Winter is a beautiful time to visit Sydney. You can still see the white surf on Bondi Beach and the harbour’s iconic Opera House during the day. The city has plenty of outdoor cafes for your coffee fix, as well as fantastic opportunities for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding at Thredbo or Perisher in New South Wales. There are also many Christmas markets around Australia that Sydney locals enjoy with their family and friends.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing experience, museums are always to explore, such as Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW or the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). A stroll through Hyde Park is always enjoyable with its gardens and monuments like Archibald Fountain – which has become a symbol of Sydney.
Australia is best known for its summers, and Sydney isn’t any different. The endless strip of golden beaches, hip outdoor restaurants and sprawling parks are just some of the things that have made the iconic harbour city famous.
But just because the temperature has dropped and winter is setting in doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to do in and around Sydney.
Some believe that it’s too cold for the non-locals to make the most of the stunning beaches. But experiencing Sydney in wintertime has a certain charm that needs to be embraced.
Where else could you say you got a chance to go ice skating next to one of the most famous beaches in the world? Australia is spectacular; make the most of your Sydney holiday and enjoy the special events only available during this season.
The days are shorter, but still, we advise you to make the most out of your time in this beautiful city! Here’s our list of some of the most amazing things to do in Sydney during winter.
1. Attend The Vivid Sydney Light And Art Festival
Vivid Light takes you to another world, with shadows that spring into colour and building facades that reveal a hidden world of magic. The city transforms into a nighttime wonderland through large-scale illuminations, laser light shows and 3D-mapped projections.
It’s one of the most captivating events in Sydney, and if you’re lucky enough to be visiting during winter, you’ll be blown away by the incredible Vivid Sydney Festival!
Happening every year for a few weeks at the end of May until mid-June, this outdoor living gallery of impressive lighting sculptures and a marvellous contemporary music program has grown a reputation as one of the world’s most creative industry forums.
The multi-award-winning festival illuminates and accentuates the city of Sydney, with dazzling light art exhibits bringing new life to the surrounding precincts and exciting entertainment for kids and adults alike.
An exceptionally fantastic installation is the light show that dances across the iconic Sydney Opera House at night.
The night begins with the Lighting of the Sails of the Sydney Opera House. Then, follow the series of interactive and immersive light art sculptures and installation trails through the spectacular waterside precincts of the Royal Botanic Garden and Barangaroo.
There’s plenty of great spots to view this from, whether you’re down in Circular Quay or up in one of the nearby hotels.
Enjoy the brilliant spectacle from the comfort of a harbour ferry or cruise vessel. The many cruise vessels and ferries that travel around the harbour will be decorated with bright lights that change colour as they enter the different Vivid Sydney precincts.
Vivid Music features an impressive line-up of international and Australian talent, performing on iconic stages and smaller music venues located throughout the inner city.
Vivid Ideas is a stimulating program of public talks, workshops and forums examining topics that range from the design of our cities to practical tools for creatives.
This has quickly grown into the largest festival of its kind in the world. So join the fun and listen to talks of great global thinkers and brilliant creators all across Sydney!
2. Go On A Whale Watching Tour
Get ready for this awe-inspiring experience that doesn’t require you to stray too far from the bustling metropolis.
In the months from June to September, you’ll have the best chance of spotting them as 20,000 migrate along the NSW coastline.
Someone who has a passion for wildlife cannot miss an opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in the wild.
You can try to catch a glimpse of them from the shore, but for the best experience, head out on a dedicated whale watching tour.
Most tour operators have a marine biologist on board that provides expert explanations about whales and their behaviour.
They also usually have a professional photographer accompanying each group, so if you miss your chance at getting the perfect whale action shot, the photographer has you covered.
With the Sydney Whale Watching Cruise with Breakfast or Lunch, you can do it all! Learn all about the whales’ migration aboard a comfortable vessel, witness a few whales in their natural habitat, and munch on your choice of breakfast or lunch.
Bring your friends and family, and get your cameras ready!
3. Brave The Cold And Go Swimming At Bondi Icebergs
It is regarded as an international landmark, not just because of its epic location but also thanks to its long tradition of winter swimming dating back to 1929.
If you’re not daring enough to dip into the icy water, you can always enjoy the other perks of the club.
Above the pool, you can enjoy the magnificent views of Bondi Beach and the pool as you drink or dine on the balcony.
4. Have Fun At Bondi Winter Magic
You might think it’s far too cold to go for a swim, but that shouldn’t keep you away from the Bondi shore because there’s plenty of things to do out of the water too.
The Bondi Winter Magic Festival kick starts the winter fun with many awesome activities and events being held for the entire month of July.
There’s live music, art exhibits, cultural experiences, food trucks and yoga by the sea.
New for 2018, event-goers can now enjoy magnificent views of Bondi Beach from a 22-metre high Ferris wheel.
But what makes the Bondi Winter Magic Festival unique is the chance to go ice skating at Australia’s only beachside ice rink!
5. Do the Sydney Bridge Climb
The best way to experience the iconic views of Sydney, and have a bit of an adrenaline rush at the same time, is to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for exhilaration and view one of the best panoramas of the beautiful city and beyond, including the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. You’ll scale the bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney in The Rocks.
There is a range of climbs, including the 3.5-hour tour and a shorter 90-minute tour. Climbs are available at dawn, during the day, at twilight or in the evening.
Climb up the summit of the Harbour Bridge, 134 meters above the water and right in the centre of Sydney Harbour, for an uninterrupted aerial view of the city.
Each group has a Climb Leader as a guide to ensure safety measures are followed and to entertain you with fun facts and the history of the bridge during this ascent.
For Mandarin speakers, a tour departs at 3 pm daily with a Mandarin-speaking guide. An ideal climb for those with limited time is the 90-minute BridgeClimb Sampler.
Make sure you reserve tickets in advance for a climb. To get to BridgeClimb, go to Cumberland Street in The Rocks. BridgeClimb is located on the western side of Cumberland Street before the road snakes underneath the Harbour Bridge.
At a moderate pace, you will ascend the arches of the Bridge and admire the panoramic views of the Sydney Opera House, located in one of the gorgeous harbours in the world.
Doing this in winter is quite unique because even though it will be a bit chilly at the top, the winter skies can be beautifully clear.
6. Visit Luna Park
There is no better way to bring out your inner child than to visit an amusement park. And with magical views of the harbour, Sydney’s iconic Luna Park is a real gem for people of all ages.
Luna Park was built in the 1930s and has been magnificently restored right beneath the Harbour Bridge in one of the most beautiful spots in the city.
Whether you want to get an adrenaline rush by going on one of the many thrilling rides or try your luck by trying to find a way out of the Coney Island Mirror Maze – it’s impossible to feel bored at Luna Park.
With spectacular views of Sydney Harbour, Luna Park is an amusement park for children and the young at heart. You’ll have lots of fun on rides such as the Ferris wheel and the Tango Train on the edge of one of the world’s most beautiful harbours.
The entrance to Luna Park is a giant smiling face of the Moon. You can see the beaming smile at Milsons Point from harbourside vantage points around the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay, including ferries arriving at and departing the quay.
Would you mind checking Luna Park’s website for monthly opening times? To get to Luna Park, you can walk across the harbour bridge or take a ferry from Circular Quay to Milsons Point Wharf. From Central Town Hall or Wynyard stations, take a train to Milsons Point.
7. Keep Warm In The Sydney Pubs
Sydney has a strong pub culture, dating back to the colony’s early days, and enjoying a cold beer on a hot day is part of the Australian psyche.
You can have a schooner in a convict-built pub, pull up a stool at a stylish inner-city drinking spot or sit back with the locals in a sprawling beer garden to take in the view and listen to live music. Whatever your drinking style, there’s a pub that caters to it.
The crackling of the fire, a hot bowl of fresh chips, a tasty drink and a room bathed in an amber glow. Is there a more perfect place to spend a chilly day in Sydney than a traditional pub?
Sydney’s pubs are some of the best in the world and are filled with fantastic characters, fabulous decorations and lots of yummy meals.
To stay warm and dry all winter long, head to a neighbourhood like The Rocks, curl up in front of the flames with a pint of delicious craft beer and make some friends.
Some of the oldest pubs in Australia are located in The Rocks. These convict-built sandstone venues have been serving thirsty customers for more than 150 years.
Start with the historic Fortune of War (1828), The Lord Nelson (1841), Hero of Waterloo (1843) or Orient Hotel (1843), which all retain their colonial charm. Late-night revellers tend to flock to The Argyle, housed in the former Argyle Stores buildings dating back to 1826.
You’ll find more colonial-era pubs dotted throughout the city. For example, the Woolwich Pier Hotel opened in 1885 and was completely revamped in 2018.
There’s a pub on (almost) every corner in Paddington, and many are housed in historic buildings. Try the lively Paddo Inn, dog-friendly The London, The Royal and The Light Brigade with their grand roof terraces, or The Unicorn, which is hipster-central.
You’ll find more modern pubs in Surry Hills, The Dolphin has striking interiors, excellent food and a dedicated wine room. The wrap-around veranda of The Clock is a great spot to watch the world go by, while the Keg & Brew specialises in craft beer and has a rooftop bar with views of the city skyline.
The Beresford in Surry Hills regularly hosts live performances, cabaret and drag shows. You can play basketball on the court at Marrickville’s Vic on the Park – your dog is even welcome to hang out with you.
If you like your pubs with a side of water views, Sydney has the spot for you. The Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and Coogee Pavilion sit just steps from the sand. In the north, the Manly Wharf Hotel looks back towards Sydney Harbour, and you can see the beach from every window at The Collaroy.
In The Rocks, the rooftop of The Glenmore looks out over the harbour and the Sydney Opera House.
Don’t be surprised if you end up losing track of time with plenty of pool games whilst enjoying your chicken parmy or Sunday roast.
8. Spend All Day In The Museums
No matter how attractive a museum might be, the beach will always be the most crowded spot during summertime.
When winter rolls around, though, it’s time to head out to those interesting exhibits you’ve meant to catch all year.
Sydney has a vibrant and intricate cultural scene, resulting in many museums and galleries continually updating their collections or hosting international exhibitions.
Even Sydneysiders keep coming back again and again to catch something new!
Visiting Sydney in winter is an ideal opportunity to take a peek inside one of these fascinating world-renowned museums.
Visit the Sydney Cricket Ground Museum and see sporting legend Don Bradman’s 1946 bat and his Baggy Green cap. Convict history comes to life at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum on Macquarie Street, a stroll from the Art Gallery of NSW.
The Sydney Jewish Museum is a short walk from Kings Cross train station.
The Hyde Park Barracks Museum, one of Australia’s 11 World Heritage-listed convict sites. Also on Macquarie Street is the State Library of NSW, which has beautiful maps documenting early European exploration.
Near Circular Quay is the Museum of Sydney, which is built on the site of the first Government House. You’ll see remains of Governor Arthur Phillip’s official residence in the forecourt and foyer. The family-friendly Rocks Discovery Museum tells the story of The Rocks from pre-European days to the present.
The Powerhouse Museum, near Darling Harbour, focuses on applied arts and sciences, with plenty of interactive experiences.
The Australian National Maritime Museum is always famous at Darling Harbour, where you can explore a tall ship or submarine and browse galleries of maritime memorabilia.
Top destinations for sports fans are the Sydney Cricket Ground Museum and the Heroes and Legends Rugby League Museum, both in Moore Park. The SCG Museum is part of a guided tour that includes the Members Pavilion and a walk on the legendary oval.
Lethal animals, buried treasures, mummified corpses and hot rocks are just some of the things you can encounter in some of the museums, while the art galleries take it up another notch altogether.
You definitely won’t be bored in one of the many Sydney museums!
9. Check Out A Football Match
When visiting Australia in the winter, become a local by catching a rugby or football match, and with no shortage of games in Sydney throughout the sporting season.
Rugby isn’t just a sport here in Australia; it’s a religion, so even if you’re not quite sure how the game is played; don’t worry, pick a team, cheer your lungs out and soak up the atmosphere.
There are three types of football codes worshipped in Australia – rugby league, rugby union and Aussie rules (soccer is also played and becoming more popular).
You might get the chance to catch the Sydney Swans play at the SCG, which is a fantastic experience, or if your timing isn’t so lucky, you can always grab one of the local rugby league teams playing in the NRL.
Tickets for the big games sell out fast, so do your research before visiting Sydney, or you might be stuck buying tickets from scalpers on the day.
10. Grab A Surfboard and Ride The Huge Winter Swell
While summer is the time to catch waves in the north, winter is definitely when surf waves are their best in the south, says wave scientist Dr Mark Hemer from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.
While most people spend the winter in woollen socks and lumpy jackets, the keen surfers know that the winter season is one of the best times to get out into the water.
For those living north of the Sunshine Coast on the east coast and across the north of Australia, wave action is driven by tropical cyclones, says Hemer.
But in winter, weather patterns in the Southern Ocean drive waves along the south and southwest coasts of the continent, and “east-coast lows” in the Tasman play a significant role that leads to the cry: “surf’s up” along the east and south-east coast.
Winter storms create more significant and more consistent swells, which routinely hit the east coast of Australia, perfect for surf lovers.
Another perk of surfing in Sydney in the winter is the number of surfers is a lot less, and it tends to only be the more experienced people out in the water.
Obviously, you will need to withstand shallow temperatures, but that’s nothing a good wetsuit can’t solve.
The cold aside, there’s no better time to enjoy the best surfing conditions in Sydney.
11. Go Skiing In The Snowy Mountains
Most travellers are unaware that it snows in Australia. While it might not dump quite like Japan or North America, there are still some excellent skiing conditions to be enjoyed in the Snowy Mountains.
Australia’s highest peaks are in the Snowy Mountains, where thrilling downhill skiing and snowboarding are during the snow season. Lively towns and resorts in this alpine region in southwest NSW are also popular destinations in warmer months for hiking, horse riding, kayaking and fishing.
The alpine region is the backdrop for Australian poet Banjo Paterson’s epic The Man from Snowy River. There are four resorts in the Kosciuszko National Park, which is named after Australia’s highest peak.
Located a few hours south of Sydney near Canberra, enjoying Australia’s only true alpine wilderness during the winter is a must-do for all ages.
The region also produces fresh food and cool-climate wines, including award-winning sparkling wines at the Courabyra vineyard. Jindabyne is a popular spot to stay where you’ll find nightlife and shopping.
On the scenic Alpine Way, halfway between Thredbo and Jindabyne, call Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery, also has a café.
If you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, do not worry, as there are many other winter activities you can enjoy.
Try your hand at snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, scenic chairlift rides, snowball fights, or bask in the gorgeous winter views unique to the Snowy Mountains.
There’s a ski school for children and adult beginners and exhilarating runs for advanced skiers and snowboarders. In addition, you can rent skis, snowboards, boots and all other equipment.
The Snowy Mountains are a great destination during the ski season, with trails to suit walkers of all abilities.
There’s trout fishing in beautiful mountain lakes and rivers, or you can go horse riding along mountain tracks with operators such as Snowy River Horseback Adventure.
After a long day of skiing, it’s an excellent time to remind yourself that the region is also famous for its award-winning cold-climate wines.
12. Experience The Blue Mountains
Known for being one of the best day trips from Sydney, seeing the legendary Blue Mountains in the winter is a truly remarkable sight.
The Blue Mountains, a famous world heritage site, is a 2-hour drive from the city. It comes alive during the winter months with lush forests and huge waterfalls being enhanced by the heavy rainfall and occasional snow that hits the region.
The Blue Mountains is best known for its soaring sandstone ridges blanketed in native bushland. Nestled within the wilderness lie charming mountain towns, ancient Aboriginal rock art and the iconic tourist attraction of Scenic World, where a suspended cableway and the world’s steepest train await.
Expect to be enchanted by the natural beauty when you set out on foot to explore the walking tracks that loop around the verdant valleys and craggy cliffs.
Find after-dark excitement spotting glow worms in an underground cave, or indulge in a touch of luxury at a wilderness retreat. Whether cloaked in clouds or glowing golden in the sunset, the endless vistas of the Blue Mountains will take your breath away.
There are so many amazing things to do in the Blue Mountains. Find the perfect Blue Mountains accommodation and give yourself a few days at the very least to explore the whole area.
If the weather proves to be too cold for you in the Blue Mountains, head underground instead.
Nearly 400 million years old and with approximately 40 kilometres of cave passages, the Jenolan Caves are one of the country’s most spectacular cave systems and need to be seen to be believed.
You’ll find boardwalks weaving over crystal clear, underground pools and ladders climbing up next to towering stalactites.
13. Fall In Love With Byron Bay
This is one place that cannot be left off the list. You can’t come all the way to the east coast of Australia and not make the trip to Byron Bay, the country’s famous hippy beachside town.
Byron Bay is a great place to get active, be it surfing, kayaking, fishing, sailing or just enjoying a swim at a beautiful beach. Surf lessons are available too.
Byron Bay’s beaches are phenomenal, and there’s a relaxed, surfy vibe amongst the town. It’s also the most eastern point of the Australian mainland, marked by the famous Cape Byron lighthouse.
The locals think of it as an Haute-boho lifestyle, but the town has gotten quite expensive in recent years, and there are problems with traffic.
From World Heritage rainforest to the sparkling beaches, the Byron Bay region on the North Coast of NSW is full of natural wonders. The area is also famous for its surf culture, alternative philosophies, organic food and outdoor adventures.
Byron Bay’s natural attractions are impeccable; humpback whales cruise past the headland, dolphins frolic in the bay, and storms create rainbows on the mountains. With the ocean as a vast blue canvas, watch hang-gliders ride thermals above the lighthouse.
Rich soils and sustainable farming practices help create enviable fresh produce. Savour the delicious local produce in the area’s restaurants, cafés and markets. The easy-going towns of Brunswick Heads, Bangalow and Mullumbimby, combine the casual vibe of coastal retreats with a touch of city style.
Explore the town of Ballina, located at the mouth of the Richmond River and home of the Big Prawn, one of Australia’s iconic ‘big things. Lennox Head, a seaside village between Ballina and Byron Bay, is the world-famous surf break Lennox Point.
It’s still a magical place and a much-recommended destination to visit; whether you end up loving it or hating it, you really need to get up there. Find the perfect Byron Bay accommodation and check it out for yourself.