With its vibrant culture, natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere, Sydney is one of Australia’s most popular summer destinations. Although Sydney isn’t known for being particularly budget-friendly, there are plenty of ways to make your dollars go further in Sydney this summer.

Beaches and coastal walks

Summertime in Sydney is almost synonymous with beaches. Bondi, Manly, Dee Why, Coogee, Bronte and Watson’s Bay are just a few places worth visiting – and they won’t cost you a cent. For those who are happy to spend a few hours exploring the coastline, the Bondi to Coogee walk and the Spit to Manly walk consistently rank among visitors’ favourite things to do in Sydney.

Public transport

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If you’re planning to use public transport in Sydney, pick up an Opal card when you arrive. After adding credit, you’ll enjoy cheaper public transport fares, a daily travel cap ($15.40 at the time of writing), and unlimited travel for just $2.60 on Sundays. That’s right – you can ride all the buses, trains, ferries and trams you like for the fixed price of $2.60. By contrast, a return ferry ride between Circular Quay and Manly (which is easily the most cost-effective way to cruise Sydney Harbour) can cost more than $15 on a weekday.

Free walking tours

Learn all about Sydney on a free walking tour of the city. Organisations such as I’m Free Walking Tours and Sydney Greeters are a fantastic way to learn about the city’s top attractions, local gems, and historical points of interest. Join a guided tour around the CBD, or sign up a tour of The Rocks for a glimpse into Sydney’s checkered past. Institutions such as the Royal Botanic Garden also provide volunteer-run tours every day; remember to check official websites for information on guided walks and other free activities.

Budget-friendly events and festivals

Sydney’s cultural calendar is a huge part of what makes this city so exciting. Throughout summer, Sydney hosts a wide range of cheap and free events to suit a variety of interests. Some of these include:

  • Newtown Festival: One of Sydney’s favourite community festivals. Expect a whole day of food and market stalls, discussion panels, colourful characters, and fantastic live music – all for a $5 donation.
  • Free movie screenings: Throughout summer, Sydneysiders are spoilt with a number of free, open-air cinemas. Popular events include Movies in the Park (Strathfield), Movies in the Graveyard (Newtown), Movies by the Boulevard (Sydney Olympic Park) and Tropfest, the largest short film festival in the world.
  • Mardi Gras Fair Day: A colourful festival of food, dancing, markets and live music, all celebrating love and diversity.
  • Carols in the Domain & Opera in the Domain: These open-air concerts draw thousands of people to the grassy expanse of The Domain. Bring a picnic and enjoy an evening of free, world-class entertainment.

Find out what’s on in Sydney during Summer and all year round here.

Rooftop bars

Sydney is a beautiful city for rooftop drinks, and summer is when you can see Sydney’s skyline in its best possible light. Popular rooftop bars include Coogee Pavilion (Coogee), the Glenmore Hotel (The Rocks), The Taphouse (Darlinghurst), Websters Bar (Newtown), Hotel Sweeney’s (CBD), The Light Brigade (Woollahra), the East Village Hotel (Darlinghurst), and the Pool Club (yes, it has an actual pool) located on top of the Ivy complex. Since most of these are relaxed venues with no cover charge, you can soak up their stunning views and atmosphere without blowing your budget.