sydney harbor bridge and opera house in australia
Sydney is a cosmopolitan city surrounded by iconic beaches, world heritage sites, and is close to acclaimed wine regions. Besides being Australia’s largest city, Sydney is also its most visited. (And, contrary to popular belief, not the country’s capital!) The city has an incredible variety of attractions and sights to see, including the very famous Bondi and Manly beaches. With consistently warm and nice weather, it’s easy to see why people come here and stay a while. With so much to do, try to stay at least a week if you can.

Typical Costs

  • Hostel Prices: Hostels range from $27-34 USD for a dorm room while private rooms cost around $80 USD per night. Wake Up! in central Sydney is home to one of my favorite Australian hostels.
  • Budget Hotel Prices: Hotel prices vary greatly in the city. If you want to stay in the center, you’re better off getting a private room at a hostel. Most budget hotels begin around $70 USD and get more expensive the closer you get downtown.
  • Average Cost of Food: Cheap meals like sandwiches, burgers, and sushi can be found for under $10 USD. Most restaurants meals will cost between $20 and 30 USD. Meals on the harbor will cost a bit more because of all the tourists and great views. If you cook you own food, you can spend between $50-80 per week for your meals.
  • Transportation Costs: Sydney’s transport system is made up of trains, buses, and ferries. Bus fares depend on the number of zones you travel. Adult fares begin at $1 USD and go up to $2.50. Fares depend on the time of day and the number of passengers. Taxi’s are fairly easy to flag down and inexpensive. There are taxi ranks at major points throughout the city.

More information on the cost of traveling Australia

Top Things to Do

  • The Rocks - The Rocks is the most historic part of town with many narrow lane-ways, fine colonial buildings, sandstone churches and Australia’s oldest pubs. With weekend markets and street entertainment, The Rocks is a good place to visit.
  • Hang out at the beach - Go surfing, swimming, paddling, walking, or simply laze in the sun. From Palm Beach in the north, through the famous Bondi to Cronulla in the south, Sydney is jeweled with white sandy beaches. There is a beach for all moods and people and you really miss out on a big aspect of Sydney life if you skip the beach.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs. Macquarie Chair – One of the finest walks leaves from lively Circular Quay (where the ferries come in). Walk towards the Opera House with its telltale white sails and into the Royal Botanic Gardens, Australia’s first vegetable garden and now a treasure trove of trees, ferns, flowers and lawn. On a sunny day, you’ll find locals sprawled out all over the gardens.
  • Ferry to Manly Beach – Manly is one of the better known beaches in the city. Walk the pedestrian Corso to the main beach area where you can swim, sun bake, eat ice-cream, and simply people watch. There is a superb walk along the coastline to tiny and protected Shelly Beach, with cute marine sculptures and a tidal pool. The ferry ride back offers great views of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Plan your journey around sunset for a fantastic view.
  • Sydney Harbor Bridge – The bridge was built in 1932 as a government employment project during the Great Depression. While tours to climb the bridge are expensive, it is free to walk across the bridge, giving great views of the Opera House and panoramic views of the harbor.
  • Sydney Opera House – Just as iconic as the harbor bridge, the Opera House is famous for its white shelled roof. It was an architectural feet and the tours through the Opera House give you a whole new appreciation for just how challenging this building was to create. Tickets for a show in the opera house aren’t that expensive either so try to take one in if you can.
  • The Blue Mountains - Over the millennia, the ancient sandstone of this national park has been weathered into gorges lined by steep cliffs and separated by narrow ridges. Some activities in this area include seeing the magnificent rock formation of the Three Sisters (particularly stunning at sunset and under evening floodlight) or hiking along paths offering excellent views of the valley, sheer rock walls, tumbling waterfalls and magnificent forests. The park is free to visit.
  • The museums – Like most cities, Sydney has a wide variety of museums. There’s free entry to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (including lots of aboriginal art), the Museum of Contemporary Art at The Rocks, Nicholson Museum, and the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbor. The historic ships are major attractions including various military vessels and a seaworthy replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour, used to discover Australia in 1770.
  • Learn to surf – The beaches here are famous for surfing. There are a lot of companies here that will teach you and you can learn from any one of the beaches. While Bondi is the most popular beach, the surfing up in Manly on the north shore of Sydney is better.
  • Visit the Hunter Valley – North of town is one of Australia’s premier wine regions. The Hunter Valley has some amazing wineries and produces great red wine. It is not a budget activity but it provides an excuse to get out of the city and see the countryside. If you don’t want to drive, there are good bike tours here too. Day tours are offered from Sydney but it’s best to stay for at least a night.
  • The Tower Sky Walk – As tall as the Eiffel Tower, and twice as high as the harbor bridge, the Sky Walk offers amazing panoramic views of the city. It is cheaper and easier than the bridge and the views are far greater. Also included with your purchase of a Sky Walk ticket, is access to the OzTrek, a 3-D cinema experience.
  • Take the trike way – Another fun way to explore the northern beaches is by renting a motorized trike. This day long trip can go beyond Palm Beach, the furthest point on the peninsula, into the Ku-ring-gai National Park, past Church point to Akuna Bay.
  • Wildlife World – One of the newest additions to Darling Harbor, the Wildlife World is set up with highly detailed, ‘natural’ environments for birds, wallabies, reptiles, and more. There are various guided tours and animal feedings all day.

Budget Tips

  • Check the tourist office – They often have deals on tourist attractions or special festivities going on in the area. They will also often have discount coupons to some of the most visited places in the city.
  • Free local events – “What’s On Sydney” has a list of free and cheap events.
  • Walk the bridge for free - Taking a Bridgeclimb is $150 USD but you can walk across this icon for free.
  • Check out this blog post on free things to do in Sydney that can help you save money.

Other Destinations in Australia

Alice Springs Brisbane Cairns Gold Coast Fraser Island Melbourne Perth