The strong New Zealand dollar means Oz holidays are great deals right now, writes Mark Chipperfield.
With the Kiwi dollar nearly having parity with its Australian counterpart, there's never been a better time for a frugal-thinking traveller to upgrade their experience across the Tasman.
Eating out is one of the great delights of Sydney, but its better restaurants are quite pricey. Luckily, many offer midweek lunch specials or well-priced degustation menus. Rockpool On George, for example, has a fixed-price two-course lunch menu for NZ$73.50 a head, and the 12-course tasting menu for $127.70 at the Ocean Room is also excellent value. Eating at one of the many hole-in-the-wall bars is another fine way to save.
The listings website Broadsheet is useful to keep abreast of the arrivals. For a cheap lunch, the Asian food court at the top of Dixon St in Chinatown is particularly good.
With an abundance of museums, public art galleries and municipal parks, Melbourne is the ideal destination for frugal travellers. Many of the great cultural institutions, such as the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the State Library, are free. Ditto the Royal Botanic Gardens, a great place to while away a few hours.
To get your bearings, jump on the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle, which stops at Federation Square, Chinatown, Lygon St and Southbank. An all-day ticket costs about $5.30. Eating out can be very expensive, but not if you choose one of the city's small bars and restaurants. Newer arrivals include Mamak, Middle Fish and Shangdong MaMa. For the latest culinary gossip see goodfood.com.au or pick up the Age newspaper on a Tuesday.
There are plenty of low-cost things to do. Hanging out at one of the city's magnificent surf beaches is one of them. Scarborough Beach Surf School has introductory surfing lessons for $63.80. If the weather is overcast (a rarity here), head to the cultural centre in Northbridge, home of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the WA Museum and the State Library. Entry is by gold-coin donation.
Fremantle is popular for visitors, with old pubs, pavement cafes and weekend markets. Explore "Freo" on foot using a guide from the Fremantle Visitor Centre, hire a bike or hop on the free bus shuttle.
In the glittering, upwardly mobile capital of Queensland, a bunch of volunteers, known as Brisbane Greeters, will give you an expert - and free - introduction to the city. Or jump aboard one of the regular CityCat ferries that ply Brisbane River; audio guides are available.
Brisbane now has a dynamic retail scene, a rich cultural life and plenty of great food, from dumplings to tapas. Jam Jar, Sichuan Bang Bang and Bistro One Eleven are on this new wave. On Sundays, join locals at Ben & Jerry's Open Air Cinemas to enjoy movies, live entertainment and free icecream.
With its flat terrain and Mediterranean climate, Adelaide is ideal to explore by bike. The city runs a free bicycle scheme, with depots around the centre and suburbs. For a brilliant day out, follow the bike path along Torrens River to Henley Beach.
For something contemplative, wander over to North Tce and visit the lush Botanic Gardens and the eccentric Museum of South Australia. Entry to both is free. It's never been cheaper to eat out in Adelaide thanks to a new fleet of food vans, popping up in Victoria Square, North Tce and elsewhere. Track their movements or download an app at wherethetruck.at.
Tasmanians are frugal, which makes the capital highly affordable. There are plenty of municipal parks, galleries and museums to enjoy. But since its opening in 2011, MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) has tended to overshadow everything else. Allow at least two hours to explore this artistic and architectural extravaganza - entry is about $21 for adults. Regular ferries run from Constitution Dock.
For a true perspective on this city, book the Mount Wellington Descent, a 21km escorted bike adventure from the summit to the Hobart waterfront. Adult tickets cost $79. Afterwards, relax at Lark Distillery and sample some of Tasmania's malt whiskies - customised tastings are available.
Getting there:: Major airlines connect between Auckland Airport and Australia daily, with more than 250 flights a week and more in peak season. There are direct connections to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide, Cairns, Sunshine Coast and Norfolk Island.