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When Trav and I decided to move to Sydney after our big trip through the Americas in 2013, we were asked by numerous people ‘Why Sydney?’
Melbourne and Perth appear to be the cities of choice for lots of Kiwis moving to Australia at the moment, and I can definitely see the appeal of the culturally rich Melbourne and the hot climate and beaches of Perth.
But we still chose Sydney.
Personally, I think that Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I fell in love with it when I lived here back in 2004/2005. I met one of my best friends in Sydney and it was the first place I lived when I left New Zealand.
It holds a special place in my heart and I feel that there is so much more to discover in this picturesque, harbour-side city.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the aspects of Sydney life that I love the most, and they are many and varied. So for all of you out there that asked why and for the people that are considering Sydney as a place to live or even to visit, these are the reasons that I am here.
Why I Love Sydney
1) The Mild Climate
I like that Sydney has defined seasons but that no season is extreme. Summer does get a bit too hot sometimes but is nothing compared to the extremes in temperature or humidity of Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
In winter there is a delightful chill in the air but you can still enjoy the great outdoors without needing a heavy winter coat. You can even swim in the ocean through spring and autumn. Overall, I can’t really complain.
2) Green Landscape
Because of the mild climate, green is the colour of Sydney most of the year. No dry, brown grass here. Well, not usually.
3) Spectacular Beaches
One of the most iconic Sydney experiences is soaking up the sun at one of Sydney’s beautiful beaches. And there are so MANY to choose from! Harbour beaches, surf beaches, golden sand, white sand, busy, deserted, forest fringed, Norfolk pine lined – no matter how you like your beaches there will be one that fits you perfectly here.
My personal favourites are Coogee, Bronte, Balmoral, Tamarama, Palm Beach, Shelley Beach and Mona Vale. I have still got so many to visit though!
4) Tropical Birds
There are so many interesting birds in Sydney. Crimson rosellas, flocks of squawking white and yellow cockatoos, ibises with their probing sickle-like beaks, galahs, colourful rainbow lorikeets, and cute kookaburras. It’s a birder paradise.
I love these delightfully scented flowers. In Sydney you come across Frangipani trees literally everywhere. They drop their dreamy yellow or pink flowers over footpaths and I can’t resist stopping to collect the best blooms to float in bowls of water at home.
6) Art Deco Buildings
Art Deco is one of my favourite architecture styles and Sydney is full of brick art deco apartment blocks and pastel coloured shop fronts. In fact, Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay have the highest density of Art deco architecture in Australia. A lot more interesting than characterless concrete apartments.
7) Rock Pools
Most of Sydney’s fabulous beaches also feature a pool built into the rocks. The majority of the time these pools are free to use and are great if you want to avoid the sometimes hectic waves and if you have a fear of sharks.
My favourites are the more natural rock pools of Bronte and North Coogee, where the water is crystal clear and you can float to your heart’s content in a safe haven.
8) The Rocks
This is the area I go to when I need my English Pub fix. The Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney and offers traditional English style pubs with bags of character, cobblestone laneways, sandstone buildings and lots and lots of history. A nice area for a stroll.
9) Taronga Zoo
Possibly the most beautiful setting for a zoo in the world. The journey begins with a scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay, a short trip up a gondola with City and harbour views and then you arrive at the Zoo, one of the best in Australia, perched high above the harbour in the beautiful suburb of Mosman. Taronga is an Aboriginal word meaning beautiful view, and it says it all really.
The options are endless: Australian National Maritime Museum, Hyde Park Barracks, Museum of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Susannah Place Museum, Australian Museum, the Galleries of the State Library of NSW, Powerhouse Museum and the Justice and Police Museum to name but a few.
Funky, alternative Newtown was my home way back in 2005 and I still love visiting this happening suburb for a delicious brunch and a browse through the eclectic shops. It is one of the best spots in Sydney to indulge penchants for vintage shopping, second hand books and arty faire.
Oh my, the markets in Sydney are glorious! My favourite has got to be Paddington Market which is held every Saturday in a beautiful church yard, and is filled with delicious food stalls and a wide selection of creative stalls featuring clothing, art, accessories and gifts. Live music completes a lovely day out. Glebe, Kirribilli, Bondi and the Rocks Markets are also well worth a visit.
This classy suburb is a great place for shopping with unique pop up shops and hip boutiques lining Oxford Street. The beautiful arches and sunken garden of the old Paddington Reservoir is definitely worth a look.
I love brunching at the character filled Mickey’s Café and enjoying excellent coffee amongst the books at Ampersand. A visit to Paddington wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down narrow William Street where the colourful buildings and eclectic shops take me back to Notting Hill in London.
I love the hour before it gets dark when you see the distinctive silhouettes of these little guys swooping over the City. I always find myself humming the tune to batman.
15) Bondi to Coogee Walk
It may be touristy but it is still a stunning walk linking some of Sydney’s top beaches, and offering some of Sydney’s best views. The walk follows the coast from backpacker favourite Bondi, along the cliffs to the compact Tamarama Beach, past the surfers at MacKenzie’s Point, along the beautiful Bronte beach with its natural rock pool.
From there, you pass Waverley Cemetery overlooking the crashing surf, around the narrow concrete edged Clovelly beach and the rocky cove of Gordon’s Bay, before finishing in glam Coogee.
You can carry on further to Maroubra if you really want to feel the burn, but I find Coogee is a nice place to end the walk with a swim in the rock pool, and a meal at one of the many cool Cafes along Coogee Bay Road.
You could even reward yourself with a hard earned beer at the famous Coogee Bay Hotel. This is just one of many beautiful walks in Sydney.
16) Accessibility for Travel
Cheap flights to Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands – check. Lots of domestic connections for weekends away within Australia – check.
Day tripping distance to wine regions, rugged mountains, rocky beaches, sheltered bays and white sand wonderlands – check. There is a lot to see over in this part of the world and Sydney is one of the best hubs to explore from.
17) City Skyline at Night
Best seen coming back on the ferry from Manly. It reminds me of the Chicago skyline with lots of skyscrapers of varied height, lit up and sparkling with purpose across the still waters of the harbour.
18) Opera House
Not as pretty close up, but classic, beautiful and strikingly iconic when seen from Mrs Macquarie’s Point or crossing the Harbour Bridge. It is one of the most famous landmarks in Australia, if not the world, and I have been lucky enough to attend two events there – the acoustics are as amazing as everyone says.
19) Blue Mountains
Within day tripping distance from the CBD, the cute mountain towns, hiking trails and waterfalls of the Blue Mountains never fail to disappoint. And it’s only $11 return by train – bargain! Visit the Blue Mountains in autumn if you can – the autumn colors are stunning.
20) Café Culture
I know Melbourne is more known for its café culture than Sydney but it doesn’t mean that Sydney doesn’t have a plethora of fantastic cafes too. Visit Surry Hills, Leichardt, Glebe, Newtown, Marrickville, Coogee, Darlinghurst and Paddington for great coffee in quirky cafés. Alfresco café dining options line the streets and make for great people watching.
21) Sydney Botanical Gardens
The Sydney Botanical Gardens are a lush and tropical garden escape in the middle of the city, with waterside walking trails, a scent heavy rose garden, various sculptures, a glass pyramid, the Gothic revival Government House and views to the world famous opera house. And it’s all free.
22) City Parks
Sydney has some fantastic parks and green spaces. One of my favourites is Hyde Park which encompasses the magnificent St Mary’s Cathedral, a stately fig tree lined avenue and the brooding Art Deco War Memorial and reflection pool.
Centennial Parklands is also a wonderful place to explore. Within its 189 hectares there are ponds, horse riding stables, grasslands, a pine forest, formal gardens and sports fields. There is something for everyone.
23) Harbour Ferries
What better way to commute to work than by boat? Sydney has a fantastic ferry system that links the north shore and various bays with the city centre. Gliding past the green cliffs and hidden bays of the inner harbour beats commuting by bus any day!
24) Harbour Bays
There are so many Bays in Sydney’s meandering harbour and each one is its own little community. There are beaches, waterside cafes, netted in swimming ‘pools’, rocky foreshores and sandy beaches. So much to explore!
I love Lighthouses and although Sydney isn’t known for these shining beacons, there are 13 in the greater Sydney area. My favourite is the candy cane striped Hornby Lighthouse, guarding the harbour entrance near Watsons Bay.
You wouldn’t know it but Sydney is home to a blue penguin colony that resides in Manly. They are quite shy and can be hard to spot but just knowing they are there makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I was a Penguin Warden in Manly for around six months and I loved the experience.
Sydney is an international city with residents that hail from all over the globe. This vibrant multi-cultural background has lent massively to Sydney’s thriving food scene and there are a myriad of festivals to celebrate various cultures from around the world.
28) Northern Beaches
The small beachside communities that make up the Northern Beaches have a very laid back feel to them. They are a world apart from the big city and are a great place to live if you want the quiet life and still need to be within commuting distance to the city. It is all about ocean pursuits of happiness up here and I love it.
29) Watsons Bay
Once a quiet fishing village, now a quiet harbour-side suburb. Watsons Bay is popular with tourists who catch the ferry from Circular Quay to eat at the famous Doyles Fish and Chips.
I go there to stroll along the harbour-side path, swim or sunbathe at the peaceful beach and hike the nearby South Head Peninsula for a view over to the mouth of Sydney Harbour and Manly. Oh, and to eat fish and chips at Doyles.
30) Palm trees
There’s nothing like a palm tree to make you feel like you live in a tropical and exotic locale. Enough said.
Of course Sydney has its faults too, such as overcrowded public transport, giant cockroaches, rude taxi drivers, extortionate rents and a tough job market, but I think it is a test of how much you truly love a place if you can accept the faults and still love it regardless.
Plan Your Trip to Sydney
Where to Stay in Sydney
Although it is so nice to stay by the beach, I would recommend you stay close to downtown – particularly The Rocks and Circular Quay – as it is the best base to get around from.
If you really want to splurge, I highly recommend the Four Seasons in Circular Quay or the Park Hyatt in the Rocks – they both have pools and are handy for trains, buses, and ferries.
There are a number of hostels around Sydney but I have heard really good things about one in particular – the Sydney Harbour YHA Hostel in The Rocks. The location is perfection and there is even a harbor-view rooftop.
Alternatively, look for vacation rentals in Paddington, Darlinghurst, Pyrmont, CBD, Surry Hills areas – as these are all pretty central. Here are my picks for the most affordable, centrally located, and highly rated rentals:
- Historic CBD Apartment With Pool and Gym
- Inner City Old Dairy Loft
- Romantic Studio Apartment in Surry Hills
- Bright and Sunny Paddington Apartment
- Cozy Darlinghurst Apartment With Rooftop Pool and Harbor Views
If you really want to be by the beach, go for Bondi – this has the best transport links of the beaches, with a train line nearby at Bondi Junction, as well as lots of buses.
For a budget option, stay at Wake Up! Bondi Beach – it has great reviews and is right on the beach. The best hotels and bed and breakfasts in Bondi are The Chee Bondi Condo Hotel, Bondi Beach House Bed & Breakfast, and QT Bondi Condo Hotel.
The best vacation rentals in Bondi and nearby Coogee are:
- One-Bedroom Apartment With Lap Pool Near Coogee
- Stunning Beachside Studio on Bondi Beach
- Contemporary Secluded Studio in North Bondi
- Tiny House Studio Apartment With Sea Views
- Sunny Bondi Studio With Garage, Balcony and Pool
The Best Insurance for Your Sydney Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it auto-renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it for longer trips
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
Have I convinced you to visit Sydney? Do you want to add anything that I may have missed? Drop me a line, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Want to know more about what to do in Sydney? Check out my other Sydney posts:
- Ultimate Itinerary for 5 Days in Sydney
- Ultimate Offbeat Summer in Sydney Bucketlist
- Manly to Spit Walk: How To See the Best of Sydney Harbor
- A Beach Bum’s Guide to the Eastern Suburbs Beaches in Sydney
- The Best Sydney Walks
- Long Weekend Getaway to Australia’s Famed Blue Mountains
- What It’s Like to be a Penguin Warden in Sydney