Summer is officially around the corner and we’re here with ideas to make sure you make this sunny season count. Sydney is filled with endless exciting things to do once the heat cranks up from outdoor cinemas to alfresco dining, world-famous art exhibitions and a number of outdoor activities. Plus, road trips and beach days are non-negotiable in the Harbour City. Here is everything you should have on your summer bucket list in Sydney in 2023.
1. Watch a movie under the stars
Summer is the season of open-air cinemas and Sydneysiders have a number of options to choose from. Check out some of our favorite outdoor cinemas in Sydney below, from movies by the beach to movies in a castle, movies in a cemetery or by the harbour.
2. Head to these fabulous exhibitions
From Louise Bourgeois’s world-famous metallic spiders to Kandinsky’s vibrant abstract art, Sydney’s art galleries are showcasing a variety of blockbuster exhibitions this summer. From classical to contemporary, check out these must-see exhibitions around town.
3. Get fit on a coastal walk
There’s a lot to love about Sydney’s natural landscapes including the incredible coastal walks peppered around the city. From the classic Spit to Manly Walk to the underrated Malabar Headland Walk, summer is the perfect time for a seaside walk and stunning lookouts. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some whales on the way.
3. Find your own private beach
Nothing better on a steamy summer’s day than cooling off at the beach. Except for the crowds. Which you’ll find in droves at Sydney’s world-famous beaches. Luckily, there are plenty of hidden beaches that you can get all to yourself. Some of our favourites include:
4. Explore the world’s third-oldest national park
The world’s third-oldest and Australia’s first ever National Park is a stone’s throw from Sydney and it’s a popular getaway for Sydneysiders all year round. The Royal National Park offers endless opportunities for nature lovers with coastal hikes, beaches, waterfalls, scenic lookouts, and much more within a short distance of Sydney. Read all about it here.
5. Shop from a Sydney market
Sydney markets offer everything from delicious hot treats to artisan goods, homewares, jewellery and more. Here are some to shop from this summer:
6. Get artsy at the Sydney Festival
Sydney Festival returns from January 5-28 with an extensive program of art, music, dance performances, concerts and more. Over 150 events are coming to the city featuring over a thousand artists along with 26 world premieres, 29 Australian exclusives and 43 free events. Find all the highlights of the festival here.
For the perfect date night , head to one of Sydney’s enchanting concerts held by Candlelight. These dreamy concerts pay tribute to stellar musicians and bands like Whitney Houston, David Bowie and more. Here’s some to check out this summer.
8. Seek out a natural swimming spot
If you want some privacy on your next swim, skip the popular beaches in town and head to a more secluded natural swimming spot. Some of our favourites include Parsley Bay, Collins Flat Beach and Karloo Pools in the Royal National Park. See the full list here.
9. Discover a small town near Sydney
NSW small towns look magical in summer with beaches, mountains, cosy cafes and natural beauty to explore. From the historic town of Berrima to the quaint, bookish town of Bowral, these laidback spots are all within a 2-hour drive from Sydney. See the full list here.
10. Attend an outdoor concert
One of the best ways to experience summer in Sydney is to kick back and enjoy outdoor musical performances. Luckily, events are planned across zoos, islands, parks and more throughout summer. Here are some to keep on your radar.
11. Beat the heat at a Sydney Garden
Pack a picnic and enjoy a day out at one of these gorgeous Sydney gardens which are full of eye-catching displays, harbour views and more.
12. Enjoy an Italian escape, 45 minutes from the city
If a long-haul flight to Europe isn’t on the cards for you anytime soon, you can experience something close to the real deal less than an hour’s drive from Sydney. There’s an Italian-style bed and breakfast in the semi-rural suburb of Arcadia that boasts Tuscan-style gardens, cobblestone laneways and gelato and wine nights. Read all about it here.
13. Explore the world’s second-largest canyon
Another natural wonder that we couldn’t believe lies a short distance from Sydney is the lush and expansive Capertee Valley. It’s the world’s second-largest canyon and wider and longer than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. It’s also an excellent spot for bushwalks, bird-watching and camping. Read all about it here.
14. Hop aboard the world’s steepest railway
A fun activity for the whole family lies deep in the Blue Mountains. Scenic Railway is officially recognised as the world’s steepest railway by the Guinness Book of Records and with a 52-degree incline, it’s not for the faint of heart. Get more information about it here.
15. Discover an underwater nature trail
Warm summer days are best spent outside and nothing says summer in Sydney than a day at the beach. One spot to have on your radar is Gordons Bay nestled between Clovelly and Coogee Beach. While it is a popular spot amongst locals, not many people know that Gordons Bay is also home to Sydney’s only underwater nature trail, perfect for snorkelling. Read all about it here.
16. Book a creepy ghost tour
If you’re looking for something fun to do in Sydney after dark, you can’t go wrong with a classic Sydney ghost tour. These creepy tours are a great way to learn more about the city’s past and meet fellow horror lovers while you’re at it.
Find more ghost tours around Sydney here.
17. See all the street art
There are many nooks and corners of Sydney that are home to excellent artworks and installations. From the many murals of Newtown to hidden laneways and more, check out some of the best street art in Sydney here. Some more public art around the city:
18. Admire the local Roman Architecture
If you, like the one billion users on TikTok, find yourself thinking about the Roman Empire a lot lately, there are a few excellent places to visit in Sydney to fuel your interest. From Paddington Reservoir Gardens to Queen Victoria Building, check out the full list here.
19. Pick your own sunflowers at these fields
20. Culture up after hours
Wondering where you can enjoy culture late at night in Sydney? The Culture Up Late initiative sees some museums and galleries around Sydney open late with live music, workshops, screenings and more. These include Art After Hours at the Art Gallery of NSW and MCA Late.
21. Head to a rooftop bar
Rooftop bars are perfect for late hangs on a summer day. With skyline views, excellent food and drinks and good music, these are some of the best to visit around Sydney.
22. Grab brunch at Sydney’s most Instagrammable cafes
If you’re always looking for the next picture to grace your IG grid, you’ll want to head to one of Sydney’s many Instagrammable cafes that offer perfect floral and neon decor, excellent coffee, water views and food that looks just as good. Click here for the full list.
23. Cool off at a Sydney rock pool
If you’re not confident enough to swim in the ocean, there are a number of picturesque rock pools and ocean pools in Sydney that are perfect for a swim on a hot day. From the picturesque Mahon Pool to the historic Fairy Bower Pool, here are some of our favourites.
24. Plan a getaway to this Jurassic Park-like island
Planning a trip out of town? Spoil yourself at the picture-perfect Lord Howe Island, just a 2-hour flight from Sydney. Reminiscent of Isla Nublar, this haven for nature lovers offers with bushwalking, hiking, water activities and more. But keep in mind that only 400 people are allowed on the island at any given time. Read all about it here.
25. Check out Luna Park’s new Dream Circus
A new immersive experience is coming to town courtesy of Luna Park. Dubbed Dream Circus, the attraction features 360-degree projections, holograms and surround sounds for a truly transportive experience. Read all about it here.
26. Explore an underrated National Park
NSW is home to over 800 national parks and reserves so there’s plenty to explore. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, avoid the popular National Parks and make a beeline for one of these hidden gems instead.
🍃 Capertee National Park
🍃 Dharawal National Park
🍃 Heathcote National Park
See the full list here.
27. Enjoy a musical in Sydney
If you love live theatre, you’re in luck because Sydney has a number of exciting shows happening this summer. From an ode to Tina Turner to a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast, here’s everything theatre lovers can look forward to.