Monday, November 5, 2012


With Summer weather hitting the Australian shores, there are plenty of ex-pats heading home, along with the regular influx of welcome visitors from the colder climates. When travelling as a tourist, plenty of time is spent planning the visit to ensure the best parts of the city are experienced. Here are some of my favourites:

There are a couple of free walking tours that you can take around Sydney. This is a great way to learn about the history and haunts of this city, given by long-time Sydneysiders, or stay-too-long visitors who want to share their experiences with fellow travellers. Each tour runs for at least two hours and stops at most of the sites that are worth visiting, or re-visiting at length later. Take your pick of: or

The guides are paid via tips, so please be generous.

Sydney Buses operates a free shuttle bus service in the central business district (CBD), running in a loop to make it easier for people to get from one end of their CBD location to the other, and in between. You can board these high frequency buses from any bus stop marked with the green shuttle logo. Each bus is an accessible bus that can be used by people in wheelchairs or with other accessibility requirements, and parents or carers with prams.  Called Route 555, the free Sydney CBD Shuttle runs every 10 minutes. The service operates in both directions on a loop from Central Station to Circular Quay via Elizabeth and George Streets. Hours of operation are:
Weekdays: 9.30am to 3.30pm, with a late finish of 9pm on Thursday evenings.
Weekends: 9.30am to 6.00pm.
Here’s a map of the route.

While a walk across the arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a spectacular experience, it can be a budget breaking exercise for the thrifty traveller (if you can afford Bridgeclimb, do it!), but there is no cost to take a walk along the deck of the bridge via the pedestrian access way. The most spectacular route is from the northern end (alight from the train at Milsons Point) and then head back into the CBD. You’ll experience the most amazing views down the harbour, watch the commuter ferries criss-cross from Circular Quay and see the Sydney Opera House from a spectacular perspective. As you reach your destination, for just a few dollars, you can climb the southern pylon, which has quite a good museum, and will take you almost as high as the Bridgeclimbers, offering an even greater photo-opportunity.

Sydney has an amazing array of beaches that are free to visit and enjoy, some very accessible from the city. While for many tourists, a trip to iconic Bondi is a priority (take the train to Bondi Junction, and a bus will take you the rest of the way), a visit to Manly beach will probably be more fulfilling, as many professional surfboard riders prefer this beach to Bondi. From Circular Quay, take a 30 minute ferry ride to Manly Wharf (a wonderful experience in itself). From there, walk along The Corso, a pedestrian precinct lined with shops, which leads to one of the best beaches in Sydney. Be careful not to mistake the bay at Manly Wharf for the main beach. Although it does resemble a Mediterranean-type beach, it is the ocean beach at the other end of The Corso that is famous with surfers worldwide. 

Darling Harbour is a tourist precinct with plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and an Imax cinema, but there is also a comprehensive children’s play area with water games, climbing ropes, swings, slides, and a flying fox (what we Aussies call a Zip Line). It will keep the kids entertained for hours for free, and there’s plenty of sophisticated distractions in the area to keep the grown-ups entertained as well. On most Saturday evenings, there is a free fireworks display launched from barges on Cockle Bay, just a 2 minute walk from the playground. The fireworks are synchronised to music, and prove to be very popular with families all year round. 


While not exactly free, if you are with children under the age of 16, Sunday is the cheapest day to travel around Sydney for just $2.50 per person. This ticket allows you to travel all day on Ferries, Buses and Trains on the Sydney network, North to Newcastle, West to Lithgow and South to Wollongong. It’s amazing value, and a great way to see loads of sights around Sydney (and further) at very little cost.