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A landscape shot of the bright blue water and small white cove at Queens Beach
Photograph: Destination NSW

Seven spots that bring the European summer to Sydney

Sick of other people’s Santorini sunsets and Positano poses? Make your own Mediterranean-like moments at these Sydney gems

Alice Ellis
Written by
Alice Ellis

As Sydney's weather cools down, Europe heats up – and sometimes it can seem, from looking at our Instagram feeds, like every second Sydneysider heads O/S for the northern summer.

That said, Sydney winters ain't so bad. Enviable water views and outdoor hospitality are some of the things Sydney does best, year round. So polish the lense on your smartphone and charge a cocktail glass to Instagrammable days and nights that are worthy of a place on anyone’s feed.

Here are our picks of the Sydney spots that deliver a sense of Europe’s summer. 

Still keen to travel somewhere, even if it can't be Greece? Head out of town on one of these amazing roadtrips you can take from Sydney. 

Sydney spots that are exactly like Europe in summer

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Watsons Bay

Watsons Bay Hotel claims it hosts “Sydney’s best sunset”. A big call! But the fact is, on the east coast, there aren’t many spots where you can watch the sun setting over the water like you can in Santorini. Watsons Bay has this privilege because it faces west towards the harbour. Grab a $10 cocktail between 2 to 4pm on weekends, then enjoy the DJ’s mix while watching the sky turn from blue to purple, pink and orange. To get there, catch a ferry from Circular Quay and you’ll be dropped, like a rockstar, right out front. 

  • Restaurants
  • Freshwater
  • price 2 of 4

In Europe, restaurants can set up shop on the sand. In Sydney, two-hatted Pilu is about as close to on-the-beach dining as you can get. Enjoy views of Freshwater Beach from this weatherboard house perched on the grass above the beach. Work your way through the seasonal menu inspired by Sardinia, which is chef Giovanni Pilu’s homeland. Think handmade pasta with chicken consommé, pecorino cream and mint; and fregula with spanner crab, bottarga and lemon. If casual antipasto and panini are more your style, grab a quick bite from Pilu Baretto, which is the eat-in-or-takeaway cafe next door.

For a heated swim with a view: Andrew Boy Charlton Pool, Woolloomooloo Bay
  • Sport and fitness
  • Sydney

It’s going to be a little while longer before a dip in the Pacific feels as appealing as diving into the Aegean. In the meantime, get your aquatic fix at Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, which is heated from September through April. The 50m saltwater pool is next to the Botanic Gardens and features views of Sydney Harbour’s Woolloomooloo Bay. You don’t have to be a member to visit, and it’s $7.20 for casual entry. After your swim, dry off on one of the lounges on the sundeck, or relax at the Oh Boy cafe, where you can order breakfast, lunch and even cocktails overlooking the pool and harbour.

If you are already brave enough for an ocean swim, find your way to tiny harbour beach, Queens Beach, which is perfect for people who like the Mediterranean because of its lack of surf. This beach's seclusion, and the rocky path you need to climb down, keeps it clear of crowds. Access via the Hermitage Foreshore Walking Trail (it's just a 5-minute walk from the Rose Bay end of the trail). At high tide, most of the beach's sand ends up underwater, but that won’t affect your view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. If you’re more of a sit-on-the-sand type, though, continue along the trail, and you’ll get to the slightly bigger Milk Beach, which we also love.

  • Things to do
  • La Perouse

This 4km walking track winds along the cliff tops and beaches of Kamay Botany Bay National Park, offering stunning views over Congwong Beach, Botany Bay and the ocean. More than 30 Aboriginal sites have been recorded in the National Park, including rock art and engravings. You’ll also come across the World War II battlements still keeping a watchful eye over the ocean. If you work up a sweat on the walk, head down to beautiful Congwong Beach afterwards – or to (unofficial nudist beach) Little Congwong if you didn’t bring your cossie!

  • Bars
  • Darlinghurst

Slims proves you don’t need to be near the water for the perfect spritzy summer arvo. This bar on the rooftop at Hyde Park House hotel offers uninterrupted views of Hyde Park, the city skyline and the setting sun. Sip away the afternoon under their pink frilly umbrellas. Or, if you’re keen for an earlier start, join their two-hour Slims Brunch Club at 12 or 1pm on weekends. Get two hours of food and bottomless prosecco or rosé for $75, or the same with Aperol Spritzes for $100.


Chartering a boat in Sydney isn’t cheap, but Boat Hire Sydney offers a more-affordable-than-average option – you can rent a 36ft cruiser named ‘Cavok’ for $350 an hour. Not bad considering she comfortably accommodates 12 people. Gather your own Cannes-style crew while discovering your hometown harbour, which is often referred to as the world’s most beautiful waterway. One of the best things about chartering a boat is getting the chance to explore Sydney’s lesser-known inlets and bays. Just an idea for your next special occassion. 

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