16 cool things to do in Sydney this summer

Endless blue skies, long balmy nights, festive vibes and magic in the air — summer in Sydney is a special time of year.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Dec 2023 -
min read

From secret beach picnics to adventures on the water and fresh places to feast, here’s how to make the most of every single day of your summer holidays in Sydney.


Cruise the harbour for your own private beach

Sandy shores all to yourself, tranquil bays with only fish swimming past you. If you think finding your own private patch of sand is impossible in Sydney, think again some of the city’s most secluded beaches can be found just by cruising the harbour. My Sydney Boat can tailor a cruise to suit you: take the kids to tour hidden national park beaches and waterfront suburbs only accessible by boat, or book a romantic seaside escape with an onboard seafood platter ordered fresh from the Sydney Fish Market. Prefer to go it alone? Hire a powerboat from Salty Boat Hire for a self-guided day on the water  no license required. 

Read more: Escape the crowd's at Sydney's secret beaches

Couple enjoying food and drink on chartered sailing vessel on Sydney Harbour.

Sailing, Sydney Harbour

Find a pool with a view

There’s nothing like jumping into a refreshing pool on a hot summer’s day to make you feel like you’re truly on holiday. Sydney’s ocean pools are famous for their natural beauty, from the iconic aquamarine lanes of Bondi’s Icebergs to the cliffside Mahon Pool carved right into the rocks at Maroubra, and many have the bonus of being sheltered from waves, family-friendly and free. Feeling fancy? A staycation at one of Sydney’s sky-high hotels will give you access to their rooftop pools – try the InterContinental Double Bay, The Old ClareSofitel Sydney Darling Harbour or Crown Sydney in Barangaroo.

Read more: Discover Sydney's best ocean pools

Swimmers at Bondi Icebergs Club - Bondi Beach

Bondi Icebergs Club, Bondi Beach

Restaurant hop like a local

With so many must-try restaurants in Sydney, it can be hard to decide where to eat first. Spend an evening grazing the vibrant dining scenes of Potts Point, Surry Hills or Darlinghurst with Maree from The Sydney Connection. Maree takes guests to some of the hottest restaurants in each precinct stopping at local small bars for a cocktail and explaining the history of the suburb and its architecture along the way.

Read more: Explore Western Sydney through its street food

A hand picking up a tapa of seafood on tasted bread with other brightly coloured food plates at The Sydney Connection, Potts Point

The Sydney Connection, Potts Point

Paddle out for sunrise

Take in Sydney’s golden glow before the city wakes up with a sunrise kayak on the harbour with OzPaddle or Sydney by Kayak, watching the sky turn pink and purple behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Or just rent your own craft and spend as long as you want exploring the sparkling Sydney Harbour.

Couple enjoying a day of kayaking on Sydney Harbour

Kayaking, Sydney Harbour

Feel the chills of Sydney's spooky side

As the sun goes down in Sydney, some of the city’s old inhabitants come out to play. Feel your spine tingle as you join a Cockatoo Island Ghost Tour, a former convict prison island, after dark. You’ll have your own K-II EMF reader to detect any ghostly behaviour as you wander the abandoned buildings and learn the hair-raising true stories of the island. Manly’s Q Station, a former quarantine station, is another hub of paranormal activity join one of their ghost tours and hear the chilling stories of this historic site.

Read more: The spookiest ghost tours in Sydney that are sure to give you chills

Ghostyard – A Paranormal Tour at Sydney Harbour in Sydney City

Cockatoo Island Ghost Tour, Sydney Harbour

Learn a new skill from Sydney’s coolest mentors

Sydney has plenty of gin joints to drink in, but did you know you can also make your own? At the Archie Rose Distillery in Rosebery, you can join a gin masterclass, and learn to blend a variety of botanicals to make your perfect spirit. If you prefer to get your hands dirty, head to Eveleigh Works in the South Eveleigh precinct and learn to forge your own chef’s knife or hammer. Dance like nobody’s watching (except for the watchful eye of a pro dance teacher) at one of Sydney Dance Company’s youth or adult classes. You’ll learn ballet, hip hop, jazz and more, from those who have danced on Sydney’s best stages.

Read more: A guide to Sydney's distilleries

Discover a secret Sydney bridge

The epic Bondi to Manly coastal walk takes in some of Sydney’s most iconic beaches, but the 80km track also journeys past plenty of lesser-known smaller bays and secret viewpoints. One hidden gem is at Parsley Bay, where the walking track takes you right above the water along the Parsley Bay Footbridge. With rainforest on one side, a waterfall on the other, snorkellers and swimmers down below, and Port Jackson in the distance, a walk to this lesser-known harbour bridge is a must.

Read more: The best hikes in Sydney & surrounds

Couple enjoying a scenic walk around Parsley Bay, Vaucluse

Parsley Bay, Vaucluse

Explore Sydney Harbour's secret islands

From historic isles with the best views of Sydney Harbour to forested enclaves hidden within the Hawkesbury River, Sydney has plenty of lesser-known islands where you can hike, play, party and even stay the night.

Read more: 9 ways to explore Sydney's secret islands

Cockatoo Island situated along the Parramatta River with views back to Sydney Harbour and Sydney CBD, Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island, with views back to Sydney Harbour and Sydney CBD, Cockatoo Island

Fine dine on fresh seafood right by the water

It wouldn’t be summer in Sydney without fish and chips by the beach, but you can elevate your seafood feast at some of the city’s best waterfront eateries. Sitting right on Rose Bay, Empire Lounge sources only the freshest local seafood, including Appellation oysters flown in directly by seaplane. Better yet, book your own Sydney Seaplanes flight and take to the skies for lunch, soaring right above Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to the water’s edge at Cottage Point Inn, for grilled octopus or barbecued prawns. At Watson’s Bay, Doyle’s on the Beach is an institution, serving seafood fresh from the market and facing the sunset for perfect views. Cirrus serves contemporary fare at Barangaroo, while Otto does Italian and seafood dishes ona  wharf-side terrace in Woolloomooloo.

Read more: The best waterside restaurants in Sydney

Sydney Seaplanes

Sydney Seaplanes, Sydney

Cycle around Sydney Harbour

From boats cruising the harbour to busy foodie precincts, see the city from all angles on the 11-kilometre Barangaroo Foreshore Walkway. Stretching from Anzac Bridge all the way to Woolloomooloo, the shared pathway passes some of the harbour’s best stops along the way. Ride past historic piers of Pyrmont, stop for a diverse range of tasty snacks at Darling Square, continue on to Barangaroo via the Wulgul Walk, which winds all the way around the lush Barangaroo Reserve. Interested in cycling around the Royal Botanic GardenMrs Macquarie's Chair, Manly's esplanade or some historic neighbourhoods? Pick from a number of available guided tours.

Read more: The 14 best cycling routes in Sydney

Friends enjoying a ride around Sydney Harbour with Bonza Bike Tours, The Rocks

Bonza Bike Tours, The Rocks

Make a splash in Western Sydney

Feel the rush in Western Sydney’s aquatic adventure playgrounds. Take on the rapids at Penrith Whitewater Stadium – the challenging course recreates the characteristics of a wild river with 14,000 litres per second of raging whitewater flowing over a series of obstacles. Get your first taste of flying with Jetpack Adventures – a jetpack blasts hundreds of litres of water to propel you 10 metres high. Or speed along the water and feel the thrills (and the spills!) on a wakeboarding or waterskiing experience at Cables Wake Park.

Read more: The ultimate thrill seeker's guide to Western Sydney

Catch up with friends over lunch somewhere new

Gather your gang and refresh your palates at one of Sydney’s newest restaurants. James Beard Award-winning seafood chef Josh Niland has opened his new eatery Petermen in St Leonard's  tuck into an urchin crumpet or Murray cod bacon with maple pancakes at the Sunday brunch sitting or dine at the 60-seater restaurant most nights and for lunch on Saturdays. In the CBD, Clam Bar is essentially a steak and seafood restaurant, the likes of which New York is known for, but done with a Sydney twist. Start with one of Sydney’s best martinis (bone dry, and properly dirty if you request it so) and a prawn cocktail and leave room for a rib eye to share. Or head to Le Foote, housed in a heritage-listed building in the Rocks, for a half-serve negroni in the wine bar or a long evening in the grand dining room indulging in Mediterranean-inspired fare, such as cheese pie and calamari and pancetta skewers. 

Read more: The best new restaurants in Sydney right now

Petermen, St Leonards

Petermen, St Leonards - Credit: Petermen

Release your inner child

Whether you need to entertain little ones on school holidays or just feel like letting your own inner child run free, Sydney is the ultimate playground. Let go of all inhibitions on Luna Park’s family-friendly roller-coaster, Little Nipper, the first of nine new rides in the harbourside fun park. Gaze at the hypnotic colours and creatures at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, and don’t just say hi to the animals at Taronga Zoo, climb up into the trees on the exhilarating Wild Ropes course.

Read more: Eight budget-friendly school holiday activities in Sydney

Family taking a selfie outside Luna Park Sydney, Milsons Point, Sydney North

Luna Park Sydney, Milsons Point

Go fishing in Sydney Harbour’s best spots

Practice a little patience as you cast your line into Sydney’s pristine waters to catch your dinner for the night. You won’t have to wait long though; Sydney Harbour is home to more than 586 different species of fish and a fishing tour with Go Fish Australia will guide you to all the best spots to make your catch of the day. Tours run in the morning or afternoon and you’re likely to hook kingfish, jewfish and even salmon, tuna, flathead and more depending on the season. With Deep Sea Fishing Charters, you can combine a harbour cruise with an exciting fishing trip beyond The Heads – the dramatic entrance to Sydney Harbour. If you have time to venture further north, the Hawkesbury River is a fisherman’s paradise. Hire a boat from Brooklyn and make a day of it.

Read more: A guide to boating and fishing in Sydney

Man enjoying an afternoon of fishing on the Hawkesbury River, Wisemans Ferry

Fishing, Wisemans Ferry

Watch a movie under the stars

Make the most of the balmy summer nights with a movie by moonlight. Pack the car with snacks and head to Skyline Drive-in in Blacktown, Sydney’s only drive-in cinema showing new screenings as well as old classics. Or set up a picnic in Centennial Park and watch the latest films at the Moonlight Cinema. In North Sydney the Sunset Cinema has food trucks and a full bar serving cocktails with Manly gin. And for a movie with a view, Westpac OpenAir screens outdoor movies at Mrs Macquaries Point adjacent to the Royal Botanic Garden, with sparkling views of Sydney Harbour as the sun goes down.

Read more: A guide to Sydney's summer outdoor cinemas

The Westpac OpenAir Cinema is located at Fleet Steps, Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney

Westpac OpenAir Cinema, Sydney

Munch on the city's best fish and chips

Is there anything better than biting into a juicy piece of fish, accompanied by perfectly crispy, salty hot chips? As a meal, it’s an Australian institution. Across Sydney, you can enjoy it in fancy restaurants or cheap-and-cheerful establishments; beside the beach or in hidden haunts. From Josh Niland's sustainably sourced Fish Butchery in Waterloo to the award-winning Fishbox & Co in Sydney's south, read our top picks here. Whatever you do – don’t skimp on the tartare sauce.  

Read more: The ultimate places for fish and chips in Sydney

Selection of dishes at Charcoal Fish, Rose Bay

Charcoal Fish, Rose Bay - Credit: Charcoal Fish

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