Sydney on a Budget

How to see Sydney for less

So you've found yourself in Sydney. Maybe you're a backpacker, a broke student, or just a tourist trying to make ends meet! The worst thing you can do in this beautiful city is end up spending way too much money on sights and experiences that you can get for less – and ending up missing the very best part of the place I call home.

The Harbour Bridge

View from Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon: Image © TripAdvisor, 2017

The picturesque Sydney harbour can often prove to be one of the biggest tourist traps, convincing you that you need to spend crazy amounts of money to get the best views, the best food and the best experiences. Don't be taken in by it – Sydney might seem expensive but I can guarantee that there is more than one way to get the most out of your trip. The Harbour Bridge makes a killing by offering tourists the opportunity to climb it… for up to $385 per person!! Meanwhile, right next door is Sydney's best kept secret: the Harbour Bridge pylon. Instead of shelling out almost $400 to get an incredible view, all you have to do is pay just $15 for admission to the museum and to climb the pylon itself. Why pay too much money to have something missing from the view when the bridge itself can be in all your photos too? Total cost: $15 admission to pylon  

The Beaches

Sculpture by the Sea on Bondi to Coogee Coastwalk: Image © Beth Howlett, 2016

Apart from a ridiculously oversized coat hanger, Sydney is known for it's idyllic beaches and long stretches of coastline that make Australia one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world (especially in summer!). You absolutely cannot come to Sydney and miss visiting at least some of the many stunning beaches that line Sydney's edge – yes, it might be a bit of a trek from the CBD, but I can guarantee you are not going to find a better day out for less.

Bondi to Coogee

Bondi to Maroubra coast walk: Image © Beth Howlett, 2016

One thing's for certain: Bondi Beach is on everyone's bucket list – its photogenic beach is easily recognised around the world. However, if you find your visit to Bondi to be a little crowded (don't forget, EVERYONE in Sydney turns up if it's a hot day) or if you're in the mood for something more than lying on the beach all day, then the six kilometre clifftop walk to Coogee makes the perfect half day activity for absolutely no money at all! Starting from the right side of the beach, you can walk over the top of the cliffs to get an amazing birds eye view of Bondi beach before heading off along the idyllic coastline. The walk is moderate and well signposted, and can be completed in around two hours if you stop to take photos. Absolutely nothing beats walking alongside the open ocean – and you get to see some of the smaller, less crowded beaches as well! What's more, if you're lucky enough to be in Sydney during late October to early November, the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibit runs for approximately two weeks and takes up a portion of the walk from Bondi to Tamarama beach. Be warned though – as this is free, it becomes quite crowded on weekends, so I would recommend you plan to visit the exhibit during the week! Dates for 2017 are October 17 – November 5. If you're feeling up to it, another similar walk runs another 2.9 kilometres from Coogee beach south towards Maroubra, in an extension of the original walk from Bondi. Total cost: FREE!  

Palm Beach

View of Palm Beach from Barrenjoey Lighthouse: Image © Beth Howlett, 2016

As a set to the hit show, Home and Away, and located just over an hour out of the city, Palm Beach provides a picturesque getaway from the rush and noise of Sydney's Central Business District. The bus trip up the coast only costs $4.50 (The L90 or L88 bus from Wynyard Station on an adult opal card) from the centre of Sydney, and for the most part runs along the coast, giving you beautiful views on the way up. Once there, you are greeted with two golden beaches running parallel along the peninsula that leads to Barrenjoey Head, Sydney's most northern point. Feel free to do a 'beach hop' on the way home – the L90 and L88 buses back into the city stops at almost all the main beaches on the way down the coast and runs every 15 minutes, meaning you are more than free to spend an entire day going up and down the coast in search of the perfect sunbathing spot! Alternatively, if lying on a beach all day isn't your thing, the Barrenjoey lighthouse walk is located at the top of Palm Beach. Running for 2.2 kilometres (about an hour and a half for the entire loop) the lighthouse presents stunning 360 degree views of the open ocean and Sydney's coastline. A heritage listed site, the lighthouse is now sadly closed to the public due to recent fire damage, but the views make this walk absolutely unmissable. Total cost: $9 return trip by bus  

The Blue Mountains

View from Wentworth Falls lookout: Image © Beth Howlett, 2016

While adventuring around the city itself can be amazing, one of the advantages of Sydney is how easy it is to take a day trip out of the city using public transport. The Blue Mountains provides the perfect getaway: long walks, beautiful scenic views and small towns – located only two hours by train out of Sydney! (Central Station to Katoomba, $8.30 on an adult opal card) While in Katoomba, admire the Three Sisters rock formation and the vast, green valleys of the Blue Mountains National Park. If you're feeling adventurous, there are several walks in the area ranging from easy to hard. My recommendation is to walk from Echo Point, the lookout over the Three Sisters, to Katoomba Scenic World, conquering the Giant Stairway on the way! The 4.7 kilometre walk is around 2 to 3 hours and culminates in the 800-plus stairs of the Giant Stairway – but the incredible views and peaceful surroundings make it worth it. Upon reaching Katoomba Scenic World, the world's steepest railway (at 52 degrees!) will be waiting to take you to the top, if you're willing to pay the $39 ticket price for the thrill! This entry fee will also allow you unlimited access to Scenic World itself, including the Skyway, Cableway, walkway and sculpture garden. Also of note in the area is the beautiful Wentworth Falls – located another 11 mins (and $6.70 return) from Katoomba station by train. The stunning falls are located at the end of a short, 1.4 kilometre return walk which takes around 45 minutes. Beginning with stunning views over the surrounding cliffs and valleys, you will quickly descend into the bushland in search of the falls. Though short, the walk is quite steep, but if you're willing to brave the uphill trek on the way back the picturesque walk is worth it.

Total cost: $16.60 return trip by train (+$39 Scenic World entry/ +$6.70 Wentworth Falls)  

Beth Howlett

Hi! I’m Beth, a travel addict and amateur photographer with three passports and one heck of a bucket list. I’m a foodie currently on exchange in Reims in France and I hope I can also prove to broke students like me that travelling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to skip the best experiences!