As summer approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, winter’s right around the corner Down Under. While it might seem counterintuitive for northerners to spend their summer vacation somewhere wintry, Sydney’s mild winter temperatures and abundant sunshine make it a great travel destination in June, July, and August. Sydney is easily one of our favorite cities in the world, and, although getting there can be expensive, it offers plenty of budget travel options once you’re there!
A great first stop upon arriving in Sydney is Circular Quay. A quick train ride from the airport takes you there — and it’s smack dab in the center of town and a short walk from our favorite neighborhood, The Rocks. Home to a visitor center, lodging, pubs, the base of the Harbour Bridge, great views of the Sydney Opera House, and, on weekends, an open-air market, The Rocks makes a great home base for a Sydney stay!
To get a feel for Sydney’s history, consider a self-guided walking tour of The Rocks. A free app guides you around this historic corner of Australia’s iconic city.
To take in a lot more of Sydney, consider a guided tour on one of two hop-on, hop-off bus routes. From Circular Quay, the first makes a big loop around the city and connects with the second, which heads out to famed Bondi Beach. Both stop at major sights all over Sydney and make getting around town too easy!
Is climbing the Harbour Bridge out of your price range? Good on ya! Try the Pylon Lookout instead. For a fraction of the cost, you can climb 200 steps to the top of the south pylon of the majestic bridge. A museum, as well as sweeping views of the harbor, the Harbour Bridge, and the city, await.
While most travelers make a beeline for the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, other off-the-beaten-path destinations are well worth a visit. A must: the 74-acre (40 ha) Royal Botanic Gardens, located just southeast of the Opera House. Combining scientific botanical displays with vast expanses of parkland and spectacular views of the city, they’re even free to visit! Don’t miss the view from Mrs. Macquarie’s Point (surely she won’t mind if you sit in her chair.)
Birders will enjoy the variety of species that visit and reside in the gardens. Ducks, ibises, and plenty of exotic-to-us species were easy to spot. Our favorites: the Rainbow Lorikeet and heaps of flying foxes (okay, they’re not birds, but they’re still cool to see!).
Farther east, Bondi Beach is fun to visit — even in winter, when you’re still sure to see surfers riding the waves. The Coastal Walk that heads southwest from Bondi to Bronte Beach provides spectacular views, some peace and quiet despite its urban location, and some exercise. Best part for budget travelers: it’s free!
Another enjoyable stop was at the Sydney Aquarium, home to manatee-like dugongs and a fantastic under-the-sea walkway that puts visitors beneath the sea creatures they’ve come to see. Pretty spectacular! And if you’re more of a seafood eater than a sea creature viewer, the Sydney Fish Market offers plenty of seafood and produce as well as a guided tour that may or may not fit into your budget.
Just across the harbor from Circular Quay, the entrance to Luna Park is fantastic to see, especially when it’s illuminated at night. An amusement park for all ages, Luna Park comes complete with rides, carnival games, and a movie theater, restaurant, and lounge. The views across the harbor, looking back toward downtown Sydney, are worth the visit alone!
A powerful off-the-beaten-path destination, the ANZAC War Memorial honors Australians and New Zealanders lost in World War I. And no trip to Sydney would be complete — for a librarian, anyhow — without a stop at the State Library of New South Wales. Its imposing structure sits just west of the Royal Botanic Gardens and south of Circular Quay (and offers restrooms to travelers in need!).
Perhaps most importantly, we enjoyed gorgeous, cloud-free days and temperatures that warranted only a light jacket (okay, for Jeff — Erin needed a beanie, too) in late June and early July. Pedestrian-friendly, and chock full of public transit options (trains, buses, and ferries), Sydney is a great “winter” travel destination … even if you’re leaving summer behind to visit!
Have you turned the seasons upside down in your travels? Let us know in the comments. And enjoy your next travel adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!