Our new series looks at how to have an overseas trip without breaking the bank. First up, our transtasman neighbour.
Sydney is not known for being the cheapest city in the world, but if you have bit of insider knowledge it's entirely possible to have a fantastic time without having to remortgage your house, or sell a child. Here are some budget-friendly things to do in this wonderful city of bronzed bodies, beaches and beautiful food.
One of the best things to do in Sydney costs nothing at all. There are too many stunning walks to list but, essentially, no matter what terrain, length or difficulty you're after, you'll find something that suits — and shows you a beautiful part of the city in the process. Most of the foreshore around the iconic harbour is protected as part of the Sydney Harbour National Park and you'll find leafy green areas all along the coast, threaded with trails and hidden beaches. And then there's that bridge; you can walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the fenced pedestrian path next to the road for sweeping views over the harbour and Opera House (finish the walk with a swim at North Sydney Pool, another very affordable option). Walk in parks — Centennial, Queens, Moore and others — or do the well-known Manly to Spit Bridge or Bondi to Coogee stroll. There are so many options, and a quick google search will definitely bring up something near where you're staying.
There's plenty of excellent high-end glamorous dining in Sydney but there's an equal amount of insanely tasty, authentic food from immigrants who have made this part of Australia home. Many say that the bahn mi at Marrickville Pork Roll is the best outside of Vietnam (and will only set you back a fiver); Haymarket is the place for noodles, dumplings and other Chinese delights (try Spicy Joint for Sichuan, Chinese Noodle Restaurant for hand-pulled noodles, Dodee Paidang for Thai and Ho Jiak for Malaysian); and there's well known Belle's Hot Chicken for the best fried poultry in town — you can even eat right by the water if you head to the Bangaroo branch. There are plenty of delicious gelaterias and bakeries for wonderful, non bank-breaking sweet treats and, of course, fish and chips on any one of Sydney's beautiful beaches is a totally affordable must-do.
An Opal card will help make getting around Sydney an economical experience. You can use it for travel around Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, the Hunter and the Illawarra. The cards are free and you can load them with funds through the Opal app. There is also a daily travel cap, meaning you can cruise around all day for $15.80 (adult). Use transport outside peak times to get 30 per cent discount on fares.
Get in or on, the water
Hanging at the beach is a Sydney pastime and the best way to relax and see the locals in action at the same time. And, of course, it's absolutely free. You'll find plenty of things to do nearby and beaches are the perfect spot for a picnic of supermarket or market delights. There are hundreds of beaches on New South Wales' coastline, which stretches more than 2000km. Bondi and Manly are probably the best known, but Palm Beach, Balmoral, Camp Cove and Parsley Bay are also very popular. There are plenty of pools around too, if beaches aren't your jam — many with outstanding views. If you want to get on the water, catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Watson's Bay and back. Sit on the shore side, watch the harbour, homes and islands as you go. Don't get off, and on the way back ride past Circular Quay to Darling Harbour and back to Circular Quay again (swap seats to stay on shore side). You'll see the whole harbour for less than $10.
If you want to shop as part of your Sydney break, Birkenhead Point is definitely your destination. There are more than 140 stores so everyone in the family will find something that works for them (outlet prices make this a more budget-friendly experience). There's also a Visitor Passport available from the guest services lounge, giving 35 further discounts on specific stores. The Shopper Hopper ferry is a great way to see the Harbour and get to Birkenhead — jump on board for the 20-minute journey for $13 one-way or
Air New Zealand, Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and LATAM all fly direct from Auckland to Sydney.