Jo from Frugal First Class Travel shows us what the locals love in Sydney
Vanessa is visiting Sydney later this year on her Around the World trip and I’m keen to show her my adopted city has much to offer beyond the well worn tourist path.
Sydney is notoriously expensive (even for those of us who live here), and I know she’s on a coffee can budget, so I’ve found Vanessa a range of great activities that won’t break the budget. I’m recommending activities and locations that are all easily reached by public transport (using a mixture of buses, ferries and trains) and that can be enjoyed regardless of your budget.
While the Tourists are at Bondi Beach or Manly...
We locals look to the myriad of other surf beaches that stretch for about 100km along the coast. Close to Bondi try Coogee (pronounced coo-jee. The oo sound as in look) or Tamarama (the a’s are short as in a, rather than ar), both accessible by bus. For a lovely day trip take the bus from Wynard station in the city up to Palm Beach. Home to beach houses of the rich and famous, British visitors will recognize Palm Beach as Summer Bay of the TV series Home & Away. The beach is lovely, the setting is stunning, but maybe take a picnic for lunch because this is serious money territory and even modest cafes are relatively expensive. But you will be the only tourists!
If you go to any of the beaches I have suggested, please remember to only swim between the red and yellow flags, and never, ever swim at unpatrolled beaches. If you are not a strong swimmer don’t go in much past your knees, or alternatively head to one of the gentle harbour beaches.
My favorite harbour beach, and in fact my favorite Sydney beach, is Balmoral. This delightful beach is perfect for children and is an easy 10km bus ride from Wynard (the bus will terminate right at the beach itself). With changing sheds, plenty of toilets and a promenade walk that is a joy on a sunny day, it is easy to spend a day or an afternoon here. Don’t forget to buy some fish & chips from the Bottom of the Harbour fish & chip shop to have for lunch on the beach. Sydney is a great place to visit with family and friends. There are a number of different shops, restaurants, and museums to check out. If you want to escape from the bustling of tourists then Barmoral beach is the place to go. By saving on accommodations you and your group will have more money to spend on water activities and local cuisine. Australia is a great place to visit and exploring Sydney makes it even better!
Insider tip: Bondi is pronounced Bon-DYE, not Bon-DEE as I have heard some visitors say.
While the tourists are at the Rocks or Paddy’s markets...
We all head to one of the regular farmer’s markets that dot the city. A convenient one for visitors, easily reached by train from the city, is the Eveleigh markets open every Saturday morning. This market is in a complex of old railway buildings adjacent to Redfern station. It is undercover, so makes a good wet Saturday morning activity. There’s great coffee, and plenty of cheap breakfast options.
Insider tip: Keep a look out for Kylie Kwong’s Asian food stall (head for the smell and the crowds). Kylie is a well known Australian chef (whose restaurant, Billy Kwong is definitely outside a coffee can budget). Kylie herself will be there manning the grill, cooking up a storm of tasty Asian takeaway treats.
If a general market is more your thing, Saturday mornings is also time for Paddington market at Paddington Public School on Oxford St. Look for up and coming local fashion designers and great crafted goods. It is a short and easy bus ride from Elizabeth St in the city.
Insider tip: Walk back along Oxford St to head back to the city. Oxford St is home to trendy boutiques, and the end closest to the city around Taylor Square is the spiritual home of Sydney’s gay community.
While the tourists are holed up in a restaurant at Darling Harbour…
We locals rarely eat at Darling Harbour, unless we have visitors from out of town.
Instead, when we want to eat near the city, we head to Crown St, Surry Hills (trendy and more expensive. Choose carefully and it’s still coffee can territory), King St, Newtown (more eclectic and bohemian. Cheaper) or we join the big Italian families for big Italian meals in Norton St, Leichhardt. All these places are within 5km of the city and are easily accessible by bus.
Insider tip: buy a 10ride MyBus pass if you plan on using the bus a lot. It will save you heaps! Combo tickets are also available for buses, ferries and trains if you plan on using a lot of public transport.
While the tourists take expensive bus tours to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains…
I recommend buying a train ticket and taking the (slow, suburban) train out to the Blue Mountains. Personally, I would much rather visit the villages either side – Leura and Blackheath, each with their own character. Each has plenty of lookouts and great ambience. Leura is genteel and a bit more expensive, Blackheath, more hippy. Both far prettier than Katoomba!
Insider tip: there is a fabulous view from a lookout within walking distance of the Leura train station – stunning!
While the tourists are on a tourist ferry ride round the harbour……
I would much prefer to catch either the Manly Ferry to (er) Manly, or the Watson’s Bay ferry to (you guessed it) Watson’s Bay.
Insider tip: for true splurge meals, head to Hugo’s at the Manly Ferry wharf or Doyle’s at Watson’s Bay. Make sure you book (well) ahead, especially on weekends.
What are your favorite Sydney insider recommendations for Vanessa and her coffee can budget?
Jo Karnaghan has spent the last 25 years travelling in Europe, during which time she has honed her travel philosophy of frugal but first class. Her dream is to be able to travel in Europe full time, and to always turn left upon boarding the plane.
She is currently writing her first book (on travel of course). Jo believes the best parts of any trip are often those that cost nothing. When she is not writing, planning or thinking about travel, Jo has a busy career as a medical practitioner, wife and mother, and student of French. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
Jo is the author of the popular blog www.frugalfirstclasstravel.com and can also be found on Twitter @jokarnaghan1.
As always, we welcome and encourage your comments. Do you have any insider tips for Sydney?
Heading to Sydney? These article will help plan your trip:
Beauty and Budgets in Sydney: Days 17-24 of our Round the World Trip.
"BIG" Hostel, Small Prices: A Review of Sydney's BIG Hostel.
Our Five Favourite Freebies in Sydney
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