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The Collaroy
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The best waterfront bars in Sydney

From the golden sands of Bondi to our glorious harbour, here are some of the best spots for a beverage by the big blue

Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait
,
Matty Hirsch
&
Elizabeth McDonald
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Sydney commands the highest prices for waterfront properties in the world. Luckily, for those of us who will never scale the Everest heights of this city's lucrative (read: ludricrous) real estate ladder, there are plenty of bars where you can drown our sorrows. Many of which just happen to be by the sea. We are blessed with quite the coastline, and these are our favourite places to while away the hours and watch the tides roll away over a few drinks.

For more outdoor drinking, we've rounded up the best rooftop bars in Sydney, as well as the best beer gardens. And if you're after the best of the best full stop, have a look at our list of the 53 best bars in Sydney.

The best Sydney bars by the water

  • Bars
  • Freshwater

When it was known as the Harbord Beach Hotel, it was a casual, no-frills outfit set up to serve lazy beers by the surf and a stomping ground for Manly Sea Eagles fans. In late 2020, it got a dramatic glow up, emerging as a gleaming, white-washed venue made as much for fancy long lunches as it is for sinking a low-key lager by prime sea frontage. 

 

  • Restaurants
  • Restaurants

Manly Wharf is a no-brainer when it comes to beachside suds and the rooftop Tex-Mex cantina and bar is the perfect spot for sunny frozen Margaritas by the water. El Camino Cantina already has the monopoly on novelty-sized cocktails down in the Rocks, but the Manly sister venue is the crown jewel as far as seaside boozing is concerned. 

The 100-person terrace is prime real estate over summer, where you can drink in the holiday vibes with their collection of over 100 tequilas and mezcals, buckets of beers and a full contingent of Tex Mex hits like soft shell tacos, fajitas, burritos and buffalo wings. They've also installed a jukebox to amp up the From Dusk til Dawn, Americana vibe. 

 

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Northies - Cronulla Hotel
  • Bars
  • Cronulla
  • price 1 of 4

When the sun goes down on Cronulla’s star attraction, things start to ramp up at Northies. This sprawling, single-storey hotel tucked in underneath a shiny new apartment complex faces right out onto Cronulla Beach, ready to dole out the beers, built drinks and burgers as people migrate from the waterline to the nearest watering hole. It can be a shock going from the sunshine, surf and sand to the cool shade of the pub so to counter the dramatic shift in aesthetic Northies have created a surf-shack-meets-milk-bar diner called Old Joe’s off to one side of the hotel. It’s a lighter, brighter spot to hole up in, especially for an afternoon session. It’s got all the coastal markers: rough timber floorboards, a blue tiled feature wall, lobster traps on the roof, surfboards on the walls and Corona bunting. It’s here that you can get a Byron Bay pale ale on tap, a Cuba Libre spider or a Joe-J-Fox milkshake with banana and chocolate liqueur, vodka, caramel sauce, Milo, banana and milk.

The Pasadena Hotel, where it stands today, is the second Church Point venue created by Charles Wymark, the founder of the Pasadena Roadhouse. Wymark created the venue for locals, offshore residents and holiday makers who came to enjoy sailing, fishing, camping and driving the newly constructed McCarrs Creek Road which ran through the Kur-ing-gai National Park. These days, the historical landmark is a waterside bar, restaurant and hotel with a perfect view of Looking Glass Bay in the National Park. Weekly Sunday Sessions you can listen to live acoustic music and grab a wine from the kitchy converted rosé campervan.

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  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • The Rocks
  • price 1 of 4

The Rocks' Overseas Passenger Terminal has welcomed the James Squire brewhouse to its mix of bars, restaurant and cruise arrivals facilities. Always keen to celebrate their colonial history, the brewery, dubbed the Squire's Landing, is located on the site where the convict brewer came to Australia. The nearby Malt Shovel brewery (brewer of James Squire beers) will be providing brews and there will also be a microbrewery onsite, alongside a restaurant and bar.

Until a few short years ago, the Middle Harbour 16' Skiff Club was a bare bones, functional space used as a hub for the many yachts and sailboats moored on the crystal waters of the Spit, between Mosman and the Northern Beaches. A recent facelift has transformed the club into a prime beachside watering hole. On the upper level you'll find Skiffies, a polished nautical space with dark stained wood floors and bars (where beers are thankfully, still at club prices) but head downstairs to the Boathouse where the cocktail bar floor transitions seamlessly onto the sand, where pelicans perch and the waves gently lap at the shoreline.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bondi Beach

Certain things that never get old at Icebergs – the head-turning view, the crisp polenta chips with sour cream, the signature No. 8 cocktail – and that is exactly why we keep coming back to this Bondi mainstay.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Watsons Bay
  • price 2 of 4

If there were a Sydney pub beauty pageant, the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel would definitely be through to the final. The hotel sits right against the water's edge so there's nothing between you and panoramic views of the harbour and city skyline except a row of neat dinghies and the odd potted palm.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Barangaroo

Until Smoke came along, there was a missing piece to the premium-cocktail-bar-by-the-water puzzle. Up here, on the third level of Barangaroo House, snazzy seasonal cocktails come with a side of sweeping panoramas of Darling Harbour and the skyline. The surroundings – all leather, timber, shiny tiles and soft velvet – are equally classy.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Newport

This longstanding Northern Beaches pub is home to the biggest waterfront beer garden in the country. Merivale's put the magic touch on it, styling the deck with mismatched picnic tables and pale pink striped umbrellas. Don your finest linens and know that you'll fight for a table on weekends. Once you snag one, do do as the rest of the beautiful people do: grab a large glass of crisp, dry French rosé and smile for the selfie.

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  • Bars
  • Coogee
  • price 2 of 4

Escape the mayhem of the florist-gelateria-pizzeria-oyster bar-café-restaurant-play area on the ground floor and head up to the roof, where a chic conservatory vibe, four bars and a menu of the Middle East's greatest hits await.

  • Bars
  • Sydney

In any other city, this would be a classic overcharge and under-deliver tourist trap. Thankfully Opera Bar doesn’t take advantage of its location – it celebrates it, and that’s worth raising a glass to. Make it a dozen oysters and a Bloody Mary please, bartender.

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Collaroy

If Coogee Pavilion and the Newport aren't enough to convince you that Merivale knows what to do when it comes to waterfront spots to get watered and fed, then maybe the Collaroy will. Kids are welcome, eats are all-day and the bar rages on till 3am on weekends.

  • Bars
  • Woolwich

This Lower North Shore stalwart had a three-month freshen up in 2018, and with it came metres of marble and velvet as well as a fany menu overhaul. Don't fret – the epic Sunday roast and the wraparound balcony remain.

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Clovelly Bowling and Recreation Club
  • Things to do
  • Clovelly

This beautiful, old bowling club is set right on top of the cliffs at Clovelly, affording players some of the best views in the city. Drop in for an afternoon game, or maybe just a sneaky schooner of something cold and local.

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Cruise Bar
  • Bars
  • The Rocks

This famous harbourside bar has had a garden-party overhaul with an emphasis on natural fibres and the result is very Montauk-chic. It might not be a regular haunt, but if you've got visitors who want to see Sydney at her best, a striped deckchair out in the sun is one of the best places to plant them.

Manly Wharf Hotel
  • Bars
  • Manly

Locals call it the Wharf Bar, because it is exactly that. There's no science behind the popularity of the the Manly Wharf Hotel: this is about as 'seaside' as it gets for a few cold ones (and a perfect excuse to sneak one in pre- or post-ferry ride).

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  • Restaurants
  • Sydney
  • price 3 of 4

Think of the bar at Bennelong as a pre- or post-gig cost-cutting exercise. You're not downstairs in the restaurant having a three-course dinner for $150, but you're still privileged enough to be inside one of the sails of the Sydney Opera House, having a drink and knowing that snacks from one of the country's best chefs are only an order away.

Henry Deane
  • Bars
  • Millers Point

If you want to see Sydney at its most really ridiculously good looking, take the lift to Henry Deane, the classy cocktail joint at the top of Hotel Palisade. Book the "Box" – the set of cushy banquettes on the far left – if you want an extra-special spot for an extra-special blow-out.

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The Island
  • Bars
  • Sydney

The Island is Australia's first and only floating beach club. It's a member-only venue with an exclusive vibe to match, so request your access to get on the guest list or make fast friends with the VIP crowd.

 

The Bavarian - Manly
  • Restaurants
  • German
  • Manly

The only thing better than a beer overlooking the big blue is a litre of beer overlooking the big blue – and a pretzel to go with it. Consider your wishes granted.

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  • Hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Palm Beach
  • price 3 of 4

So what if it's more of a hotel and restaurant than a bar? You're here for a view and a drink, and you're in luck because the outlook over Whale Beach will make your jaw drop and so will the wine list. Bottoms up.

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