The best of Sydney on a budget: top 5 things to do

Happily, you can drink in the delights of the Harbour City without spending much —here are our top budget-friendly tips for the best things to do in Sydney.

Sydney Opera house and harbour bridge at sunset
  • Jetstar
  • February 2018

Gorgeous, glamorous Sydney is a magnet for travellers looking for the best of everything: beaches, dining, nightlife and adventure. But that doesn’t mean it’s a luxury destination—much of its beauty and hedonism is readily available for a song, or even for free. Happily, you can drink in the delights of the Harbour City without spending a bomb—here are our top budget-friendly tips for the best things to do in Sydney.

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Snorkelling at Shelly Beach

No trip to Sydney is complete without a day spent in search of everyone’s favourite clownfish, Nemo. A scenic and leisurely walk from Manly Wharf, via Manly Beach, will take you to the smaller, charming sands of Shelly Beach. Its sheltered cove makes it a calm and safe place for beginner swimmers and snorkelers.

The waters here are part of the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve—home to more than 160 species of fish and about 50 different species of invertebrates. Keep your eyes peeled for giant eastern blue groper, cuttlefish, wobbegong sharks, green turtles, yellowtail scud, dusky whalers and sea dragons.

Location: 38 Bower Street, Manly

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Get wired on words and caffeine on Oxford Street

For bibliophiles and coffee-lovers, there is no better place than a café with a bookshop, and Sydney has a few gorgeous ones to while away a Sunday morning. On Paddington's Oxford Street you’ll find Ampersand, a café-bookstore with over 30,000 pre-loved books to browse. Take one back to your table and try before you buy while you sip on a latte.

Also hit Berkelouw Books, a three-storey haven for caffeine fiends, readers, writers and lovers of all things quirky. With such a massive mix of new and used reading material to rummage through, it’s a good thing the on-site café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Location: 384 Oxford Street, Paddington

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DIY harbour lunch cruise

The harbour is the focal point for many visitors to Sydney. The famous waterway is abuzz with year-round activity—jet-boating, sailing, cruises and of course, the ferries that are part of the city’s public transportation system. They’re a convenient way to get around, but they’re also a fine way to sightsee at a fraction of the price of a luxury harbour cruise. Starting at Circular Quay, jump on a ferry heading to Taronga Zoo, Manly, Milsons Point, or Watson’s Bay. Breathe in the ocean air and take in the postcard-perfect scenery. Pre-pack a sandwich, and you’ve got a lunch cruise.

Location: Circular Quay, Alfred Street

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Capture iconic views from the Royal Botanic Garden

A stroll through Australia’s oldest botanic garden is a great way to get back to nature, discover a myriad of plant species and capture stunning city views you’re not likely to see anywhere else. There’s also the unmissable opportunity to gawk at Sydney’s architectural elites—the Opera House and Harbour Bridge—as seen in countless selfies and travel photos. The best places to get that iconic shot are from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair at the tip of the point, or Harbour View Lawn.
For more photo opportunities within the park, tag along on the free guided walk that leaves from the Garden Shop every day at 10:30am.

Location: Mrs Macquarie’s Road

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Hike the coastline between Bondi and Coogee

A favourite pastime of Sydney residents is the seaside hike from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. Take the advice of the folks at Sydney Coast Walks and do the famous trek in reverse: Coogee to Bondi. Its six kilometres will take you about two cruisey hours. Covering this section of coastline on foot will ramp up your heart rate as you weave in and out of points, bays and beaches. By the time you round Mackenzie’s Point and see the drop-dead gorgeous view of Bondi Beach, you’ll be ready for a refreshing swim—remember to pack a towel.

Location: Start at Coogee Beach Street

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