Sydney in summer is immediately recognizable. Of course its iconic sights can be enjoyed year-round, but if you’re mad about beaches, or prefer a cutting-edge arts festival, you’ll want to pick the best time to visit this eclectic and electrifying city. Whether its cheaper accommodation or cooler weather you’re after, our tips will help plan the trip of a lifetime.
High season: December to February
Best time for yachts and balmy nights
Summer brings hot humid days and balmy evenings. Sydney buzzes year round, but particularly over the Christmas and New Year period. First the spectacular Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race departs the harbor on Boxing Day. Then New Year’s Eve goes off with a bang with show-stopping fireworks displays over the water. And then cricket comes to Sydney in January with the Test on New Year’s Day, plus raucous T20 matches at Sydney Cricket Ground.
This is the high season for Australian holidaymakers: schools close so you’ll find major tourist attractions particularly busy with families. Pre-book any must-see sights or activities before you travel. Accommodation prices are steeper in the high season, and beaches can get a little crowded. Car parking will be nigh impossible so plan to use public transport as much as possible this time of the year.
Shoulder season: March to May & September to November
Best time for festivals, culture, and outdoor activity.
Summer may bring the crowds to Sydney, but the shoulder seasons between May and March plus September to November attract plenty of interstate and international visitors with major festivals the big draw. The autumn months also deliver cooler temperatures – but don’t worry, you won’t need to pack winter woolies for subtropical Sydney!
March sees Sydney’s famous and much-loved Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras paint the city in rainbows and drag queens. Sydney also hosts a slew of arts festivals that locals adore from Vivid to the Biennale. The spring, September to November, is dominated by sporting events like the National Rugby League Grand Final and the Sydney Running Festival. There’s also the home grown Sculpture by the Sea festival where Bondi transforms into a giant outdoor sculpture garden.
Low season: June to August
Best time for indoors entertainment and eating out
Cool wintery days means lower tourist numbers so you’ll find rainy day attractions like Sydney’s many museums and art galleries are less crowded. You’re also more likely to get those rare restaurant bookings you would have missed out on in the summer peak season. Accommodation bargains abound with “stay three nights, pay for two” style deals. The Blue Mountains embraces its snowy winter vibes at Yulefest (that’s Christmas in July for all you northern hemisphere readers). Wealthy Sydneysiders either jet off to the Snowy Mountains or New Zealand to chase the slopes in winter, or to escape the cold by taking their winter breaks somewhere sunnier, like Queensland – or Europe.
For those looking for big screen entertainment there’s the Sydney Film Festival with “the best, strangest and most exciting cinema” screened over two weeks in August at the gorgeous art deco State Theatre. Sports fans are also kept entertained in winter with the State of Origin series (an annual best-of-three rugby league series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons) and the Bledisloe Cup (a rugby union series between Australia and New Zealand).
Here’s a monthly guide to what you can expect through the year in Sydney. All events are subject to changes of course, especially at the moment.
The peak of the peak season with school summer holidays in full swing, taking advantage of the long, hot days. On average this is the hottest month.
Key events: Sydney Festival, T20 Big Bash
Almost as hot as January, but the kids are back at school, so the beaches are less crowded. From mid-February the Mardi Gras influx starts to arrive. Sydney has an excellent Chinatown and a strong Chinese population so you can’t miss the colors of Chinese New Year parades either.
Key events: Chinese New Year, Tropfest
March kicks off with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, a spectacle that everyone in Sydney loves to watch whether they’re part of the queer community or not. Temperatures are still balmy, but it’s traditionally Sydney’s wettest month so pack an umbrella or a raincoat in your daypack.
Key events: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras, Taste of Sydney
As autumn progresses, showers are more frequent, but it’s never particularly cold. Locals make the most of the long Easter weekend which coincides with a two-week school holidays period creating a second mini-peak season in Sydney. Children love the Royal Easter Show, but parents may want to set a budget before you arrive.
Key events: Royal Easter Show, Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, Sydney Comedy Festival
Average daily temperature high finally dip below 20°C and rainfall can put a stop to many outdoor plans, but Sydneysiders take it as an opportunity to lean into their arts and literary side.
Key events: Biennale of Sydney, Fashion Week, Vivid Sydney, Sydney Writers’ Festival
Sunshine hours shrink to their lowest levels as winter kicks in. The rugby league season keeps passions running hot.
Key events: State of Origin Series
The kids escape from school for the first two weeks of Sydney’s coldest month, where the daily highs rarely strike above the mid-teens and the lows are in single figures, just… Bring a warm coat but gloves, scarves and hats shouldn’t be necessary.
Key events: NAIDOC Week, Yulefest Blue Mountains
August is chilly but dry – perfect for a run to the beach, but only the most hardy types are tempted to get in for some cold water swimming.
Key events: Sydney Film Festival, Bledisloe Cup, City2Surf Run
Spring brings warming weather and sunny days. September is traditionally Sydney’s driest month and daily highs scrape back above 20°C. This is peak pre-summer fitness time in Sydney. Expect to see groups running, cycling and parkouring around the city.
Key events: Sydney Design Week, Festival of the Winds, Sydney Running Festival
The pleasant spring weather continues. Workers get the Labour Day long weekend to enjoy it, while school students get the whole first week off. Once again major sites might be busier during school holidays.
Key events: National Rugby League Grand Final, Manly Jazz Festival, Good Food Month
November is a great time to visit Sydney. It’s usually the sunniest month, averaging nearly eight hours of rays per day, with temperatures warm but rarely scorching.
Key events: Sculpture by the Sea, Graphic, Newtown Festival
Hello summer! Decembers in Sydney are hot and dry, and for the first three weeks the beaches are not too crowded before the school holidays unleash the masses. From Christmas onward things go crazy.
Key events: Bondi Christmas Bash, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, New Year’s Eve