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6 cheap things to do in Sydney - travel tips

6 cheap things to do in Sydney - travel tips opera house

By John Lechner

Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, but it doesn't have to be expensive when you visit as a tourist. Here are my top 6 tips to make your next trip to Sydney great value.


Get an Opal Card.

6 cheap things to do in Sydney - travel tips opal card

The card costs nothing to get, you only pay for the credit you apply to it. So get a new card with $50 credit and pay just $50. You can buy an Opal Card at the WH Smith in the Interational Terminal or in the Newslink at the T2 Domestic Terminal. Elsewhere at convenience stores and some supermarkets. Top ups are easy at the train or ferry terminals. 

But the good news, once you have your Opal Card, there is a maximum travel fee of $15 per day ($7.50 for kids and $2.5 for concession card holders). That's it, catch buses, ferries, trains and light rail all day across the city for just $15 total. The only exception is getting to and from the airport. There is an airport station access fee, which is an additional $13.40 per adult. This does not count towards your $15 daily cap.

In addition to the daily cap of $15 per person there is a weekly cap of $60. Do more than four days in 7 in travel and the extras are free. As a family (2 adults and 2 kids) we travelled around the city, caught buses, ferries and trains all day for $45 a day. Most CBD carparks are more expensive than that.

NOTE: You need one Opal card per person, Adult or Child, everyone needs their own Opal.

Best Value Harbour Cruise

Technically this isn't a cruise but it may as well be. Head to Circular Quay and catch the Manly ferry. Not the fast ferry, just the plain old Manly Ferry. The trip takes 30 mins each way and covers some of the most beautiful parts of Sydney Harbour. This return trip will almost max out your Opal daily limit and is far cheaper than any other harbour cruise. 

Want to see more of the Harbour, when you get back catch another ferry to Darling Harbour or elsewhere.

When you get to Manly walk down The Corso to the Beach, check out the beautiful view. I recommend turning right at the beach and taking a leisurely stroll along the coastline on the Cabbage Tree Bay Walk to the tiny but pretty Shelly Beach. While there keep an eye out for the Water Dragons.

If you are up for a bigger walk, check out the North Head walk below under Take a walk.

6 top tips for cheap things to do in Sydney Water dragon

Sunset Picnic

Sydney has some wonderful food that is both cheap and great quality, so you don't have to try too hard to find something yummy to enjoy for a sunset picnic. Once you have your supplies, don't forget to get a drink or two.

Head to Mrs Macquarie's Chair, this is the end of the peninsula round from the Royal Botanic Gardens.


From this beautiful spot you can enjoy the harbour as the day closes, the sun will set and hopefully mother nature will put on a show for you. From here you are in prime position to see the bridge and Opera House. I highly recommend waiting for it to get dark a bit and watch the lights come on over the harbour, stunning.

6 top tips for cheap things to do in Sydney Opera House Harbour Bridge Sunset

Cheap dinner - But seriously good

Sydney has some of the best asian food you can buy and from just about every country you can think of. If you want a great lunch head into one of Sydney's many food courts that cater to the city workers. Find the places with the biggest queues and you'll have a great quality and cheap meal, most options should be under $10.

At night, the options are fewer but no less yummy. Head to Chinatown, Dixon or Sussex Streets which isn't far from Darling Harbour. Here there are tonnes of restaurants, but steer clear of the ones that target the tourists.

Personally I find restaurants that don't look very flash, in fact sometime the dingier the better the food. But also steer clear of restaurants where the majority of patrons are caucasian. Sydney's vibrant Asian community knows good food and a good bargain.

If I am on the hunt for a good feed for under $10 I will always head to the Eating World Food Court on the corner of Dixon & Goulburn Streets, it is downstairs and for under $10 you will get a great feed, under $20 a feast. Great taste and quality in these high turnover asian hole in the wall eateries.


Sydney has a great cultural district with the Art Gallery of NSW, The State Library of NSW, Royal Botanic Gardens and The Australian Museum all within easy walking distance. 

All are free entry except the Australian Museum which is just $15. Start your morning walking from Circular Quay to the Royal Botanic Gardens via the Opera House. Enjoy the gardens while it is early and still cool.

Then head up the hill to the Art Gallery of NSW, some great art from Australia as well as wonderful works by Masters from around the globe. Then stroll across the domain to the State Library of NSW. They always have a couple of free exhibitions on featuring items from the collection. 

Check out the beautiful Mitchell Library Reading Room and if you can a sneak peak at the Shakespeare Room, a hidden gem.

If you are not museum'd out yet, take a walk up Macquarie Street to St Mary's Cathedral, Australia's most beautiful church and cross the road to the Australian Museum.

Otherwise, head up Macquarie Street to Hyde Park, take a rest in the shade of one of the beautiful old trees maybe enjoying an ice-cream.

Take a walk

Sydney has some wonderful long or short walks. The reality is you could walk everywhere and see some wonderful things but here are three great walks to enjoy in Sydney.

Bondi to Coogee Walk

Start your walk at the Bondi Beach Surf Pavilion (the massive building in the middle of the beach). This historic building was opened in 1929. Walking along the walkway above the sand heading towards Bondi Icebergs you get to see some wonderful street art. This world map below is my favourite artwork on the walk. By Em Carey, this just reminds me to travel more.


We did this walk as a family. Its an easy walk with only one serious hill, so can be tackled by most people, there are plenty of rest stops along the way and it's only 6km.

It is beautifully picturesque with some of Australia's most iconic beaches included in the walk, 6 in all. Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Gordon's Bay & Coogee, there are great lookouts and views throughout the walk, take your camera.

Bondi Icebergs one of the first stops on the walk

Bronte Beach Baths under a fantastic sky


When you finish the walk at Coogee, you can keep going to Maroubra and beyond.
But our kids had called it quits on the walking so after a nice lunch in Coogee, we caught a bus up to Watson's Bay.
We checked out the lookout at The Gap and then caught a ferry back to Circular Quay from Watson's Bay, a very pleasant way to finish our visit to the Eastern Suburbs. Back to the Quay for a promised ice cream.

Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge

You get a great perspective of the harbour from the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Yes, you can walk along the Sydney Harbour Bridge for FREE. Catch the train to Milsons Point and walk back to Circular Quay across the bridge. Walk across the Cahill Expressway too to see the Quay from up high. You can catch the lift down into the heart of the action when you're done and grab a gelato too.

A great perspective from on the bridge of the details and structure

Manly to North Head walks

6 cheap things to do in Sydney - travel tips manly north head
Looking south from the cliff tops near Shelly Beach

This is actually a combination of a few walks together. They are: Shelly Beach - Cabbage Tree Bay Coastal Walk, Shelly Beach to North Head Sanctuary, North Head Sanctuary & Gunners Walk, the Australian Memorial Walk and the Fairfax walk, plus Collins Beach.

Sounds complicated but really it is simply a lovely walk that a family can cover in 3-4 hours with moderate fitness levels and taking your time.

We started our morning at Circular Quay and caught the ferry to Manly, from the terminal Manly we walked down the Corso to Manly Beach. When you hit the beach turn right towards the surf club and you are on your way to Shelly Beach.

6-cheap-things-to-do-in-Sydney-travel-tips-shelly beach manly north head
I loved these windblown trees gracing the headland on the end of Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach is a tiny and beautiful beach very popular for swimming, diving and snorkelling. Just behind the beach there are a set of stairs up to the carpark. Head up these stairs and keep going until you are overlooking the ocean cliffs.

Head right and you will follow some bush paths up the hill, the are options for the more adventurous where you really are overlooking the cliffs.

As you push on you come to a new sandstone path and then a steel boardwalk. All the time following the signs to the North Head Sanctuary.

After a time trekking through the bush you will arrive at the old Army School of Artillery, we walked through the gates and across the parade ground before heading left up the hill aiming for the Hanging Swamp.

6-cheap-things-to-do-in-Sydney-travel-tips-hanging swamp north head manly
The Hanging Swamp on North Head, an eerily beautiful place

All along the walk you pass old fortifications which are interesting to see and walk into. The Australia's Memorial Walk honours those who have served and supported the defence of Australia in peace or in war. 

After passing along the Memorial Walk you enter the Fairfax track. This track links up three lookouts on North head, looking north out to sea, then south to South Head and finally south west to the city. Each of these lookouts affords great views and are worth taking your time to enjoy. If you are really lucky you may even spot a whale or two on migration.

6-cheap-things-to-do-in-Sydney-travel-tips-manly north head city lookout fairfax
Looking back to the city from North Head over the Harbour

As you turn for home you cover some more bush tracks this time on the western side of headland, passing the barracks you can return direct to Manly and even catch a bus to the wharf if you are done. 

We headed down a side street and walked back via Collins & Little Manly Beaches before popping out on the southern end of East Manly Cove Beach.

Looking through to the city from Collins Beach

Overall a fantastic family walk with spectacular views throughout. Another great walk from Manly that we didn't get to on this trip is the Manly to Spit Bridge walk. maybe next time.

I hope these tips help you have a great trip to Sydney whether you are a local or travelling from the other side of the globe.

Have an awesome day. If you enjoyed these tips please share on your favourite social media.


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