There are so many little tucked-away spots all around the Sydney Harbour shoreline, but finding the one with a good café in it is worth its weight in avo on toast. Here are our top 11 Sydney harbourside cafés locals love and visitors love to find.
Biting into a delicious snack or sipping a well-made coffee while Sydney Harbour laps at your feet has to be one of the best things to do in this city. Enjoying the sun glint off the water or watching the boats and ferries float by gives you an incredible feeling of tranquillity.
Mrs Romance and I love finding a quiet spot to while away a Sunday morning or take our lunch break midweek. There are lots of great spots right on the waterfront, but many of the really good ones are a bit of a local secret.
Here are 11 of our favourite Sydney harbourside cafés that locals love and visitors love to find.
11 Sydney harbourside cafés that locals love
Thelma & Louise Café – Neutral Bay
Perched on the edge of the harbour a stone’s throw from the Neutral Bay ferry wharf, Thelma & Louise Café has a great little menu of breakfast and lunch options all cooked fresh in the little kitchen.
You’re so close to the water here – especially if you score an outside table – you’ll have perfect views of the boats at anchor and excellent people watching as passengers get on and off the ferry.
Thelma & Louise Cafe
1 Hayes St, Neutral Bay
Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm
Poolside Café at Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Pool – The Domain
The Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton pool is a bit of an institution in Sydney. Its 8-lane 50-metre heated saltwater pool has been in use since the late ‘60s and its namesake and Olympic swimmer Andrew Charlton was a much-loved figure in Australia.
The café here, however, isn’t as well known. Turning out understandably healthy breakfast and lunch options, Poolside also offers cocktails and coffees to enjoy with the impressive view out over Woolloomooloo, Garden Island and out over the Harbour.
1C Mrs Macquarie’s Rd, The Domain
Mon-Sun 7.30am-4pm – though opening times during winter can vary.
Luggage Store Cafe at Q Station – Manly
A bit like Australia’s version of Ellis Island, Q Station ‘welcomed’ newcomers emigrating by ship to Australia right up until the mid 1980s. It was the quarantine station, you see. And it stopped a great deal of disease, death and infection from spreading through the new colony.
Now, it’s become an amazing retreat for people looking for somewhere close to the city where they can escape the crazy for a while. Here’s more about Q Station Retreat.
As for harbourside cafés, Q Station’s Luggage Store Café is right on the water’s edge – just where you come in from the ferry in fact – and serves coffee, sandwiches, cakes and pastries along with entry to the free mini museum next door.
The venue’s licenced too if you feel the need for something stronger, and if you’re after something heartier than a sanga, the Boilerhouse Restaurant has delicious lunch options available most days.
Luggage Store Cafe
1 North Head Scenic Drive, Manly – or you can get the Sydney Hopper ferry from Circular Quay, which takes you right up to the café’s doors.
Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm
Bathers’ Pavilion Café – Balmoral Beach
Balmoral Beach is one of those unsung heroes of the harbour beaches. The only people who know Sydney well would have heard of this one. It’s tricky to get to, hard to find a park but utterly worth it.
Balmoral Pavilion is popular with all kinds of people. Wedding parties, romantic diners, casual café-goers – it’s an interesting mixed bag. The coffee, views and food are outstanding. There’s also a takeaway section if you just want to hang out at the beach with a coffee.
4 The Esplanade, Balmoral
Mon-Sun – Breakfast 7am-11.45am Lunch/Dinner midday-late.
Nielsen Park Cafe – Vaucluse
Super popular with the locals in the Eastern Suburbs, Nielsen Park Beach is safe, family friendly and even has a shark net… which is probably a good idea seeing as the area is called Shark Bay!
It’s a popular wedding spot but don’t be put off – there’s still always a good little takeaway area ideal for a coffee on the beach. The only drawback to this place is how popular it is; parking can be problematic in the summer – but it’s well worth the hunt.
Nielsen Park Cafe
1 Greycliffe Avenue, Vaucluse
Celcius Coffee Co – Kirribilli
Just round the corner from the Prime Minister’s digs in Kirribilli, and a croissant’s throw from the ferry wharf, this little gem turns out classic Aussie café fare with one of the best views in the city.
You can get the ferry straight there from Circular Quay or even better, get a ferry to a wharf further round and walk along the harbour foreshore to earn your breakfast!
Celcius Coffee Co
Holbrook Ave, Kirribilli Wharf, Kirribilli
Mon-Fri 7.30am-2.30pm Sat-Sun 8am-3pm
The Boathouse at Balmoral – Balmoral Beach
Leaning out over the water, the Boathouse is a stunning venue. Beautiful flower arrangements and fruit displays greet you as you walk in, and the menus make you smile as you sit down.
Because of its setting and its food and drink options, this place does fill up so you need to be ok with crowds to enjoy the Boathouse. Otherwise, grab a takeaway with their trademark chocolate anchor rosetta and stroll round the decked walkway that takes you out over the water.
The Boathouse at Balmoral
2 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach
Mon-Sun Breakfast – 7am-11.30am Lunch – midday-3pm
Deckhouse Cafe – Woolwich
Right by the old Woolwich dock where big ships used to come in, this café has great views out across the harbour to the back of the Harbour Bridge. There’s also a little park you can stroll through with your takeaway coffee all the way along the edge of the waterfront.
The restaurant here is popular for events and is only open for lunch & dinner, however, the café does a good breakfast or lunch if you want to sit in. Just make sure you have a booking.
End of Clarke Road, Woolwich Dock
Mon-Sun Breakfast – 8.30am-11am Lunch – 12pm-3pm
Moby Cafe – Mosman
For location, you can’t really beat Moby. Tucked right in Mosman Bay and actually part of the Mosman Ferry Wharf, you can get the ferry from Circular Quay and from here you can even carry on to Taronga Zoo after breakfast.
Food here is hearty, and if you’re looking for lunch options, there’s a good burger list and some great meat-based salads too. The thing we love here is the overlap of breakfast and lunch service.
Mosman Bay Wharf, Mosman
Mon-Fri 7am-2pm Sat-Sun 8am-2pm. Breakfast 7/8am-1pm – Lunch 10.30am-2pm.
Tide Café – Rose Bay
Below Regatta Restaurant, which serves great dinner and cocktail options, is Tide Café. This is a real local’s favourite and is perfect for a casual coffee or a bit of all-day brekkie.
Right on the water, it’s a great spot to relax in the sun and watch life on the harbour drift by. Sometimes the local water polo team practises out front too if you’re after a bit of free entertainment.
594 New South Head Road, Rose Bay
Mon-Sun 8am-3pm – Lunch from 11.30
Ripples – Milsons Point
Parked directly under the Harbour Bridge and right opposite the Milsons Point ferry wharf, Ripples is a real treat. It’s got all the glamour of high-class dining but with the relaxed, cruisy feel you get from a place with water views like this.
The level of food and drinks they serve here is excellent but most incredibly you can BYO your own booze for a corkage fee per bottle. Bookings are essential for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but don’t let that put you off.
Olympic Drive, Milsons Point
Breakfast – Mon-Fri 8am-10.30am Sat-Sun 7.30am-10.30am
Lunch – Mon-Sun from 12pm
Dinner – Mon-Sun from 6pm
All this talk of cafés has made me hungry. I think it’s time for (second) breakfast!
Do you have a favourite Sydney harbourside café? What’s the best-kept local secret where you are? Tell us in the comments!