As many of you know, I have recently returned from a month-long whirlwind trip to Australia. I had an amazing time and can’t wait to share it all with you. With so much to see and do, we managed to fit a lot into four weeks. So, here I embark on a series of posts about the land Down Under, starting with things you should check out in Sydney.
Although I arrived in Sydney exhausted from 30+ hours of travelling, I was super eager to get out and see the city. I had received mixed reviews from friends who had recently visited Sydney, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I fell in love with this vibrant city immediately and would even say that it was one of my favourite places. Yes, it is big and yes, there is a lot going on, but having spent the first 20 years of my life in a city, I felt instantly at home. So without further ado, here’s what I got up to in Sydney, along with a few budget travel tips and recommendations for any of your future trips to Sydney, Australia.
Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge
Of course, this one goes without saying. You can’t go to Sydney without seeing the famous Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Walking across the bridge and strolling around the Opera House is completely free and a must for any visit to Sydney. I would allow at least half a day to walk across the bridge, appreciate the views of the harbour and take in the interesting architecture of the Opera House. To get the famous shot of both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, head to Lady Macquarie’s Chair in the Botanical Gardens. This offers the best views across the harbour and includes a nice stroll for good measure.
Budget tip: There are dozens of restaurants and bars in and around the Opera House, and although it may seem like a good idea, it will cost you a pretty penny. Instead, grab a few things from the grocery store and a bottle of good Australian wine and set up a picnic in the Botanical Gardens. That way you can soak up the Aussie sun while enjoying beautiful views of the iconic harbour.
Day Trip to the Blue Mountains
This is something I have wanted to do for years, and it did not disappoint. I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked but it was still spectacular to see and the views did not disappoint. Katoomba is the most visited town in the Blue Mountain area and acts as a gateway to the Blue Mountains National Park. Katoomba is approximately 90 minutes drive from Sydney, which makes it an easy day-trip. If you don’t have your own transport the train is a good alternative, taking roughly 2 hours from Sydney. From Katoomba you can walk the short distance down to the Three Sisters lookout point which provides breathtaking views over the canyon. You can hike down to the Three Sisters and stand among them but, please note, the steps down are very narrow and steep.
With heaps of things to keep you busy, you could easily spend a week in the Blue Mountains. Whether you have an interest in hiking, adventuring or gazing at the beautiful scenery, there is something for everyone. Be sure to ride the glass-roofed Scenic Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world, or enjoy panoramic views from the Cableway and Scenic Skyway! The Blue Mountain Explorer Bus operates a hop-on-hop-off service around 29 stops, allowing you the flexibility to plan your own day without being stuck to a tour guide.
Budget tip: On Sundays you can use public transport to travel anywhere in and around Sydney on your Opal card for a maximum of $2.50. This unlimited travel deal means you can get to Katoomba for a couple of dollars! Bargain.
Enjoy the View from the Sydney Tower Observation Deck
I know I’m not alone when I say I have a fascination with tall buildings and city skylines. There is something about the scale of a city that fills me with awe. So I jump at the chance to climb a skyscraper and gaze at the concrete jungle around me. Even better after dark because…well…pretty lights! The admission price is average for this sort of attraction and you can choose to book online in advance if you wish, although we found purchasing our tickets on the day no problem. If you really want to push the boat out, you can make a reservation at the Sydney Tower Buffet, for a meal with amazing views! Try this site for more info…https://www.sydneytowerbuffet.com.au/
Budget tip: Book your tickets online and choose a date and time in advance to save a few dollars.
Have fun at Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo boasts some of the best views of the harbour and with 4,000 animals from 350 species, it offers a fantastic day out for all ages. Taronga operates as a not-for-profit organisation and is heavily involved in wildlife conservation meaning you are not only having fun but also supporting a good cause.
Budget tip: At $46 for an adult ticket, this is not a cheap day out! But, if you are lucky enough to visit on your birthday you can gain entry for $1!
Take a Day Trip to the Figure Eight Pools
Until I arrived in Sydney I’d never heard of these pools, but apparently they are an Instagram sensation. Nothing stays secret for long it seems! About an hour’s drive south of Sydney lie these charming pools. Set against a stunning rugged coastline and framed by beautiful beaches, the natural Figure 8 pools attract hundreds each day. Now the word ‘pools’ can be deceiving as it implies there are several pools in the shape of an 8…but that is not so! There are hundreds of pools along the coastline but only one in the shape of a perfect 8. Be sure to bring your swimsuit and prepare to take a dunk. Make sure you visit at low tide and do not visit if the waves are particularly rough. This is very important, as recently dozens of people were severely injured by strong waves that swept them across the rocks. Also, wear good hiking shoes as there is an hour downhill hike to get to the beach and an hour uphill hike to get back. Don’t let this put you off, but do be sensible!
Budget tip: Besides your transport and food, this day trip will cost you next to nothing!
Hike from Bondi to Coogee
One of my favourite days in Sydney was the day I did a solo hike from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. The coastline along this stretch is beautiful and the flat trail makes for an easy 6 km hike. The coastal walk features beaches, parks, stunning views, coves and bays. With plenty of cafes and restaurants along the route, there is heaps of choice when it comes to lunch. Or take your own and perch on one of the clifftops admiring the crystal waters and surfers below.
Budget tip: Again this is a completely free day out and will cost you nothing besides transport and food.
Stroll around Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is the tourist epicentre of Sydney. With stacks of cafes, restaurants and bars, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to lunch. Looking out into the harbour, many of the cafes provide the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a cold beverage out of the sun. Darling Harbour is also home to the Australian National Maritime Museum, where you can see a magnificent replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour.
Budget tip: Admission into the National Maritime Museum is free for permanent exhibits.
Ride the Ferry for the Best Views of the City
For a few dollars you can ride the ferries around the city and harbour, as part of the public transport system. Use your Opal Card to hop on and off at certain points around the city and take in the harbour views as you go.
General tip: Download the TripView Lite app onto your smartphone. The app is free and provides live public transport times throughout the day. Type in your starting location and destination and it will tell you which bus, train or ferry you need and at what time. This app was a life-saver and meant I didn’t have to look at rows of boards to find out which platform or bus stop I needed. It makes travelling around the city a stress-free experience.
Explore The Rocks
The Rocks makes for a trendy and popular neighbourhood, with charming cobblestone streets and 19th century buildings. Check out the weekend Arts & Crafts market or the Friday Food Market and take in the bustling atmosphere. Be aware though that the markets can be pricey, with other locations selling the same goods at lower prices.
Budget tip: Download the free ‘Walking The Rocks’ smartphone app for historical information about the area.
Have a Beach Day
After all that sight-seeing, you will need to take a day or two out to chill. Relax on the famous Bondi Beach to head to one of my favourite spots in Sydney, the beautiful suburb of Cronulla. I stayed with friends here and loved the laid-back beachy vibe and relaxing atmosphere. Head to Cronulla to catch the waves at one of Sydney’s top surfing spots. Only 50 minutes by train from Sydney’s Central Station, it provides a great opportunity to get out of the city and enjoy a few days of downtime.
Over to you! What are your favourite things to do in Sydney? Any more budget tips I should know about? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.