Sydney is iconic and a top priority on any backpacker’s to do list! Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach & King’s Cross are all accessible by either foot or public transport from the city centre and if you're tight on money, you don't have to splurge your savings to see the sights. Here are the Top 15 must dos in Sydney on a budget!
1. Free Sydney Sights Tour
Operating on a tip basis, Sydney Sights provide a free, daily walking tour of the city – introducing you to the city and its attractions and providing information on activities, how to get around by transport, the best shopping spots and of course, a little bit of history! Tours depart daily from St Andrews Cathedral on George St at 10:30am & 2:30pm. Just look for your guide in a bright green t – shirt!
Sydney Sights also offer walking tours to The Rocks – the site of Australia’s first European settlement. The tour will explore pubs, lane ways and the notorious dark side of Sydney’s history. Tours take 1.5 hours, depart at 6:00pm everyday and depart from the west side of Circular Quay.
2. Circular Quay: Sydney Opera House & Sydney Harbour Bridge
Circular Quay is one of the most instagrammed places in Australia. Why? This is where you will find the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge – a visit is obligatory for any visitor!
Circular Quay is roughly 1km from Base Backpackers (or Town Hall Station) and 2km from Central Station. Alternatively, you can jump on a train from anywhere in the city centre and get off at Circular Quay station to avoid the walk. The Royal Botanical gardens are worth a walk around and is almost as large as Sydney’s inner city!
The Opera Bar offers free live music and DJs every night of the week – can you imagine a better way to view a sunset?
3. Free Fireworks at Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is just a 5 minute walk from Base Backpackers or Town Hall Station. Offering plenty of photo opportunities, Darling Harbour boasts many outdoor cafes, cheap eats, live music, bars and is a popular spot for buskers and street performers. Every second Saturday night from the 29th October to the end of January, Darling Harbour hosts a free fireworks display from 9:00pm. See dates here...
4. Sydney Tower
What better way to view the city than by 360 degree views of the city from Sydney Tower Eye! Tickets are about $26 and the tower is only a short walk from Base Backpackers. The first level of the tower features a revolving restaurant and if you are game, try the SkyWalk Experience. TIP: pre book a Wednesday night Yoga class for $25. Now that's what you call Yoga with a view!
5. Bondi Beach
Australia’s famous stretch of sand! The cheapest way to get to Bondi Beach is by public transport. Trains depart from Town Hall & Central Station in the CBD and will drop you at Bondi Junction. You can then take a bus from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach. The journey from the city will take approx 40 minutes. It's well worth going for the day and doing the famous Bondi to Coogee Walk.
6. Sydney's inner suburbs
Most of Sydney's "real" character can be found beyond the city centre itself. You've probably heard of Sydney's alternative suburb Newtown right? The gay friendly, artistic, musical community that is home to some quirky shops, bars and live music is well wroth a visit. Surrey Hills is up and coming and Glebe is also definitely worth a visit (try and get there on the weekends to catch the Glebe Markets) - and if you get off at Central Station - do not miss a visit to Chinatown and Paddy's Markets. Oh and don't forget to check out King's Cross!
7. King’s Cross – a cheap night out
Sydney’s notorious 'red light' district is iconic for its buzzing nightlife – from backpacker bars to strip clubs! This vibrant community is home to many happy hours and drink specials for backpackers – definitely worth a night out!
8. Ferry / Snorkel at Manly Beach
Locals boast about northern Sydney's Beaches. Manly Beach is beautiful and is accessible by ferry from Circular Quay. A return ferry ticket will cost you no more than $15 and the journey takes approx 30 minutes. You will find shops, bars, cafes and restaurants lining the beach and Manly Beach Hire rent our snorkels and flippers.
9. Wild Life Sydney Zoo
Located by Darling Harbour – Wild Life Sydney Zoo allows you to get up close and personal with native Australian animals! Entry cost is about $40.
10. Bicentennial Park
No visit to Australia is complete without a BBQ picnic in the sunshine! Catch a ferry to Parramatta from Sydney CBD to gain some affordable views of the city and its surrounds. Once in Parramatta, you can take a bus to Sydney Olympic Park station where you will find many parks and lakes with BBQ and toilet facilities to choose from. You can also BYO Alcohol.
11. Sydney Observatory
This historic building (a tad eerie) can be found in the parklands at The Rocks and offers great views of the city. Take a free tour of Sydney Observatory and learn not only about southern hemisphere astrology, but also Sydney’s rich history.
12. Sydney Aquarium
Sydney Sea Life Aquarium is located in the Sydney CBD and offers the opportunity to gain an insight in to the Australian Marine Life. Think Great White Sharks, the Great Barrier Reef and more!
13. Paddy’s Markets
Located on the southern end of George St, Paddy’s Markets are possibly the cheapest place to pick up those souvenirs for friends and family back home. Also a must visit if you are looking for any cheap jewelry, accessories, sunglasses or clothing.
14. Pylon Lookout
With photo opportunities galore, Pylon Lookout is one of Sydney’s best vantage points. The 200 steps to the top of the lookout will introduce you to the history of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge before offering spectacular views of Circular Quay.
15. Cockatoo Island
Sydney Harbour’s largest island is accessible from the city for just $12 return. Explore the island’s rich convict history and relax - Cockatoo Island is a local secret and well worth the visit.
Getting Around Sydney Cheaply
Free city circle bus
Don’t like walking? Bus 555 runs between Circular Quay, George St & Central Station. Buses operate between business hours.
Buy a daily Metro Train Pass and explore Sydney's alternative inner suburbs.
It is quite common for Sydney locals to commute to and from the city by Ferry. What does this mean? Daily Tickets are CHEAP and allow you to hop on and hop off between ferry terminals which are located at most iconic landmarks.
Our Tip? Buy yourself an All Day Ferry Ticket. First stop? Circular Quay! Prepare to be blown away as you approach the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Next Stop? Head over to Manly Beach for the day! This is where Sydney's 'affluent' reside and is home to a great cafe and bar culture by the beach.