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Photograph: Unsplash/Clarinta Subrata

101 things to do this summer

Make the most of Sydney's glorious summers with these hot weather activities

Written by
Divya Venkataraman
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Even though we have winters much of the Northern Hemisphere would scoff at, Sydneysiders still embrace the arrival of the warmer weather with an unparalleled kind of gusto. You can feel the faint thrill in the air as December begins: the light lasts longer; long, midday pub lunches become temporarily acceptable; all of spring's jacaranda blossoms fall off their boughs to become purple splotches on the driveway. 

There's also a lot of expectation that comes with summer – you've got so much opportunity, but what are you going to do with it? Lucky for you, we've made a list to guide you on your way. Check out the 101 things to do in Sydney these warmer months. 

Recommended: The absolute best restaurants in Sydney right now.

Summer vibes, here we come

  • Theatre

The year 2020 has been a wild ride, which makes Wesley Enoch’s swansong as festival director of the Sydney Festival even more special. With a renewed focus on the best Australian talent in the business, and centred on a pop-up stage at Barangaroo Reserve, the line-up is one of the strongest we’ve ever seen.  

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  • Museums
  • Camperdown

Art, science, history and ancient cultures meet under one roof at the purpose-built Chau Chak Wing Museum, whose collections are 150 years in the making. The museum combines three powerful collections from the vaults of the University of Sydney – including three ancient Egyptian mummies. The Chau Chak Wing Museum is open seven days a week, and entry is free.  

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Pools

When you can’t choose between the beach and a swimming pool, these rocky swimming spots have the best of both worlds. Dive in as the sun rises and you’ll have the salty baths to yourself, or wade in at high tide for a thrilling swell as waves crash against the walls: from Icebergs to Bronte to Avalon. 

  • Restaurants

This city ain’t cheap, but it's overflowing with restaurants serving up stellar stuff at prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. In fact, for that same $50 note, two of you can get watered and fed very well. From banh mi to tonkotsu ramen, biang biang noodles to vegan burgers, and pretty much everything else in between, some of Sydney's greatest culinary hits are the cheapest. These are the ones worth their salt.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Down below the city at the QT Hotel's basement, you'll find a subterranean '30s-style theatrette and speakeasy bar that you can book out all for yourself (well, and at least nine others). If you really want to make it a party, though, you can fit a maximum of 28 people into the cool, underground cinema space – and you can all drink matched Four Pillars gin cocktails while you watch.

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream and gelato

There is no greater comfort food than ice cream, and during 'the-year-that-shall-not-be-named', there's plenty of feelings that can do with being buried in cookies and cream. Grab a two-scoop cone and head on your merry way into the summertime. 

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  • Travel
  • Short getaways

Sydney has some of the finest guestrooms in the country, offering plush, luxe, thoroughly bougie comforts and indulgent experiences worthy of a staycation. We've picked out some of our favourites within Greater Sydney that are ready and waiting to take your booking.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian

In a city like Sydney, with its kilometres of waterfront, truly great restaurants and consistenly gorgeous weather, it makes sense that long lunches should be on your regular to-do list. Whether you're overlooking the Harbour, sitting by the beach or in the depths of the inner city, here's our list of where to spend lazy, sunny days sipping, eating and lounging around in good company. 

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  • Travel

We’ve rounded up some of the best tiny house escapes across New South Wales that you can knock over in a weekend getaway from Sydney. Most are perfect for a romantic escape for two adults or are the ideal retreat for solo travelers looking for the ultimate me-time. Others have a little more room so you can vaycay with friends, the kids, and even the dog. 

  • Restaurants
  • Bars & Pubs

It's universally acknowledged as one of Sydney's most aesthetically pleasing locations, but Icebergs' good looks come with a cost: the cost of dining from Maurice Terzini's carefully curated and fittingly pricey menu, specifically. If you want those views overlooking the sun-struck Pacific Ocean and buff lifeguards without forking out quite that much, the restaurant's new pop-up terrace bar should have you sorted for the summer months. 

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  • Things to do
  • Prospect

Sydney’s biggest entertainment park has opened in Bankstown in the city’s West. Filled with all manner of thrills and spills, Entertainment Park is home to a truly white-knuckle line-up of fun-filled activities, including arcade games, six full-size bowling alleys, party shops, food trucks, VR and digital simulators and even a barbershop. 

  • Travel
  • Short getaways

Bivalves and bubbly are a classic pairing, but enjoying oysters needn’t be a fancy affair. Most of the oysters being shucked at high-end Sydney restaurants were grown just a few hours away. And if you jump in a car and head down the coast – it's roughly a four-hour spin – there are plenty of places to enjoy farm-fresh oysters that were pulled out of the water just that morning – no airs and graces required.

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  • Nightlife
  • Nightlife

If you've been chomping at the bit for another night on a sticky Sydney dancefloor to the tune of some early 00's bangers since late March, you would have been thrilled to hear the news that dancefloors are back. Here's where you should enjoy your freedom. 

  • Restaurants

For the last couple of years there’s been a sense each January that the coming year must surely improve on the last. So the gods must have be rolling in the aisles when we went into 2020 hoping for anything short of a dumpster fire, because that’s what we got, on a global, economic, environmental, medical, and psychological scale. Maybe online pilates got you through, or forest bathing, or craft. But for us, it was the snacks that did the heavy lifting in 2020. 

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  • Bars

There's not really much middle ground with these tasty treats of the sea: but there's one thing that unites oyster enthusiasts and it's the joy of being able to eat them by the dozen and have change to spare for a great glass of sparkling on the side. Here's where to go.   

  • Nightlife

Sydney loves to party – we'll party on the roof, in the basement, by the pool, even once every few months in a suburban bowling club. As of December 7, Sydneysiders are able to get out for a groove again (albeit only 50 of us at a time). The trick is knowing where to look and not relinquishing a night out because you think it can't be done. It can – here's where to start. 

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  • Restaurants

These ones are ranked for fun, flavour, creativity and value for money at every price point. So yes, of course, you’ll find a fine diner inside the Opera House here, but you’ll find neighbourhood pizza, hole-in-the-wall Thai and lunch-only ramen, too – and that’s what makes our city such an awesome place to get watered and fed. Bon appétit!

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  • Florists

There’s nothing like a big, bright Christmas tree to transform an ordinary living room into a festive enclave. After the year that we've had, we think it's only fitting to dial up the Yuletide joy with a real, pine-fresh tree.

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  • Things to do
  • Weird & Wonderful

In adorable news that could just make your heart burst, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is welcoming a brand new brood of freshly hatched Gentoo Penguin chicks. Amongst the proud new parents, the aquarium’s gay penguin power couple, Sphen and Magic, have become dads all over again, adopting and hatching their second egg.  

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  • Markets

From arts and design markets to food fares, these Christmas markets have all the festive goods. Sort out a little something for the whole family in one trip and drag a friend along to drop some not-so-subtle Kris Kringle hints. Make local one-stop shopping your thing all year round with our guide to the best markets in Sydney, or go green with your gifting at Sydney's best plant nurseries.  

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  • Restaurants
  • Surry Hills

The beloved Surry Hilsl local is back, and it's doing long lunches. For $79 per person, start with a rosé spritz, move on to a shared feast featuring salmon tiradito (a kind of spiced ceviche), barbecued corn on the cob, an heirloom tomato salad, and a lot more – all set to the background tune of endless rosé, of course, when you head in between noon-3pm and book for at least four people.  

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars

There was a dark time, not so many years ago, when after work drinks were limited to pubs and huge booze barns with no soul. Those were your options. Fast forward less than a decade and the CBD now possesses an exceptional collection of bars, from underground tropical hideaways to booze attics with cocktail maestros at the helm. You can drink life-changing wines, the freshest ales and fruity elixirs made from seasonal harvests, and sometimes you can do it all in the same place. 

  • Travel
  • Short getaways

Sydneysiders are a lucky bunch. Jump in the car and within just a few hours you can find yourself in some of the most beautiful spots in the state. But with so many options to choose from, it begs the question: where should you visit first? You're certainly spoilt for choice, so we've cherry-picked a selection of the best day trips from the city – featuring quaint villages, seaside hangouts and mountain escapes.  

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  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • Marrickville

These dog-friendly markets aren’t just a ritual for locals – loyal visitors from all over Sydney trek to Addison Road Community Centre for organic groceries and a wander around Reverse Garbage. You can find pretty much anything here; vintage clothes, books, rugs, eco food wraps to healing crystals, rice bread and tarot reading. 

  • Travel

You need to travel far to make a couple of nights away feel like a proper holiday. Whether you’re in the mood for a beach break, a hike in the mountains, or an escape to the country, we’ve found a host of getaway destinations that are easily accessible from Sydney. 

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  • Music
  • Classical and opera
  • Sydney

Forget the year the never really was, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has dropped its 2021 program and they are not mucking around. From Rachmaninov to Radiohead, there’s something for everyone to unwind to after the year that was. We’ve picked out a handful of our favourite to whet your classical appetites.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars

When it comes to choosing a bar, there's more to consider than ever before. Quality, service and value for money remain front-of-mind, but what about sustainability? Innovation? Collaboration? Low- and no-ABV drinks? In this town, there’s a bar for every occasion and an occasion for every bar, and this is our handpicked list of the 50 best. Most of these are currently open, but we've left a note for those which aren't.

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  • Film
  • Outdoor cinema

Feel like enjoying a film in a park, by the water, or even on the water? From blockbusters to tearjerkers, rom-coms to thrillers, you can catch them all in the great outdoors across the city thanks to a proliferation of popcorn-offering spots popping up across the city. Bring a rug and some snacks (or buy them from handy pop-up eateries) and settle in with the fam – some cinemas will even let you bring your dog.   

  • Restaurants

There are times when dining among strangers in the atmospheric clatter of a restaurant is just what you’re after. Then there are times when that simply won’t do, and what you’d really like is a private room with your people. Book one for your next office function, big celebration – or when you just don’t feel like doing the dishes.

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  • Things to do
  • Sports

The five days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are a strange, awkward, in-between time for everyone. Most places have closed shop for the summer, while others have new holiday hours that are tricky to wrap your head around. This year, many of us will be sticking around the city – so why not make the most of it? Here's a list of the best things to do between December 25-31.   

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

On clear nights, you may be able to spot a few stars in central Sydney, but like most big cities, light pollution will keep the full celestial wonders of the night sky obscured. Fortunately, you don't have to travel very far out of the city to improve your view. Here are our favourite spots. 

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  • Music
  • Classical and opera

While many of the Christmas carols events we know and love are on hiatus, some are forging on to spread the festive cheer in new forms. We've found star-studded lineups crooning contempoary tunes for 'Santa Baby', classical choirs sending chills down spines with 'The First Noel', and wholesome community gatherings where the whole family can do the 'Jinglebell Rock'. 

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms

Do you love cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones with jam and cream and tiered plates of petit fours? Sydney is obsessed with high tea, and with good reason – we know how to bake a good scone. Once you pair them with beautiful harbour views, like at the Mosman Barracks, or cultivated gardens at historic Vaucluse House, and throw in a cheeky glass of Champagne – you've got yourself an aspirational afternoon of leisure. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars

We're all about a funky underground dive bar or two – but in a good-looker of a city like ours, sometimes it seems like a damn shame to retreat underground. Here are the best spots in the city to sip a cold one under a gorgeous open sky. But beware: Sydney's rooftop bars play host to some of the most contested seats in the city, so get in early for a glory spot with the most unblemished views.  For more al fresco drinking try one of Sydney's best beer gardens, or waterfront bars. Looking for another top-notch watering hole? Check out the 50 best bars in Sydney.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • Bondi Beach

These beachside markets make for an excellent brunching destination. Grab some grub, BYO picnic mat and sprawl out on the lawn before making your way to the produce section. The Farmers Market is every Saturday, followed by the less produce-driven Bondi Markets in the same location on Sundays.  

  • Restaurants
  • Bars & Pubs

In partnership with Cocktail Porter, Messina has packaged up a couple of DIY cocktail kits inspired by its famous flavours and including either actual Messina gelato, or one of the dessert brand's rich, pour-over toppings. You've got two options, and good luck deciding between them: dulce de leche Espresso Martinis, or gin-spiked coconut and lychee Piña Coladas.

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  • Travel
  • Short getaways

They combine the comforts of a luxury of hotel room with the adventure of sleeping under the stars. We sent the Time Out team to review the best glamping sites in NSW – from beachside retreats to wine country getaways. Add these to your post-iso holiday wish list for when travel restrictions around the state are lifted.

  • Attractions
  • Beaches

No matter the kind of canine fur baby you’ve raised, every dog loves a trip to the beach.To take your doggos into salty water, you’ll need to seek out one of these a dog-friendly beaches. Some boast off-leash zones year-round, but others have timed areas for freestyle puppy play, and you’ll want to be aware of the rules to avoid a fine or awkward interactions with anti-dog walkers.  

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan

Only a few years ago, vegan dining meant a whole lot of pulses and sprouts, but now Sydney is home to plant-based burger shops, classic Italian pizzerias that showcase cheese and meat alternatives, gelato shops that favour coconut bases and a growing contingent of fine diners offering fancy degustations for vegans.

  • Sport and fitness
  • Walks

From easy breezy coastal walks to half-day bush hikes and multi-day expeditions, Sydney’s blessed with many different walking paths that’ll suit amblers of all abilities. Take a look at our list of 13 walks in Sydney that’ll take you over dramatic sandstone cliffs, cobbled stone paths, sandy inlets and well-trodden boardwalks.

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  • Things to do
  • Fireworks

Sydney’s loves to show off its harbour by splashing it with gloriously multicoloured lights every now and then, from the spectacle of Vivid in winter to the internationally renowned NYE fireworks display. We've almost reached the end of the longest year on record (or at least, that's how it feels), we're allowed out of our houses – and it's time to par-tay.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

Whether you're looking to go for a run, walk your dog, have a sedate picnic or just take a break from your four walls, these are the parks to visit. They have sprawling open spaces, free barbecues and shaded spots to while away an afternoon or simply catch a break at lunchtime. Some of these parks also welcome horse riding, if you fancy a bit of equestrian exercise.   

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  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • Manly

Off the main drag, but still central enough to attract the tourists, Manly’s weekend markets brings together organic food stalls with souvenir sellers that makes for an easy one-stop-shop for a bite to eat and a quick browse before you hit the beach. Sydney Road has market stalls on either side, which can get stiflingly busy in summer sunshine. 

Chase some waterfalls
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

We hate to say it, but TLC were wrong. Turns out you should go chasing waterfalls, especially in Sydney and NSW. Some are in national parks, you can swim in some, and some secret ones will take you a bit of a walk to find. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars

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 to drown our sorrows. Plenty of very good bars, in fact, many of which are 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.  

  • Restaurants
  • Italian

Melbourne may pride itself on its Italian heritage, but Sydney is no slacker when it comes to Italian food. We have amazing delis, classic red sauce joints, high-end purveyors of pasta and a raft of gelato and pastry shops that will keep you riding high on sugar all year long. But it's our pizza game that shines brightest. We know a thing or two about what it takes to make excellent pizza, and these are the places who are topping the class with their pies.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • Lilyfield

Using the expanses of Orange Grove primary school, these markets fill the playground with covetable goods on a weekly basis. The popularity of the bacon and egg rolls from Bowen’s has reached celebrity status, with queues long enough to make you think Bieber is signing autographs at the end of the line.

  • Restaurants

Christmas has the potential to be a joyous occasion, but the combined pressure of extended family, opressive heat and group catering can really take the shine off your day, which is why you might want to consider just booking a table at one of these top Sydney establishments. They'll make you and yours a yuletide feast, pop the Champagne, and there's no washing up required on your part. Too easy.

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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

Halloween might be over, but you can still get your spooks in this city. The paramount rule in any scary sitch is to not be the denier. The jock who says, “ghosts aren’t real” is always the first one to get throttled by an angry apparition. So with open minds and willing spirits, we invite you to explore Sydney’s most haunted sites. 

  • Shopping
  • Tattoo parlours

Australia is a nation of ink-addicts, and as demand has soared and social taboo waned, the number of tattoo studios across the country has exploded. In Sydney, there are a dizzying number of establishments ready to etch your latest (or first) piece of body-art, but since you'll be wearing this doodle for the rest of your days, it's worth shopping around before going under the needle.   

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  • Attractions
  • Beaches

Not that anyone has too many clothes on when they strut into the surf, but there's something undeniably liberating about a dip in the sea wearing nothing at all. And it just so happens that there are several beautiful Sydney beaches where you can go skinny dipping without scandalising other sun-seekers or risking the wrath of the po-po!  

  • Bars
  • Breweries

The Australian beer landscape is truly world class, and while we’re pretty darn spoiled for choice when it comes to places to drink craft beer in this city, there’s something special about going straight to the source. Fresh is best, after all, and it doesn’t get any fresher than that. Leave the car keys at home, set aside an afternoon and make tracks to these excellent establishments pouring the top brews in town. 

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Running

We're spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful running routes in this city. Lace-up and conquer these lakeside, cliffside and parkside runs in Sydney. Head to any of these 13 recommendations and it’s guaranteed that the pounding of trainers on solid ground won’t be the only thing to get the blood pumping.

  • Health and beauty
  • Spas

Whether you want hardcore results, or just a bit of chill time, Sydney's palaces of self-rejuvenation have you covered. Spend a full day treating yo'self to a royal experience, or just duck in for a quick but life-giving massage. Book it, bring a magazine and prepare to bliss out.  

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  • Things to do

  These days most people head to Marrickville for their exceptional Vietnamese food – some of the city’s best banh mi are found along Illawarra Rd. Henson Park oval is a destination for sports fans; bookish types head for the award-winning, architecturally designed library; and music lovers flock for live music at after-hours haunts like the Factory Theatre, and the Red Rattler.  

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  • Things to do
  • Markets

We love eating outdoors, be it fish and chips on the beach, a picnic in the park, or those coveted tables that line the street outside your local café. From Bondi Farmers' Market's corn fritters, to fluffy vegan doughnuts from the Vegan Market to vermicelli salad from Ramsgate Farmers Market, you've got options. 

  • Travel

Take a ride on one of these gorgeous scenic road trips around New South Wales. Pack the boot, roll down your windows and let gorgeous scenery whizz past you – be that soaring coastal cliffs, native bushland, or towering alpine forests. Trust us, no one will be asking if you're nearly there yet.

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  • Things to do

From cathedralesque caverns with towering stalactites to salty beachfront grottos and wind-scoured cliffs, Mother Nature sure has been busy gifting New South Wales with some of the most beautiful and breathtaking caves in the country. Some are vast systems stretching for kilometres, while others offer more intimate connections to the past. But one thing they all have in common is their ability to inspire awe on an epic scale. Prepare to be wowed by seven of the state’s most incredible caves.

  • Things to do

The Christmas party: that annual staple of the season where most of us inevitably enjoy a little too much 'festive cheer', and end up with the almighty hangover (and a few cringey regrets) to prove it. But who says the Chrissie party has to be about necking gallons of grog? If you're looking to celebrate the season with a little more creativity than just the usual boozy knees-up, why not try these alternative activities for your yuletide shindig? Here are nine fun ideas for a Christmas party with a difference.

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  • Restaurants

Sydney is a town with a prodigious appetite, and nothing gets our attention like the promise of allowing our stomachs to dictate when we're full (rather than our wallets). Although that's not to say we're indiscriminate when it comes to all-you-can menus. We've searched the city for the best places where you can eat your fill of top-notch chow, so we suggest you come hungry to these top-quality all-you-can experiences in Sydney.  

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese

Is there a better way to start the day than a torrent of fluffy pork buns, sea-sweet prawn har gow, chewy siu mai, slippery cheong fun, silken tofu, hearty beef tendon, braised chicken feet, mango pancakes and custard tarts? Absolutely not. Here's our definitive list of the best spots in Sydney to relish this morning ritual. B

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  • Shopping
  • Book stores

There are few greater pleasures in life than getting lost in a really good book. But what happens when you're running low? But at the moment, you can't exactly cram into cozy bookstores and wander through shelves to your heart's content. So we've put together a list of the best bookshops in Sydney – and whether they'll deliver juicy reading material straight to your doorstep.

  • Things to do

Sydney's Royal National Park is less than an hour's drive from the CBD, yet so many Sydneysiders haven't stepped foot in the pristine 15,091 hectares of bushland that lines the coast south of Sydney. Whether you want to swim, trek, picnic, swim, bike ride, swim or just GTFO of Sydney for the day, the Royal National Park will provide an outdoors, adventure-filled day out.  

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  • Things to do

When you think about Sydney, it’s the big stuff that springs to mind: our mighty Coathanger over the harbour, our world-famous Opera House, our hundreds of golden beaches, vast national parks and the staggering, epic, larger-than-life beauty of it all. But be careful not to overlook the small stuff. Hidden throughout the city, these little-known hideaways have some big secrets to share.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars

Nobody ever said first dates are easy. Our advice? Pick a place where vibe is king and ace cocktails, first-rate snacks and excellent service are all talking points, too. Why not factor in great views, drag shows or standout locations while you're at it? That way, if all goes well, things can only get better. And if they don't, well, it's time to move on – and you can't say you didn't give it a red-hot go.

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  • Art
  • Galleries

With the city's museums and arts galleries thronging again after our winter of distanced discontent, there's so much to see and do for culture vultures hungry for creative inspiration. We're spoiled for choice in Sydney, with everything from blockbuster exhibitions to cool installations and independent galleries punching way above their weight. Even if the new normal sometimes means taking a timed ticket and waiting our turn, at least it allows for some more intimate one-on-one time with the art, darlings.

  • Restaurants
  • Modern Asian

Being a harbour and beach loving city, Sydney's got fine pickings when it comes to dining with a view. Here are our favourite spots. We've got every aspect, be it leafy, harbour, beach or skyline, so you can treat your eyes as well as your stomach next time you're headed out for dinner.  

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  • Health and beauty
  • Spas

The Blue Mountains has some palaces of relaxation to cater to all your soothing desires – from stress-busting massages and skin-smoothing facials to treatments you didn’t even know you needed, like a zesty ginger-infused ‘cocooning’. Make a day trip of it or sneak off for a mud-wrap during your next getaway, at one of these five stellar Blue Mountains’ day spas.  

Hungry for more?

  • Restaurants

This is the Time Out EAT list, our picks for the best places to dine in Sydney right now, from hot newcomers to time-honoured institutions, ranked by our expert local editors. We’re looking for fun, flavour, creativity and value for money at every price point. So yes, of course, you’ll find a fine diner inside the Opera House here, but you’ll find neighbourhood pizza, hole-in-the-wall Thai and lunch-only ramen, too – and that’s what makes our city such an awesome place to get watered and fed. Bon appétit!  

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