Five days in Sydney and I never wanted to leave.
Sydney, Australia was alive! The city enthralled and delighted me with its booming night life and up-to-the-minute restaurant scene. After growing up in a small town in New Zealand I felt like I'd found the centre of the world in a way I’d imagine New York or London would be. I wanted to be amongst the action like any other 22 year old.
I wanted to live in this city.
On this five day visit to Sydney I stayed with a good friend from high school who would introduce me to this city that was a mere hop across the Tasman Sea. I loved everything I saw. The deep blue harbour. The sheltered and tranquil Hyde Park. I would sit and watch brides on the steps of St Mary's Cathedral or listen to buskers strum and sing.
I delighted in waking up to the mocking call of the kookaburras, one of Australia's unique ringtones. The Australian heat on a September spring day was rejuvenating. I had the freedom to take public transport to anywhere in the city I wanted. If you know New Zealand, you'll know that everyone drives, anywhere and everywhere, that buses aren't a viable means of getting around outside of the major cities. In Sydney getting around was simply easy.
I returned to New Zealand with a new goal. I wanted to live in Sydney and I wanted it to happen by the end of the year. It was already September so I had three full months to make it happen. In that time I needed to sell my belongings, open a bank account, find temporary accommodation and apply for a tax number. Then once I was in Sydney I needed to get a job and find somewhere more permanent to live. I was daunted by the task before me, but the anticipation of change made life a whole lot more exciting.
So I said goodbye to my life in New Zealand and hello to Australia’s endless summers. Living in Sydney gave birth to a feeling I later identified as itchy feet. With a rush of euphoria at having an empty itinerary and a new city to explore, I would buy a transport day pass and jump on and off the train, exploring suburbs like Newtown or Cronulla. Alighting just to see what's there.
I was always on a budget, of course. Without an income, I had to explore Sydney cheaply, so without further ado,
here are my six favourite things to do in Sydney for FREE!
Hike in the Blue Mountains
A two-hour train from Central Station (see timetable here) will bring you to Katoomba – the closest town to the Blue mountains. The train is AU$5-8 each way depending on whether you travel at peak times and you’ll want to stay the night in Katoomba, because let me tell you, I was sore the next day (expect some descending and ascending). From there it’s just a short walk to the entrance of this National Park and while there is a cable car that costs AU$40 for unlimited rides for the day, the coolest thing about the Blue Mountains are the views and wildlife spotting.
Chill the F out at Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is stunning, that big half-moon of golden sand, the bathwater temperature ocean in that deep, deep blue colour. However, some days see a rather overcrowded beach and if you’re not feeling chill about that, walk around the coast to Bronte Beach, where the locals hang. It’s about a 15 minute walk away - take the coastal walk past Iceburgs Restaurant on the right side of the beach. It’s a smaller, chiller version of Bondi Beach.
A suburb for Sydney’s hippest residents, this is where you’ll try the infamous strawberry and watermelon cake from Black Star Pastry shop, and check out the Saturday morning market (opposite Newtown Station). Keep an eye out for a few pieces of Street Art by “Australian Banksy” Fintan Magee.
People watch at Hyde Park
An inner city park like most others except you’ll often see exotic birds hanging out, buskers, the odd wedding at nearby St Mary’s Cathedral. Sit, grab an ice-cream from one of the nearby New Zealand Natural ice-cream shops (sorry Australia, NZ just does ice-cream better) and people watch.
Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay
Nothing beats that first view of the Harbour bridge especially when you arrive at Circular Quay by Metro. Walk around the harbour, walk right up the Opera house then towards the Bridge to Pylon Point for panoramic views of Sydney’s most iconic attractions.
Take a free walking tour of inner Sydney
Tours run three times daily, last two to three hours and are a great way to ask questions of a local Sydneysider. The tours are free, but expect to tip your guide (most give around $10) and are well worth the money spent. See here for more info on where to meet.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and for each purchase you make, I receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. HostelWorld is the only hostel booking website I use and is the best way to search for and book budget accommodation.
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