“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.

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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.

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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
School Suburb Type Overall Score
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.