Sydney or Melbourne: Which Is Better for First-Timers in Australia?

Sydney or Melbourne: Which Aussie City Should You See First?

Choose your Aussie adventure!

Many travellers looking to venture out on their first trip to Australia often face a common conundrum: Which major Aussie city to visit first? More often than not, the options boil down towards Sydney vs MelbourneThe tricky part comes down to actually making a decision. This is a tough one, but fear not. Here’s a point-by-point comparison of which is better, Sydney or Melbourne? 

1. Main attractions


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Even if you haven’t been to Australia before, you’ve most likely heard about the Sydney Opera House. One of the most photographed buildings in the world, its gleaming white sail-shaped shells are simply unmistakable. Capable of seating over 2,000 people within its Concert Hall, the Sydney Opera House regularly hosts symphony concerts, choir performances, and popular music shows.

This iconic building immediately gives Sydney an up in the Sydney vs Melbourne face-off, but there’s more to come. Exploring the Sydney Harbour presents more opportunities for adventure in the city, with the best way to do it being a ferry ride from Circular Quay. You can also check out Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that used to be a penal establishment.

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Besides that, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is another landmark not to be missed. This is the largest steel arch bridge on Earth. The best part? There are tours which actually let you climb it for some truly spectacular overlooking views of the city!

Also read: 10 Airbnbs in Sydney for a Taste of Life as a Local


Upon visiting Melbourne for the first time, prepare to be filled with excitement at the sheer variety of places to visit and explore. For a fun day out, head to Melbourne’s beloved Luna Park, which is also the oldest amusement park in the city. Beyond the giant mouth of Mr. Moon at the entrance, you’ll discover amazing rides like The Great Scenic Railway roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, and even old classics like Dodgems

Besides that, you can also pay a visit to the Queen Victoria Market. This bustling space has been at the heart of Melbourne for over 140 years and is a great place to shop for fresh produce, antiques, handicrafts, coffee, and delicious food.

Another must-visit location in Melbourne is the National Gallery of Victoria: the oldest public art museum in all of Australia. It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in the city’s history, culture, and creativity. Also, be sure to check out the Melbourne Zoo for a fun day of getting up close and personal with your favourite Australian wildlife.

Also read: 14 Stylish Airbnbs in Melbourne That’ll Make You Want to Move There

2. Cuisine

Over the years, Australian cuisine has evolved to become a melting pot of different flavours contributed from a variety of cultures. There is no drastic difference to be found in looking at the cuisines of Sydney or Melbourne, but each city does have a unique gastronomy scene.


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Arguably the most popular city in Australia, Sydney’s glamorous status trickles down into its culinary scene. The city has a love of upscale dining, and that is made manifest through some terrific, cutting-edge restaurants that demand your attention. 

Lamingtons are a popular Australian cake, and a great place to try these for the first time is at Flour and Stone, where they serve these with a panna cotta spin. You can also visit the Billy Kwong Restaurant to try something a little more special: red-braised wallaby tail with stir-fried native greens.

Got a craving for seafood? Head to Ester Restaurant and Bar to try out their fantastic Aussie prawns. Finally, Australians do love their barbeque, so make sure to visit the Firedoor Restaurant for what is arguably the best steak in Sydney.

Also read: 10 Best Cafes in Sydney for Coffee, Brunch, and Vegan Food


In the contest of Sydney vs Melbourne, you’ll find that Melbourne’s food scene is far more laid-back (and easier on the wallet!). There are few frills here; just really good food. For all you carnivores out there, head to Butcher’s Diner for a delicious wagyu cheeseburger. This humble joint has a love for all things meaty!

Besides that, Lune Croissanterie is a must-visit if you’re a fan of baked goods. Created in a climate-controlled lab, Lune croissants are golden, crisp, and almost always fly off the shelves by noon. For another scrumptious meal, try the huevos sucios (“dirty eggs”) at Archie’s All Day. A combination of runny eggs, tater tots, jalapeno cheddar, salsa, and avocado, this is the ultimate big breakfast.

3. Day trips

When you’re thinking about Sydney or Melbourne and which one is better, another area to look at is how accessible they are. Because, sure, you can explore the central areas as much as you like, but what lies beyond those? Taking a day trip is one of the best ways to expand your horizons on a vacation. So, let’s see how these Aussie cities fare on that scale.


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There are plenty of locations within two hours of Sydney that are perfect for a day trip. However, you can start with the Royal National Park. This expanse of pure nature is filled with picturesque cliffs, bushland, and waterfalls. You can rent a canoe and paddle down the Hacking River, trek the expansive coastal cliffs, or just take it easy and enjoy the views.

On top of that, consider visiting Kiama Village and Kangaroo Valley. The former is a cute little seaside village where you’ll find plenty of cute cafes, including the Kiama Ice Creamery. Also, this town is home to a quirky marvel of nature known as the Kiama Blowhole

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Kangaroo Valley, on the other hand, is a perfect countryside escape with opportunities for wine-tasting, kayaking, and horse riding. Finally, you can also check out Palm Beach. A combination of great surf, coastal views, and sunny weather make this destination the complete Australian package.


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Not to be outdone by Sydney, Melbourne brings an equally exciting array of day trips to the table. If you’re looking for some time away from the city, visit the Dandenong Ranges: home to the aptly named Dandenong Ranges National Park. Once you’re here, climb aboard the famous Puffing Billy Train and enjoy gorgeous views on a rail ride that will take you through the surrounding forest and countryside.

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Of course, no trip to Australia can be complete without a taste of its wine country. In the case of Melbourne, you’ll have to visit Yarra Valley. Here, rows of spectacular vineyards and wine tastings await your eager palette.

Now, here’s another day trip you can take to spice up your Melbourne adventure. Head to Mornington Peninsula: a beautiful seaside escape brimming with amazing coastal views, hikes, and wineries. However, the main draw of Mornington is the Peninsula Hot Springs. These natural thermal springs are perfect to soak away the day’s tiredness. There are a variety of experiences to choose from such as the cave pool, Turkish steam bath, or signature hilltop pool.

To truly immerse yourself in the wonders of Melbourne, consider booking a Melbourne tour. It’s a convenient and insightful way to discover the hidden gems and iconic landmarks of this vibrant city, ensuring a memorable experience.

4. Climate

Weather won’t really play a monumental role in deciding whether you want to visit Sydney or Melbourne first. Unlike the traditional cycle of four seasons, Australia experiences its summers between December and February, and winters from June to August. However, for those of you that enjoy certain climate conditions more than others, pay attention.


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Generally speaking, Sydney is a little warmer than Melbourne on all fronts. During the summer months, the hottest average temperature is 26℃ in the daytime, and 18℃ once the sun goes down. In the winter, things tend to cool down a little, but the temperatures are still very bearable at an average of 17℃ in the day, and 8℃ at night.


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Melbourne tends to be a little cooler than its opponent; with an average summer temperature of 25℃ in the daytime and 14℃ at night. However, winters here are a little more chilly. Most of the time, you’ll experience temperatures of 13℃ in the day. It then drops down to roughly 6℃ at night. So, if you’re ever visiting Melbourne in the winter, make sure to bundle up!

Also read: 10 Clothing Essentials to Shop for Your Winter Travels

5. Nightlife

Which city is better for a party night, Sydney or Melbourne? Honestly, Melbourne might have a slight edge on this one. This is due to Sydney’s lockout laws, which prevent entertainment venues from letting patrons in after a certain time. However, the laws were recently revised in 2023 to change the limit from 10pm to midnight. 

Keep reading for the best nightlife spots in each city!


Sydney’s nightlife scene is propped up by big views and equally big price tags. Most of the clubs and bars here rely on their fantastic views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour to draw in crowds. Some good examples are: the Blu Bar on 36, which is an immensely stylish lounge; and the Sydney Opera Bar, a place that claims to be the most iconic bar in the city.

If you’re into live music, consider dropping by The Basement for some jazz, acoustic, funk, and folk music. On top of that, check out the Oxford Art Factory: a popular hub for international bands, DJs, and indie electronic artists.

But that’s not all! The Home Bar is a living representation of the phrase “bigger is better.” With three floors and a number of different DJs spinning away all night long, the party always goes on strong at this “super club.”


In the case of Melbourne’s nightlife, picture a much more relaxed vibe, minus the glitz and glamour. You could show up at a Melbourne bar in casual wear, and no one would give you a funny look. But don’t let the laid-back culture fool you! 

There are some real nightlife gems here, starting with The Night Cat: a club with crimson boudoir vibes and a tasteful music selection. You can also check out The Toff in Town club at Curtin House for fancier vibes, with its cosy, red-curtained room hiding away a delightful selection of drinks and eats.

On top of that, Melbourne also boasts a range of bars that range from humble dive joints to downright swanky experiences. A great hidden bar that you’ll delight in finding is the Loch and Key. This one is hidden somewhere behind an innocuous bookshelf in Melbourne’s oldest public house! If you’re a cocktail aficionado, pay a visit to Lily Blacks, as well as the Black Pearl.

6. Beaches

Australia is famous for its beaches, especially in the summertime. As for which city has better beaches, Sydney or Melbourne, read on to find out!


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Sydney is home to the iconic Bondi Beach, which is one of Australia’s most famous beaches. Visitors have also been known to dedicate an entire weekend to exploring what locals affectionately call the “Bondi Bubble.” This includes the various cafes, shops, hotels, and restaurants that surround Bondi Beach.

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Your fun in the sun doesn’t end there, however. Gordon’s Bay is great for diving enthusiasts thanks to its 500m underwater nature trail that consists of reefs, sand flats, and kelp forests. On the other hand, Balmoral Beach is a little more enclosed, with slower currents that are a lot more suitable for families with young children.


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Now, Sydney might have the claim to fame for being home to some of Aussie’s best beaches, but Melbourne is no slouch either! One of the most famous beaches you’ll find here is Brighton Beach: an all-round fun spot to hang out that’s famous for its “beach boxes.” 

The Brighton Beach Boxes consist of 82 vibrantly coloured beach huts that make for great pictures to put on the ’Gram. In addition to that, Brighton Beach is just a short walk from various galleries, cafes, and nearby restaurants.

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Looking for a more secluded spot? Check out Half Moon Bay, a beach that looks like it came straight out of a postcard. The waters here are calm, and a short distance from the shore lies the HMVS Cerberus. This battleship from 1870 was scuttled in the bay in 1926 to create a breakwater for the Black Rock Yacht Club.

Also read: 9 Best Beaches Near Melbourne for Unlimited Sand, Sun, and Sea

The TZ Verdict on Sydney or Melbourne

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Prepare an imaginary drumroll in your head, because it’s officially time for a verdict! In the end, there’s no such thing as a straight answer when it comes to the question: “Sydney or Melbourne – which is better?” It all comes down to what you’re looking for.

A visit to Sydney will give you that classic, postcard Australian experience. It comes with a bunch of major landmarks to check off your travel bucket list, punctuated by glitzy dining and entertainment scenes. All these things are tied together by a sense of culture that is unmistakably Australian.

On the other hand, travellers that are looking for a more easy-going approach to their Down Under experience will enjoy the delights of Melbourne. Overall, there’s a less touristy vibe going on here; you’ll be able to experience life in the city pretty much the same way locals do. It’s an Australian odyssey that’s a little more humble and demure, but no less potent as a whole.

Also read: Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh: Which City in Vietnam Should You See First?

That’s all we’ve got for the great showdown between these two epic Australian cities. Hopefully, we’ve been able to give you a little inspiration as to which one you’ll choose on your first visit. Will it be the glamorous starlet that is Sydney, or the fun girl-next-door that is Melbourne? The choice is yours. But fret not, because they’re both pretty awesome!

About Author

Jeremiah Patrick
Jeremiah Patrick

A journeyman wordsmith wandering the creative lexicon, looking to craft a masterpiece. The only thing on par with Jerry’s love for a good story is the time he spends playing dauntingly difficult video games, reading works of fiction, and listening to horror podcasts. His mood shifts between dark brooding and cheery quips, depending on how much caffeine swirls in his system.