If you are keen to eat the best food in Sydney, then one of the quickest ways to find it is to join a Sydney food tour. Taking a food tour at the beginning of your visit is a great way to find out the best places to eat and drink for the rest of your trip too.
The food culture of a city tells you a lot about the people, past and present. Many of these food tours include stories of the producers and some historical background of Sydney too. You can also combine a food experience with being out on the harbour or getting off the beaten track by exploring a city suburb or rural region of Sydney in more detail.
When we travel, local food is at the top of our list of things to try, so we decided to head out and try some of the best known Sydney food tour and experiences. We also added a few newer, small operators to help you determine which tours will suit you best.
- What exactly is “Australian” Food?
- Why I think you should take a food tour
- Things to look for when choosing a food tour
- Do you have any special dietary requirements, and can these be catered to?
- Are all food and drinks included in the tour price?
- How many participants?
- Who should go on a food tour?
- How long does the average food tour last?
- What type of food experiences are available in Sydney?
- Where does the tour go?
- Can you cancel it?
- Walking Food Tours in Sydney
- Evening Food tours in Sydney
- Hands-on Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Sydney
- Cultural Food Experiences in Sydney
- Sydney Bar Tours
- Sydney Pub tours and walks
- Sydney Brewery Tours
- Harbour Cruises where food is the star
- Regional Food and drink tours
What exactly is “Australian” Food?
Sydney is a melting pot, and our food culture has significantly benefited from this. It was the immigrants from southern China who were working the goldfields in the early 1900s who got us started. They began selling Cantonese food to fellow gold diggers, and they loved it. We have been lucky enough to be exposed to lots of different taste sensations introduced by immigrants ever since.
This is very much a foodie city and most locals have adventurous palates. These days almost every suburban shopping strip includes at least 4-5 different Asian inspired restaurants with Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Japanese being most popular.
A local family is as likely to cook a stir fry for dinner as pasta or meat and three veggies which was the staple in earlier decades. Our climate allows us to cultivate many Asian herbs and vegetables, making it easy to recreate these foods at home.
As a result, it’s tough to define Australian Cuisine. When asked what is Aussie food, most locals will come back with answers like meat pies, steak, seafood, and of course sweet treats like Pavlova and Lamington. Some joke that Pad Thai or a Kebab are more likely choices for our national dish. Oh, and let’s not forget Vegemite, the food we love to torture guests with.
Learn more about the history of Australia’s food culture from this SBS article.
Why I think you should take a food tour
Food tours let you discover the city like a local. For starters, you meet a food-loving Sydneysider who can show you the places that locals head to eat out. You will hear stories behind the cities best eats, often getting to meet some of the chefs or owners who will be happy to share their food story with you.
Guides are also happy to share tips on things you should try while you are here, restaurants and bars to visit during your stay.
If you like things more hands-on, there are plenty of cooking experiences to check out.
Things to look for when choosing a food tour
So before we get into the details on individual tours, let’s look at some things you should consider before you book.
Do you have any special dietary requirements, and can these be catered to?
These days with so many people following specific ways of eating from vegan to gluten-free tour operators are used to customising their tours for their clients. Ask before you make your booking if this is important to you.
Are all food and drinks included in the tour price?
Finding out in advance what is included in the tour, not exact items but the amount of food will help you determine if it’s worth the price. A more expensive tour may consist of a full meal, therefore, making it good value. But for those with small appetites, a tour that includes fewer stops at a lower price might be a better fit.
Don’t base your decision purely on the number of stops or places you visit. Sometimes less is more.
How many participants?
While the maximum number of people on a tour is important, it’s also worth considering the minimum. It’s very disappointing to find your tour has been cancelled because the minimum has not been met. I like to choose tours with a minimum of two or four as these are most likely to run.
As for a maximum, for me, 12 is a good number. Any more and it can become hard to keep the group together or to hear what is being said, and even fit into some of the smaller venues.
Who should go on a food tour?
Food tours are great for anyone with a passion for food, but they are especially good for solo travellers who are not comfortable dining alone. Joining a tour or dining experience is a great way to try more varieties of food than you could by ordering for one.
How long does the average food tour last?
Most food tours run for about 3 hours. Some suburban and regional tours are full-day events.
What type of food experiences are available in Sydney?
Some tours explore a suburb, others a cuisine or a style of cooking. You can also join a themed or progressive dinner, a brewery or winery tour or uncover the city’s hidden bars. You can book private food tours that visit several parts of town or a special degustation harbour cruise with a focus on a particular winemaker or producer. The range of food experiences on offer in Sydney is quite broad.
Where does the tour go?
Some tours let you explore a small area in-depth and don’t involve lots of walking, others can have you covering 6km or more on foot, which I love, but may not be the best option for everyone. Some involve a sort of progressive dinner with a course at 3-4 different restaurants and others a cooking demo and class.
Can you cancel it?
What is the cancellation policy? Be sure to check, and we suggest you don’t book for the day you land after a long international flight. Jetlag or delays could mean you miss your tour. Many operators have a 24-hour cancellation notice, but some do require three days or more, so be sure to take note.
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Walking Food Tours in Sydney
Taste Food Tours
Taste Food Tours are a social enterprise organisation that offers training to migrants, refugees and local youth.
There are two regular tours offered along with some seasonal tours, and several private itineraries are also available if you are travelling in a group.
These tours hit our ideal for size. Capped at 12 on group tours and with a minimum of 2, they are unlikely to be cancelled.
Taste of Sydney – Barangaroo and The Rocks
Learn a little of the history of both Sydney’s oldest and most recently rejuvenated areas and taste some great food along the way. The tastings along the way are equal to a large meal, so make sure you begin this tour hungry.
You cover about 3.5km over 3.5 hours, and I feel the right mix of moving and eating. The guides are excellent, and this is an excellent introduction for anyone staying in Sydney for a few days and wondering what to eat while they are here.
Taste of Chinatown – Haymarket, Sydney
This Taste of Chinatown tour also fits comfortable in the cultural food tour category gives you a chance to learn more about Asian-Australians, and discover the history of these communities from the first fleet to the gold rushes. The guide will help find the best Chinese, Malaysian and South Korean specialities on offer in Sydney along with all the local favourites. KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) anyone?
The 3-hour tour includes a Tea Ceremony and lots of local history and culture tips.
Sydney Vegan Tours
This 3-hour walking vegan food tour takes you to one of our favourite Sydney suburbs, Newtown, a vegan hotspot in Sydney and home to a large number of vegan companies. You will visit at least four vegan businesses and hear lots about the vegan food scene in Sydney and how these businesses have established and grown.
The afternoon tour is limited to ten guests and is suitable for kids. The price includes all your food and drinks samples, and there is plenty with the tour offering the equivalent of a 3-course meal and tastings. You will not go home hungry, and when the tour is over, you are ideally located for some night time exploring, with some great pubs in the area.
Find out more or check availability and book here.
Ultimately Sydney – Taste of Sydney tour
This is a full day eating extravaganza perfect for hardcore foodies or those wanting to splurge. Over 6 hours you visit 4 very different parts of Sydney and sample the best food on offer. From the city’s newest precinct Barangaroo to the hotspot of inner south’s Rosebery, the inner west’s Tramsheds and the inner city’s Chippendale you will be guided by a local expert on a fun and flavour-filled day out.
The tour travels between the areas visited in a very comfortable van. They can accommodate a maximum of 14 guests and a minimum of 4 guests. It packs in all the best stops in the city in one day, so in that respect, it’s great value.
Find out more and check prices and availability here
Secret Sydney Food Tour
On this small-group walking tour, you will explore Surry Hills, see the famous rainbow crossing, and make seven stops to enjoy some of the areas best food offerings.
Along the way, you will learn about the arrival of Sydney immigrants and their food cultures. You will finish with lots of ideas of where to eat for the rest of your visit.
This tour is perfect for anyone new to Sydney looking to learn more about the food scene. With a maximum of 10 guests, you get plenty of time to interact with the guide.
Run by the international Secret Food Tours company, you may have come across these before on your travels.
More details or bookings here
Evening Food tours in Sydney
Night food tours are a great option for solo travellers who are keen to enjoy the company of others or are a bit shy about dining alone.
Surry Hills Walking and Dining Tour
Surry Hills is one of Sydney most vibrant dining precincts. It’s where local foodies head for a night out, and this tour will have you tasting some of the best the area has to offer.
After starting with a get to know you drink at a popular small bar, you will visit three venues, one for each course and spend about 45 minutes at each spot. At each restaurant, you will have the chance to chat with the owners and learn more about the food and wine.
As you make your way between venues, the guide shares lots of useful info on the Sydney food scene and plenty of local insight into the area. This is especially helpful if you are staying in Sydney for a few more days or have just settled here.
This tour is not suitable for under 18 years.
Find out more details or check the price and availability of this Surry Hills Food tour here
Hands-on Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Sydney
Seafood Cooking Class at Sydney Fish Market
For the last 30 years, the Sydney Seafood School has been teaching Sydney how to cook seafood with love. Top chefs, including some of the city’s biggest names, slip into the role of teacher and share their favourite recipes with the class.
Develop some first-class seafood BBQ skills or learn to use seafood in a new way with classes ranging from Tapas to Italian and basic seafood cooking skills.
After watching an expert demonstrate what we would be doing, we were set loose with our group to make our meal. There were plenty of tips on choosing, storing and preparing seafood, and after my class, I felt much more confident doing this.
When its time to cook, you break off into groups of six. If you come alone or in a small group, you will soon have some new friends, so don’t despair. When it’s all done, it’s off to the dining room to sample our work with a glass of wine.
The cooking was fun, and we went home with a copy of the recipes so we could impress our friends and family without new-found talents. We all received a quality apron to take home too, which was a nice touch.
Check the schedule of classes for 2020 and see what takes your fancy.
This is a good night out for visitors or locals. We had a complete ball and have cooked the menu at home since our visit; we highly recommend you take a class.
You can book this experience here.
Cultural Food Experiences in Sydney
Maeve O’Meara’s Gourmet Safaris have been running for 21 years, and they offer some fantastic tours that allow you to glimpse inside various ethnic communities in the city. I have done 4 so far as a paying customer and loved every single one. They are perfect for locals and visitors who want a deep dive into another culture.
Visit the suburbs immigrant communities have set up their homes and businesses. Haberfield for Italian, Marrickville for Greek, Auburn for the best of Turkish cuisine, Punchbowl for Lebanese, Cabramatta for Vietnamese.
Many of these tours are walking tours, but some bus tours cover larger areas. These tours make a great gift for your food-loving family or friends. Check their website for tour dates and more details.
Sydney Bar Tours
Crawl Sydney’s Secret Bars
Aussie You offer 2 bar tours in Sydney. I recently went on the Surry Hills tour and had a ball. The tour has a great pace and visits bars many locals have not even uncovered. The guide threw in history and background of the area and Australia’s drinking culture that added a lot to the experience.
Explore Surry Hills and Darlinghurst or the CBD, depending on which tour you choose. You will visit 3-4 bars, starting with snacks and a drink at the first stop and finishing up by sampling our newest “national dish”.
The tour runs for 3-4 hours, and prices are kept down because only your first drink and the food is included. Any further drinks you pay for yourself. They offer exclusive deals at most of the bars for tour members. I found this a better option than spending much more and having drinks included but not really wanting that many drinks.
Aussie You offer a discount for Sydney Expert readers of 5% off their tour by using the code SYDNEYEXPERT when booking here
Sydney Pub tours and walks
Just a note, these are walking tours with drinks, not pub crawls. You will learn about Aussie history and of course, local craft beer. You will usually pick up some great local lingo too.
The Rocks Pub Tour
A perfect way to get your dose of Sydney’s history by combining guides who knows some great stories and four of the cities oldest pubs. This is the best pub tour for first-time visitors to Sydney.
The tour also includes a post-walk meal and all the details you need to decide which pub is, in fact, the oldest in Sydney. The tour lasts 2.5 hours and runs three times a day in peak season, making it easy to fit into your itinerary.
Get the details and pricing here
Balmain Historic Pub Walking Tour with Beer or Wine
This is a great tour for history lovers and those who have already explored the city centre. Balmain sits on the western side of the harbour, and this historically working-class area is jam-packed with pubs, over 20 at last count. Each with its own stories that go with 200 years of settlement (and drinking)!
Balmain has the highest pub-to-person ratio in Australia.
Along your walk, you visit 4 pubs (with 4 drinks of either craft beer, wine or soft drink included). Find out more details and availability here.
Sydney Brewery Tours
These tours are for beer lovers who want to learn more about the craft beer scene in Sydney. Non-beer drinkers are accommodated but honestly, if you not into beer, I could see a half-day learning about beer being a bit tedious.
Northern Beaches Brewery Tour and Tasting
Run by Daves Tours, this is 5 hours of all things brewing, 4 brewery tours, 4-5 tastings and lunch and snacks, as well as travel in a comfortable van. Along the way take in the sites of Sydney’s beautiful Northern Beaches.
The current tour visits Nomad, Dad and Dave’s, Modus Operandi, and 4 Pines.
They also offer a city brewery tour if you prefer to stay closer to town.
Harbour Cruises where food is the star
Captain Cook Gold Dinner
Captain Cook is the city’s premium cruise operator and the first one to change my mind about the quality of food served on harbour cruises. Until I tried this dinner, I had always been disappointed by the food on offer on Sydney Harbour. It was often lacklustre and sometimes just plain bad. In comparison, these meals use some of the countries best produce paired with quality local suppliers to create interesting and beautiful menus.
These Gold Dinner experiences are fine dining offerings with 6-course degustation menus paired with matching drinks. There are also reduced prices available if you prefer not to drink.
The boat is spacious, and you are not seated right on top of each other, making it perfect for romantic or special occasion dining. There is a large rooftop deck to visit between courses for spectacular views.
After several years of working with Captain Cook, we are confident that they offer the best products on Sydney Harbour. Because of this, we have negotiated a deal directly for our readers.
For the Dinner Cruise – Enter the promo code “EXPERT-GD” (case sensitive) for up to $45 discount – tickets are $155 pp Sun-Fri, $175 pp Saturday, (retail $195)
This deal is valid until 30 June.
Captain Cook Gold Lunch & Drinks
The lunch cruises are themed, we recently tried the “Paddock and Claw”, and it was delicious. There are 5 different themes on offer this year. Check the dates here.
For the themed Gold Lunch Cruises – enter the promo Code “EXPERT-GL” and pay only $119 for this experience – usually $169
This deal is valid until 30 June 2020
Find out more or make your booking for the Gold Lunch cruises here
Regional Food and drink tours
Blue Mountains Gourmet Food and Nature Tour
Explore the Blue Mountains on a progressive lunch.
I was a guest on this tour for the first time last spring and I was super impressed. With an early start from Sydney, we reached a village in the lower Blue Mountains just in time for the coffee cravings to hit. Here we were provided with a breakfast of champions and more than enough food to last several hours.
This was followed by time at either Scenic World or The Three Sisters (your choice) while the guide gets busy preparing your next snack. We went to a less known lookout for a light mid-morning snack (summer rolls and fresh fruit on our tour).
We then visited a local food producer to learn about their fruit and cookie products and do a tasting. Next stop was a walk to Pulpit Rock which our lunch was prepared. By the time we were back to the beginning of the trail, our lunch was set up, white table cloth and all.
After lunch, we headed to Bilpin an area known as Sydney’s food bowl. Here we tasted apple pie and plenty of cider. We also discovered a lookout that I had never come across before after 30 plus trips to the mountains. I was super impressed with Jason’s knowledge of the area, its geology and botany along with his food skills.
You travel home via a ferry from Olympic Park to the city which is a very relaxing way to end the day. I highly recommend this tour but be sure to wear your stretchy pants!
Find out more or check price and availability here
Check out more Blue Mountains ideas here
Visit the Hunter Valley Wine Country with a chef
I have not done this gourmet Hunter Valley Tour yet, but it’s on my list, and because it is run by the same people as the tour above, I have decided to include it. I have had several readers do it and rate it highly too.
Similar to the Blue Mountains Gourmet Getaway but in this case the mountains are replaced by vineyards and views of the vines. On this tour after an early pick-up, you visit the Fish Markets to pick up some of the ingredients for the days meals. As you make your way around the vineyards learning about production and doing tastings, your personal chef is preparing you plenty of fantastic eats.
Find out more or make a booking here.
We will be adding to this as we try more tours in the coming weeks. If you are planning your holiday to Sydney please pop back for more ideas before you arrive.
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