I arrived in Sydney with little idea of what I wanted to see, other than the Opera House and the surrounding harbour. I wish I could tell you that I spent my week exploring the city’s hidden gems and local secrets, but in reality I completed a dot-to-dot of tourist spots.
I thought I would write this for those similar to me: eager to explore, limited time, and wanting to tick off a few of the city’s best bits ideally on the cheap. Essentially – your classic backpacker.
This blog is split into two parts: one for ideas in the city and the other for activities out of it. Feel free to read one or the other, both, or neither if you really can’t be bothered.
Let’s get started with the basics: a free walking tour of the city.
I went on one with my hostel* and during a few hours we covered: Hyde Park, the Botanical Gardens, the Opera House, Darling Harbour, China Town and Paddy Market.
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*I can happily recommend Wake Up Hostel.
From $39 a night, it is a bit more expensive than other hostels but it’s worth it. Not only for its facilities and all the activities/ deals it offers, but also for its lively atmosphere, which makes it so easy to meet people, a reassurance for solo travellers.
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Another great way of seeing the city is walking across Sydney Harbour Bridge. It costs $200 to walk across the top of it, but before you panic too much at those figures, I’ve got a cheaper alternative for you.
You can simply walk across the pedestrian walk way for free. Despite being lower, the views are still fairly spectacular. (Please forgive the grey weather in the below photos.)
Moving on to another must-do harbour in Sydney, we arrive at Darling Harbour.
Be it a trip to the aquarium (some hostels offer discount on tickets) to feel like you’re an extra in the cast of Finding Nemo or perhaps a sophisticated cocktail or two in the evening, it’s a gorgeous spot to visit in the CBD.
A Happy Hour can be found most nights and if you play your cards right, you can move from one to the another and go on a mini bar crawl. Bonus: every Saturday the harbour has a 10 minute firework display, which you can watch for free. You can check out the times here.
One final tip for the city is getting an Opal card. It is super helpful for navigating public transport. You get one at lots of Metro stations, top it up with credit and use it when you hop on and off trains, buses and ferries.
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Getting out of the city
I absolutely adored exploring Sydney and getting to experience the vibe of the place. Though with so much surrounding coast it would have been a waste not to see that, too.
Let’s start with the big one: Bondi Beach.
It is one of the most famous beaches in the world and with its idyllic blue ocean and infinity pools, it isn’t hard to see why it’s such a popular spot.
Not one for sunbathing or swimming, you can go on the Bondi to Cougee coastal walk, which is 6km and can be completed in an ambling afternoon. Bonus: it’s free. Also, if you’re visiting between October and November, you’ll see Sculptures by the Sea.
There are those that turn their nose up at Bondi Beach and much prefer the smaller Manly beach. It is a lovely seaside suburb and such a pleasant way to spend a day. Plus, getting the ferry there from Circular Quay is one of the most scenic public transport routes you’ll have the pleasure of experiencing.
And if you really want to get out of the city, you’ve got to go to the Blue Mountains.
In the hopes of this presenting a streamlined version of Sydney, I can’t go on too much here. Plus part of the magic of this place is discovering all the wonders for yourself. All I can tell you is that it is an absolutely majestic place and urge you to go if you’ve got the chance.
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If you’ve already been to Sydney and have any favourite spots in the city (perhaps off the tourist track) I would love to know!