Sydney: Why Autumn Is A Breath Of Fresh Air

Autumn in Sydney means shorter, cooler days, pure blue skies and tree-lined avenues that turn a glorious copper and gold. The change of season is the best time to explore the Harbour City. 

> Updated due to the effect of coronavirus on certain events.

Summer in Sydney is usually something we yearn for: long, lazy days spent at the beach or by the pool, backyard barbecues and a game of cricket in the backyard.

But in the wake of Australia’s dry, angry summer – marked by catastrophic bushfires, scorching temperatures, high humidity and cities blanketed in thick, choking smoke – the change of season has come as a breath of fresh air.

Autumn, the cooling off season, officially started in Australia on March 1 and runs until May 31.

But it’s not until the clocks go back an hour on the first Sunday in April (the end of daylight savings) that the shorter days and milder weather really becomes noticeable.

The light in Sydney takes on a golden hue, the trees turn a rustic copper and falling leaves create a carpet that crunches underfoot.

The clear, milder days –  when the temperature rarely climbs above 22 celsius – makes it the ideal time to get out and enjoy the Harbour City.

10 Things To Do In Autumn

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-19-46Take A Harbourside Walk

Bradleys Head Walk

One of Sydney’s biggest drawcards is undoubtedly its harbour, and there are countless walks and hikes around the harbour foreshore to take advantage of in autumn.

A few of our favourites, which we’ve blogged about previously, are north of the harbour. The Taronga Zoo-Bradleys Head bush walk and the Georges Heights-Clifton Gardens walk are two trails worth considering on a sunny autumn day, while for the best panoramic views, head to the Middle Head Forts.

Closer to the CBD, stroll past the Opera House and through the Royal Botanic Gardens to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

Just 500 metres away from Watsons Bay Hotel, the Gap trail offers breathtaking views of the Sydney city skyline on one side and waves crashing on the other.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-20-00Take One Last Dip At The Beach


If you like the feeling of sand between your toes and the sound of the sea in the background, autumn is the perfect season to enjoy the beach in Sydney.

The summer crowds are long gone, the sun is less intense and, if you’re up for one last dip, the water temperature is tolerable. Sometimes it’s even warmer in the water than it is out.

From the golden sands of South Cronulla, Eloura, Wanda and Greenhills in the south; Maroubra, Coogee, Bronte, Tamarama, and Bondi in the east; and Manly (Steyne), Freshwater, Curl Curl, Collaroy, Narrabeen and Dee Why in the north – Sydney’s beaches are world class.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-20-12Hire A Bike In Centennial Park

Centennial Park is one of Sydney’s most popular and historic public parklands, and it attracts more than 31 million visitors every year – 750,000 of whom are cyclists.

In autumn, there’s no better place to be than on two wheels leisurely rolling around the Grand Drive, a 3.8km track that runs around the inside perimeter of the park. There’s also a learner’s cycleway for children and beginners.

You can hire a bike or two from Centennial Park Cycles at the Fearnley Grounds within the park, or at 50 Clovelly Road at Randwick, outside the park’s south-eastern gates.

You can even hire four-seater pedal cars so the whole family can enjoy the ride together.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-20-23Lunch at Watson’s Bay

> Pubs, restaurants and other venues are reopening with limited numbers.

There’s a lot to love about Watsons Bay in autumn. It’s got gentle harbour beaches, distant CBD views – and Doyles on the Beach.

Doyles is a Sydney institution, with five generations of the Doyle family serving up the freshest seafood from the eastern suburbs beachside location site since 1885.

The menu is made up of classics like fish and chips, hot and cold seafood platters, oysters, lobster mornay and seafood chowder. Splashing out on a seafood platter doesn’t come cheap, but it’s worth every cent.

Catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay and settle in for a long lunch. Afterwards, pop into the Watsons Bay Hotel next door for a drink as the sun sinks in the west, over the Harbour Bridge.

Or for the more energetic, do the Watsons Bay walk through Camp Cove and South Head and back to The Gap. Take time to explore the historic Hornby Lighthouse, one of Australia’s first lighthouses.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-20-31Visit the Royal Easter Show

Easter Show


> For the first time in almost a century the Royal Easter Show has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and public health concerns.

The Sydney Royal Easter Show, the largest agricultural event of its kind in Australia, takes top billing every autumn as the country comes to the city for two weeks.

From the carnival rides, show bags and food pavilions to the fruit displays, show jumping and fireworks, there’s certainly plenty to keep you entertained.

But after Australia’s devastating summer bushfires, persistent drought and the coronavirus threat, the turnout this year is expected to be much lower.

Livestock entries are also likely to be down at this year’s show, which runs from April 3-14. That’s because many hard-hit rural families simply can’t afford to get their animals to Sydney.

Thankfully, the Easter Show generates revenue used by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW to invest in programs across rural and regional areas.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-20-46Ride The Manly Ferry

Taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Cove is one of the most iconic experiences in Sydney.

And autumn, when the air is cool and the sun is setting over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, is the perfect season to take in the harbour.

The green and yellow ferry departs Wharf 3 at Circular Quay every 30 minutes. The trip takes around half an hour, but there’s also a Manly FastFerry if you just want to get there faster. It also costs a bit more.

Ride on the bow of the ferry for some of the most panoramic shots of Sydney Harbour.

You’ll pass the Opera House, Fort Denison, Admiralty House (the Governor General’s residence), Kirribilli House (the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence), Garden Island, Taronga Zoo and the open ocean near Sydney Heads.

At Manly, stroll down The Corso – a pedestrian mall dotted with surf shops, boutiques and classic Australian pubs – to the popular surf beach. Don’t forget your swimmers and a beach towel.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-21-03Wander Through The Rocks

The Rocks Sydney Australia

Perhaps the most historic place in central Sydney is The Rocks, and there’s a lot to discover in its hidden passageways, shady courtyards and cobbled streets.

The area found at the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is where European settlers chose to step ashore in 1788, making The Rocks the birthplace of modern Sydney.

From the Argyle Cut – a tunnel cut through the giant sandstone cliffs by convicts in 1843 – to Cadman’s Cottage  (the oldest surviving residential building in Sydney), there’s a piece of history at every turn.

Take a self-guided walking tour or join The Rocks Walking Tours for an insight into the area’s colonial past.

There are markets, museums and galleries tucked into little laneways throughout The Rocks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is also on the doorstep.

Walking around The Rocks can be thirsty-hungry work, so be sure to stop in at one of the many pubs in the area, each with its own colourful history that spans the rum rebellion and the six o’clock swill.

The Fortune of War and The Orient Hotel are two of the oldest-surviving pubs in Sydney, the quaint Harts Pub has colonial roots, while The Argyle is housed in the 1820s Argyle Stores building.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-21-17Go To A Footy Game

Sharks NRL


Autumn traditionally marks the start of Australia’s two big football codes – the National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Football League (AFL).

Even though they’re officially winter sports, the new season kicks off in both codes in March, long before the bone-chillingly cold winter nights kick in.

There are eight NRL teams in greater Sydney (including the Cronulla Sharks and Wests Tigers pictured) as well as two AFL teams (the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants).

Pick your code, choose your colours and prepare to scream yourself hoarse.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-21-25Attend The ANZAC Dawn Service



> With the elderly most at risk from coronavirus, ANZAC Day services around the country – and the march in Sydney – have been cancelled.

Anzac Day, held each year on April 25, is one of Australia’s most important national commemorative occasions.

On April 25, 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula during World War 1. These became known as Anzacs and the pride they took in that name continues to this day.

Commemorative services are held at dawn – the time of the original landing in Gallipoli – across the nation, attracting many thousands to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and the Cenotaph at Sydney’s Martin Place.

Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women take part in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centres. In Sydney, the Anzac Day march is held on Elizabeth Street.

Later in the day, head to a pub or RSL club for an Anzac tradition known as ‘two-up’ – a gambling game that involves tossing a single coin in the air and betting on the result. It was popular with Aussie diggers during the war.

Screenshot at Feb 23 09-21-37Ferry To Bundeena


You don’t need a car to visit the Royal National Park, south of Sydney. Just take a 40-minute train ride from the city to Cronulla and ride the iconic ferry to Bundeena.

The MV Curranulla is the oldest commuter ferry still working to a regular timetable in Sydney. Without it, the tiny township of Bundeena would not exist as it is today.

Until the 1950s, there was no road to Bundeena, so the ferry was the township’s lifeline.

Today, many Bundeena residents take the ferry across Port Hacking to get to school or work in the Sutherland Shire.

On weekends, more than 1,000 tourists board the ferry to explore the tiny coastal township. It’s a great spot for a picnic or a swim, and there’s a village store as well.

Time your trip for the monthly Bundeena Saltwater Market or one of the many festivals and events in the area.

Check out the events calendar to see what’s on and plan your trip. There’s also more than 100 km of walking trails to explore in the Royal National Park.

© 2020 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved. 

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