground – the same venue frequented by fans of the “baggy green” come summer cricket season.
The Ashes occupies several weeks in December and January, including a New Year’s Day showdown in Sydney between the Australian and English teams. Despite a longstanding rivalry between the two cricket teams, post-match banter is friendly and supporters of both sides fill the surrounding pubs well into Sunday night.
Spread out your picnic blanket
Whether preserved, pickled, brined, smoked, aged, fermented, dried or cured, the delicacies found in Sydney’s delis and providores don’t disappoint when it comes to stocking your picnic basket. Lamia Super Deli in Marrickville in the Inner West earns its name, bulging with an impressive selection of specialty Greek olives and cheeses, alongside imported pastries, filo pies, pastas and homemade dips.
Part of Pyrmont’s Fish Market, Blackwattle Deli is the place to pick up artisan cheeses from around the world, smoked meats and truffled honey – all essential ingredients on a gourmet picnic platter. Then venture outside to top up your hamper with prawns and oysters from the fish market’s seafood outlets.
Gourmet Life in Edgecliff is not for the indecisive; its mindboggling range covers truffles, caviar, foie gras and cheeses, not to mention homemade biscuits and cakes for a sweet ending. Pair your bounty with fresh bread – try Bourke Street Bakery, Sonoma Bakery or Iggy’s Bread of the World – and then choose a picnic spot.
Some obvious standouts, such as the Royal Botanic Garden, offer sweeping views over the water to the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Water views also abound from Observatory Hill in the inner-city suburb of Millers Point The sprawling park here presents shady perches from which to relish the views over baguettes and champagne – as a bonus, it’s pet-friendly, with dogs permitted off-leash. Head northwest downhill toward Barangaroo Reserve, also affording bridge views from its foreshore park, which is verdant with 75,000 native trees and plants. If you’re splashing out, organise for Pop Up Picnic to set up a spread for you here in advance.
Get even closer to the harbour when you enjoy a feast on Cockatoo Island, with ferries shuttling you to this drop of land in the harbour from Circular Quay. Or venture north over the bridge to Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden in Lavender Bay, a fairytale world of plants, trees and flowers webbed with paths and dotted with artworks.
Whatever you have in mind, the perfect Sydney Sunday beckons…