After visiting Perth in Western Australia, stop two of my short travels was Sydney. It felt like we couldn’t really go all that way and not check out all the iconic sites, so we fitted as much as we could into our three days in Sydney.
Where to stay in Sydney on a budget
As we were definitely traveling on a bit of a budget (our Australian trip was just a little extra before our adventures around New Zealand), we stayed at the YHA Railway Square. It’s right next to the central station, which means it’s easy to get there via public transport. However, we actually found it was cheaper to get an Uber split between two of us than get the train.
The YHA Railway Square hostel in Sydney is spacious, modern and clean. You can stay in dorms, doubles, or even an old railway carriage off the platform at the back. There’s plenty of showers and toilets, a big communal space, and there seemed to be lots of activities and events (we didn’t manage to fit any in though!).
Budget friendly things to do in Sydney, Australia
- Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera House – You obviously cannot go to Sydney and not lay your eyes on these famous landmarks. Head to the Opera House from Circular Quay station and you can get a great view across the harbour of the bridge.
- Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk – Start off at the iconic Bondi Beach and watch the surfers or give it a go yourself. Walking from Bondi to Coogee Beach is super easy with lots of places to stop off for a rest or some food. And you can easily get public transport to and from each beach.
- Darling Harbour To Circular Quay Ferry – There are plenty of pricey boat tours you can take for a proper cruise around the harbour, but if you’re traveling Australia on a budget then you can hop on the ferry. It’s especially great at sunset as you go right under the bridge and you get to see everything light up as it gets dark.
- Free walking tour – Always a great way to learn a bit of history and see some places you might not know about when you’re doing a short trip (I also find them good at the start of longer trips to familiarise yourself with a place).
Sydney three day itinerary
So this is a quick run through of how we spent our three days in Sydney — we didn’t do a whole lot of research or planning so it might not be the most efficient or comprehensive itinerary. Also it was over 40 degrees celsius when we were there, so we avoided doing a lot of walking or anything too active.
Our flight was an overnight one from Perth – which seemed like a great idea when we booked as we would sleep on the plane (and it was the cheapest) but of course I did not sleep. So we landed in Sydney at 5.30am and headed to our hostel.
We had to wait a bit before we could check in, but then we went to sleep and accidentally napped until 2pm.
We then decided to tick off the main sights straight away, so we got the train from Central Station to Circular Quay. We walked around to the steps of the Sydney Opera House and took hundreds of pictures of it and the harbour. Next we walked up to the Sydney Botanic Gardens, which was nice to walk around but I wouldn’t make it a priority to visit unless you’re particularly into gardening — it was just so hot we couldn’t contemplate walking very far.
After the Botanic Gardens we went looking for somewhere to have a drink and cool off, and found ourselves in Luca’s bar. We didn’t get food there but the burgers looked pretty good.
Next we went to meet a friend for dinner at Ho Jiak, Haymarket, and then went for cocktails at Banchō afterwards, which was only a few minutes away from the YHA.
On our second day we headed to Bondi Beach to do the walk from Bondi to Coogee beach. It was super easy to get there by public transport – we got a train at Central Station to Bondi Junction and then got a bus to Bondi Beach.
We got off at Bondi, walked along the front, and headed up away from the beach a little to check out a cafe and bookshop, Gertrude and Alice, that had been recommended to us. After an iced coffee and a break we headed back to the beach and started the walk towards Coogee Beach.
It’s about an hour’s walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach if you do it all at once, and it’s pretty easy, but we broke it down with lots of stops. We had lunch at G’day Bronte Cafe at Bronte Beach, and then stopped again at Clovelly Beach.
When we got to Coogee Beach we sunbathed for a little and then caught the bus back to Central Station.
In the evening, we decided to get the ferry from Darling Harbour round to Circular Quay. But first we grabbed a burger at Nameless Bar (it was called Down n Out when we visited). We then walked around to the ferry point through Darling Harbour, which seemed like a pretty cool area – modern, lots of people and things going on.
When we got to the ferry stop we bought tickets from the machine and got on the ferry to Circular Quay. The sun was going down just as we got on the boat and all the buildings started to light up. The ferry goes right under the harbour bridge and you get to see the Opera House lit up – if you’re on a budget then it’s a great alternative to some of the harbour cruises.
We were up early, packed our stuff, and checked out of the hostel. We then headed to meet a friend for breakfast at Haven Speciality Coffee. After that we took the light rail down to City Hall and joined the Sydney free walking tour.
The walking tour went through the Queen Victoria Building to Hyde Park, the Rum Hospital, the Post Office, and then down to The Rock, finishing underneath the harbour bridge.
I personally love doing a free walking tour anywhere I go – you always get lots of interesting insights and learn a bit about a place (I know you could read about the history but I wouldn’t take it in). Plus, we probably wouldn’t have made it over to The Rocks if we hadn’t done the walking tour. It’s an interesting area, with lots of smaller, older buildings and quite different to all the big, office block buildings around the rest of the harbour.
Once the tour was finished we walked back to the weekend markets at The Rocks where there were lots of local crafts, gifts, and souvenirs. After that we went into the Museum of Contemporary Art (mainly because it was free and air conditioned!). We then headed back to the hostel, grabbed our bags and made our way to the airport ready to fly to Wellington, New Zealand.
Where to eat in Sydney
Ho Jiak, Haymarket
This is a Malaysian restaurant that my friend had found. The food was amazing, and we ordered lots of different dishes so we could try a bit of everything. It was very, very spicy though — I thought I’d built up a tolerance so didn’t ask for it to be less spicy, but I was very wrong.
Chinatown, 92 Hay Street, Haymarket, NSW, 2000
Banchō is a tiny little whiskey and cocktail bar – very sleek and modern, with some of the prettiest cocktails.
10 Thomas Lane, Haymarket, 2000
Gertrude and Alice Cafe
This coffee shop/book shop is absolutely crammed with hundreds of books and seats scattered around inside. We didn’t stay for very long, but they did great coffee and snacks.
Gertrude and Alice cafe
46 Hall Street, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026
Nameless Bar (Down N Out)
For me, this was the real highlight for food in Sydney. It’s a ‘dive bar’ up some narrow steps and I really wasnt sure what to expect as we walked up to it. But inside it’s very cool, lots of arcade games and memorabilia on the walls.
I had a burger, of course: the tiger style patty which is a mustard grilled Wagyu beef patty and caramelised onions, with american cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapenos and their secret sauce ($12). It was easily the best burger I’ve had in a long time – the beef was super tender and there wasn’t too much stuffed into the bun so it didn’t fall apart as I ate it.
LVL 1/77 Liverpool Street, 2000
Haven Speciality Coffee
Great spot for brunch (although there are plenty of places to choose from in Sydney) – good coffee, chilled out, and amazing pancakes.
Haven Speciality Coffee
30-34 Chalmers St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Overall, for us three days in Sydney was plenty of time to see all the main sites and make our way around the city. I’m sure there’s lots more to see in Sydney, but we just wanted a quick visit before heading on to New Zealand.