In this 4 day itinerary for Sydney we will share how to enjoy the highlights and hidden gems even on a modest budget. We put off visiting this epic city thinking it would be too expensive, but our Scottish bargain hunting ways not only discovered so many free things to do in Sydney but even scored half price Sydney Opera tickets, 50% off our meal bill and enjoyed the views from Harbour Bridge for a fraction of the cost!
You would be forgiven for thinking that Sydney is the Australian capital as it’s the country’s most famous city. Whether you know it from the New Year fireworks, the world-renown Opera House or it’s postcard-perfect Bondi Beach, Sydney is world famous for so many reasons. With so much to see and do, this can mean planning a Sydney itinerary can feel overwhelming especially if you’re visiting Sydney on a budget.
Where’s the best lookouts in Sydney for those world-famous views? How do you choose where to stay in Sydney on a budget? Where are the best Sydney beaches? Panic over, we have you covered.
Better yet, whether you have 4 days in Sydney or just an afternoon this guide shares the must-see sites & hidden gems to make the most of your time… and money!
WHERE TO STAY IN SYDNEY ON A BUDGET
If you are wondering where to stay in Sydney there is a neighbourhood to suit every traveller. Although, Sydney has so many neighbourhoods choosing the one for you can be difficult. Do you want to be in the glitz and glam of the city? Do you want to surf every morning? Do you prefer to walk everywhere or do you have the budget for public transport?
Once you have found the area for you, one of the most popular options for accommodation in Sydney is Airbnb. When visiting Sydney on a budget, an Airbnb also means you have access to a kitchen saving you money on eating out.
However, unfortunately our visit was during peak season and as we were limited on budget the Airbnbs available were too expensive. Instead, we found an absolute hidden gem and have shared the budget accommodation in Sydney that was perfect for us below.
Budget Accommodation in Sydney
As we had been camping in Australia the past few weeks, we treated ourselves to a hotel which turned out to be such a hidden gem AND a bargain price. If you are looking for budget accommodation in Sydney we cannot recommend Bridgeview Hotel enough.
The hotel was recently renovated with hipster décor, a funky bar downstairs and a great rooftop area. We also had access to a kitchen, which is perfect for those visiting Sydney on a budget as you can cook dinner or prepare a picnic for the day.
We also did our laundry here FOR FREE, which was such a bonus to those (like us) on a backpacking budget. Staff were friendly and we were able to park our campervan in their carpark for the duration of our stay without paying for parking.
We paid AU$304.52 for a double room for 4 nights at the Bridgeview Hotel which proved cheaper than many hostels we looked at. The location was also perfect for our itinerary for Sydney as we were able to walk everywhere or catch the bus from right outside.
Note: If you fancy an adventure during your 4 days in Sydney, one night we actually walked from Sydney CBD back to our hotel. It took around 1 hour but included a walk along Sydney Harbour Bridge where we captures some epic views over the city at night. If you are visiting Sydney on a budget, we recommend this wee detour (to avoid paying an uber/bus back to the hotel) but also for the amazing views!
Camping in Sydney
As mentioned, we loved camping in Australia and as we were visiting Sydney on a budget, we thought campsites would be the cheapest accommodation option. However, due to being in a campervan and the time of year, it was impossible to find one within our budget. If you only require a small tent pitch and don’t need electrical hook up, camping in Sydney can be super cheap! Not to mention if you rustle up one of our easy camping recipes you’ll save even more money by not eating out.
National Park Campgrounds: For the cheapest Sydney campsites, search on the The National Park website. Not only are these campsites best for those visiting Sydney on a budget, but they are usually in the most picturesque locations. Some charge separate National Park fees on top of your camping fees and some only accept tents but not vans.
Cockatoo Island: This is one of the best Sydney campsites as it is only 30 minutes from Circular Quay with incredible views of the city. They offer pitches from $45 all the way up to luxury cabins and glamping sites. Book Here.
Free Campsites: There are a handful of free campsites which are within a 2 hour drive of Sydney, which in Australia driving terms is a short drive. If you are looking for Sydney campsites that are free, this guide will help, or take a peek at our YouTube video which shares 5 ways to find free campsites in Australia.
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4 DAYS IN SYDNEY ITINERARY
Although we feel 4 days in Sydney is the perfect amount of time to enjoy all sides of the city, depending on your plans you may want to take notes of the days below to ensure the things you want to do will be open. Understandably it is cheaper and less crowded during the week, but some Sydney activities are only offered at weekends. If you are planning on any day trips from Sydney, Sunday is the best day as travel is super cheap!
Tips for Planning your Sydney Itinerary
- Monday: Best day for deals on Sydney Opera House and for Eat Club
- Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday: Luna Park is closed
- Friday: Foodie Market at The Rocks
- Saturday Night: FREE fireworks at Circular Quay
- Saturday & Sunday: For The Rocks Markets
- Sunday: All travel is capped at AU$2.70 (including public transport to Blue mountains & ferry to Manly). You will need an opal card to get this offer.
- Every night: Free light show at the Sydney Opera House
SYDNEY ITINERARY DAY ONE
If there’s one reason you’re planning a Sydney itinerary it’s to visit one particularly famous building – The Sydney Opera House. Day One kicks off with one of the best look outs in Sydney and ends with a sneaky hack to get discount Sydney Opera Tickets as well as cheap dinner & drinks. Sydney on a budget is possible and we share a few tips below how we managed to save some serious dollar on day 1 of our itinerary.
Morning up Harbour Bridge
There are three ways to explore Sydney Harbour Bridge depending on your budget (and fear of heights), so we have broken these down from most expensive to least expensive.
Option 1: Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
For many people climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge is on their Australia bucket list as it’s one of the best lookouts in Sydney for those world-famous views. However, we are both not the biggest fan of heights and considering the cost, didn’t want to risk paying the price and bailing minutes later.
We have heard from so many people that it is worth every penny. Although, you cannot take your own photos for safety reasons (a guide takes them for you) so bear this in mind. If you have the cash to splash or fancy an adrenaline rush to kickstart the day, go for option 1. We recommend using Get Your Guide for the best Sydney bridge climb deals.
Option 2: Pylon Look Out
Cost: $30 (for 2 people)
Pylon Lookout is one of the best lookouts in Sydney as it’s suitable for everyone in terms of cost & fear factor. You climb up stairs inside a tower in the Harbour bridge until reaching the top. Although not as high as the bridge climb, the views are incredible none the less.
It is the best option for those visiting Sydney on a budget as you can walk all the way round Pylon Lookout and photograph panoramic views of the city, which you won’t be able to do on the Harbour Bridge Climb as mentioned above.
Inside the tower is a museum with a short film and history of the bridge. Sydney Harbour Bridge history is incredibly interesting and worth the Pylon Lookout fee alone. For the first time, we read every info board in the museum, we were that engrossed!
The only slight disadvantage of Pylon Lookout is the opening hours which are 10 am until 5 pm each day, so no chance to watch sunrise or sunset from here, but amazing none the less. It was the perfect way to kick off our Sydney itinerary with the most exciting views over the city.
Option 3: Pedestrian Walkway
If you are visiting Sydney on a budget you will be delighted to hear there is also a free option, via the Pedestrian Walkway. It also means you will be able to watch sunrise and sunset from Harbour Bridge without paying a penny. You can access from either Milsons Point Steps or via The Bridge Stairs which are nearby the start of the bridge climb and about 10 minutes from Pylon Lookout.
The Pedestrian Walkway takes around 1 hour from one end to the other, stopping for photos along the way. During our 4 days in Sydney, we walked over the bridge three times as the views are addictive (and it saved us paying for an Uber) so we cannot recommend it enough. We particularly recommend it in the evening as it was incredible watching the city lit up below, our photos do not do the view justice.
Cool Off in the Museum of Contemporary Art
From the Pylon Lookout, it’s an 8 minute walk (towards Circular Quay) to The Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s the perfect stop to cool down with some air con and admire some fantastic art from local and international artists. Best of all – it’s free! Making it a perfect activity if visiting Sydney on a budget.
Lunch & Drinks at the famous Opera Bar
After the Pylon Lookout and admiring the art, you will likely be hungry. Darren and I also have this deal where if I make him go to an art gallery, I also have to bring him to a pub soon after, so we found ourselves at the most famous bar in Sydney – The Opera Bar.
We’re not going to lie, yes it’s expensive, yes service isn’t the best but the views are incredible and to us, it was a cheeky treat after weeks of cooking in a campervan.
For a bottle of wine and a cheese/meat platter, it cost AU$100.00. However, we did save some mega bucks on our dinner so if you’re visiting Sydney on a budget stay tuned for our tips below…or simply have a coffee instead of an entire bottle of wine ha!
If you are visiting Sydney on a budget, to save money there are also tours of the opera house available which also include lunch and/or wine at the Opera Bar afterwards.
- This tour includes a 1 hour guided tour of Sydney Opera House plus a meal at the Opera Bar including the Aussie favourite fish & chips, steak or vegetarian options. Book Here.
- Alternatively this tour includes a 1 hour guided tour of the Sydney Opera House plus a tasting platter each consisting of hot and cold food – enjoyed at Opera Bar with epic views over the harbour. Book Here.
An Afternoon Stroll Through The Royal Botanical Gardens
To work off our cheese platter we headed to the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens. They are a perfect spot to people watch, chill out in the shade with a picnic or to walk around admiring the view back towards The Harbour Bridge.
There is so much to see and do within the gardens – you can visit The Calyx which is a hub for events, food and shopping, there are also Aboriginal Cultural Tours as well as the Choo Choo express if your feet are a little tired.
At over 74 acres, you could easily spend an entire day of your Sydney itinerary here all without spending a penny – exactly what you need when visiting Sydney on a budget.
A Well Earned Seat on Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Following the Royal Botanical Gardens round for about 15 minutes, you will come to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Probably time you earned a little seat with all that walking and this is the perfect chance.
It is a sandstone bench which was carved by convicts in 1810 for the NSW governor’s wife, Mrs Macquarie. She used to sit there and watch ships from Great Britain sail into the harbour. We don’t blame her; it’s one of the best lookouts in Sydney!
Options: Manly Or The Rocks
From here you now have a choice in your Sydney itinerary. You could either walk back to circular quay and take the ferry to Manly (home to one of the best Sydney beaches & a fabulous foodie scene) or head to The Rocks.
The ferry to Manly takes around 30 minutes but offers one of the best lookouts in Sydney of The Opera House & Harbour Bridge. If you’re visiting Sydney on a budget, we recommend the ferry as it’s a cheap alternative to a river cruise, especially if you go on a Sunday when all travel is capped at AU$2.70.
Instead of Manly, we headed for The Rocks as we were finishing day 1 of our Sydney itinerary in the best way possible – with a show at the Opera House. For those visiting Sydney on a budget, you will love our hack below for cheap food in Sydney AND how we found bargain Opera House tickets!
Dinner At The Rocks
The Rocks are an area of historical, cobbled lane ways in Sydney. From the glitz and glamour of Darling Harbour it was fun to explore the quirky pubs, shops and cafes of this area.
As we had spent the majority of our budget on wine at The Opera Bar, we needed a cheap dinner. When visiting Sydney on a budget, we recommend downloading the app Eat Club which shows you dining deals near you on a map.
If you can eat early (between 5-6pm), this often means further discount – not to mention it works out better anyway if you’re headed to a show at The Opera House. We went to The Argyle located at The Rocks and we had 2 main courses and 4 cocktails which came to a grand total of AU$35.10!!
Better yet, it was happy hour so with each cocktail they supplied a complimentary nibbles voucher which we enjoyed as we waited for our food. For cheap food during your Sydney itinerary, we cannot recommend using Eat Club enough. We have used Eat Club in Melbourne and Brisbane for lunch and dinner and always find the best deals (50% off etc.) to be on Mondays & Tuesdays although there are always deals on weekends too, sometimes just 10% or 15% off.
Alternatively, The Rocks have a Friday Foodie Market and Markets on Saturdays & Sundays serving up local dishes and delicious street food. We wished we timed our Sydney itinerary better as we were there on a Monday however, this worked out to be a fantastic advantage for the last stop of the day…
An Evening at Sydney Opera House (On a Budget!)
Since we didn’t brave the bridge climb, we thought we’d spend that money on a show at the Sydney Opera House. However, we managed to get 50% off VIP tickets by following one of our best travel tips – smile and be polite.
We are not saying this will work every time and it definitely helped we were there on a Monday however, look out for the members of staff dressed in orange (their T-shirts may change depending on Season.) Not the members of staff behind the ticket booths, we think their T-shirts said something like “ask me anything” or Happy to Help, something along those lines.
We simply asked if there was a dress code to watch the show. Being backpackers we have no nice clothes and being British; we know the theatre is a dressed up affair. The lady laughed and replied “this is Australia, you don’t need to dress up. Unless you have fish guts down ya, we’ll let you in wearing whatever” she then popped behind a concierge desk and handed us a discount voucher for 50 % off the tickets.
For a VIP seat at a table in the dress circle, we paid AU$135.80 for TWO tickets. The ladies sitting next to us explained they paid double that (not to mention they were a tad pissed about this). Who said Sydney on a budget wasn’t possible?
The Show was incredible, we cried with laughter and sipped prosecco in true flashpacker fashion. It was a Cabaret show called Blanc de Blanc; we had no idea shows like this would even be on, we assumed they’d all be literally opera!
Tip: Don’t always assume booking online is cheapest, during your Sydney Itinerary (especially if a weekday) pop into the Opera House and speak to an actual human – you might be rewarded with a bargain! Check out the current Opera House shows here.
Sydney Opera House Light Show & Fireworks
If you are visiting Sydney on a budget or there is no show on that you fancy seeing end your day with this epic alternative – the free light show at the Opera House.
If you choose to go to Manly, take the ferry back in time for the second light show at 9 pm (the first lightshow is around sunset). Ideally, try and plan your 4 days in Sydney over a weekend as on Saturday nights there is also free fireworks at 9 pm which last around 20-30 minutes!
Tip: The best view point for the lightshow is Monumental steps which are the main steps leading up to the Opera House, but the fireworks can be enjoyed from anywhere in the Quay.
SYDNEY ITINERARY DAY TWO
Don’t worry, this itinerary for Sydney won’t all be as crazy as day one. After such an eventful evening (and likely late night) we recommend a well earned long lie before day two begins. You will also be relieved to hear that day two of this Sydney itinerary is practically free – unless you end up enjoying a pint too many like we did and have to Uber home.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
Regardless of how long your Sydney itinerary is, please make time for the epic Bondi to Coogee Walk – it will not disappoint. As day 1 of your Sydney Itinerary was spent ticking off the famous buildings, it’s now time for the famous beaches.
The Bondi to Coogee Walk is not only free (so perfect for those visiting Sydney on a budget) but it showcases the most famous Sydney beaches and even a few we’d never heard of before.
As it’s only 6km it can be completed within a just 2 hours however, we recommend making a full day of it because there are so many beautiful free swim spots, brunch locations and photo opportunities during the walk.
There are even snorkelling locations along the way all of which we have shared in our handy Bondi to Coogee walk map.
End day two of your Sydney itinerary at the trendy Coogee Pavilion for well-earned sunset cocktails from their rooftop terrace. Or, do as we did and meet up with friends who stay in Coogee and end up in McDonalds at 1am after a pint or 7. Oops.
Things to do at Bondi Beach
If you’d prefer a more chilled day for day two of your Sydney itinerary, instead of the Bondi to Coogee walk, simply spend the day enjoying the many things to do at Bondi Beach.
There are also many cafes, brunch spots and cocktail bars in Bondi catering to all budgets. This guide sums up the best places to enjoy a memorable meal in Bondi.
SYDNEY ITINERARY DAY 3
So far, your 2 days in Sydney have ticked off some major bucket list items such as Pylon Lookout, Bondi beach and The Sydney Opera House. However, if you have 3 days in Sydney, it’s time to explore some of the hidden gems which many tourists don’t know or don’t have time to visit. Expect a more chilled day, with some of our favourite lookouts in Sydney that are thankfully much quieter and free!
Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden
We appreciate the irony; we’re telling the world about a secret garden however it is simply too beautiful not to share one of our favourite lookouts in Sydney. Wendy Whiteley’s garden is an oasis hidden in the bustling city, offering a perfect picnic spot or sought after shade from the Sydney sunshine.
We absorbed the peace and quiet and valued our crowd free photos of Sydney Harbour bridge. This peaceful little corner was one of our favourite look outs in Sydney and such a worthwhile inclusion to any Sydney itinerary.
Be a Big Kid at Luna Park
If you have 3 days in Sydney, Luna Park is a fun escape to feel like a child again, especially after such a busy two days. It’s also fabulous for those visiting Sydney on a budget as entry to Luna Park is free, you only pay for the rides (if any) you want to go on.
Locals and tourists alike have been visiting Luna Park since 1935 with many of the older rides and decor still in use today making it such a fascinating place to visit!
You could visit just to take a photo or two of the vibrant Art Deco design like we did, or stock up on candyfloss (fairyfloss if you’re Australian) for a wee sugar rush to give you energy for the next stop in your Sydney itinerary.
Admire the Views from Milsons Point
Although we said Pylon Lookout was the best lookout in Sydney, Milsons Point would be a very, very close second. The views here tick every box, offering Harbour Bridge, the city skyline and The Opera House all in one.
Milsons Point is also home to the very beautiful Sydney Harbour Olympic swimming pool. One of my biggest regrets of our 4 days in Sydney was that we didn’t squeeze in a swim here as it would be incredible to cool off from the Sydney sunshine amongst such stunning surroundings.
The Sydney Harbour swimming pool is open from 5:30 am to 9 pm Monday to Friday so perfect for a sunrise or sunset swim. At weekends it’s open from 7 am to 7 pm. It is AU$8.30 entry for adults, so it is also reasonable for those visiting Sydney on a budget.
To end your 3 days in Sydney either enjoy the sunset from Milsons Point or alternatively take the ferry back to Circular Quay, to soak up more of those incredible views. The ferry from Milsons Point to Circular Quay costs around AU$7.00 which is ideal for those visiting Sydney on a budget and much cheaper than the commercial river cruises. It also takes under 20 minutes and provides stunning views of the Sydney landmarks.
You can also return to Circular Quay via the Harbour Bridge, which can be accessed from Milsons Point steps. Then we recommend ending your 3 days in Sydney with the sunset light show at the Opera House.
SYNDEY ITINERARY DAY 4
You are incredibly lucky if you have 4 days in Sydney as you can spend your last day experiencing the amazing Blue Mountains. It is an incredible day trip which thanks to the endless wildlife and waterfalls, feels worlds away from the city, even though it is only a 90 minute drive.
Blue Mountains Day Trip From Sydney
this is a perfect activity for those visiting Sydney on a budget as you can visit The Blue Mountains from Sydney by train for less than AU$10.00. Better yet, if your 4 days in Sydney falls over a weekend, visit the Blue Mountains on a Sunday when public transport is capped at AU$2.70 making your Blue Mountains day trip even more affordable.
If you have 4 days in Sydney this is the perfect grand finale and welcomed escape from the city to explore the stunning natural beauty of New South Wales. There are numerous hikes as well as famous lookouts to explore the stunning Blue Mountains in their full glory.
If there are a few of you, it may prove cheaper to hire a car from Sydney, we recommend checking Skyscanner for the cheapest car rental deals. If you are planning on hiring a car (or have a campervan like us) don’t forget to pack all the road trip essentials for an epic Blue Mountains road trip.
TIPS FOR VISITING SYDNEY ON A BUDGET
- Use refillable water bottles & reusable coffee cups: Not only to be a responsible traveller but it saves some mega bucks. There are so many refill points around Sydney, there is no need to purchase bottled water and many cafes offer up to 50 cents off a coffee every time you use a refillable coffee cup.
- Download the Eat Club App: As mentioned earlier you’ll find deals for all types of food from coffee & cake to Sushi, often up to 50% off.
- Take Advantage of Happy Hours: There are so many happy hours (especially on Sundays, where they last all day) so keep an eye for deals particularly between 5 pm -7 pm.
- Go on a Free Walking Tour: If you would prefer to learn a little more history during your 4 days in Sydney or ask a local some questions, a free walking tour is the way to do it! There are two companies to choose from Free Tours Sydney and I’m Free Walking Tours.
- Grab an Opal Card: we found it super easy to walk everywhere, but with an Opal Card you will also be able to use the ferry & Blue Mountains train for only $2.70 on Sundays.
- Pack a Picnic: Shop at places such as Coles & Woolworths which are dotted throughout the city and enjoy a picnic in beautiful free spaces such as The Botanical Gardens or Milsons Point.
- Take Advantage of The Free Sydney Museums: As mentioned in day 1 of our Sydney itinerary the Museum of Contemporary art is not the only free museum in the city! You can also visit The Art Gallery of NSW, The Maritime Museum and The Rocks Discovery Museum without spending a penny.
We had high expectations for our 4 days in Sydney and we can proudly say the city did not disappoint, even on a budget. We hope you manage to tick off as much of these sites as possible whether you have 2 days in Sydney or a week, there is something for everyone to enjoy and explore. Let us know in the comments if there’s anything we can add to this Sydney itinerary or if it helped you plan your trip!