When the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom with pops of purple lining the streets and the sun is warming the playful waves of the beaches, it’s easy to see why Sydney in summer is a Mecca for tourists.
In a city that sits along the eastern seaboard, it offers incredible views of the jagged coast and expansive oceans where the clear blue sky seems to drop into its depths. Its beauty under the dazzling sunshine is breathtaking, but there is so much more to experience from the coast to the mountains of this bustling urban sprawl. Here are our top attractions to see in and around Sydney.
Water water everywhere! Sydney’s Northern Beaches stretch from Manly to Palm Beach with some beautiful hidden gems in between and each one is a slice of paradise.
The entire coast can be seen from inland heights with the ocean as far as the eye can see. The most northern tip of the peninsula that rounds Palm Beach is all national park with Barrejnjoey Lighthouse at its pinnacle.
Perched above a particularly pretty spot that overlooks Whale Beach is a favorite boutique hotel and restaurant wryly named Jonah’s. With its tropical outlook and sparkling stretch of the sea below it’s hard to believe you’re only minutes away from the main road and cafe crowd.
For us, Bronte Beach is a favorite because of its seclusion and beachside street lined with quaint organic cafes. It’s the kind of place that feels like a holiday, even if you’re only there a few hours.
The open whitewashed and aqua rustic shop-fronts and outdoor seating invite in the fresh breeze and because it’s small, it hugs you like a village. The huge playground and lawns rolling down to the sand are dotted with tall shady conifer trees that make a welcome refuge from the searing heat.
Bronte is the sister beach to Bondi adjoined by a magnificent coastal walk where you can take in million-dollar suburbia and the ocean.
For the brave-hearted, you can also swim the same distance in an annual swim that ends at Bronte, home to Australia’s oldest surf life-saving club.
Seaplane over Sydney
Like flying over any coastal city, seeing Sydney by seaplane is an absolute treat for the eyes.
As the first whirring of the engines sound and you wear your old-fashioned olive-colored headphones, it feels like you’re in a scene from a 1940s movie.
As we took off we couldn’t hear anything and started giggling like kids as the tight little seats and plane wobbled out of Rose Bay.
But as the seaplane soars lightly from one bay to another and you start to take in the sprawling city with her glittering landmarks, this 30-minute journey captures all the romance of a bygone era.
I have vivid memories of the furrowed escarpments etched into Sydney’s headland and the splashes of waves falling against their walls; a view only made possible from the skies.
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When you’ve seen Sydney by foot, plane, and boat, there’s still one adventurous invitation beckoning you; a climb to the pinnacle of the Harbour Bridge and it’s the best one yet!
From your first step into the grey uniform onesie to the final exhausting step for your victory photo, the climb is exhilarating, insightful and literally breathtaking.
We laughed at both our lack of fitness and the wonderful tales told by our guide of the many people who worked on the bridge during its 8-year build, all the while pushed on by the sheer radiance of the Harbour beneath and the far-reaching network of highways, waterways, and parklands sprinkled across the city.
The bridge opened in 1932 and is at the heart of Sydney’s daily commute with a view that spans not only a burgeoning city but generations who have crossed her every day.
Perhaps from afar with the soft grey-blue haze that settles over Sydney’s distant mountains, they look blue, but otherwise, the Blue Mountains and the township of Katoomba are a lush native bush-land of emerald and olive green.
For a dose of fresh mountain air a day of bushwalking on any one of the mountain trails offers majestic views of the valleys, tumbling waterfalls and rocky outcrops.
What makes the Blue Mountains so special is the connection of little villages that spill over the countryside and the foliage of a cooler climate that makes it so different from Sydney’s beachside feel.
Slightly off the beaten track, we’ve done some great walks that lead you away from all civilization and as long as I can start my bush-walk off with a chai, all feels right in the world!
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At the far eastern point of Sydney is one of her most gorgeous stretches of coast where you can take in the view through the Headlands out to sea, while on the other side of the road lies one of Sydney’s most spectacular city views.
It’s one of those rare spots where the best of nature and the city collide and everywhere you look is postcard perfect. Along the way Vaucluse Lighthouse comes into view and peers out into the open canopy of sky, its stark white walls glowing.
At the end of the road sits Watson’s Bay, as famous for Doyles Seafood as much as its natural beauty. You’re spoilt for choice with seaside cafes, tea rooms or ice-cream on the beach. We loved its old fashioned simplicity; striped beachside umbrellas, paddling our feet in the shallow water and letting the afternoon gently slip by.
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Who doesn’t love a road trip! One day we packed up the car and headed north, just two hours from Sydney to the pretty expanse of beaches at Port Stephens.
It’s a little confusing really because although that’s the destination, there are so many beachside options to explore, from the wild and stormy waves of Fingal Bay and Zenith Beach to the gentle bays of Corlette, Sunset Point and feeding the pelicans at Little Bay.
The Hampton style boardwalk at Nelson Bay is full of gorgeous shops and restaurants but by far the most exhilarating adventure you can have is to be alongside the whales and dolphins.
We’ve taken these cruises a number of times and they never disappoint; watching the dolphins’ nosedive and pivot as they surf the bow of the boat is always a treat.
Watching the many tourists trying to get the dolphins in their pics with selfie sticks flying around is perhaps an even bigger one!
If you’re looking for an idyllic city spot to bask in the sun and while away the hours, then the Opera Bar at Sydney’s Opera House is your go-to happy place.
With the setting sun pressing into your back and your eyes resting on the tranquil harbour and sea of people passing by, it’s one of the most relaxed and carefree escapes for both locals and tourists alike.
Edged between the Harbour and the Opera House, it takes in the views of bustling Circular Quay with ferries zig-zagging the harbour and the Bridge.
And if like us you’ve done the climb, then watching the zealous trekkers curving the bridge with a chilled drink in your hand is a perfect view from the other side. Cheers!
What you make of Sydney is entirely up to you; it’s a thriving CBD, a suburban sprawl, an early morning coffee in a Soho cafe, a burger on the beach, a bushwalk through national parklands. She’s a welcoming blend of boundless energy and low-key candour and even when you’ve seen her main attractions, like us, you’ll see there’s still more to discover. You may also like: Belles In Hiding In Lanai