By Grainne Sheffer
Senior Travel Consultant at Travel Nation
Posts (8) See Grainnes profile
Sydney is undoubtedly one of the world’s great cities, and making the most of this stop on your round the world ticket needn’t cost the earth. You'll find plenty of ways to spend money on great eating, the Bridge Climb and maybe an Opera House performance, but here are five of our favourites that won't bust your budget. Read up on our top free things to do in Sydney...
If there are botanic gardens anywhere in the world with a better setting than Sydney’s, we are yet to find them! These beautiful two hundred year old gardens are located right in the centre of the city and run along the edge of the waterfront on Farm Cove. One minute you’re admiring the outstanding collection of native and foreign horticulture, the next you’re gazing over the majesty of Sydney Harbour in all its glory, Opera House and all. Established in 1816, these are the oldest botanic gardens and, indeed, scientific institution in Australia. They are home to an outstanding collection of plants from all over the world, with a particular focus on Australia and the South Pacific. The gardens also host a huge variety of wildlife – keep your eyes peeled for creatures as diverse as Rainbow Lorikeets, Flying Foxes, Possums and Eastern Water Dragons. Mrs Macquaries Point and Chair is one of the most famous photographic spots in Sydney, with views across the Harbour to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Back in the 1820’s, Mrs Macquarie, the Governor’s wife, had the chair carved out of the rock so she could sit and watch the ships pass by.The Royal Botanic Garden is open every day of the year and entry is free, except there is an entry fee for the Tropical Centre.
This walk around the northern side of Sydney Harbour is a fantastic way to discover the different beaches, bays and bushland around the harbour, without spending a cent! This scenic walkway is in fact a series of short tracks of 1-2km, with the entire walk extending to just over 9km - an easy 3 to 4 hour stroll. The walk is well signed and takes you through Sydney Harbour National Park, by beautiful beaches and dramatic headlands with sweeping harbour views. There’s plenty to entertain en route, from whale watching (if you’re very lucky!) to the evidence of colonial history at Forty Baskets Beach. It was so named due to the amount of fish caught there in the late 19th Century to feed Sudanese soldiers detained at the Quarantine Station, located across the harbour at North Head. The highlight of this freebie is really the spectacular harbour views. Keep your camera handy for sensational vistas from the elevated Dobroyd Head, about halfway along the walk and the old Grotto Point Lighthouse. Both are ideal picnic spots and there are also a number of places to get a bite to eat along the way.
Another vantage point with stunning harbour views , Australia's oldest observatory was built in the 1850s. This Italianate, copper-domed building sits atop Observatory Hill, just above this historic Rocks area and overlooking the harbour and Millers Point.Daytime admission for a self-guided visit to the beautiful gardens and the Observatory exhibitions is completely free. The gardens are ideal for a picnic lunch in the shade of a fig tree, whilst you admire the brilliant view. Inside, there’s a whole host of interesting artifacts, pictures and telescopes to explore. You can enjoy the observatory without spending a cent but to really make the most of it, it’s worth considering putting your hand in your pocket. Just $8 will gain you access to the telescope towers, telescope viewings and 3D theatre sessions during the day (10am -5pm daily) or for a night visit it’s $18. Night visits must be pre booked, but promise a magical experience as you enjoy a remarkably close up view of sparkling stars, the moon, planets or maybe even nebulae (gas clouds where stars are born), that are all light years away.
Sydney has a wide variety of museums and many of them offer free entry. Some of the best free museums are: The Art Gallery of New South Wales, showcasing lots of aboriginal art) set in beautiful parklands overlooking Sydney Harbour, 15 minutes’ walk from the city centre. Admission is free as are the permanent galleries and most exhibitions and events. The collection includes pieces from Australia, the south Pacific, Asia, plus modern art and photography.The Nicholson Museum - located at the University of Sydney, this museum houses the largest collection of antiquities in the southern hemisphere, all of which you can see for free, including everyone’s school history favourite – Egyptian mummies!Museum of Contemporary Art at The Rocks – centrally located with a continually changing program of exhibitions, you can see contemporary art after dark every Thursday. There are free daily guided tours and a handy downloadable app (also free!) introduces you to the collection, exhibitions and activities. The cool app knows where you are in the museum and accesses info on the artworks nearby, wherever you are in the MCA – which certainly makes your visit more interesting.
It’s true; beach life is what Sydney is all about. The city has some 140 beaches in total, including 39 ocean beaches – each offering something different. With its legendary surf and golden sands, Bondi beach is surely the most famous, although also one of the busiest and developed. It’s a great place to try your hand at surfing, as is laid-back Manly Beach, Sydney’s best known Northern Beach. Manly is less than a half hour ferry ride from Circular Quay and tickets only cost $7 each way, well worth it for the views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge alone. If you fancy a swim but would rather not brave the surf, you might find Sydney’s salt water pools make the perfect alternative. Most of the surf beaches have them, but Bronte, Coogee and Freshwater have some of the best. For sweeping harbour views, Neilsen Park, part of Sydney National Park on the north side of Sydney harbour, is hard to beat. Balmoral Beach, full of expensive yachts and beautiful houses, is the place to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. If you’re an Aussie soap fan, make your way to Palm Beach, setting for Home and Away’s Summer Bay. This gorgeous beach is located at the furthest tip of the Northern Beaches, an hour or so bus ride from central Sydney.
Many round the world tickets feature a stop in Sydney, but we can tailor make any itinerary to feature Sydney with surface sectors alongside your main ticket. If you’d like to visit Sydney and want to book flights, Sydney hotels or Sydney tours, simply contact Grainne.
Senior Travel Consultant
After her finishing her degree and backpacking around Europe, Grainne set off for Australia and Asia. She has travelled all over the world, with a self-drive through Namibia and her exploration of Sri Lanka standing out as particular highlights. Since starting a family she enjoys passing the travel bug on to her kids; from wandering through the riads of Morocco to snorkelling the reefs of Mauritius and visiting orangutans in Borneo. With over 15 year’s travel industry experience, she joined Travel Nation in 2015 as a round the world specialist and with an extensive personal experience of Business Class travel, she is also a member of our Business Class team.