Best Places to Stay in Sydney, Australia
Actually, that wallaby and her baby do not live in Sydney, which may surprise some people. We don't have kangaroos hopping down our streets. In fact, Sydney actually looks like this:
Many people book a hotel in Sydney unaware they're going to be staying in the middle of a huge city. Most "Sydneysiders" (our word for Sydney residents) live two or three hours' drive from the beach.
The centre of the city does sit right on the beautiful harbor—so if you stay in the business district, you'll be well placed to take a ferry ride or cruise to view the Opera House. But you will be a long way from a beach or a kangaroo!
If you are looking for a seaside vacation, then you need to know which suburbs offer easy access to the coast.
Is Bondi the Best Beach?
Eastern Suburbs Beaches
Most visitors to Australia want to see the sun and sand. So while Sydney's Eastern Suburbs are the most expensive, they're also the place most tourists prefer.
Bondi is the most famous beach, but it's overcrowded for that reason. You can check out how busy it gets on the North Bondi webcam. Also, the bars can get rough at night. It's popular with backpackers, but families tend to go to one of the many other beaches along that stretch of coast. They all have the same soft sand as Bondi and most of them are much prettier!
Clovelly is family-friendly because it has a safe surfside pool, plus it has a long breakwater to protect sea bathers from the surf. Bring a snorkel and you can also see some amazing marine life! Bronte has more surf but it also has huge grassed areas for picnics and barbecues. If you want the liveliness of Bondi without the rough element, Coogee is a good choice: it has a great vibe, lots of cafes and restaurants, a long sandy beach to rival Bondi's—and an express bus to the city.
You can save money by staying a little away from the coast, in Randwick, Kensington or Kingsford—the beaches are a short bus ride or walk, and there's good bus transport to town.
Surf's Up: The Northern Beaches
Surfers will hotly dispute which Sydney beaches offer the best surf, but my surfer friends all live in the Northern Beaches, not the Eastern Suburbs. Top choices are Curl Curl, Narrabeen, Dee Why or Palm Beach (where the television series "Home and Away" is filmed). Getting to other parts of Sydney from these suburbs is an absolute pain in the neck as there's no train line—but if you're a surfer, they're worth the effort!
A compromise is to stay in Manly, which is on the North Shore but serviced by a regular ferry service across the Harbor. It has the best of both worlds. At one end of its main street, the Corso, there's a quiet Harbor beach. Walk to the other end and you'll find a long ocean surfing beach. On the way you'll be tempted to stop in a wide array of pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops.
The Western Suburbs
If you’re not a beach bunny, then you'll find it much cheaper to book accommodation to the west of the city, away from the beaches. There are few hotels but you will find plenty of options on AirBnB. However, be careful!
The Western Suburbs are where most Sydneysiders live and bring up their kids, but they're not really suitable for vacationers—you're likely to find yourself in suburbia, with no cafes or restaurants, no night life, and poor public transport.
Staying closer to the CBD, though, is a good value-for-money vacation choice— because the Inner West is where the young and trendy live, so most of those suburbs have good nightlife and great eateries. There are buses to the city and you're close enough to town that a taxi fare won't be astronomical. The Inner West starts around Five Dock/Concord and extends towards the city, as far as Glebe. My favourite inner west suburb is Leichhardt, which is historically the Italian quarter of Sydney and still has a strong Italian influence, reflected in the quality of the coffee and cakes. If you like Portuguese food, go for Petersham—you'll be in heaven! Glebe and Newtown have an "alternative" feel. Remember, though, that getting to the seaside will take you two hours or more—if you want to cool off, you'll have to head for one of the local community swimming pools.
There's something for everyone in Sydney!