Sojourn in sun-kissed Sydney for its stunning yacht-pocked harbor, surfer-magnet and cliff-fringed beaches, hip eateries and buzzing nightspots, and iconic bucket-list landmarks like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. But be prepared: For budget-conscious visitors, Sydney’s lures don’t come cheap. Freshly back from a week on the ground there, I’ve scooped some well-worth-your-dollar picks for great value and smart splurge hotels, tours, and perches primed for taking it all in.
Smart Splurge: Offering luxury accommodations at attractive mid-range rates, the 359-unit Swissôtel Sydney – fresh from a revamp of its Jpb Restaurant (serving mod-Australian fare), Crossroads Bar, and executive-level lounge – offers a central business district location within walking distance of major Sydney attractions. Rooms come with contemporary furnishings, skyline views, and bathrooms equipped with full-size tubs and Purovel amenities, from just $248/night. Plus, get access to the heated rooftop pool and adjacent fitness center.
Great Value: Set in the historic The Rocks quarter across from Sydney Harbour, The Russell boutique hotel offers 29 charmingly decorated units, a welcoming ground-floor wine bar, and a rooftop garden hideaway. Dating back to 1887, individually styled rooms exude historic charm with antique furnishings and period wallpaper (note: room 8 is said to be haunted!). Basic room rates start from $149/night for doubles (with shared baths), including continental breakfast – stay a week and save 10 percent.
Smart Splurge: The man behind the ultimate “anti-tourist” tour, Sydneysider Richard Graham is the mate-you-wish-you-had, conveniently available for hire. Sign up for his My Sydney Detour, and he’ll cart you around the city, dishing out a fascinating insider’s perspective, all from the souped-up helm of a classic 1964 EH Holden Premier – a baby blue slice of Australian automotive history. Tours touch on off-the-path Sydney’s tourism trifecta – city, beach, and bush – and are seasoned to personal tastes (arts, architecture, etc.). Foray into the fast-gentrifying Redfern neighborhood; sneak over to local favorite Bronte Beach; and cruise the chichi “bush”-framed Vaucluse neighborhood. Rates are $69/person, per hour (two-hour minimum) – third adult or child booked gets a special flat rate of $50 (second kid is free).
Great Value: Launched this fall, the 90-minute Rocks Dreaming Tour delivers insight into the city’s Aboriginal roots. The walking tours ply the historic The Rocks quarter, with an Aboriginal guide serving to illustrate indigenous culture and history, native flora, and modern Aborigines role in Australian society today. Rates are $42/adults and $32 for kids (children under 8 are free).
Smart Splurge: Nearly 3 million gravity-defying climbers have scaled the scenic summit of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge with local outfitter BridgeClimb. Join their ranks and amble across the arches of the 440-foot bridge, accessed via 1,332 stairs (while clamped into safety harnesses), for sweeping views of Sydney’s legendary harbor and skyline. Climbs can be completed at sunrise and sunset for a premium fee, though the most economical options are for daytime or evening ascents, with rates from $198 for adults, or from $138 for kids (plus, get free entry to the bridge’s Pylon Lookout).
Great Value: Another Sydney icon, the 1,014-feet-high Sydney Tower, is the tallest structure in the city, at more than double the height of the Harbour Bridge. Access its Sydney Tower Eye observation deck, equipped with binoculars and touchscreen information panels to enhance the uninterrupted 360-degree panoramas; plus, check out the 4D Sydney-themed cinema experience – get 30 percent off tickets by booking ahead online (online rates are $18.20 for adults and $10.50 for kids).
Incurable travel addict, longtime travel scribe, and mindful money-saver Elissa Richard is currently indulging her insatiable wanderlust on an epic 14-month journey around the globe – intent on making it every step of the way without busting her modest budget. Follow her along the way as she reports back with budget-savvy travel tips from the mountains of Transylvania to the wilds of Tasmania, and from the little-trodden temples of Burma to the bustling bars and clubs of Buenos Aires. A vagabond in search of value, just for ShermansTravel!