What makes Sydney so great?

Sydney from the James Craig

Everyone knows of Sydney. It’s a popular tourist destination, a popular destination for immigrants, and has even been voted the world’s best city a few years running. But why? What makes Sydney such a magnet for anyone that visits Australia? When we decided to build our home we looked around at a number of different locations across Australia. If there’s ever a good time to make a move, this would be it. As you can see, we decided to stay put in Sydney, even with the outrageous cost of living.

As the world tries to cope with the economic crisis, Australia is dealing with its own problems. A comparison of median house prices with median household incomes in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Britain and the United States found that Australia had the most cities in the “severely unaffordable” category – where house prices are more than five times the median income.

Sure, the cost of living has dropped slightly, aided by the falling petrol prices, but with the unemployment figures rising, and there’s no real relief in sight for the housing market, why do people stay? Why is Sydney somewhere that many people don’t dare leave?

I’ve been living here for just over two years and, compared to the States, life in Sydney (and Australia) has both strong positives and negatives. But really, it’s what you make of it.

So, here’s a few reasons why I believe, it’s worth putting up with Sydney’s high cost of living. (and in no real particular order)

1.) The Harbour.

The Opera House at nightNow I’ve travled the world a bit, and nowhere else in the world (including the San Francisco Bay Area) is there a Harbour that is as breathtakingly beautiful as Sydney Harbour. With the Opera House, the Bridge, and countless other icons gracing its shores, the Harbour is a blue jewel amongst the large city. When I first arrived in Sydney, I tried to find a way to describe the city. After growing up in San Diego, and living in San Francisco, I found that Sydney took the very best of each, and combined it. It literally was San Francisco, “in colour”. It has the charm of San Francisco, but the colour, the beaches, and weather of San Diego.

2.)The food.

I suppose this relates back to the fact that 1 in 4 Sydneysiders are foreign born. Some might not like that. I embrace it wholeheartedly. Why? The food. I’ve never in my life found such a high precentage of not just great, but fantastic restaraunts. On one city block, you can find excellent restaraunts featuring Thai, Indian, Japanese, Italian, Greek, and just about anything in between. I blame the great food for the extra kilos.

3.)The weather.

I grew up in San Diego, California. I’m sure many of you have just rolled your eyes at that, but hear me out. San Diego has great weather. Reliable even, but after twenty some odd years of the same “night and morning low clouds, highs in the low 80f, lows in the 60f”, it does get “old”. Not the temperature, but the fact that there are only two season, warm and warmer. I like weather; storms, thunder, lightning. None of which was found in San Diego. Sydney, and Australia in general, have some of the best storms I’ve experienced. And what’s great, is that much of it comes during the summer months, so it’s not the drenched to the core, bone chilling rain I’ve been accustomed to in the San Francisco Bay Area.

4.)The beaches.

Manly BeachEveryone knows of Bondi Beach, but to be honest, there are better beaches around Sydney than Bondi. Bondi IS a good beach, but it’s more of a touristy, city beach than anything else. Sure, it’s easy to get too, and is a great place to hang out, but if you really want a good beach, head across the Harbour Bridge, and to some of the beaches just a short drive away from the CBD. Beaches like Manly, Mona Vale, or even Bilgola are fantastic destinations for the day. If you’re even so inclined, head to Palm Beach, where the Aussie classic “Home and Away” is often filmed. All in all, I think you’ll find better beaches which are less crowded and just as enjoyable as Bondi.

5.)International Icons.

While Melbourne, Brisbane, and even Adelaide have tourist destinations that many Aussies appreciate and visit, if you were to ask what an international visitor would want to visit, the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and even Bondi Beach generally tops the list. We’re lucky here, Sydney is such a beautiful city. No matter how long I’ve sat in traffic during my regular commute into the city, I can help but smile when I cross the Harbour Bridge and look out over the water and see the Opera house. The city, its architecture, parks and tourist destinations make Sydney a fantastic and welcoming city.

I suppose that every city across the globe has it’s pros and cons, but Sydney is an amazing city. Aided by the friendly people and world class attractions, it made our decision to stay relatively easy.

So what do you like about Sydney?

About Stefan
Stefan is the regular writer for Megan & Stefan, and hails originally from San Diego, California. A resident of Australia since 2007, he write about his experiences living abroad, his love of photography, and documenting the process of building a house here in this sunburnt country he calls home. Feel free to drop him a line - he's always up for a chat.


  1. Amanda says:

    My Sydney loves are:

    1. The food and ethnic pockets – want to explore Vietnamese culture in Australia – a trip to Cabramatta! Or Italian pastries – Norton St in Leichardt. Foods of the subcontinent – Homebush, Auburn, Strathfield.

    2. The freshness of fruit & veg – we have friends that live in NYC – they love coming home to Oz for the freshness of fruit & veg.

    3. Friendliness of neighbours. When we just moved into a new neighbourhood a parcel was delivered when I wasn’t home. My neighbour saw, took it in (it was a cold box) and kept an eye on it until I got home. She was so nice to a stranger :) There aren’t many places where people go out of the way to help :)

  2. Stefan says:

    Amanda, I couldn’t agree more on all three points. I walked into a fresh produce store yesterday and actually commented on how fantastic it smelled. The last time fruits and veggies smelled this good they were on my plate at a breakfast buffet in Hawai’i. :)

  3. John says:

    My Sydney loves are…..

    we’re Australians here and we’ve managed to keep most of you yanks out….sorry couldn’t resist!!!

    Up until very recently I worked for an airline and had the good fortune of spending alot of time in the US and Canada among other places. Anyone who looks down their nose at the US as being “one big city” has clearly not spent alot of time there.

    I love North America but the prevalence of violence and guns there is something I personally battle with!

    Back on Sydney, yep I agree a good place to live. The best harbour city in the world!…low pollution great natural ammenities but crap public transport and an outrageous cost of living if you are all keen on living anywhere proximate to the city in anything bigger than a shoe box!

    Having said that, Melbourne has done much better with what they started with and Perth and Adelaide are much more livable cities for mine – if you can deal with the tyranny of distance!

  4. Stefan says:

    He he, well played John!

    I agree with the gun problem – it’s definitely out of hand. As for Sydney, the cost of living and public transportation could definitely be better – what is it now, the second most expensive city in the world to live in?

    I haven’t made it down to Melbourne yet, but it’s definitely on my list.


  5. Sara says:

    100% AGREE! I lived in that horrible SHITHOLE of Silicon Valley for most of my 20s and went to uni all around bay area and SF and omg SYDNEY and Australia is just of a different leauge. I find it INSULTING when people actually compare Sydney w SF, it’s an insult to Sydney. We are in the SAME high bracket of Tax paying people and funny thing is that our taxes have been LOWER here than in the USA thanks to that outragious CA state tax. It;s ridiculous people even assume Sydney is more expensive…in what way? There are NO tax or tip required for AWSOME food here, what you see on the menu you pay, service is pretty decent, have barely ever been disappointed and have never been disappointed w food here, omg food cannot get any better and this is my fourth continent of residence, and also, I have traveled extensively so I know somethings on this topic. USA must be the MOST OVERRATED country for most people on earth, truly, and Australia really has so much to offer for so many people, poor, rich, gay, straight, disabled, minority, etc that I can’t imagine how it’s not the first destination for most people to migrate to or travel to and I disagree w you on one factor, I have BARELY EVER met any American from CA or from my huge circle of friends who has ever been to Australia or knows much about it, same w Canadians, somehow, every one seems to want to visit that overarted Europe a billion times but barely ever they choose Australia as their destination. Australia is a huge destination for Europeans, Asians, and Latin Americans, NOT North Americans .

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