Sydney beach

Christmas Downunder? Best Places to Celebrate in Sydney, Australia

Sydney is a brilliant city to visit any time of year and Christmas is no exception. Leave the cold behind and see why the festive season downunder if well worth experiencing. Anna Johnson tells us more.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the sun beats down and the thermometer pushes 32 degrees, roasting chestnuts on an open fire seems like a profoundly absurd idea.  Even the most hardened Aussie Santa Clause, packed in his padded red coat and big black boots, will not stray far from the air conditioned comfort of the local shopping centre at this time of year.

Yes, Christmas in Australia is different to anywhere in the world.  Different in the most wonderful and surprising ways.

This is the season for sunbathing, beaches, barbecues and long evenings on the verandah sipping wine and laughing with friends.  In Sydney, Australia’s most beautiful harbour city, rather than snowmen and sleighs, the hallmarks of the festive season are summer frocks, sandals, sea breezes, crisp salads and the world’s best seafood.

In short, Christmas is a time to relax and celebrate in the great outdoors with family and friends in the laid-back way that Australians do best.  Here are our tips for some of the best places to be on Christmas day in Sydney downunder.

1. The traditional Christmas lunch

Christmas lunch is still a major tradition in Australia, but with a very summery-twist.  The best way to enjoy Christmas lunch ‘Sydney-style’ is to book into one of the Christmas lunches on offer at some of Sydney’s best hotel restaurants. You will have the choice of incredible seafood, Australia’s best wines and, of course, the traditional roast ham.

Located at the base of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in the historic Sydney Rocks area is the Scarlett Restaurant, part of the Harbour Rocks Hotel. Enjoy a break from cooking; plus the whole family can stay overnight after a day of celebrating and site seeing.

A similarly terrific location is The Sebel Pier One.  Situated right on the water, this hotel restaurant gives you uninterrupted views of the harbour.  You can linger on into the evening for cocktails and sunset.

Lunch or dinner at Sebel Pier is a good option for something tasty in relaxed surroundings.
Lunch or dinner at Sebel Pier is a good option for something tasty in relaxed surroundings.

2. A beach bbq or picnic

If you like the sun, sand and sea breezes then the best place to head is to one of Australia’s famous white sandy beaches.  The best spots on the South side of the harbour are Bondi, Bronte or Clovelly beach.  If you are on the North shore, head to Manly, Dee Why or beautiful Balmoral beach.  This is a great option for self-caterers too.  Be sure to get there early to reserve a spot and pack the volleyball, football or cricket set for some post-lunch backyard sport – another great Aussie Christmas tradition.

Sydney beach

3. Carols in the Domain

One of Sydney’s most spectacular Christmas experiences is to join hundreds of other Sydney-siders for Carols in the Domain – the largest outdoor carols by candlelight in New South Wales.  With world class musician and performers, this is a fun event for families and the young at heart.  Pack a picnic, some plastic wine glasses – even your camping chairs – for a night under the stars you will never forget.

Carols in the Domain, Sydney

4. Sydney Harbour Cruise

Let the ship’s captain do the navigating while you sit back and take in the spectacular sights of Sydney harbour for a Christmas Day cruise experience.  See all the great Sydney icons, like the Opera House, from the best vantage point while enjoying delicious food and fresh local produce. There may even be an appearance by Santa.

5. Let Sydney Entertain you

Sydney is the entertainment capital of Australia.  In the lead up to Christmas, the city is bursting with events and performances to help celebrate the holidays.  Summer is also music festival season in Australia so there are plenty of entertainment options to choose from.  On Christmas day itself, head to Darling Harbour for fireworks, Santa Fest Water Spectacular and other fun Christmas activities for the whole family.

The warmth and sunshine of the silly season in Australia makes it easy to celebrate and be with family and friends during the holidays.  There are plenty of ways for travellers planning to enjoy the festive season in Sydney this year.  For a special and touching experience, one last option to consider is volunteering to feed the homeless. Many Sydney organisations work hard on Christmas day to help the needy and you can join in the ‘feel good’ gift of giving.

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