The best Sydney bars by the water
There are certain things that never change at Icebergs: the view, the crisp polenta chips with sour cream and those dangling cane egg chairs you sink into and can never get out of. And that is exactly why we keep coming back to this eastern outcrop.
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.
It’s only once you’re sitting on the beautiful deck of this third-floor cocktail lounge that you realise that it was the missing piece of Sydney’s bar puzzle all along. The Solotel group went and made Opera Bar a suave sister in the form of Smoke – the crowning glory of Barangaroo House. Up here, things are strictly professional. You are greeted at the entranceway, shown to a seat, started a tab and possibly given a time limit until the next booking arrives (they do not follow the finders keepers rules here).
Right down on the golden sands of Coogee is the shiny new Coogee Pavilion, set inside the old Palace Hotel. The place is beyond huge, with a pub, restaurant, café, oyster bar and pizza parlour and a large kids' play area downstairs.
There was a time when hotel bars set the standard for high class drinking – the Savoy Hotel in London’s 1930’s cocktail book remains one of today’s bartending bibles – but these days they can often be overlooked when you’re planning a night on the tiles, which is a mistake. When it comes to luxe boozing, Sydney’s upmarket hotels know how to do it right.
Do you have a crisp white shirt, a designer dog/child and great hair? Excellent. Bring the lot and you’ll fit right in on a Sunday. The new look Newport (they’ve dropped the arms from the name) is absolutely rammed with a parade of the beautiful people downing a crisp, dry French rosé and stalking a mythical empty table beneath the striped umbrellas and giant cacti now dotted around the venue.
Collaroy is just far away enough from the city that it feel like a getaway. The air is salty, the sand is orange, you may spot a migrating whale and even on a winter’s day the endless blue ocean vista makes it feel like a little slice of an endless summer. But it’s not far away enough to be passed up by Merivale.
Most of Bondi's best venues are divided from the golden sand by Campbell Parade. But the Bucket List is smack on the promenade so that there is nothing to get between your bucket of Coronas and the fresh ocean spray.
Beauty and convenience don’t always go hand in hand, but Opera Bar is a glam exception to the rule. It manages to be both one of the most enviably located bars in the city as well as its most advantageous spot for a pre-show drink.
It’s not hard to see why the Manly Wharf Hotel is obscenely popular. There’s just something about drinking with harbour views that makes everything seem a little brighter. This expansive hotel is set right down on the ferry wharf and takes full advantage of its location.
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.
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 your regular haunt, but if you've got visitors who want to see Sydney at her best, a striped deckchair out in the side courtyard is the place to plant them.
The latest sky-high drinking destination is not out east, but north to the golden shores of Manly Beach. The old Shore Club Hotel, which has been standing vacant for four years, has been taken over by the same people behind Sails on Lavender Bay and they're sprucing the beachfront destination up and transforming it into the Manly Greenhouse.
Beer by the beach? You betcha. Placed right on Manly Wharf, this Bavarian Bier Café is a great place for a sneaky beverage if you’re waiting for your ferry, or simply just a great place to settle in for an afternoon session. The main focus here may be swinging steins, but you can’t beat a giant pretzel. Twice the size of Germany and studded with fat salt crystals, they’re the perfect combination of salty-sweet to go with your drink.
The Island is Australia's first floating, open-air beach bar. It is fully licensed and boasts day beds, VIP cabanas and beach chairs. Access is by water taxi only and you'll need to book ahead for their weekend beach club parties.
Get in the water
Sydney's been blessed with a lot of swimming spots. In fact, the beauty and variety of our dipping options is so great, some would argue it's the best thing about the city. Certainly, there's enough by way of pools and beaches that it's possible to find a watery spot to suit any taste. Scared of waves? There's somewhere flat for you. Hate sand? No problem. Can't make it to the beach? An after work dip is still totally do-able.