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Sydney vs Melbourne: Which Is Better?

The big question we are often asked is, WHICH IS BETTER, SYDNEY OR MELBOURNE?

As someone who relocates families to both of these beautiful cities, let me try to answer this for you.

Let’s start with the weather, shall we?

Sydney vs Melbourne weather

If you ask any Melbournian (yes, that’s their name),  they will immediately say, “It always rains in Sydney.” 

On the other hand, Sydneysiders will say, “It’s always cold in Melbourne.” 

So there’s always that subjective response.

Now let’s try to be objective and go to the facts:

According to Weatherzone,

  • Melbourne has more rain days (150.6) than Sydney (143.2)
  • Sydney’s annual average rainfall (1213.4 mm) is almost double Melbourne’s (648.3 mm)
  • Sydney’s driest month (September 68.1 mm) is still wetter than Melbourne’s wettest month (October 66.0 mm)

Yes, you read that right. Or, to flip it around the other way, the average wettest month in Melbourne is still not as wet as Sydney’s average driest month.

From these, we can say that the rain in Sydney is more torrential. They have sudden downpours but the more sunny days in general.

Geographically, while Melbourne is along a bay, a single bayside waterline, Sydney is a huge harbour. The city is surrounded by a range of smaller waterways, such as Middle Harbour, North Harbour and Parramatta River, which all flow into the larger harbour. 

Besides its effect on the weather pattern in the two cities, for me this topography also means that I can’t find a straight road in Sydney! Everywhere you drive, the roads twist and turn. 

Don’t get me started on what happens if you miss a turning!  Chances are, you will need to follow the river tributary for a few kilometres before you can turn around.  

Whilst talking geography, in Sydney, there are solid rock faces along many roads – another reason not to miss your turn!  

Many roads and homes are cut into rock faces, so look out for damp patches as water seeps onto the road.  If I had not driven in Europe, I would find these rock faces quite intimidating as they loom above my head. 

Speaking of Europe, another parallel I find between Sydney and Europe is the narrow road lanes. There might be three lanes heading in your direction, but the lanes are narrow. I feel like I am driving on the white line, and the rocks are close. It’s all a bit crazy at times.

Sorry, I feel like I gave Sydney a bad rap in that last paragraph, but it is definitely a standout and noticeable difference for me. 

On the plus side, these cliff faces and valleys give some spectacular sea/harbour views.  The steeped neighbourhoods result in many more houses getting that idyllic water view.  

Melbourne does not have that advantage. Bayside suburbs are flat, with only a few enjoying glimpses of the Bay. 

This topography should be considered when considering where to live.

Do you cycle? 

Do you want the kids to walk to school? 

Do you like walking uphill?

I will leave that thought for you to answer. I would just say that around 19.7% is the cycling participation in Melbourne on a typical week, whereas it’s 14.9% in Sydney.

Sydney vs Melbourne cost of living

The cost of living has to come into it, right? This is a serious consideration for anyone moving.  

At the time of writing this, the rental market and inflation are all going up. But the trend is that Sydney’s cost of living is higher than Melbourne’s. 

According to Numbeo, consumer prices in Melbourne are 3% lower than in Sydney. However, when you include the average rent in the equation, the difference jumps to 12.5%.

Expatistan estimates that the cost of living in Melbourne is 5% cheaper than in Sydney. That takes into account food, rent, transportation, personal care, entertainment and clothes.

Living Cost supports these numbers. Based on its survey, Melbournians enjoy 10% less cost of living than Sydneysiders.

Although, because Melburnians are such coffee connoisseurs, they do pay more for a cup of their morning brew! The cost of living websites linked above estimate average cappuccino prices as $5.13 in Melbourne and $4.96 in Sydney.

Note: Based on the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Consumer Price Index numbers of both cities are 132.7 as of March 2023.

You can find monthly rental statistics and trends on our socials. Do join us there for updates.

Sydney vs Melbourne liveability

The annual Global Liveability Index is often referred to during the Melbourne vs Sydney debate. This study compares infrastructure, environment, education, healthcare and culture. It then ranks global cities. 

From 2015 to 2022, Melbourne has consistently maintained its position within the top ten cities. It proudly held first place for three consecutive years from 2015 to 2017, slipped to second for 2018 and 2019 and then modestly descended to eighth and tenth places in 2021 and 2022, respectively. 

In contrast, Sydney made its mark as the seventh-best city in 2015, climbed to fifth place in 2018, and secured the third spot in 2019.

But let’s face it. Both cities are inside the top 10 globally. So we can’t really be persuaded one way or another–that’s a wonderful achievement!

Sydney vs Melbourne commute times and public transport

Sorry, my beloved Melbourne, but Sydney wins here, hands down. And I am sure you will agree for the most part.  

The mere fact that there is a train from the airport in Sydney is worth a million “Robyn brownie points”!  I am a huge fan of Sydney public transport.

Also, comparing the commute in Melbourne and Sydney reveals distinct differences. On average, Melbourne residents wait 11 minutes before boarding public transport, slightly longer than the 10-minute average wait in Sydney. Notably, one in three Sydney commuters enjoys a waiting time of five minutes or less.

Travel duration also presents a significant contrast, with Melbourne commuters experiencing longer journey times, averaging 47 minutes. Sydney follows closely behind at 46 minutes.

Regarding the distance covered on public transport, Melbourne residents travel an average of 11 kilometres per journey. Sydney trails slightly behind, with residents typically covering nine kilometres. 

Lastly, the average distance walked during these journeys differs between the two cities. Sydney residents walk about 573 meters during their commute, while Melbourne’s residents walk a longer distance, averaging 700 meters. Interestingly, one in five Melbournites is required to walk over a kilometre during their commute on public transport.

Sydney vs Melbourne schooling

If I can hit the ball back in favour of Melbourne just one last time, then it must be on school fees.

In Victoria, school fees are free for temporary visa holders. Not in New South Wales, where you would pay around $5500 yearly for state schooling. 

You can read more about the schooling fees comparison blog I wrote for Sable International.

Which is better?

Either way, it all comes down to personal preferences. It comes down to your lifestyle choices. If you are still not sure or you would prefer some more suburb specific context, why not book a consultation with us?

Remember that the whole of Australia is not what you see on Bondi Rescue.

Don’t plan for the dream; plan for the reality.

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