If you are taking an international flight into Australia, you will very likely have a Sydney layover. Why not extend your layover into a stopover and get the most out of your Australia vacation? That’s what we did. When booking your flight, simply plan for a little extra time on this touchdown and make some time to explore one of Australia’s best cities to visit.
Whether it’s a 12-hour layover or a couple days, here are a few cheap yet memorable things to do around the Sydney harbourfront that won’t blow your budget.
Grab an Aussie Meat Pie
Australians have a thing for meat pies. Some say, ‘taste a meat pie and you taste Australia’. One of the tastiest places to get your hands on one of these grubbin’ little hot pockets is at the iconic Harry’s Café Dé Wheels. This is probably the one thing we recommend most when talking about our time in Sydney. If we ever make it back there, we will for sure be stopping here for a bite.
You can’t go wrong with the house special, Harry’s Tiger, named after their founder Harry ‘Tiger’ Edwards. This flaky crusted beef meat pie is topped with mushy peas (kind of like mashed potatoes, just with peas), plus mashed potatoes and gravy. Just go with it, you can thank me later.
Grab your order from the counter at their Cowper Wharf location and enjoy your bite and the view right there waterside.
Now that we have where to eat out of the way, what’s next?
Take a Walk Through the Royal Botanic Garden
Covering seventy-four acres right there on the harbor, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden has a lot to explore. Gates open daily at 7.00 am and entry is free.You may not have time to see it all, but at that price tag, why not at least go for a walk?
Flowers and birds aren’t the only things you’ll catch a glimpse of while touring the grounds. Keep an eye on the treetops for the snoozing flying foxes. Officially known as Pteropus, these are the largest species of bats in the world. Don’t worry. They’re not coming for you. These megabats eat fruit all night and then sleep all day.
Head over to Manly Beach & Corso for the afternoon
Get a taste of Sydney’s Northern beaches with an afternoon at Manly. From Manly Wharf, it is an easy stroll through the Corso, a pedestrian mall, and the heart of Manly. Enjoy the shops, artisan stalls, street performers, and of course… fish and chips!
If you aren’t totally mesmerized by the shops and eclectic street talent, just beeline it to the beach for some sunbathing.
Manly Beach is like those beaches we’ve only ever seen in the movies. Being a Pacific Northwest family, beach time is something we equate with windbreakers and mud boots, not beach blankets, surfboards, and sun tan lotion. Just about everything your family needs for a day of fun in the sun is available to rent right there (by the day or the hour), so you can pack light.
The best part of a visit to Manly? The ferry ride through Sydney Harbor to get there
Cruise through Sydney Harbor for epic views of the Opera House and the towering Sydney Harbor Bridge.
This was hands down the most memorable highlight of our family’s time exploring this city. If you are traveling with kids, this is the one thing that will leave the biggest impression on them. What kid (or kid-at-heart) doesn’t love a boat ride? And when you are surrounded by such famous landmarks, it’s all the more astounding.
Very budget friendly at under $8 AUD per adult, and $4 AUD per child, each way. The passage from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf only takes thirty minutes, twenty if you are on the Manly Fast Ferry (rates differ).
Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building, or QVB for short
Next to last on our list of budget-friendly things to do in Sydney, the Queen Victoria Building is an impressive display of architecture and craftsmanship.
Originally commissioned in 1898 to put local artisans to work when Sydney was going through some hard times, the QVB is an ornate display of stained glass and stonework. While occupied by over 180 of the finest shops and boutiques, you need not spend a dime to appreciate the beauty of this place.
We were there during the Christmas season and so enjoyed the festive decor and towering Christmas tree trimmed out under the QVB dome.
You can find the Queen Victoria Building taking up an entire block hemmed in by George, Market, York, and Druitt Streets in downtown Sydney.
A walk through one of Australia’s best cities to visit
No matter where we are, a city walk is one of our favorite things to do. Just walk wherever your curiosity leads you (using common sense about safety, of course). What makes Sydney unique?
Here are a few of my favorite shots that I just had to share. We would love to see yours, too! Tag us in your Sydney photos on Instagram, #athomeonthego.
Ahh, the memories
All the information and links in this post are current even though this has been a bit of a flashback to our days of family travel with the kids. We were in Sydney traveling with our teammates, on our way to Melbourne for a year of studying linguistics in preparation for work in the South Pacific island country of Vanuatu. During that year we made some really great friends. We will no doubt be back.
We would love for you to join us!
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Here’s a map to help you plan your Sydney trip…
We’ve mapped out the points of interest we shared in this post to make it easy to see where they are in relation to each other.
What would you add? Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? What points of interest did we not include that we, and others, should hit on our next trip? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!