Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget!

Sydney, the huge metropolis of Australia, one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest cities and known to be pretty expensive. Yet thousands of backpackers head here every year to take in the sights and sounds of this landmark filled state capital and they do so on a budget! As one of the many working tourist visa travellers we wanted to take in the sights of the big city without blowing our budget. Here is what to do in Sydney!

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

What to do in Sydney:



Head over to the landmark Sydney Opera House and make a dream come true!

Of course you can’t come to Sydney without ticking the Opera house off your bucket list! This iconic landmark is one of the most recognisable symbols of Australia and know around the world. Luckily exploring around the harbour is completely free and there are numerous incredible vantage point you can take it in from. In fact you could spend an entire day exploring either side of the harbour from Luna park to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and beyond. What to do in Sydney? Head to the Opera house first! 

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

Climb up the leg of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and walk across the historic span

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an amazing thing to do but it is also quite expensive. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far then you can still take in incredible views and step foot onto this icon on a backpacker budget. Going up to the Pylon lookout costs only $15 for an adult but the view will blow you away! If you are still not done with the bridge after taking in the 360 degree vista from the 200 step climb then be sure to walk over the historic span itself along the footpath and take in the views from across the harbour. When you’re figuring out what to do in Sydney make sure to put this to the top of your list!

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

Take in the spectacular views from the Manly Ferry

One of the most amazing and also cost effective ways to also take in the harbour area is to jump on the Manly ferry and one of the most wonderful and cost effective on our list of what to do in Sydney. The trip over to Manly is worthwhile not only for the incredible water level views of the harbour and opera house but the beautiful beach, seaside town and coastal walk at the other end . The ferry itself costs between $7.80 and $8.70 depending on the time of day and if you use a travel card and takes you right in front of the opera house, probably one of the best public ferries in the world alongside the Star ferry in Hong Kong!

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

Step back in time and explore “The Rocks” area of the city

Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood is right near the harbour and the red brick rows of terraces tell the story of this magnificent city. Here you can step back and see the way people used to live before the city became what we know and love today. In many ways this area reminds me very much of home and the old industrial towns we grew up in around Manchester. There is also a museum of the area that is free to enter which tells in depth the history of this area.

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

Take in the magnificent history of one of Australia’s oldest cities

Despite being a relatively new country Australia has some amazing historical buildings in the major cities and Sydney has it’s fair share. At times it reminded me of walking around Manchester back at home as the style of architecture and the mixture of old and new is quite similar. Many of the buildings are ornate Georgian constructions built during the colonial era for the ever expanding and successful city. Some of the most impressive and important buildings to check out are: Elizabeth Bay House, Customs House, Government House, State Theatre, St Mary’s Cathedral, Queen Victoria Building and the Sydney Town Hall. When you think of what to do in Sydney wandering around the streets might not seem obvious but its the best way to discover the history of the city. 

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

Have some thrills and spills at Luna Park

Opened in 1935 Luna Park is an old time amusement park with that creepy but cool Victorian-esque aesthetic. Right from the moment you walk through the grinning moon face entrance you are transported back in time to a by-gone era of bearded ladies and freak shows! There is a fascinating nostalgia and historical side to the park that was more interesting to me than the rides themselves!

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

Head over to one of the amazing nearby beaches

Australia is not only famous for the Opera House but its thousands of stunning beaches, luckily if you find yourself in Sydney you can enjoy both the metropolis, beautiful beaches and awesome coastal walks too. Manly and Bondi are the most well know and easily accessible via public transport from the CBD, the Manly ferry itself as we mentioned above is one of the most amazing things to do in the city!  Both these areas offer lively but incredible white sand beaches with world renowned surfing. Head off on the Bondi to Coogee walk or the Manly to Spit hike for some truly incredible landscapes that traverse cliffs, inlets, secluded beaches, seaside towns and bushland.

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

Get out of the city and into the Australian mountains

If you want to escape the city even further then you can take a 2 hour train up to Katoomba in the amazing Blue Mountains where you can truly get away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Out here you can do some serious bushwalking and hiking through some incredible landscapes and see such natural beauties such as the Three Sisters and Wentworth Falls along the teetering walk of the National Pass, carved into the cliffside over 100 years ago. What to do in Sydney? Get out of the city of course! If you have longer than One day in Sydney, you should try and get out and see this amazing place. 

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

What are your favourite places in Sydney?

Sydney, The big, bustling heart of Australia. A guide to visiting on a backpacker budget, Sydney Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge, cheap, Sydney attractions, Things to do in Sydney, What to do in Sydney, Guide to Sydney, Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach, Coastal walks, Sydney activities, The Rocks, Luna Park, blue mountains,

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[…] you love the Blue Mountains national park near Sydney then if you head to our favourite city and our second home of Melbourne then don’t miss the […]

Melody Pittman

Man, what beautiful shots you took! Great tips about saving money climbing the bridge. Luna Park would be for me. So whimsical, yet a little creepy I will say. LOL Have fun. Happy New Year to both of you

Thanks Melody. Yeah I think we would love to climb the bridge itself one day when we have more spare money but its great you can get the views without spending the money if you can’t afford it!! Yeah, they also have a Luna park in Melbourne too, reminds me of Coney Island! Cheers, hope you guys have a great New Year too!

Lara Dunning

I haven’t been to Australia yet, but it is high on my list. I’d love to visit The Rocks area and learn about the town’s history as I know very little about Australian history. Also the ferry ride past the opera house and to the town of Manly sounds like a great way to see some sights and be on the water.

You will love it when you do go!! That ferry ride is one of the best things you can do there and so cheap too!

Charlotte Kerr

Great photos! I’ve just left Sydney (well, Bondi beach) this morning and managed to cover most of these during my trip. I didn’t get to Luna Park or have a proper walk around the Rocks, I think the festive season made me a little lazy. But it was a fantastic city to visit and one which I definitely want to return to one day.

Thanks! Nice, yeah I get you, we was there in the winter so it was nice to walk around a lot more!

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I’ve just left Sydney (well, Bondi beach) this morning and managed to cover most of these during my trip. I didn’t get to Luna Park or have a proper walk around the Rocks, I think the festive season made me a little lazy. But it was a fantastic city to visit and one which I definitely want to return to one day.

Punita Malhotra

Sydney was the first city we visited overseas and we loved everything about it. its been so long, and your post has reminded me that we need to revisit it and explore if differently, now that we have evolved as travellers over the years.

Oh nice, great city to choose! We have places like that that we would love to go back to now we have travelled more.

Veggie Vagabonds

Nice photos man. How much do you think for a daily budget in Sydney? I’ve never been to Oz, have always been a bit put off by the costs!

Thanks. That’s a hard one. You’re talking A$20 a night for a bed in a hostel but probably want to spend a touch more for a place that’s not a party hostel! Food is a little expensive but if you go to the supermarket and cook at the hostel you can eat well for A$10. Public transport around Sydney isn’t too bad, weekends you can get anywhere for just a few $, but you probably would spend around A$6-8 but if you stay in the CBD and don’t mind too much walking then you can get around on foot in… Read more »

The view from Sydney Harbour Bridge looks fantastic. I hope you don’t suffer from vertigo though! I have to say that the Blue Mountains look right up my street too. I once heard that the architect who designed the Opera House was inspired by an orange and that if you took all the ‘segments’ of the house, they would make a perfect sphere. I don’t know if it is true or not. It almost sounds like an urban legend to me but would be cool if true!

Yeah it’s amazing up there, no we’re ok with heights thankfully! ha ha. Oh yeah I heard that too, not sure if it is true but I would like to think it was!

Daniels Beitss

We so cant wait to get back to get to Australia and check out Sydney. is it better than Melbourne, we will see (there seems to be a rivalry between the two). How long do you guys recommend staying there until hitting the road again?

Dominic Gramatte

Sydney is an awesome city and looks like you tackled Sydney 101 nicely. If people have more time when visiting Sydney they should also drive up and explore the Northern Beaches and Peninsula. Gorgeous places.

Yeah we would love to go back and do more of the beaches and surrounding areas, I suspect we will get the chance in the next few years!

Ariel Huffaker

This are some wonderful ideas for where to go in Sydney. There’s something about Australia that has caught my attention since forever. I’ve always wanted to go here. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful!

Thank you! Yeah we had always wanted to visit and love it over there!

Kristy & WC

Thanks for the great ideas for seeing Sydney on a budget! We especially love the Blue Mountains idea and the waterfalls suggestions!

Thanks, yeah they are so beautiful!

Great post! I was actually born in North Sydney, but I haven’t been back in years! Your photos make me want to go back to the Blue Mountains and hike my heart out!

Oh nice, yeah it’s a wonderful city, so jealous you were born there!

1journey1life2people

What a lovely article! I loved reading it because it reminded me of our time spent in Sydney and also our blog post. We also concentrated on the famous Opera House and the Blue Mountains as well. Exploring Sydney on a budget is possible, fortunately all the amazing beaches are for free! We didn’t climb the harbour bridge because of the money we would have to spend on that, but this is still on my bucket list. Maybe next year!

Thanks, yeah same here, we decided to just do the pylon instead as the view was great but for hardly any money. Love that you can explore the outdoors and the beaches for free.

Allyson Spieler

Honestly, Australia has never been on my bucketlist. And i have a lot on my bucketlist! THe reason why is because I’m not a big city person. But, if I were to go I definitely would have to check out Katoomba! That sounds like my kinda fun 🙂

If you’re not a city person then Australia is great too, keep an eye our for our posts about the outback!! But Katoomba is amazing too and the Grampians outside of Melbourne