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How To Spend Summer In Sydney, On A Shoestring Budget

After the year that has been, our feet have never been so itchy to get travelling again. Though for many of us, our bank accounts might feel preeetty differently. 

Rest assured, when travelling to Sydney this summer, there are a tonne of affordable activities, cheap things to do and places to go that are budget-friendly, and will have you living it up with a killer holiday. 

Below, we’ve wrapped up our best hacks in this curated guide for how to spend summer in Sydney without breaking the bank. 

1. Bask in that Sydney Sun, with an Outdoor Picnic

Despite being a thriving city, the inner-city gardens and parks in Sydney are an oasis that’s well worth escaping to. Pick up some picnic goods and take a seat within the 30-hectare Royal Botanic Gardens, the less well-known (and aptly named) Wendy’s Secret Garden or the stunning Chinese Garden of Friendship. In the case of the former two, you’ll be spoilt with impressive views of the Bridge and Sydney Harbour for a picnic like you haven’t had before!

2. Take a Dip in a Secluded and Secret Swimming Spot

While the crowds flock to Bondi and Manly, turn up the heat with a dip in one of Sydney’s many (somewhat) secret swimming beaches and pools. Milk Beach in Vaucluse will reward you with scenic Sydney Harbour views. The Bronte Baths are an absolute delight for a sunrise dip. And Castle Rock Beach (which you’ll find on the Spit To Manly walk) is where you’ll find pristine water, nestled within a national park. Finally, Maccallum Pool at Cremorne Point on the North Shore is a harbourside pool with smashing views, and an idyllic (and less crowded!) spot for sunbaking.

3. Up Your Step Count With A Coastal Walk

You’ve heard of Sydney’s coastal walks for good reason. They are simply unmissable. Summer in Sydney is the ideal time to bring out the activewear and take advantage of these walking tracks. Our favourites include:

  • Spit To Manly;
  • Bondi to Coogee;
  • Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay (which also takes in the Hermitage Foreshore Track);
  • Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach; and
  • The Opera House to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. 

4. Adventure on Day Trips via Public Transport

You don’t have to skip out on epic day trips like The Blue Mountains and Royal National Park just because you’re on a budget. These places are both accessible via Sydney’s trains network, which means you can do it on the cheap!

Sydney to the Blue Mountains will cost you less than $5 for a one-way ticket off-peak on your Opal card.

To get to the Royal National Park, you’ll catch a train to Cronulla (just over $5) and the ferry to Bundeena ($7.10 for adults, or $3.55 for students). Have a car but looking for budget activities instead? How about hiring a cute row boat from Audley Boatshed – it’ll set you back just $20 each for two people for a half day hire. Bargain!

5. Swap Out The Bridge Climb for a Cheaper Alternative 

While the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is a bucket-list experience, let’s be honest: it’s not quite a budget friendly activity. Instead, head 87 metres above sea level at the Sydney Pylon Lookout*, which will set you back just $19 (or $12.50 for students). You’ll still take in awesome views, and save a decent penny while you’re at it. Looking for something even cheaper? Simply walk over the Harbour Bridge… for free. With sweeping views of the Opera House and views all the way to Watson’s Bay and beyond, this walk screams ‘summer in Sydney’.

*Please note that the Pylon Lookout is temporarily closed for covid-19 precautions. Head to their website to stay updated of their reopening.

6. Make The Most of Golden Hour with Happy Hour

They’re called Happy Hour for a reason, right? You can nab bargain beers and eats at many bars and restaurants across Sydney. Some of the best happy deals in our opinion include:

  • Side Bar: Who doesn’t love a $5 happy hour? Everyday from 4pm-8pm, Side Bar in the CBD brings you $5 beers, wine and spirits and $10 food specials
  • Salty’s: Right on the Bondi beachfront, enjoy $6 beer, wine and spirits, and half-priced share plates from 4-6pm everyday. To make the deal that much sweeter, they also have DJs pumping from 4pm each day.
  • Fratelli Fresh: From 3-6pm, Monday to Friday, you can enjoy $6 woodfire pizzas, $6 espresso martinis, and the drink of summer – $6 aperol spritz – at Fratelli Fresh. They have multiple locations, including Manly (tuck in after a swim) and Darling Harbour.  

7. Or Head Out For Dinner With A Cheap BYO Deal

Grab your favourite budget bottle of vino, and opt for a BYO restaurant. Some of your best BYO options include:

  • Bar Reggio: $3 corkage per person; most pastas/pizzas are between $15 to $20.
  • Phamish Restaurant: $3 corkage per person; fresh authentic Vietnamese food that you can enjoy in a beautiful outdoor courtyard
  • Spice Alley: Free BYO; bring your own cup or purchase them from 50c at the cashier’s desk at this delicious hawker-style food market, set in an open-air courtyard.

8. Cruise on the Water with the Sydney to Manly Ferry

Instead of splashing your cash on a boat party, hop on board the Sydney to Manly ferry instead. With your opal card, the 30 minute ferry will set you back just $7.65 one way. But that’s not even the best news. The ferry also has its own bar, so you can crack open a cold one, sit outside, and soak in that summer air. 

9. Beat The Heat At The Cinema

Beat the heat and escape for the cool air inside one of Sydney’s jaw-dropping movie cinemas. The Ritz in Randwick is a heritage-listed institution that has been going since 1937. On Cheap Tuesdays, tickets are just $10 a pop. If you find yourself on the northern side of the bridge, then the Hayden Orpheum is another must-see. Here, Discount Tuesdays have tickets going for just $13.50 (or $13 for students), and Monday nights see $6 after 6pm tickets for students. 

10. Be Clever with Where you Stay

Choose accommodation that’s close to public transport, and purchase an Opal card. This will save you big time from money spent on Ubers. Also keep in mind how much time you’ll be spending in your accommodation: if you’re planning to be outdoors soaking up the summer sun most of the time, it mightn’t be important to splash out on a fancy hotel room.

Wake Up! Sydney Central provides budget-friendly accommodation, with the option of both private and shared rooms. Public transport is right outside our doors, including Sydney’s main Central train station, trams to Circular Quay and Surry Hills, buses, and we’re walking distance to many of the best shopping, eating, and nightlife hotspots. And final bonus? There’s no deposit, no booking fees and free cancellations when booking direct at www.wakeup.com.au. Win win!

11. Swim with Expensive-Looking Views on a Budget Price Tag

Feel like working on your backstroke under the Sydney Harbour Bridge? It’s possible at the North Sydney Swimming Pool. Here, you can master your laps in the 50-metre pool while soaking up the most spectacular views over Sydney Harbour, the Bridge and Luna Park. A ticket will set you back just $8.50. Swimsational value for a ripper summer activity!

12. Be the Early Bird who Catches the… Sunrise

One of Sydney’s best qualities is the incredible sunrises it puts on. These are made all the better during summer months, when it’s warm enough to get outdoors at such an early hour without too much convincing. For epic sunrises, head to Bondi Beach, Bronte Beach, Balmoral Beach or the Hornby Lighthouse at Watson’s Bay. It will honestly be worth setting the early alarm for, trust us.

Tip! Stay at Wake Up! Bondi Beach and slide out of bed at the last minute. Located right on the beachfront, you can soak up the sunrise from our very own Rooftop, or walk straight across the road to enjoy the first rays of the day from the beach. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

13. Market Hop in the Summer Sun

The Glebe Markets, Bondi Markets and Kirribilli Markets each offer vintage fashion finds, affordable accessories and many cheap, delicious eating options. You’ll often also find live music and good vibes only – what better summertime activity!

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