A bustling and modern hub, Sydney is renowned as one of the most iconic cities in the world. Unfortunately this comes at a price, as cost of living is also ranked as one of the highest worldwide. This can make exploring the city on a budget seem daunting and frustrating. Having initially struggled with this myself, I have chosen my 10 favourite things to do in Sydney that cost next to nothing.
1. Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk
Although you certainly spend money en route at numerous bars and to be able dip in the famous ‘Sydney Iceberg’ Pools, the classic 6km path itself sets you back nothing. An entirely paved route additionally means you do not need to fork out any cash for a guide – bonus!
2. Harbour Bridge
A walk over the Harbour Bridge footpath boasts views of the city skyline, waterfront, Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens. With lift access onto the Bridge, this activity is also suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Coincide a walk with sunset or sunrise and fall even deeper in love with the cityscape.
3. MCA Contemporary Art Gallery
Situated conveniently next to Circular Quay, a visit will make an ideal addition to a day exploring the CBD and Harbour. The MCA is a pleasant surprise in that there is a huge variation in the cultural and political inspirations behind the pieces, making for an intriguing and thought provoking visit. Finished browsing the art? Head up to the top floor where you are greeted with a rooftop cafe overlooking the Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay and (if you are lucky) the Opera House. You can even treat yourself to a glass of wine or Australian beer. You’re welcome.
4. Watson’s Bay
Watson’s Bay is famous for dramatic coastal paths that present magnificent views out across the Pacific Ocean. Pairing this with the fresh seafood and still watered beaches, it is clear to see why the suburb is popular amongst both tourists and locals. Although Watson Bay can be accessed via buses, I highly recommend that you make the trip on by ferry from Circular Quay. This will treat you to a 20 minute scenic trip, stopping first at Rose Bay before arriving at Watson Bay itself. To reach the famous Gap Bluff Walking Track, simply head straight through Robertson park. You will reach steps up to the path and first viewpoint in less than 5 minutes walking.
5. Opera House
Despite tours and shows at the Opera House costing, simply exploring the exterior and foyer is completely free. Marvel at the architecture and experience the scale of the iconic building up close. You will not be disappointed. You can also easily pair this with a walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens (see below).
6. Royal Botanic Gardens
A trip to Sydney would not be complete without a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens. With spectacular views, specimen of local flora, cafes and bars throughout the Gardens – it is ideally suited for a lazy day out absorbing Sydney. Entrance is free so make the most of one of Sydney’s more famous attractions.
7. Sydney Observatory
For those with an interest in astronomy, Sydney Observatory is free to visit. Informative and interactive, it is worth a visit if you are nearby – it is located minutes away from the Harbour Bridge on Observatory Hill. Make sure to visit Observatory Hill itself at night for an incredible alternative view over Northern Sydney, the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park.
Manly is also accessible via ferry from Circular Quay, as well as by bus. Home to Sydney’s arguably second most famous beach (Manly Beach) and some trendy contemporary bars, Manly is a popular escape to Northern Sydney. Learn to surf, opt for a snorkelling tour or hike the 10km Manly to Spit walk. Alternatively, have a relaxed day shopping for souvenirs and sampling some of the highly recommended fish and chips. Manly’s super chilled vibe is hard to match.
9. Cockatoo Island
An ex convict penal establishment, the island is now known for its dark history and is rumoured as haunted. Entrance to the heritage site is free (although tours do cost) and it is accessible by ferry from both Circular Quay and Darling Harbour.
10. Blue Mountains
Yes, I know that as a tourist you are inundated by adverts for extortionate tours of the Blue Mountains. I also know that it may be easier to visit with a car. However, if you are truly looking for a ‘free’ way to experience the Mountains then public transport is your best friend. On Sundays, travel using an Opal Card has a maximum spend of $2.90 – meaning you could reach Katoomba and the Three Sisters for approximately £1.50! The walks and viewpoints around Katoomba are cost free and definitely worth a trip. If you can cope with a slightly longer journey then there is no reason why you should miss out on the Blue Mountains because of a lower budget.