Sydney is one of the world’s most beautiful cities and its restaurants are primed to make the most of its natural assets: the harbour, beaches, parks and sunshine. Whether you’re under trees at ground level or soaking up views from an elevated aerie, Sydney’s alfresco dining scene is a natural selection.
Great for: A long lunch – as casual or formal as you wish – beside the water
Parties in the harbour and beside the sand, live music, stellar views all the way to Sydney’s most memorable landmarks… Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel delivers on pretty much every front. The Beach Club is all striped sun umbrellas and high-top tables; head to the bar to order frozen margheritas or a glass or rose accompanied by fish burgers, seafood platters and a good old chicken parm.
Seafood is elevated – quite literally, in tiered plates – at Doyles on the Beach, right next door. You’ll not only enjoy a front-row seat to sparkling Sydney Harbour views, but perfected dishes that come courtesy of a century of serving Sydneysiders.
Whether you opt for fancy or casual, arrive via ferry at Watsons Bay terminal. You’re just steps from these two legendary dining establishments.
Great for: Yum cha with a green twist, from the gardens to the vegan menu
Vegan. Yum cha. Alfresco. Iconic city location. Bodhi ticks a lot of important boxes for those sometimes left out in the cold when it comes to Sydney's outdoor eating scene.
With tables spread under ancient Moreton Bay figs, the plant-based pan-Asian eatery sits pretty beneath St. Mary's Cathedral in Cook + Phillip Park. You are literally in the heart of Sydney, but feel like you are a world away in a calming, leafy Eden. Order dumplings, steamed buns and rolls made to the strictest vegan standards, including favouring organic produce whenever possible. Don’t worry – there are still cocktails on the menu.
Great for: A memorable meal overlooking Middle Harbour, pre- or post-swim at Balmoral Beach
Betel Leaf @Bathers' Pavilion not only delivers tasty mod-Thai fare, but also offers water views over Balmoral Beach from its terrace. If you didn’t have a platter of zingy papaya salad or pad Thai in front of you, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been whisked off to the shores of the Mediterranean.
Order a glass of champagne or a spritz, and get set for an afternoon alternating between the sand, the sun and the standout terrace views.
Great for: An epic Sunday session with live music and chilled vibes
The Newport is big – in size, character and views. Oh, and it also has an immense food scene: there’s The Shack, for burgers and fish’n’chips. The Kiosk, for breaky and picnic fare. And Vinnie’s Pizza, for the kind of pies you crave after a few drinks. Phew!
This beacon of fun in Sydney's Northern Beaches overlooking Pittwater also comes with multiple places to hang out. The massive (and we mean massive) outdoor deck is big enough to get lost on, with picnic tables and high-tops. The kids are happy thanks to entertainment in play areas, while everyone else will enjoy the chilled tunes, particularly stress-relieving on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Great for: Those who love a good glass (or bottle) of red, white or rose amid character-filled gardens
It's all in the name. OK, not all in the name, as this sweet Surry Hills spot is much more than its deep list of delicious drops. The Winery's outdoor terrace offers a great green space in the middle of one of the most popular sections of Sydney's urban jungle. Think art installations, fairy lights and mismatched furniture hidden behind hedges or beside water features.
Food-wise, you'll get to pick from a European-inspired menu that emphasises quality over quantity of options. If you have an appetite, come for the bottomless brunch every weekend: three courses and all you can drink for just $79 a person.
Great for: Rubbing shoulders with the cool kids while overlooking the waves of Coogee Beach
The multi-storey Coogee Pavilion caters to pretty much every taste. There’s fine dining with Mediterranean soul at Mimi’s, tapas at Una Mas, seafood and pizza on the ground floor, and cocktails and light bites on the rooftop patio, where views of the Coogee Beach coastline across the street just might be the main event.
It also caters to all age groups – the kids’ club on the ground floor will keep the young ones entertained for hours.
For more traditional outdoor pub fare, the Coogee Bay Hotel is just a few hundred metres down the road, replete with its own sun-kissed beer garden.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the traditional owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.