Whether it is your jump-off point to Australia, a short venture in your year-long backpacking trip around the world, or your chosen destination for your holiday this year, Sydney will no doubt exceed your expectations and leave a mark on your wanderlust-filled heart. But what to do in Sydney, once you arrive?
Sydney has been a popular destination amongst backpackers for years. It is known for its amazing flat whites, smashed avocado toasts, seemingly endless beaches, and its overall laid-back lifestyle. It may not be the cheapest destination to visit, but the city makes up for this with many affordable attractions.
Some of Sydney’s most memorable aspects include the nice weather it has all year round, a reliable public transportation system, and a wide variety of affordable accommodation options. Let us not forget the friendly residents who do not fail to greet visitors with the standard “g’day mate” everywhere they go.
All of these things make Sydney a must-visit destination for every type of traveler, including backpackers on a budget.
We at Mad Monkey want to help you prep and plan your trip to Sydney. With that said, here are the top ten things to do in Sydney to make the most out of your backpacking journey without breaking the bank.
1. Take advantage of free activities in Sydney
Many tour groups offer free tours of the city daily. By going on these, visitors get to see the most popular sights and meet other travelers at the same time. I’m Free Walking Tours has two types of tour experiences. The excursions venture to places including the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, The Rock’s District, Parliament House, Sydney Tower, and more.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is free to enter, as well. You can go and check out paintings, drawings, sculptures, and special art collections from around the world.
Take a stroll around the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and learn about the different plants and trees that grow in the area. Watch out for Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, which provides visitors with beautiful views of the harbor, Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge.
If you are itching for some adventure but do not want to shell out $200 to climb the infamous bridge, you can instead look for the pedestrian pathway found along the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
2. Soak up the sun in one of the many parks
Get your picnic blankets and baskets out and spend an afternoon at the Barangaroo Reserve. Soak in the warm sun and breeze while enjoying the amazing views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Meanwhile, if you are craving to get active while you are on vacation, you can choose to go running or to rent a bike in the Centennial Parklands. If you travel during the summer, you might even catch some free events taking place during your fun workout.
3. Stay in a hostel
Gone are the days when hostels were known for being cramped spaces with dirty common areas and rowdy crowds. Sydney has several hostels that offer comfortable and modern facilities, a fun and safe environment, and affordable rooms. The biggest reason to stay in hostels is that they provide guests with different activities throughout the week. This allows them to socialize and meet other people (for example, solo traveler meet-ups and pub crawls). They also usually have in-house bars and cool public areas equipped with things like pool tables and board games.
Book your stay at Mad Monkey Coogee Beach!
4. Ride a ferry to Manly Beach
This is hands down the best way to get a good view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Trigger-happy tourists should make their way to the benches outside of the boat and get their waterproof cameras ready. The only problem you will have is choosing the perfect #nofilter photo for the ‘Gram!
When you get to Manly, walk towards the main beach while eyeing the different cafes and restaurants on both sides of the road. Enjoy getting your tan on while indulging in some fish and chips or some tasty tacos, but be sure to watch out for the cunning seagulls. They are always waiting to steal their next meal!
5. Enjoy a coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi
Coming in at about six kilometers long, the walk between Coogee and Bondi can be finished in about four hours. It may not be as hard as the Spit to Manly walk because you will be walking on flat roads for the most part. The Coogee to Bondi walk, however, does not scrimp on stunning views. You can stop for a coffee in one of the many cafes or take a dip at the beach in between at places including Clovelly, Bronte, or Tamarama.
At the end of the walk, you will be rewarded with a view of the popular pool at Bondi Icebergs. Take a photo, a dip, or just hang around at the bar to reward yourself for your morning exercise.
6. Experience the affordable nightlife
Though lockout laws have been imposed in the past years, Sydneysiders still know how to have fun. From pubs to bars to nightclubs, Sydney definitely has it all. You can check out party places in the Sydney Central Business District, Darlinghurst, Oxford Street, or the red-light district of King’s Cross.
Time Out Sydney and Concrete Playground Sydney also regularly post about events and bar openings, so make sure to check them out. If you are going solo to Sydney, try to join a pub crawl and expect to toast glasses with new and awesome friends by the end of the night.
7. Visit a zoo
There are several animals that are indigenous to the country, and it is best to see these creatures in either the Sydney Zoo or the Taronga Zoo Sydney. Even if you are not a big animal lover, you will find yourself unleashing the kid in you and enjoying your time looking for the cute koalas and kangaroos. You will also be impressed with the different animal shows, tours, and walks. Be sure to plan your visit and stay at least half a day at either one of these amazing zoos.
8. Check out Newton, Sydney’s hipster town
Described as interesting and unconventional by most people, Newtown has colorful street art everywhere you look. It is also home to Young Henrys, a brewery serving up delicious crafts beers. The area is teeming with independent designer stores and vintage shops, as well.
As for restaurants, you can find almost every type of cuisine here: Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, and more. You name it and King Street most definitely has it. Popular restaurants include Lentils As Anything (a vegetarian restaurant where you can pay whatever you want), Brewtown Newtown (a nice cafe that is best for brunch), Mary’s (a bar that serves glorious burgers), and Rising Sun Workshop (a half motorcycle garage and workshop and half restaurant).
9. Do some shopping at the weekend markets
You can find anything that you want at these specialty markets. Be sure to scour each of the stalls for organic veggies, homemade jams, leather goods, vintage records, artworks, and even second-hand clothes. Famous weekend markets include Bondi Markets, Glebe Markets, Paddington Markets, and the Carriageworks Farmers Market.
10. Get a seafood lunch in the Sydney Fish Market
Sydney’s very own fish market is worth a visit because you will find rows and rows of stalls selling raw and cooked seafood. If you come early, you will be able to catch the auction in the morning. They also hold tours for those who want to know more about the ins and outs of the market. Be sure to try the prawns, crab, fish, and shellfish. These can be cooked any way you want. Then, grab a table outside and enjoy the views of the water while eating the catch of the day.
Watch this amazing video to get you excited about your trip to Sydney, Australia!
Want to know more about what to do in Sydney?
Then check out these amazing articles that will help you plan your trip down under!
- 25 things to do for under $25 in Sydney by Aobh O’Brien-Moody and Rebecca Russo for TimeOut
- Free or Cheap Things to do in Sydney by Katie Tobias for Nomads
- 13 Ways To Explore Sydney On A Budget for NomadicMatt
- 20 free things to do in Sydney by Sarah P Gilbert for Lonely Planet
- 25 Things To Do In Sydney On A Budget [Plus Free Sydney City Tourist Map] by Michele for The Intrepid Guide