Australia is a very western, developed country which means that traveling there is not the easiest on a budget. Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Although, Sydney can be expensive, it has so much to offer for even the budget friendly travelers out there! Here are 10 budget friendly things to do in Sydney, Australia!
1. Walk Across the Sydney Harbor Bridge
One of the most famous things to do in all of Australia is to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. But in order to summit the 1,332 stairs to the top of the bridge, it will set you back $308 AUD (about $210 USD)! Not exactly budget friendly. Instead, did you know you can walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge for free? There is a pedestrian walkway along the eastern side of the bridge that will give you great views of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbor, and Circular Quay area all for free! If you are going to do the walk across the bridge, you can even take the bus or metro back to the Circular Quay area, but I suggest spending some time visiting North Sydney. You can have some fun visiting Luna Park, which is an small theme park on the harbor shore.
2. Visit Bondi Beach
Sydney area is surrounded by beautiful beaches. One of the most famous beaches in all of Australia is Bondi Beach. Just a 25 minute bus ride from the city-center is this picture-perfect beach on the east coast of Sydney area. There are TV shows and books written about this location. It is common to spot famous people there as well.
If you visit Bondi Beach, you can spend time relaxing on the beach, visit the many delicious beach cafes, do the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk, and see the Bondi Icebergs Club (the famous pool on the edge of Bondi Beach).
While Bondi Beach gets the most attention, there are tons of different beaches to visit within the Sydney area. Here are a few more if you don’t want to deal with the tourists and crowds of Bondi Beach.
- Fairlight Beach
- Manly Beach
- Bronte Beach
- Shelly Beach
- Coogee Beach
- Rose Bay Beach
- Shark Beach
- Camp Cove Beach
3. Do a Free Walking Tour
This is always one of the first things I do when I arrive in a city. Going on a free walking tour helps orientate me with the city and learn some of the history behind it. When we were in Sydney, we did the I’m Free Walking tour of Sydney that is two and a half to three hours long.
While the tour is technically free, the tour guide is freelance and you basically tip them at the end of the tour based on what you thought the experience was worth. I have done free walking tours in probably 20 different countries and sometimes you encounter amazing guides. Typically I tip between $15-20 USD for a three hour tour depending on the guide.
4. Ride the Ferries Along the Sydney Harbor
There may not be a better way to get great views of Sydney than from a ferry. Part of Sydney public transportation includes ferries that run up and down the harbor to get people through the massive area of Sydney. Circular Quay is the name of the area that most of the ferries depart from in the city center. Here are some scenic and unique ferry rides to take in Sydney with the one way cost from Circular Quay Wharf in Sydney:
- Cockatoo Island: $6.12 AUD ($4.13 USD)
- Manly Wharf: $7.65 AUD ($ 5.16 USD)
- Mosman Bay Wharf: $6.12 AUD ($4.13 USD)
- Watsons Bay Wharf: $6.12 AUD ($4.13 USD)
Also, when looking for the departing times of ferries in Sydney, or any of their public transportation, download their easy to use Opal app. You can even add money onto the app and scan it to enter public transportation instead of always buying single tickets.
5. Take a Day Trip to Manly
Manly is a neighborhood on the north east side of Sydney. It is a charming area with a relaxed surfing vibe away from the skyscrapers of Sydney city center. There are many things to do there: you can relax at five different beaches, take surf lessons, go shopping, eat at the many restaurants and cafes that line the beaches and much more!
While you can take a bus to get to Manly from Sydney city center, I would highly suggest taking the ferry. The ferry ride will give you perfect views of the Sydney Opera House and the beautiful harbor. The ferry ride is about 30 minutes long and will drop you off right in the Manly city center.
Travel Tip: If you are visiting Sydney and happen to be there during a Sunday, visit Manly on Sunday! Public transportation in Sydney is a maximum of $2.80 AUD (about $1.91 USD) all day on Sunday. So once you spend $2.80 AUD, the rest of your travel that day is free! Budget friendly travelers rejoice!
If you’d like to learn more things to do during a day trip to Manly, read my detailed blog here: Day Trip from Sydney to Manly
6. Go Hiking
Sydney has amazing hiking trails that often follow the oceanfront and harbor area. Here are some famous and unique hikes in the Sydney area:
- Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk
- Spit to Manly Walk
- Hermitage Foreshore Walk
Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk
- Lower Spofforth Walk Reserve
- Shelly Beach to Barracks Precinct Walk
7. Visit the Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is the most iconic feature to Australia. To visit the Opera House, you do not need to get tickets to a show, opera, or dance. They offer tours for around $37 AUD ($24.98 USD). If you don’t want to spend the money for the tour, I suggest coming to the Opera House to eat. It is slightly overpriced, but it will be a special meal you’ll never forget. They have six (!!) different restaurants and cafes throughout the Opera House. They range in price from formal dining to coffee and light meals.
I suggest going online to the Sydney Opera House website and reading the menus of the different restaurants before going to dinner there so you can see the prices. Some are located in the same area and it can be hard to figure out the difference between the few. We just kept walking until we saw the name of the restaurant we chose, the Opera Kitchen. We ate outside enjoying the harbor views. It was a very special evening at one of the most iconic monuments in the world.
8. Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens are a great way to pass a few hours enjoying the weather, great harbor views, and interesting plants. It is home to thousands of different plants, including Australian natives and international plants. There is a beautiful rose garden, along with a herb garden, fern garden, succulent garden and many more. The Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney often host special events and guided tours. For an additional price, you can go on an Aboriginal Heritage Tour and learn about the people that first called Australia home.
The Royal Botanical Gardens is located right by the Sydney Opera House and is open from 7am to 8pm most days and is absolutely free. For food you can picnic in the garden, or eat at their cafe in The Calyx. The Calyx is an event venue and is home to the “Plants that Bite” exhibit, food, shopping, and hosts events and workshops. It’s open from 10am to 4pm.
Travel Tip: Make sure to make it to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for the best photo spot in Sydney. It will give you great views of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. I highly recommend coming to this spot right as the sun is about to set to make it extra special.
This may be a strange, but housesitting is one of the best ways to get to know an area and live like a local. Housesitting is really common in Australia. We did it twice in Australia, once in Brisbane and once in Sydney, both for 10 days! That is 20 nights of free accommodation in Australia! Such a money saver! Try looking on Trustedhousesitters.com before your trip to see if you can watch some pets and get free accommodation during your stay in Sydney! To learn more about how to become a house-sitter, view my blog here: How to get free accommodation around the world
10. Visit Observatory Hill Park
If you’re looking for another great spot to encounter beautiful views over Sydney, Observatory Hill is the place. You’ll get sights of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and The Rocks, a neighborhood of historic laneways.
There is also the Sydney Observatory on the top of the hill. The entrance fee is $26 AUD (about $17.40 USD). While I haven’t gone in it, it has great reviews claiming a fun and interactive tour of the observatory. You can even do a night tour and view the moon close up through the telescope!