Should You Visit Melbourne or Sydney?

April 08, 2021 by

When it's your first time visiting Australia and you only have limited vacation days, the age-old battle between Melbourne or Sydney might be on your mind. Do you spend a few days in both cities or base yourself in one or the other? Alternatively, do you skip them altogether and head to my current state of choice, Queensland - home to the Great Barrier Reef? Well, I'm here to impartially settle the Melbourne versus Sydney debate.
Is Melbourne near Sydney?
In Australian terms (it takes approximately six hours to fly from coast to coast), travel between Sydney and Melbourne is relatively short. Melbourne, in Victoria, is about a nine-hour drive or a 1.5-hour flight southwest of Sydney in New South Wales. However, these two Australian cities couldn't be more different, which you will discover for yourself below.
Is Melbourne or Sydney bigger?
Sydney is slightly bigger in terms of population, with over five million residents. Meanwhile, Melbourne has just under five million residents. Sydney also receives nearly double the number of tourists versus Melbourne.
Sydney has better beaches
Let's start with an important question you will inevitably ask before visiting Australia - does Sydney or Melbourne have better beaches? Well, Sydney wins this section hands down, as it's home to over 100 beaches. Its best beaches include the world-famous Bondi Beach, Bronte Beach, Shelly Beach and Palm Beach - where Home and Away is filmed. Melbourne does have good beaches like Brighton Beach and St Kilda Beach. However, the downside is that because of their location on Port Phillip Bay, the water is pretty cool year-round.
Melbourne is Australia's culture capital
If you want to be submerged in cultural attractions during your visit to Australia, I highly recommend visiting Melbourne over Sydney. One of the (many) reasons why Melbourne is Australia's culture capital is that it's home to a plethora of art galleries and museums. This includes the National Gallery of Victoria - Australia's largest and most-visited art gallery, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
There's also Melbourne Museum, the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere. I actually worked at the Melbourne Museum and it has a selection of family-friendly interactive displays. Furthermore, it features exhibits on natural history, indigenous culture and fashion and technology.
Sydney has more outdoor adventures
There are definitely more outdoor adventures waiting for you in Sydney. Water-based outdoor adventures include open water swimming pools like Bondi Icebergs, snorkelling at Gordons Bay and Shelly Beach, and surfing at Bondi or Bronte Beach. Then there's the legendary coastal walk stretching from Bondi to Bronte Beach. Back on dry land, Sydney is also home to multiple urban parks, like Centennial Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Hyde Park. If you love the outdoors, you'll love Sydney.
Sydney has more fun-filled, family-friendly and renowned attractions
Melbourne does win when it comes to cultural attractions. However, its Federation Square and Flinders Street Station can't compete with Sydney's world-renowned landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. We've mentioned quite a few Sydney attractions already. But other attractions not to be missed include Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour, the Australian Museum, Sydney Fish Market and The Rocks - one of Australia's oldest neighbourhoods.