Just a few reasons why Sydney is better than Melbourne

By Mat Carney

BEING from Melbourne I have always been a champion of the ‘Melbourne is better than Sydney’ debate. Countless hours have been spent arguing over culture, coffee, shopping and sport, with Melbournians and Sydneysiders confidently arguing their respective city is superior.

Well, it is with shock and dismay to my family and friends in Melbourne that I have to confidently say Sydney has won me over. Don’t get me wrong, excluding Sydney, Melbourne is better than many other Australian cities, with its culture, parks, architecture, cosmopolitan atmosphere and sporting calendar. However I think it is relatively easy to argue that Melbourne is Australia’s number two city, with Sydney easily offering more, with the exception of shopping and sport. I hear you, why the sudden change in opinion after years of advocating Melbourne’s superiority? Well, I let Sydney transform my opinion by experiencing parts of Sydney I had not fully discovered or explored.

I don’t think many Australians would disagree with the idea that Sydney’s number one attraction and natural asset is the spectacularly beautiful harbour. Walking through Sydney’s historical botanic gardens gives you awe-inspiring views over the harbour, including the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I know what you are saying, ‘Melbourne has the Yarra River, the MCG and the Arts Centre’, and yes I agree, they are beautiful and iconic attractions, but come on, they are not even slightly comparable to the natural wonder of Sydney’s harbour and its historic and iconic infrastructure. The beauty of such views are further enhanced as you walk along the foreshore, through Potts Point, and other small bays and villages.

What really impresses me about Sydney is the close proximity of the CBD to breathtaking and stunning nature, national parks and historical establishments. What other city can you take a short train ride to then walk across the road and surf in the ocean? And only a 15 minute bus trip from central Sydney is Sydney Harbour National Park.

The Spit, Sydney. Pic: Mat Carney.

The Spit, Sydney. Pic: Mat Carney.

After spending approximately 15 minutes on the bus, I arrived at The Spit. Lush Australian bush land, with large houses built strategically into the side of hills and mountains in order to take advantage of the scenery, filled the area. It was here, no more than 15 kilometres from the CBD of Australia’s largest city, that I was to commence a 10 kilometre coastal walk to Manly. The Spit to Manly coastal walk hugs the coast, passing small and intricate bays, incredible view points, historical buildings and military infrastructure, enormous cliffs, beautiful homes, subtropical rainforests and iconic Australian bushland. A view of the Sydney skyline is evident for the majority of the journey, as is the constant passing of the Sydney to Manly ferry. I have been to over 62 countries and hundreds of cities, always seeking out a good walk and view point, and I can easily say The Spit to Manly walk offers views that are equal, if not better, than any view I have seen, especially a view in close proximity to a large city.

Australian bushland on the outskirts of Sydney. Pic: Mat Carney.

Australian bushland on the outskirts of Sydney. Pic: Mat Carney.

Upon arriving in Manly, a metropolitan beach suburb of Sydney and one I travel to often, I decided to continue walking along the coast to Northhead Sanctuary, a large historic park that is managed by the federal agency, Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. Again the views are truly astonishing, with enormous cliffs and superb bushland greeting the abrupt and dangerous heads that open up Sydney Harbour to the Pacific Ocean. The park, although really in a Sydney suburb, is rich in flora and fauna, with Banksias and Bandicoots commonly sighted. It is also rich in history, with a large sandstone built Quarantine Station and cemetery, that was active between 1881-1925, still available to explore. Many people who suffered with deadly diseases were stationed in the quarantine complex and upon their death were buried in a small cemetery, on the edge of large and spectacular cliffs. During World War Two the area became a major Australian defence base, evident through the numerous forts and small gun huts scattered throughout the park. From 1946 to 1998 the area hosted the Royal Australian Army’s School of Artillery. The large military barracks is now open for all to explore and there are impressive and moving tributes to Australians who served in past conflicts. A path titled, ‘Australia’s Memorial Walk’, contains thousands of names of lives lost from the Boer War to current day conflicts Australia has been involved in. Incredibly impressive and moving, and other than the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the most in-depth defence memorial in Australia, and one I am assuming most Australians don’t know about.

Where Sydney Harbour meets the Pacific Ocean. Pic: Mat Carney.

Where Sydney Harbour meets the Pacific Ocean. Pic: Mat Carney.

Although only a small taste of why my opinion has changed and why I now categorise Sydney as ‘Australia’s better city’, it is clear Sydney, naturally, has much to offer a visitor. Previously i favoured Melbourne over Sydney because of its culture, food and and cosmopolitan city life. However, Sydney offers all of this now, perhaps not as well established, primarily due to the smaller inner-city population Sydney has, but still fairly comparable. Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticising Melbourne, I still think it is a world class city and easily ahead of cities such as Brisbane and Perth, I am just highlighting, for the first time, my opinion that Sydney wins out when compared.

About the author:

Mat Carney is a freelance writer on all things ASEAN and an Australian National University graduate.