How to do Australia's capital cities on the cheap

Here are the best value ways for a great holiday in our biggest cities - from public transport hacks and budget food options to free activities.

A woman looks at her phone in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • Larissa Ham
  • October 2019

You don't have to bust the budget on a trip to the big smoke - try these novel hacks to get more bang for your buck.

Sydney

Like animals? Save a fortune on accommodation by minding a pet via Aussie Housesitters and live like a local - it’s free except for the annual $84 fee. Culture up with special offers on shows such as Hair at Lasttix or nab a $20 ticket to the Sydney Theatre Company with cheap tickets released each Thursday at 9am. Stick to public transport on Sundays, when you can ride trains, buses and ferries all day for $2.80 with an Opal or linked card.

Melbourne

Have a free day out taking the City Circle tram to some art at the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre, then walk to a summer concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Good food doesn’t have to cost much: enjoy a barbecue by the Yarra, eat at pay-as-you-feel venue Lentil As Anything or grab a hot jam doughnut ($1.30 each at American Donut Kitchen) at the Queen Victoria Market. Melbourne has a vibrant array of cultural events - catch a last-minute live show at a discounted price with Halftix.


Brisbane

Enjoy the sights and the sunshine with eco-friendly bike hire scheme CityCycle – the first 30 minutes is free. Cool off with a dip at Streets Beach (a beach-style lagoon in South Bank) or pull up with a picnic at the riverside New Farm Park. For cheap jokes and free laughs visit the Brisbane Powerhouse from 5pm on Sundays for no-charge comedy nights.

Perth

Perth’s sunsets are truly spectacular, try the view from Colonial Gardens in Mosman Park, Zig Zag Scenic Drive in Gooseberry Hill, or iconic Cottesloe Beach – it costs nothing. Volunteers at the Perth City Visitor Kiosk in the Murray Street Mall offer free 90-minute orientation, history and art tours.

Cottesloe Beach in Perth at sunset.
Cottesloe beach has the best sunset view in Perth.

Adelaide

Like the sweet stuff? Join a free tour at iconic chocolate makers Haigh’s Chocolates (tastings included). If you can’t resist buying some, look out for chocolate seconds on sale.

Canberra

Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial and the Canberra Space Centre are free to visit. Want to be surrounded by money while spending none? Take the family to the Royal Australian Mint. It is free to visit and you can strike your own coin for just $3.

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The Australian War Memorial is just one of many monuments in Canberra that are free to visit.

Darwin

Why not update your Instagram with a photo of a giant boxing crocodile? You need go no further than Humpty Doo, 30 minutes’ drive from the CBD. Or to experience three of Darwin’s best attractions on the cheap – the beach, the sunsets and top-notch tucker (crocodile burger anyone?) – dine out at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market.

Two women browse a stall at the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets in Darwin.
The Mindil Beach Sunset Market is a must-do for budget travellers in Darwin.

Hobart

To hike, abseil or kayak in stunning places with locals, join the Tassie Adventure Meetup group for just $5 per person per event.