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If you’re thinking of moving to Australia, deciding where to live in such a huge country is one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make. This comparison of Sydney vs Perth will help with your decision if these two beautiful cities are in the running!
I spent a while living in Perth when I first moved to Australia, and I’ve been living in Sydney since 2016. I’ve also travelled much of the Australian coastline and spent a year in Brisbane as a student.
I’ve put together lots of facts about Sydney and Perth in this blog post, plus my own observations and experiences, to help you decide where to live in Australia.
Read on to learn more about Perth vs Sydney, or check out my YouTube video below!
1. Where are Sydney and Perth in Australia?
Perth and Sydney lie 3,939 km apart, which would take 43 hours to drive without stopping!
Sydney sits at the southern end of the east coast of Australia, in the state of New South Wales. Perth is in Western Australia, situated at the southwestern end of the west coast, along the Indian Ocean.
Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world in terms of its proximity to other major cities in Australia. Flying to Perth from Sydney takes five hours.
Since Australia’s east coast is a lot more developed than the west coast, Sydney has easier access to other major Australian cities than Perth does. However, Perth is closer to Southeast Asia, so holidays abroad are more accessible.
2. Size and Population of Sydney vs Perth
Perth is the fourth-largest city in Australia, with around 2.2 million inhabitants. Sydney, on the other hand, is Australia’s biggest city, with a population of about 5.5 million.
Perth has a much smaller feel than Sydney, with a more compact city centre that’s quick and easy to walk around. It also has more of a relaxed vibe and slower pace than Sydney. Despite being small, there are still plenty of fun things to do in Perth.
I found Perth pretty easy to drive around. When I headed south on the freeway for my road trip to Adelaide, I couldn’t believe how clear the traffic was compared to UK motorways!
Sydney is generally busier with heavy traffic, and it can take a long time to travel around the city on public transport. Traffic does vary across the different regions in Sydney, though.
However, one of the advantages of living in Sydney is how diverse the city is in terms of landscape. You can choose to live in quieter, less built-up areas if you head outside of the inner city.
Find out more in my guide on where to live in Sydney. I wrote this after house sitting in around 100 Sydney suburbs!
3. Weather in Perth vs Sydney
While Sydney lies only slightly further south than Perth, their location on opposite coastlines means that they do have different climates.
In the summer, Perth tends to be hotter than Sydney during the daytime.
The average maximum temperature in January in Perth is 31.3 degrees, compared to 26.0 degrees in Sydney (freezing, I know)! The average minimum temperature overnight in January is 18.1 degrees in Perth and 18.8 degrees in Sydney, so very similar.
Sydney summers are much more humid than Perth’s though, so even though it’s cooler in Sydney, it feels a lot hotter than it actually is.
I left Perth in late November (late spring) for my Perth To Adelaide road trip, and we’d already had a few days in the forties! It felt like stepping out in front of a giant hairdryer!
Both Sydney and Perth have fairly cool winters compared to the more northern parts of Australia, but still very mild compared to countries like the UK.
The average maximum temperature in July is 18.5 degrees in Perth and 16.4 degrees in Sydney. The average minimum temperature overnight in July is 8.0 degrees in Perth and 8.1 degrees in Sydney.
The winter weather in Sydney is generally sunny but cool. Hiking is one of the many fantastic things to do in Sydney in the winter. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy winters here quite so much!
Perth holds the title for the most days of sunshine per year out of all the state capitals in Australia! It’s also said to be the sunniest city in the world in terms of the hours of sunshine it gets per year!
Perth has an average of 138.7 days of sunshine per year, whereas Sydney gets 103.9 days. For comparison, Melbourne only gets 48.6 days!
Sydney gets an average of 99.5 days of rain per year, compared to 80.7 days in Perth. While that doesn’t sound too different, Sydney gets almost double the volume of rain per year than Perth.
Rain in Sydney tends to be torrential!
Sydney tends to have slightly rainier summers than winters, although not as extreme as the summer wet season up in Brisbane and Darwin. Perth has very dry summers with only one or two rainy days per month.
However, Perth’s winters are wetter than Sydney’s, with an average of 13 days of rain per month, compared to only seven or eight rainy days in Sydney.
To summarise, both Sydney and Perth get lots of sunshine, but Perth gets significantly more! Sydney has heavier rainfall than Perth, with wetter summers but drier winters. Perth has hotter, drier summers than Sydney with lower humidity.
4. Sydney vs Perth Beaches
Both Sydney and Perth are known for their fantastic beaches, so if you’re a beach lover, either of these cities would be great for you.
Sydney has over 100 beaches, ranging from Bondi Beach on the busy Eastern Suburbs beaches to tucked-away coves you can only reach by boat.
The beaches in Sydney tend to have golden, or even dark orange, sand and big, tall sandstone headlands at either end and quite a rugged, craggy look.
Head over to my Sydney page to browse all my articles on top Sydney beaches, walks and activities.
Sydney also has lots of ocean pools, which is a sectioned-off area at the end of the beach where you can swim laps without being in the rough waves (or with the sharks)!
Perth has plenty of beaches too, which tend to be long and flat with soft white sand and pale aqua water. The beaches in Perth never seemed to be too busy when I visited them.
Since Perth is the longest city in the world, and it stretches along the WA coastline, you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of beaches! You can also watch some fantastic sunsets from the beach in Perth, since it sits on the west coast.
5. Sydney and Perth Daylight Savings
One of the disadvantages of living in Perth is that Western Australia does not have daylight savings. This means that Perth gets dark around seven thirty in the height of summer.
In contrast, New South Wales (like most Australian states) does have daylight savings, so sunset is about 45 minutes later in Sydney during the summer than in Perth. However, Perth does stay lighter for about half an hour longer than Sydney in the winter.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a three-hour time difference between Perth and Sydney during the warmer half of the year, which drops to two hours during the months that daylight savings isn’t applied.
6. Cost of Living in Perth vs Sydney
Is it more expensive to live in Sydney or Perth? I’ll break down some major items that affect the cost of living between these two cities.
The vast difference in property prices between Perth and Sydney is probably going to be a deal breaker for those of you moving to Australia permanently, as it makes the cost of living in Perth much cheaper than in Sydney.
Perth is one of Australia’s most affordable capital cities in terms of property, at around half the price of Sydney.
According to this CoreLogic property report from 1 July 2023, the median house price in Perth in June 2023 was $615,793, compared to $1,324,396 in Sydney. That’s 115% higher in Sydney!
The median value of a unit (flat) in June 2023 was $417,643 in Perth and $808,407 in Sydney. This makes Sydney units 94% more expensive, on average, than units in Perth.
Note that prices can vary hugely across the different suburbs in most Australian cities.
Learn more in my blog post on Australian property prices and trends.
Unexpectedly, renting a property in Perth is significantly cheaper than in Sydney.
From this June 2023 report on rent.com.au, the median weekly rent in Perth was $590 for a house, $500 for a unit/flat and $200 for a room. The median weekly rent in Sydney was $800 for a house, $650 for a unit/flat and $360 for a room.
Read my blog post on rent in Australia to learn how rent compares across the Australian cities and how to find a rental property.
Cost of Utilities
According to Budget Direct, the average cost of electricity, heating, water and garbage for an 85 metre-squared apartment in Sydney is $190.19 per month, compared to $194.82 in Perth.
Public Transport and Fuel
The same article on Budget Direct calculated the average cost of a monthly public transport pass in Perth to be $139, compared to $217 in Sydney.
The post also found that grocery shopping is 3.06% cheaper in Perth than Sydney, and restaurant prices are 3.43% lower in Perth too.
In summary, Sydney is more expensive than Perth for buying property, renting property, supermarket food, restaurants and public transport. Utility bills are slightly cheaper in Sydney than Perth.
7. Sydney vs Perth Architecture
While Perth does have some lovely old buildings, I think it has a much more shiny, modern look in general than Sydney. It is more similar to Brisbane in that way.
I would say if you prefer the character of historical architecture, you might prefer Sydney or Melbourne. If you prefer a more sleek, modern look, Perth or Brisbane may be better for you.
Sydney, like Melbourne, has a mixture of new and old buildings, but seems to have a larger proportion of beautiful, heritage buildings than Perth, as well as more pockets of Victorian and Federation-era housing.
If you don’t care about that sort of thing, read on to learn about some more topics!
8. East Coast Compared to West Coast Living
One of the biggest differences between Perth and Sydney is their locations and how isolated they are.
Sydney lies on the east coast of Australia, which is by far the most populated and developed part of the coastline. To the north of Sydney, you’ve got Brisbane and Cairns, and to the south, Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania off the coast of Melbourne.
There are also many smaller coastal towns and cities along the south and south-east coastline, which are easy to get to via sealed roads and motorways. While driving distances can be long, you can easily hop on a short flight from Sydney to Queensland, Victoria or South Australia.
Perth, on the other hand, lies at the southern end of Australia’s west coast and is often referred to as the most isolated city in the world. The west coast of Australia is much less developed than the east coast, particularly as you head north towards Darwin.
Perth’s nearest other state capital is Adelaide, which is a 30-hour drive away if you don’t stop! I spent five weeks on a road trip from Perth to Adelaide, and while I passed lots of amazing places, the trip involved a lot of red dust and detours along unsealed roads!
To fly from Perth to Brisbane for some winter sunshine takes around five hours, but you will shave a few hours off your flight if you’re heading back to Europe or anywhere west.
9. Holiday Destinations Near Perth vs Sydney
In terms of surrounding holidays destinations, both Perth and Sydney have a huge amount of choice. To be honest, most of Australia’s coastline is pretty stunning, so I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with any coastal city!
Even though the west coast of Australia is less developed than the east coast, you still have a wealth of pretty holiday towns and attractions to visit from Perth.
Just two or three hour’s drive south of Perth is Busselton and other pretty surf towns in Geographe Bay, which have stunningly white beaches and amazing bright blue water. There’s also pretty Rottnest Island just off the coastline of Perth.
A little further south is beautiful Margaret River, well known for its high-end food and wine scene, as well as brilliant surf. Or for a longer road trip, you can head through the ancient forests of Pemberton and the beautiful coastline of Denmark and Albany.
In New South Wales, you’ll find plenty of brilliant places for weekend getaways from Sydney. You can nip up to the beaches and coastal towns on the Central Coast, or south to pretty beach city Wollongong.
To the south you can visit scenic and very green Kiama or stunning Jervis Bay, said to have the whitest sand in the world. North, you can enjoy a city break in Newcastle, an old industrial city with great beaches and walks, or continue on to pretty Port Stephens.
10. Nightlife Comparison
While my clubbing days are over now, I really enjoyed the Sydney nightlife when I visited in my twenties. Apparently, Sydney’s lockout laws have impacted nightlife in the CBD, but you’ve still got lots of choice in such a big city.
In Sydney, there are bars and clubs in the city, Darling Harbour, Kings Cross, Manly, Bondi Beach, Newtown and many other places, I’m sure!
Perth is a much smaller city than Sydney, so obviously has a bit less choice when it comes to nightlife. I did visit a few backpacker bars in Perth, which were fun, but in general it had a bit more of a small town feel than Sydney.
One club I walked past in Perth had a sign outside saying no mullets or face tattoos allowed inside!
11. Prettiness of the Cities
I personally think Perth and Sydney are two of the prettiest capitals in Australia, particularly the waterfront areas by the CBDs.
While Perth’s main shopping area is fairly generic, the riverside area next to the city is really lovely. You’ve got Langley Park, which has great views of the river and city skyline, as well as a walk and cycle path along the water’s edge. That area is beautiful at sunset.
Kings Park in Perth is huge with fantastic views of the city, and there are also waterfront bars in the city and even dolphins in the Swan River!
Sydney is also very picturesque, with its enormous harbour, iconic buildings and beautiful houses built into the hills overlooking the water. One of Sydney’s main advantages is its prettiness.
There are even beaches along Sydney Harbour as you head towards the ocean, as well as walks through natural bushland very close to the city.
12. Are Perth and Sydney Safe Cities?
With Sydney being such a huge city, you would assume it is less safe than some of the smaller places in Australia, but it actually seems to be the opposite! I’ve house sat all across Sydney and never ended up anywhere that felt rough or unsafe.
While I thought Perth was lovely, there definitely seemed to be more people day drinking in parks than in Sydney, and I often heard a lot of shouting at night. My flatmate worked night shifts as a nurse, and hated walking home in the dark at 5am. There also seemed to be a lot of adverts on TV to help with drug addiction and domestic abuse in Perth.
Both cities will have good and bad suburbs, so do your research before choosing somewhere. I certainly wouldn’t say Perth was dangerous, and it’s a beautiful city that is lovely to live in, but I feel a bit safer walking around Sydney, particularly at night.
That’s it for my differences between living in Sydney vs Perth! I hope it’s helped with your big decision of where to live in Australia.
- To read more city comparisons and overviews, head over the my page on where to live in Australia.
- If Perth’s west coast location puts you off, read my comparison of living in Sydney vs Brisbane.
- To compare Perth with another city with more affordable property than Sydney, check out my Adelaide vs Perth comparison.
- If you like the idea of living in a big city with lots going on, read through my comparison of Sydney vs Melbourne.
Good luck with your big move!
Lisa Bull, founder of Dreaming of Down Under, has been living in Australia as a British expat since 2015. After travelling to every state and territory in Australia and living in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, Lisa knows from first-hand experience the best destinations to visit in Australia and the best budget travel tips. Her guides on this blog have been read by over 700k readers and helped thousands of people achieve their dream of living in or travelling Australia.