Sydney CAN be a budget travel destination!
Sydney is one of the most vibrant, beautiful, and cosmopolitan cities I've ever seen but, as I detailed in my last post, it is also the most expensive . This could have spelled disaster for my basic budget, but I was determined to soak up the city without breaking the bank. It took a bit of research but I discovered are plenty of deals down under. Here are five free Sydney experiences that I loved.
A Free Tour? Count Me In!
A free tour? It sounds too good to be true, but I assure you it's some of the best fun you'll have in Sydney. "I'm Free" provides twice-daily, comprehensive, free 3 hour walking tours of Sydney (as well as free evening tours of The Rocks). There's no advance booking, unless you are in a large group, and the tour has no set cost at all. The staff work for tips and, with their wealth of knowledge and fun, friendly attitude, they earn every penny. The staff truly know and love their city and their enthusiasm is contagious as they take you through hundreds of years of history. "I'm Free" is easily one of the best walking tours I've ever experienced.
Class and Culture at New South Wales Gallery
It's equally pleasant to walk around the New South Wales Art Gallery as it is to walk in it. Set on the edge of the rose scented Botanical Gardens, I was tempted to skip the gallery in favor of spending more time outside but I'm so glad I stuck with my original plan! The gallery is a beautiful space and houses a diverse and thought provoking selection of art. The collection is small enough that you won't get overwhelmed, and contains some "big names" that even a casual visitor will recognize.
On Wednesday night, the gallery stays open late and offers locals wines and beers. Their signature cocktail, containing gin, lemon, and elderflower, was delicious, potent, and at $10, half the price of a hotel bar. The night I attended, Toby Creswell gave an inspired talk about the origins of American rock and roll music to coincide with the gallery's America exhibit. The cost for the whole evening? Absolutely free! Or, in my case, two spectacular cocktails.
Friends and Families at Bronte and Balmoral
Our friend and contributing writer Jo, from Frugal First Class Travel, authored an article entitled "Beyond Bondi Beach" that served as the basis for our Sydney beach exploration. We spent time at both Bronte and Balmoral beaches and found they had a family friendly, intimate vibe that I really enjoyed. At Bronte, we watched as a group of small children had swimming lessons in a natural "kiddy pool" formed by large rocks. The early morning cold water didn't deter them! At Balmoral, we watched teenagers lounge like seals, sunning themselves on the pier. For swimming, sunning, or just relaxing, these are two must-see beaches.
All Aboard the 555! A Bargain Bus Bonanza.
How will you get around to all these free attractions? Why, on the free bus, of course! Such a great idea - why don't other cities do this? Bus 555, the Sydney "CBD Shuttle", does a loop from Central Station to Circular Quay via George Street. After a long day of sightseeing in the heat, it's great to take a break and hop on the bus instead of pounding the pavement some more. Hours: Weekdays 9:00-3:30 (on Thursdays until 9:00pm) Weekends 9:00-6:00.
Bonus! McDonald's Ice Cream
Laugh all you want! At a mere 30 cents for a small vanilla soft serve cone, this was absolutely the best culinary deal in down. Wandering in in search of free Wi-Fi, I automatically handed the clerk a $5 note when I placed my order, assuming that standard Sydney food prices were in effect here. Imagine my surprise when it only cost me 30 cents! Not exactly proud of this but I may have eaten 3 in a row.
As always, we welcome and encourage your comments. What's the best deal you've found in Sydney?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
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.
Australian Sweet Treats to Savor.