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Want some more ideas to add to your summer in Sydney Bucketlist? Then read on to find some offbeat things to do during summer in Sydney.
The summer season is my absolute favorite time to be in Sydney, with beach swims, gorgeous coastal bush hikes, outdoor markets, harbor cruising and drinking beers in the sun. And now we are into mid September – it is just around the corner!
While every man and his dog has written about all the fun and exciting things to do in Sydney (and there are so many), I felt the need to also throw my hat in the ring – but I’m going to narrow it down a bit.
This Sydney Bucket List is going to be mostly geared towards the summer months – although many of the activities can be done year-round, and I also wanted to focus on some of the less obvious Sydney attractions – so you won’t see the Harbour Bridge Climb or the Bondi to Coogee Walk on this list #sorrynotsorry
For a more detailed Sydney itinerary with all the top spots in Sydney included, check out my detailed 5 days in Sydney Itinerary. And if you are a keen hiker, then check out my guide to all the best Sydney Walks.
But to find out some of the lesser-known activities to do in Sydney this summer, read on for my offbeat summer in Sydney Bucket List!
Offbeat Summer in Sydney Bucket List
Check out my interactive map of the best offbeat things to do in Sydney in summer.
Visit all the Accessible Islands in Sydney Harbor
I love me an island and I have always been intrigued by the small ones dotted through the inner harbor. There are eight Sydney Harbour Islands (there were more but they are now connected to the mainland) and of those eight there are six that are possible to visit.
Visit Cockatoo Island for cocktails, camping, and penal colony history, Fort Denison for Sydney history (currently closed for maintenance), Shark Island for a picnic with a view, and Goat Island for a Heritage tour of this former convict settlement and quarry.
Swim at Balmoral Beach
I was lucky enough to live right by quiet Balmoral Beach for two months and it is now one of my favorite beaches in Sydney. This beautiful harbor beach has some of the whitest sand of any Sydney beach and super clear water, perfect for swimming. There is also an ocean pool.
Stroll over the bridge to small Rocky Point Island, enjoy brunch with sea views at The Boathouse and walk around Middle Head for awesome coastal views and a historic fort and sandstone gun pits to check out.
Check Out the Surfers in Maroubra
While Bondi Beach is an Australian icon known throughout the world, not a lot of people outside of Sydney know about Maroubra – another popular surfing beach south of Bondi.
Maroubra is a bit rougher around the edges than upmarket Bondi, but I think that is part of its charm – especially in glamorous Sydney. The beach is a great place to spend a day swimming, taking a surfing lesson, watching the impressive local surfers, and if the waves are too rough, there is even a fantastic ocean pool to swim in.
If you are feeling energetic, walk one hour north along the coast to Coogee – another gorgeous but more well-known beach.
Hike to Hornby Lighthouse from Watsons Bay
I used to see the beautiful candy cane-striped Hornby Lighthouse, at the foot of the entrance to Sydney Harbour, daily on my ferry from Manly to work in Circular Quay. I love lighthouses and this one is the prettiest in Sydney in my opinion.
It is a 2.8km/1.7-mile return walk to get to the lighthouse from the Watsons Bay ferry pier, and you will pass beautiful Camp Cove beach along the way. Make sure to stop for fish and chips at iconic Doyle’s afterward because that is what you do in Watsons Bay.
Snorkel at Shelly Beach
One of my favorite Sydney beaches, the beautiful sheltered cove of Shelly Beach is one of the top spots in Sydney for snorkeling.
It was just down the road from my apartment in Manly so I was able to snorkel there a few times and saw many different types of fish including giant blue groper.
And, if you are lucky you might get to see seadragons and dolphins, both of which have been spotted here.
If you visit in winter, climb up to Shelly Headland to look for whales migrating offshore, or to just admire the sea views.
Unique Shopping at Rozelle Collector’s Market
I have visited pretty much all of the big Sydney markets, and the Rozelle Collector’s Market is one of my favorites. Held on Saturday mornings, this market is focused on secondhand, antiques, and bric-a-brac, and is a treasure trove of stuff you never knew you needed but now just have to have.
Once you are finished browsing the market, wander around the lovely seaside suburb of Balmain and grab lunch somewhere by the water.
You have to add a market to your Sydney Bucketlist, and you won’t regret visiting Rozelle Market.
See a Movie Outdoors
There are many open-air cinemas during Sydney’s summer months but the most scenic is the Westpac Open Air Cinema in the Botanical Gardens. The screen is erected above the water and the seats face out towards the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
It’s such a stunning location, it doesn’t even matter what movie you see because the experience of watching a movie out in the open with two of Sydney’s World famous sights in the background will be a pretty damn special experience in itself.
Screenings run from January 10th till February 20th in 2024.
Explore Scotland Island
Another Sydney island, Scotland Island is located in the Northern Beaches, in the Pittwater estuary near Mona Vale.
It is a beautiful little island where there is a strong local community, no shops or cafes, and only partially paved roads. Pretty blissful if you ask me.
It only takes 30 minutes to walk around the island but it’s worth taking the ferry over there to soak up the calm atmosphere.
Cycling From Manly to Narrabeen
This is a fun day out starting in buzzy Manly and ending in chilled Narrabeen. Take the ferry to Manly and rent bikes from there, then it is around 15km/9.5 miles up to the beach suburb of Narrabeen, following the coast.
Make sure to stop at North Curl Curl Beach for a swim and bike around the beautiful lake in Narrabeen too before biking back to Manly.
Go Brewery Hopping in the Inner West or Northern Beaches
If you are a craft beer lover like me, then you should definitely add a little self-guided brewery tour to your Sydney Bucket List!
The Inner West has the highest concentration of excellent craft breweries and I highly recommend The Grifter Brewing Co., Wildflower Brewing and Blending, and Batch Brewing Company in Marrickville; Young Henrys in Newtown; Wayward Brewing Co. in Camperdown; and Hopsters Co-op Brewery in Enmore.
If you are more of a beach babe then there are a few great breweries on the Northern Beaches as well, try 7th Day Brewery, Bucketty’s Brewing Co, Nomad Brewing Co., Dad & Dave’s Brewing, and 4 Pines Truck Bar in Brookvale; Modus Operandi in Mona Vale; and 4 Pines Brew Pub in Manly.
Explore the Hidden Village at Crater Cove
If you do the Manly to Spit Bridge walk, there is an unassuming side trail that goes off the main trail down to Crater Cove. And there you will find a small forgotten village with old cobbled-together fishermen’s huts.
This tiny community was built between 1923 and 1963 and the huts were mostly used as vacation homes, but from the Great Depression onwards they became permanent homes for a few people facing economic hardship.
The remaining residents were evicted when Crater Cove became part of the National Park in 1984 and the huts have sat largely untouched for over 30 years since then.
This was my favorite secret place to visit in Sydney and I have never shared it on this website until now as locals wanted to keep it a secret and I didn’t want to be the asshole who shared it online.
The reason I have decided to share it now is because it is now so easy to find – the trail is on Google Maps and there have been so many articles about it over the past few years – so I guess it ain’t a secret anymore, but it is still an offbeat attraction.
If you do decide to visit, please be respectful of this fragile historic site. Do not remove anything from the site. You can also see the huts from the top of Dobroyd Head on the Manly to Spit Bridge walk.
So that’s my slightly offbeat Summer in Sydney Bucket List. I hope it helps you plan some summer fun in Sydney this summer.
What would your Sydney Bucket List look like? Is there anything on my list you would like to do yourself?
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. Crown Towers in Barangaroo and The Fullerton Hotel Sydney in the CBD are also great options.
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 perfect and there is even a harbor-view rooftop.
Alternatively, look for vacation rentals in Paddington, Darlinghurst, Pyrmont, CBD, and Surry Hills areas – as these are all pretty central. Here are my picks for the most affordable, centrally located, and highly rated rentals:
- Inner City Old Dairy Loft
- Bright and Sunny Paddington Apartment
- Cozy Studio Cottage in Balmain
- Vintage Two-Bedroom Suite in Historic Building in CBD
- Luxury One Bedroom Suite in Paddington
If you really want to be by the beach, go for Bondi or Coogee – these have the best transport links of the beaches, with a train line at Bondi Junction, as well as regular buses.
My favorite place to stay in the area on a budget is the PodBed Coogee Beachside which is very affordable for a pod in a dorm or for a private room and has an excellent location on Coogee Bay Road.
For a budget option in Bondi, 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 Baxley Bondi, 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
- 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.
Check out my other Sydney posts for more Sydney inspiration!
- The Best Walks in Sydney
- The Ultimate Itinerary for 5 Days in Sydney
- Manly to Spit Walk: How To See the Best of Sydney Harbor
- A Beach Bum’s Guide to the Eastern Suburbs Beaches in Sydney
- 30 Reasons Why I Love Sydney
- Long Weekend Getaway to Australia’s Famed Blue Mountains
- What It’s Like to be a Penguin Warden in Sydney