Here are 23 of our favourite things to do in Sydney right now – whether you're local or just stopping by for the weekend
The interior at Waterman's Lobster Co is far more swish than the traditional lobster shacks you'll find lining the Eastern seaboard of the USA – the front area is dominated by a beautiful brass-top bar, and the rest of the place is all greys, soft woods and elegant glassware. It’s a ritzy look for a sandwich shop. But given lobster is the star of the show, and we're in a city that loves to show off, it makes a certain type of sense. And if we’re bringing those lobsters all this way, they certainly deserve a properly fancy send-off.
No other city can boast such a range of beautiful places to go kayaking. Deep gorges, dense bushland, sandy beaches, wandering creeks – Sydney has it all.
In a nod to our colonial past, Sydney is a bit obsessed with tea, towers of tiny sandwiches and buttery treats in the early afternoon. You can try a ceremony at Gunners Barracks or the Observatory, but our absolute fave is in the Tea Room at the QVB: high ceilings, gold-rimmed crockery and scones so light and fluffy they practically float into your mouth.
Whether you're looking for a vintage frock or a crate of ripe avocados, Sydney has weekly neighbourhood markets that draw crowds of locals for locally-grown fruit and veg, indie arts and crafts, bric-a-brac, fresh-cut buds and all the coffee carts you could ever need.
You can’t help but want to get involved with whatever thing chef Kylie Kwong is passionate about right now. It’s a list that just keeps on growing, from bush herbs to bespoke gin. She’s now at the forefront of a culinary push of Australian wine-makers, distillers, producers and brewers. Thankfully, she still has time to make Chinese food.
Retrosweat has been taking over Sydney, one gym room at a time. Burn calories to the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Wham – all turned up to 11! The freestyle workout is best enjoyed with Lycra, scrunchies and sweatbands; step back to the '80s on Tuesdays in Alexandria, Wednesdays in Bondi and Thursdays in Surry Hills.
There are two things, straight off the bat, that make this pocket-sized CBD bar the standard setter it is. That’s the drinks and the service. The menu is, on the whole, fresh juice-based and relies heavily on whatever’s in-season. But go off-menu and be rewarded with a team with a staggering amount of cocktail knowledge.
“By God, this is a beautiful place to eat a meal.” The thought is almost certain to strike at some point as you dine under the dominating, post-Brutalist arches of executive chef Peter Gilmore's new restaurant inside the Opera House sails. And that’s before you see the food. It's an experience everyone in Sydney should enjoy... at least once.
You'll hear a lot about the Bondi to Coogee cliffside walk while you're here, and yes, you should do it. But if you end up in Manly (and you should do that, too), this is a must. All up, this is a 10km walk that can take up to four hours to complete – but the good news is it has multiple access points if you're after something less strenuous, and the views of the harbour and city will make you forget all about your aching feet. Consider getting sidetracked for a peek at the Grotto Point Light House along the way.
Start the week with a ‘Monday Twerkout’, improve your pointe at Sydney Dance Company or take a beginners class in rock'n'roll at Miss Peaches. Time Out's tried-and-tested list of the best dance classes includes places where you can drop-in and swing, right up to term-length classes to master fancy footwork.
There’s a deep, all-pervading smoke through everything you eat, which makes for a pretty specific menu. Our advice? Pick a couple of (quality) meats, and have a blast with the sides.
The current program from the STC – which boasts Andrew Upton (AKA Mr Cate Blanchett) as its creative director – is a big one: shows like King Lear, The Present and Orlando and stars like Geoffrey Rush, Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh. All this, and in the historic surrounds of Walsh Bay, perched right on the harbour at the edge of the city.
They're making some beautiful cakes over at Textbook Boulangerie Patisserie. Subtle and fine; it's like the kind that you find in France. Sitting in the relaxed atmosphere of the café – all concrete, white and wood – with the doors wide open to the outside, feels pretty lovely. And the fact that the chefs are right there in front of you in the open kitchen, shaping bread and carefully decorating the cakes, is a real point of difference to other bakeries around. And did we say they make beautiful cakes?
Sculpture by the Sea is one of Sydney's key annual arts events, drawing around 500,000 to the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama to enjoy sculptures by top artists and emerging talents from Australia and abroad. To avoid the crowds, get there for sunrise – or wait until the end of the day for a perfectly-timed sunset stroll.
Bypass the crowds and head to Return to Rio. The festival puts serious thought into delivering a left-of-centre weekend away, decking out the resort to the nines, encouraging dress-ups and selecting an eclectic line-up of established and upcoming musicians.
It's a monster line-up of sudsy fun for Sydney's dedicated craft beer festival. Manly’s 4 Pines Brewing Co are taking their beachside vibes across to Willoughby for a Caribbean cook-up, while beer nerds can really shine at Beer Trivia presented by Bottled Lightning Co, and those wanting a chance to see where the magic happens at James Squire Brewery can finally grab that golden ticket. It's Christmas for craft beer fans.
There are so many galleries in Chippendale that they merit a crawl: start at contemporary Chinese art palace White Rabbit, then venture to commercial Galerie Pompom and its sister, artist-run-initiatve MOP Projects; for bleeding edge local art, check out Wellington St Projects.
The Blue Mountains are at the top of most Sydneysiders’ lists for a nearby getaway – any time of the year. The heritage-listed Hydro reopened in 2014 after a major refurbishment – you’ll want to pop in here for high tea with a view, and if you’re feeling indulgent, go on and book in for a romantic weekend stay.
Newtown Festival celebrates neighbourhood pride and inclusivity. This year will see the return of the ‘Newtown Locals’ area of pop-ups from neighbourhood bars, cafés and restaurants – plus there will be more locally brewed beers on tap than ever before. Look out for featured authors in the Writers’ Tent, hands-on activities in the Vocal Local Village and performers at the popular Kids Zone.
Did you know that Clark Island used to be a humble veggie patch? Or that Cockatoo Island was once a prison? Sydney's islands are full of colourful history – and great places to lay a picnic blanket, too.
It’s a bar you’ll want to drink in early and dance in late. Pad your stomach with some skewers before you start in on the booze here – and oh, the booze here. So much, so good. Make sure you order one of their famous monkey heads before moving to a Piña Colada. Then make your way to the dancefloor, a spacious spot framed by a school of paper fish, seaweed and a couple of cute jellyfish hanging overhead. Go on, make a splash.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is the leading museum of art in New South Wales and Sydney, and one of Australia's foremost cultural institutions. It holds significant collections of Australian, European and Asian art, and presents nearly 40 exhibitions annually. Every Wednesday night it opens its doors until 10pm for the Art After Hours program; catch lectures, workshops, celebrity talks, film screenings – or check out the exhibitions. If you're hungry, check out Matt Moran's restaurant Chiswick at the Gallery.
Boy, oh, boy! You’ve got to be brave to take the plunge in the annual ocean swim with a difference. Last year one thousand people ditched their clothes and swam in the ocean together in Sydney’s most exhibitionist sports event. The Sydney Skinny first launched in 2013, an idea by Nigel Marsh, the author of Fat, Forty and Fired and Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up. Marsh came up with the concept after he was caught short without swimmers and decided to take a dip in the ocean anyway – it was a hot day, we’ve all been there.