Summer in Sydney
14 days of cool things to do in Sydney to make the most of your summer break
Endless blue skies, long balmy nights, festive vibes and magic in the air — summer in Sydney is a special time of year.
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.
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 holidays. 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, The Old Clare, Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour or Crown Sydney in Barangaroo.
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, from underground French restaurant Bon Vin to modern Israeli eatery Ezra, stopping at local small bars for a cocktail and explaining the history of the suburb and its architecture along the way.
Paddle out to an uninhabited island
Take in Sydney’s golden glow before the city wakes up with a sunrise kayak to Clark Island with Rushcutters Bay Paddle Sports. Join the guided tour to arrive on this secluded island just in time to watch 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 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 nightly ghost tours and hear the chilling stories of this historic site.
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.
Discover a secret Sydney bridge
The epic Bondi to Manly coastal walk takes in some of Sydney’s most iconic beaches, but the 80-kilometre 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, snorkelers and swimmers down below, and Port Jackson in the distance, a walk to this lesser-known harbour bridge is a must.
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 Angelo’s Cabarita infuses their seafood menu with an Italian twist, alongside serene views of Parramatta River.
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 Garden, Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Manly's esplanade or some historic neighbourhoods? Pick from a number of available guided tours.
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.
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 Charcoal Fish in Rose Bay, adding traditional char to his new-school way of cooking fish. Head to Amah in Chatswood to try family-style Malaysian by two of Sydney’s best chefs, Hun Loong from Mr. Wong and Junda Khoo from Ho Jiak. Neil Perry’s new restaurant Margaret has opened in Double Bay or you can say cheers with friends over cocktails and Cuban snacks at La Palma in Bondi.
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 new 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.
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. Or take to the water with Harbour and Estuary Fishing Charters and fish the majestic waters of Pittwater, catching kingfish, bream, flathead, snapper and more.
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.