“You’re not REALLY going to move to Sydney, are you? I mean, you’ve never even been there before! Where are you going to live?”
That was what my sister-in-law said to me at our going away party, a week before we were set to leave.
Yes, a week before we were flying out.
I remember thinking, “now you say something?”. I couldn’t believe it. But, to be fair, it did sound crazy to pack up and move to the other side of the world, to a city we had never been to before.
Were we crazy?
What if we didn’t like it or couldn’t find a place to live or I wasn’t able to find a job?
She planted a seed of doubt in my head that grew exponentially overnight.
The next day, I did nothing but Google “best neighborhoods in Sydney for expats to live” and “most affordable neighborhoods in Sydney” and “Please Google, tell me where I should live in Sydney?!”.
Ok, so I didn’t Google that last one though I might as well have.
The truth is, it was a complete waste of time.
What was I thinking? That a Google search was going to pop out the perfect Sydney suburb for us to live? Sight unseen? Done deal? Check that off my endless to-do list and get back to packing.
No, not even close. It only stressed me out even more.
What I wanted was someone to say, “here are the areas in Sydney that I would recommend.”
Boom. Just cut through all the noise and give me some sense of direction.
Now, “Where would you recommend I live in Sydney?”, shows up in my inbox several times a week.
Believe me; I totally get it.
And I would love to be the one to tell you exactly where in Sydney is a perfect fit for you, but it’s kind of a huge question because, well, it’s complicated and depends on many factors. Such as, where are you going to be working (in the city, North Sydney or Parramatta), are you moving by yourself or with kids and/or pets, and what do you want to be near (cafes, restaurants, the beach, you name it Sydney has it).
Today, I’m going to do my best to cut through some of that noise and, hopefully, give you some sense of direction so that next time, instead of Googling “where to live in Sydney,” you will have a specific suburb and location in the city to search for.
Below I’ve listed several suburbs that are a good fit for certain types along with the median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
Yes, it’s broad strokes and, if it doesn’t cut through the noise, it will at least turn down the volume a few notches.
Sound good? Ok. Let’s get started.
Oh, shoot, sorry, just a sec.
I should mention, this obviously is my opinion and my pick for areas that someone new to Sydney would like and settle into quickly. After you get to know the city better, you might find another area a better fit for a long term stay.
Where to live in Sydney for young, single professionals that want to live where all the action is.
Best fit suburbs: Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Redfern, Newtown, and Kirribilli.
Surry Hills and Darlinghurst are where many of Sydney’s best restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs are. If you’re a foodie who wants to be in the center of foodie heaven, then this is where you want to be. Surry Hills and Darlinghurst are also the main LGBTIQ suburbs though most of Sydney is gay-friendly.
Redfern is just south of Surry Hills and has changed a lot since we first moved to Sydney, in all good ways. Redfern feels very much like Surry Hills younger sibling, up and coming. Several good restaurants have opened in Redfern along with yummy cafes and local drinking holes. If you have a hard time finding a place in Surry Hills then definitely give Redfern a try. Your money will go farther in Redfern than Surry Hills or Darlinghurst.
Newtown is the graffiti, hipster center of Sydney. To me, being from Seattle, it reminds me of the U-District or, for those of you not familiar with Seattle, the university area. Think younger, artsy, college student vibe.
I guess another comparison that you might be familiar would be Austin, Texas, but smaller. If “Keep Newtown Weird” isn’t an adopted slogan, then it should be.
I added Kirribilli to the list even though it’s across the bridge from my other suggestions.
Kirribilli is a small, densely populated area that somehow has the feeling of a small village. You just can’t bet the views and, if you end up living in Kirribilli, you’re going to be very popular around New Year’s Eve when everyone will want to be your new best friend, especially if you have any view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
All of these suburbs are expensive with Newtown being the most affordable with a median weekly rent of $470 for a one-bedroom. The median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst is $565. For Redfern, the median weekly rent is $489, and for Kirribilli, it’s $560 according to the March 2019 rent tables from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.
You won’t need a car living in any of these areas as you can easily walk almost everywhere or hop on the train for a few minutes and you’re in the city. In fact, I would say don’t get a car if you choose to live this centrally in Sydney. Chances of your apartment having a parking space are slim to none. If you do end up with one, sublet it out!!
Three runner-up suburbs close to Kirribilli worth adding to your search.
A few runner-up Sydney suburbs that are close to Kirribilli and usually less expensive with more vacancies available are Crows Nest, North Sydney, and Neutral Bay. Crows Nest is a wonderful area, lots of shops, good cafes, pubs, and restaurants. Though it’s not directly on the train, it is only about a 10-15 min walk from St Leonard’s station. North Sydney is pretty much a ghost town evenings and on the weekend though it’s right on the train so you can get to the city quickly.
Neutral Bay also has a good selection of restaurants and shops along Military Road, which makes it very convenient. There is no train station, but if you are close to the main bus stop in Neutral Bay, it’s only about a 10 minutes ride to Wynyard Station in the city or, if you are closer to Sydney Harbour, there is the ferry which is a fantastic way to commute to work.
The median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Crows Nest is $550, for North Sydney it’s $543, and for Neutral Bay it’s $490.
Did you have a bit of a panic attack when I listed the median weekly rents for those areas in Sydney?
Yes, those are weekly rents, not monthly even though you will be paying monthly. Rents are advertised as weekly in Australia.
If you’re moving by yourself to Sydney and are open to it, sharing an apartment is very common in Sydney, not just for younger professionals. I know two expats, one from Canada the other from the UK, who are both in their late thirties and share a fabulous flat in Kirribilli with a view of the harbour that everyone dreams about. I have a few flat-sharing websites listed in the SMG Resources and Business Directory here.
Beach, beach, beach. Where else would anyone moving to Sydney want to live?
Bondi, Coogee, Maroubra, Mosman where beautiful Balmoral Beach is, and Manly along with its surrounding suburbs such as Balgowlah, Queenscliff, and Fairlight.
Northern Beaches and Mosman can be expensive but a beautiful area of Sydney.
For beach on a budget, focus on Coogee and Maroubra. The commute into the city is not great, but your weekends will be. The median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Coogee is $550, and for Maroubra, it’s $540. The median weekly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Coogee is $700, and for Maroubra, it’s $620.
Bondi can be very backpacker-y and party central. Around North Bondi things quiet down. Median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in both Bondi and North Bondi is $575. For a two-bedroom apartment, it’s $750.
Mosman is fantastic with good schools and a wonderful little village plus one of Sydney’s best beaches, Balmoral Beach. Balmoral Beach is an inner harbor beach which means no waves for surfing, but it’s perfect for swimming and has areas for the little ones to play. No train to Mosman, but the ferry is easy, and the bus is not too long.
Median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Mosman is $500, and for a two-bedroom, it’s $660.
Manly is the quintessential Sydney suburb. Manly has a great expat community, one of the world’s best beaches, fantastic snorkeling at Shelly Beach, restaurants, shops, and heaps of tourists. Once people move to Manly, they rarely leave the area. It’s Sydney at its best. The only downfall is the long commute, but no one in Manly would trade it for a shorter one.
If you have a hard time finding a place in Manly, then look at the surrounding suburbs like Balgowlah, Queenscliff, Manly Vale, and Fairlight.
Median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Manly is $600. For a two-bedroom apartment, it’s $850. For Manly Vale, Fairlight, and Balgowlah the median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $550, and for a two-bedroom apartment, it’s $600. For Queenscliff, the median weekly rent for a one-bedroom is $510. For a two-bedroom, it’s $650.
Want to move to one of these beach suburbs but wondering about the schools?
That’s a good question so let me list the schools in these areas along with the overall score or rating for each school, according to bettereducation.com.au. I’m only going to list the public school scores, not private schools. For more information about schools in Sydney, be sure to check out my post What Every Parent Needs to Know About Schools in Sydney.
Sydney Beach Suburbs Schools and Ratings (Click to Open)
|Bondi Public School||Bondi||Primary||95|
|Bondi Beach Public School||Bondi Beach||Primary||92|
|Rose Bay Secondary College||Dover Heights||Secondary||94|
|Coogee Public School||Coogee||Primary||94|
|South Coogee Public School||South Coogee||Primary||90|
|Randwick Girls High School||Randwick||Secondary||88|
|Randwick Boys High School||Randwick||Secondary||84|
|Maroubra Junction Public School||Maroubra||Primary||93|
|Maroubra Bay Public School||Maroubra||Primary||91|
|South Sydney High School||Maroubra||Secondary||82|
|Middle Harbour Public School||Mosman||Primary||98|
|Mosman Public School||Mosman||Primary||97|
|Beauty Point Public School||Mosman||Primary||97|
|Mosman High School||Mosman||Secondary||95|
|Balgowlah Heights Public School||Balgowlah||Primary||99|
|Manly West Public School||Balgowlah||Primary||96|
|Balgowlah North Public School||Balgowlah North||Primary||95|
|Manly Village Public School||Manly||Primary||94|
|Northern Beaches Secondary College Balgowlah Boys Campus||Balgowlah||Secondary||97|
|Northern Beaches Secondary College Mackellar Girls Campus||Manly Vale||Secondary||95|
|Harbord Public School||Queenscliff||Primary||93|
|Northern Beaches Secondary College Freshwater Senior Campus||Freshwater||Secondary||Not Rated|
Professionals with one or two kids that don’t want to commute too far by public transportation and won’t mind some action.
By some action, I don’t mean like still in college and ok with staying out until the sun rises, but a local pub, cafes and a few restaurants would be nice.
The suburbs in Sydney that I recommend for you are Neutral Bay, Cammeray, Crows Nest, Wollstonecraft, and Chatswood.
Cammeray is one suburb in Sydney that is often overlooked, and I’m not sure why as it’s lovely and an easy bus ride into the city. It has a small strip of shops, restaurants, and cafes. An excellent spot for families. Median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Cammeray is $475, but you are probably looking for more than one-bedroom if you have kids. The median weekly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $625.
Wollstonecraft is a nice alternative to Crows Nest for professionals with kids as it’s on the train, making it an easy commute into the city, but still close to all Crows Nest has to offer. The median weekly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Wollstonecraft is $540, and for a two-bedroom apartment, it’s $710.
The first thing anyone thinks of when they think of Chatswood is the shopping mall, but Chatswood has more to offer than just shopping. It is very convenient for running errands, has a nice selection of restaurants and is a right on the train, making commuting a cinch or getting home after a few drinks in the city.
Chatswood also has a lot of apartments, many are newer buildings, make it easier to find an available place.
The median weekly rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Chatswood is $468, and for a two-bedroom, it’s $678.
I’ve already mentioned Neutral Bay and Crows Nest as Kirribilli alternatives, but I didn’t list the median weekly rent for two-bedroom apartments. For Neutral Bay, the median weekly rent is $630, and for Crows Nest, it’s $710.
Sydney Lower North Shore Schools and Ratings (Click to Open)
|Neutral Bay Public School||Neutral Bay||Primary||99|
|Mosman High School||Mosman||Secondary||95|
|Cammeray Public School||Cammeray||Primary||99|
|Anzac Park Public School||Cammeray||Primary||92|
|North Sydney Boys High School||Crows Nest||Secondary||100|
|North Sydney Girls High School||Crows Nest||Secondary||100|
|Cammeraygal High School||Crows Nest||Secondary||95|
|Greenwich Public School||Greenwich||Primary||98|
|Chatswood Public School||Chatswood||Primary||99|
|Chatswood High School||Chatswood||Secondary||98|
Professionals with one, two or more kids that want to rent a house and understands that a longer commute is just going to be part of your daily life, but hey, you’re renting a house.
(By the way, finding a rental house in Sydney that’s affordable is not an easy task. You will have to be patient and willing to compromise on things like the number of rooms or bathrooms and fancy, new kitchen appliances.)
Now is when my opinion really starts to kick in. Why? Because I always recommend going north along the train route for families wanting to rent a house. I know many SMG readers that have found fabulous rental houses south and west but, BIG BUT HERE, if you want your commute to not be too long, then head north.
Going along the Sydney train network, heading north up to Hornsby there’s Lindfield, Gordon, Pymble, and Turramurra. In most of these suburbs, you can find a three or four-bedroom house with a yard, but it’s going to cost you. Each has a small village around the train with restaurants, shops, and cafes. It can be slim pickings as far as availability so if you do find something, make sure you are first in line.
The median weekly rent for a house in these suburbs ranges from $800 for a three-bedroom and $1150 for a four-bedroom.
Sydney Upper North Shore Schools and Ratings (Click to Open)
|Lindfield Public School||Lindfield||Primary||99|
|Lindfield East Public School||East Lindfield||Primary||100|
|Gordon East Public School||Gordon||Primary||99|
|Killara High School||Killara||Secondary||96|
|Gordon West Public School||Pymble||Primary||99|
|Pymble Public School||Pymble||Primary||99|
|West Pymble Public School||Pymble||Primary||97|
|Turramurra High School||Turramurra South||Secondary||96|
|Ku-ring-gai High School||Turramurra North||Secondary||84|
Also, staying on the north side of the harbor, consider Ryde, West Ryde, and North Ryde, each is a longer commute but worth checking out as these areas tend to be slightly less than suburbs along the northern train route.
The median weekly rent for a house in these suburbs ranges from $650 for a three-bedroom and $1000 for a four-bedroom.
Sydney North West Suburbs Schools and Ratings (Click to Open)
|Meadowbank Public School||Ryde||Primary||95|
|Putney Public School||Ryde||Primary||94|
|Ryde Public School||Ryde||Primary||93|
|Ryde Secondary College||Ryde||Secondary||96|
|West Ryde Public School||West Ryde||Primary||98|
|Ermington Public School||West Ryde||Primary||98|
|Melrose Park Public School||West Ryde||Primary||89|
|Marsden High School West Ryde||West Ryde||Secondary||80|
|North Ryde Public School||North Ryde||Primary||97|
|Ryde East Public School||North Ryde||Primary||97|
|Truscott Street Public School||North Ryde||Primary||94|
Two areas, heading a little farther west, to consider, are North Stratfield and Concord.
North Stratfield is where the train station is and has a small community of shops and restaurants plus it’s only one train into the city, and during peak hours you can catch the express train. Concord is a little farther away from the North Strathfield station but not too far.
The median weekly rent for a house in these suburbs ranges from $675 for a three-bedroom and $1100 for a four-bedroom.
Sydney Suburbs North Strathfield and Concord Schools and Ratings (Click to Open)
|Strathfield North Public School||North Strathfield||Primary||97|
|Mortlake Public School||Concord||Primary||94|
|Concord Public School||Concord||Primary||93|
|Concord High School||Concord||Secondary||89|
|Strathfield Girls High School||Strathfield||Secondary||94|
|Homebush Boys High School||Homebush||Secondary||88|
I know that this is a long post, I hope you got through it and now have a clearer idea of where you want to focus on when you’re ready to start house hunting in Sydney.
Don’t spread yourself too thin and all over the city.
Instead, focus on just three areas that are all right next to each other. That will make it much easier for when you are running to those 15-minute viewings for rentals. Yep, that’s right, they only open the doors for 15 minutes at a time for available rentals which means you really have to have all your ducks in a row.
Is there an area that you were thinking might be a good match for you and your family?
Did you need more info about the area like the median weekly rent or what schools are in the area?