Sydney Travel Guide
Sydney is Australia's largest city and the capital of New South Wales, the country's most visited state. Located along the South Pacific Ocean on Australia's southeast coast, Sydney is home to more than a hundred beaches.
Once a penal colony where convicts from the United Kingdom were left to fend for themselves, Sydney grew during the 19th century to become a thriving port city. Today, nearly half of Sydney's residents, who refer to themselves as "Sydneysiders," were born overseas. Thus, restaurants representing nearly every international cuisine make the city a foodie paradise.
One of the city's most recognizable attractions is the iconic Sydney Opera House with its sail-like structures, the work of Danish architect Jorn Utzon whose design won an international competition. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, nicknamed "the coathanger" for its shape, is another notable attraction and part of the city's stunning panorama.
Sydney's moderate climate and variety of beaches and parks are ideal for outdoor activities. Hotels throughout the city's neighborhoods offer visitors a range of accommodations, from the beaches to the Central Business District.
Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) UTC/GMT +10 hours
From approximately October through March - Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) UTC/GMT +11
Best Time to Go
Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The best times to visit Sydney for weather are the months of October and November (late spring) or March and April (autumn) when temperatures are comfortable and humidity is lower.
The peak times for tourism and the warmest weather are the summer months of December through February. The crowds are at their highest between Christmas and the end of January, a traditional time for Australians' summer vacations. Naturally, prices are higher during this season, but it's perfect beach weather. Also, the annual month-long Sydney Festival is held in January, and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts in Sydney Harbor on Boxing Day (December 26).
Things to Know
Currency: Australian Dollar AUD
Current Exchange Rate
Calling Code: +61
Electricity: The plug is Type I, with three flat pins in a triangular pattern. Australia uses 230 volts (U.S. is 120 volts), so a converter may be needed for certain devices.
Vivid Sydney is a festival that brings outdoor light installations, music, talk, and creative energy to the city each year. Sydney's iconic Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art, and several other buildings become the canvas for leading light artists with colorful displays.
Sydney's "coffee culture" makes it easy to find a great cup of brew from artisan roasters and skilled baristas. Some claim that the Flat White (espresso with steamed milk and only a thin layer of foam) was first served in Australia.
In general, visitors will find that prices are high in Australia, including in Sydney.
Tipping is not customary or expected in Australia where tax and service are included in the bill by law and minimum wages are higher than in the U.S. However, for excellent service in restaurants, taxis, hotels, tours, you may wish to add a small amount as a "thank you."
Retailers that sell wine, spirits, and beverages in Australia are called "bottle shops."
The Sydney Fish Market is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere featuring retailers, restaurants, and seafood cooking classes. Products from the working market, located a short distance from downtown Sydney, include prawns, oysters, sea urchin, crabs, and more.
How to Get Around
The Opal Card can be used on all public transport, including trains, ferries, buses, and light rail.
Sydney Buses: Buses connect all areas of the city, including those without rail or ferry transport. NightRide services replace most train routes between midnight and 4 a.m.
Sydney Rail: Trains operate north to the CBD and across the harbour to North Sydney as well as east to Bondi Junction and south past and including Sydney Airport. The main terminus for local and regional trains is Central Station at Railway Square. Maps and timetables are available at Transport NSW.
Intercity Trains: For many NSW destinations including the South Coast, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, and Outback NSW, regional trains and coaches depart Central Station.
Sydney Light Rail: The network operates in both directions between Central Station and Dulwich Hill in Sydney's West.
Sydney Ferries: From Circular Quay Ferry Terminal in CBD, ferries go to Manly Beach and Taronga Zoo, for fast, convenient, and scenic trips.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Circular Quay: This transport hub for ferries, buses, and trains, located between the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, is also home to outdoor restaurants, shops, and street performers.
Darling Harbour: This lively neighborhood is ideal for families with the Sydney Aquarium, IMAX, Madame Tussauds, and a variety of dining and entertainment options. Take a harbour sightseeing cruise or visit the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Central Business District (CBD): The heart of Sydney is the business and retail center with skyscrapers as well as the Royal Botanic Garden, hotels, art galleries, museums, theaters, and vintage shops. Bondi Beach: The world renowned surfing beach is just about twenty minutes from downtown. Pacific views, seafood restaurants, nightlife, hiking, and water sports make this a popular area. Manly and Coogee are also great beach destinations.
Sydney has a humid subtropical climate, with rain spread fairly evenly through the year for a total annual rainfall of about 47 inches. In general, the weather is mild.
Summer (December-February) temperatures reach the high 70s with humidity in the 60-70% range. Autumn (March-May) sees less humidity and crisp temperatures. In winter (June-August), temperatures fall as low as mid 40s and rainfall is higher. Spring (September-November) becomes warmer with less humidity than summer.
July is the coolest month, and January is the hottest. August and September are the driest months of the year.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month:
January 67°F - 80°F
February 67°F - 80°F
March 65°F - 77°F
April 59°F - 73°F
May 53°F - 68°F
June 49°F - 64°F
July 47°F- 63°F
August 48°F - 65°F
September 53°F - 70°F
October 57°F - 74°F
November 61°F - 75°F
December 65°F - 78°F