How to Enjoy Sydney on a Shoestring Budget
It’s no secret that Australia, and in particular Sydney, can be shockingly expensive for a visitor, but visiting Sydney doesn’t have to break the bank as there are plenty of way to enjoy this fabulous city on a budget.
Free Things to do in Sydney
Start by getting your bearings with a free shuttle bus (no 333) that runs from central station up George Street to Central Quay.
There is an excellent free walking tour that leaves at 10.30am and 2.30pm from Sydney’s Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral completed in 1868 making it the oldest cathedral in Australia.
The tour takes you from Sydney’s convict beginnings exploring The Rocks and winding through the city through some beautiful heritage architecture and parks right up to the modern day and the iconic sights of the harbour and opera house.
The Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney where the first Europeans settled in 1788 shortly after the penal colony was first established. Museums are a great way to discover Sydney on a shoestring, you can learn more about the history and people of Sydney at the free Rocks Discovery Museum and explore the steep lane ways and historic houses, shops and pubs before heading to the nearby free Museum of Contemporary Art.
Soak up the Iconic Sights
Even if you’re doing Sydney on a shoestring the iconic harbour sights are a must and from nearby Central Quay the views over the spectacular and iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and UNESCO listed Opera House are all free.
The steel arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the coat hanger as the Sydneysiders affectionately call it was the first fixed link across the water when it was opening in 1932 and is still the tallest steel arch bridge at 134 meters tall.
Take a walk around the Quay to the inspect the Opera House up close covered with over a million glossy ceramic tiles. It was designed to represent a ships sails by Danish architect Jorn Utzon in 1957 but after a falling out with the NSW state government the building was not completed until 1973.
Unfortunately the only way inside the Opera House is by taking an expensive tour or buying a ticket for a performance but a walk around the botanical gardens is free and offers some glorious views, photo opportunities and a relaxing break from the busy city.
Make sure you go all the way around to Mrs Macquaries Point for the best photo opportunities to get that picture postcard perfect iconic view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
While in the Botanical Gardens the Government House is free to explore and heading towards the CBD down Macquarie Street is lined with a nice collection of historic buildings including the State Library which is free to enter and the elegantly impressive St Mary’s Cathedral situated in pleasant Hyde Park
Also in the area, the Australian Museum of Currency and The Mint are also both free. The historical hospital and the parliament house were built from the proceeds from rum! Across the park behind the hospital is the free Art Gallery of NSW. At the end of the row is the Hyde Park Barracks Museum showcasing stories from the city’s convict past which just costs $10.
Enjoy the great outdoors! – The best things in life are free
Australia is famous for its beaches and even if you’re seeing Sydney on a shoestring budget you can enjoy world class landscapes. From Circular Quay you can also catch a bus ($10 return) to famous Bondi Beach. Relax on the beach or on the grassy hill that rises above the stunning bay and watch the bronzed surfers.
If you feel more active take a spectacular cliff top walk from Bondi to Coogee. Feel the exhilarating force of the waves crashing below and follow the path as it ribbons around the headland revealing ever more glorious, turquoise views and, if you keep your eyes peeled out to sea, maybe a humpback whale.
If you want a better view of the beautiful and expansive harbour take a ferry trip to Manly ($14 return) a beautiful town at the other end of the harbour. With the sunlight glittering on the water the ferry ride showcases the size, beauty and diversity of Sydney Harbour passing coves, inlets and forested cliffs of communities and sail boats on the way to Manly.
Once at Manly you can relax on the beach, enjoy the shops and seaside feel or embark on the 9km scenic walk from Manly to Spit that rises and dips over the cliffs and hugs the shore line past glamorous harbour facing houses, boat clubs and scenic, deserted coves and beaches.
Taking the return ferry at sunset gives you stunning, iconic views of the city skyline, Opera House and Harbour Bridge to round off the day.
Perhaps take the train (approx $20 return) a little further afield a spend a few days walking and soaking up the beautiful nature of The Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains, not far from Sydney
Where to stay on a budget in Sydney
Once you’ve finished soaking up the sun and iconic views, explored the historic buildings and free museums grab a dorm bed in a cheap and sociable Sydney backpacker hostel for the night.
I stayed at Maze Backpackers, it had a great central location, sociable atmosphere and we negotiated and got a private twin dorm room for only $25 each per night for a 1 week stay. They even had free meals on some nights and a free pickup from the airport although it wasn’t the most stylish place – it felt a bit like old uni halls.
For a place with a view then try the Sydney Harbour YHA this modern hostel is right in the historic rocks district. Dorm beds start at about $40 a night and the hostel has daily activities on offer and the best part has to be the stunning views from the rooftop over Sydney harbour.
Or if you fancy being closer to the beach the Sydney Beach house YHA is a popular choice with heaps of facilities, activities and help finding you a job from $39.
If you are on a budget it’s best to pick a hostel with a kitchen so you can save money by cooking up your own food or head over to buzzing Chinatown for cheap and delicious Asian food.
See – Sydney doesn’t have to be expensive!
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Do you have any more tips for free things to do in Sydney?