Let’s just put it out there. Sydney is expensive. Super expensive. Whether you live in Sydney fulltime, or are just visiting, be prepared to drop some very real money on the East coast of Australia.
If you’re used to being a coupon queen, etc, then it won’t translate in Sydney. However, there are some smaller tips you can use to make sure you see a little more of the ‘real’ Sydney, and save at least a little along the way.
Sydney’s train network, CityRail, does some good deals for families, and the quality of the trains have come a long way since the red rattlers of my early working years.
If you are travelling with children of your own family, you pay for the adult and one child – the rest are free, Monday to Saturday. Just make sure you go to the ticket window instead of trying to use the electronic booth. The staff are very helpful. On Sundays it gets even better – $2.50 per person, all ages, and you can go as far as you want on the CityRail network (which extends to the greater areas of Sydney) you like. Alternatively, the MyMulti Day Pass is just $20 for an adult and $10 for children – it will get you the full day’s travel on all ferries, trains and light rail with the one ticket, in any directions or combinations you choose. It’s a great deal for lots of stops around the city, or a longer day trip outside of the hustle and bustle of Sydney itself. Before you make a choice, though, be sure to check the timetables and so on through the link – let’s just say the transportation does not run 24 hours a day, and commonly you will find a single possible journey per hour on many routes.
Car Hire in Australia is super expensive. There are no Hotwire or Expedia deals that are going to save you money, and you will definitely be paying a minimum of around $35 a day for a sedan. My recommendation is that if you’re travelling with a tribe of kids and prefer not to take public transport, put all your plans for travel outside the city (perhaps north to Newcastle, south to Wollongong and beyond) for a single week, and hire a car just for that time. The best deal is to hire from Bayswater Car Rental in Kings Cross – great cars (all white, all the same make – you can go hatchback through to sedan), and prices with no hidden extras (unlike the others). The staff are great and the process is quick and easy. Oh, and invest in a GPS – they make the spousal arguments less heated.
No visit to Sydney is complete without a visit to Luna Park – the history of the place is rich, and there is still call-backs to yesteryear in the facade of the huge smiling grin and Coney Island. It is in a gorgeous position along the foreshore as well. Since the demise of the Big Dipper rollercoaster, the Wild Mouse continues, and everyone can take a spin on the Rotor. It really does have rides that suit all ages. Ticket prices can get a little steep (up to $40 a person for the day), but you can buy tickets online and save up to $10 a person that way, as well as beat the peak vs non-peak pricing structure. If the weather’s nice and kids are older and can stand a later evening, another option is to get the Friday night two-for-one passes. Alternatively, if you want a lazy, full day by the harbour on the North side, and nobody wants the bigger rides, a pass to Coney Island only will set you back $10 a person. Big slides, spinning top, turkey walk and air blowing from the floor in different locations along the pathway into Coney Island will make for a fun few hours that everyone, every age will enjoy.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Free to visit, the Royal Botanic Gardens is on the other side of the Harbour to Luna Park. And it’s a very special place. Beautiful gardens, right in the middle of the city, in the lower section with a view out over one of the most beautiful Harbours in the world. A lovely family picnic in the Gardens could be just perfect for a slower day (take your own food – the cafe in there charges $8.50 for a sandwich, and $6 for a cup of hot chips). Afterwards, you can stroll down and take a close up look at the Sydney Opera House (also free to look around on the outside, or you can pay through the nose for an inside tour), and right around Circular Quay where buskers abound. On the weekends there are market stalls as well, and you can walk all the way around to the Rocks, an historic part of early Sydney. A great day out, and a good way to see the nicer parts of the city.