Travel down-under on the cheap-side
Getting to Australia is usually the main cost of a holiday down-under, so the thought of spending more money once you’ve landed can be worrying. But after you’ve booked your cheap flights to Australia, there are plenty of cheap and free things to do when you get there.
We have selected some of the best beauty spots, quirky attractions and historical sites in top destination cities Sydney and Melbourne, that won’t cost you a penny and will make you feel like a local!
Guide to free Sydney
Spend a day on the Rocks
The Rocks is Sydney’s oldest preserved colonial district and has recently undergone an amazing metamorphosis. The old district has been transformed into a vibrant pocket of cafes, restaurants and stalls, without destroying the area's Old World charm and historic buildings.
Most activities centre on walking, looking, eating and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere. The Sydney Visitor Centre, The Rocks (open daily 9.30am to 5.30pm) and Corner, Argyle and Playfair Streets, are all good starting points.
Bowled over at Balls Head
Balls Head Reserve not only has great views of the harbour and skyline, but also wonderful waterline and inland paths, ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, carvings and barbecue facilities. It will give you a good idea of how pre-European Sydney once was.
Directions: From Waverton train station it’s a ten minute walk - turn left and follow Bay Rd, which becomes Balls Head Rd (just before the harbour, turn right).
Creep around Camperdown Cemetery
Take a self-guided tour beyond the monstrous fig tree (which dates from 1848) into this woody, spider-web-filled and eerily unkempt cemetery. See how many famous names you can spot whilst you lurk around the cemetery- some famous Aussies were buried here between 1849 and 1942, including Eliza Donnithorne, the inspiration for Miss Havisham in Dickens' Great Expectations. As long as you don’t suffer from arachnophobia, it's also a great place to spot some big (up to 10cm), but harmless, St Andrew's Cross Spiders.
Nearest train station: Newton
Hazing over the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are an hour’s train ride from down town Sydney (Central station) and are aptly named due to the blue haze created by the thousands of Eucalyptus trees covering the mountains. The atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of eucalyptus oil, which in combination with dust particles and water vapour, scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in colour. The Blue Mountains became a world heritage park in 2000, nominated for its incredible biodiversity of plants and animals.
If you have access to a car, you can reach the mountains via the scenic mountain road – it takes about 90 minutes from Sydney to get to the main tourist destination of Leura and Katoomba. Alternatively, City Rail trains will get you there in an hour and service the mountain areas of Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath, Mt Victoria and Lithgow.
More travel tips for Sydney
Guide to free Melbourne
Food fiends at Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, with over 600 traders selling everything the palate could desire, and shouting out their tempting offerings in traditional market style. On Sunday the produce stalls are replaced with clothing and knick-knacks - great for finding something weird and wonderful. In summer (UK winter) the market is open on Wednesday evenings from 17:30 to 22:00, when it features hawker-style food stalls, music and dance performances.
Swan around Albert Park Lake
Hundreds of elegant black swans and a plethora of exotic water birds including pelicans, cormorants and herons will greet you as you stroll around the 5km perimeter of this beautiful lake. Lakeside Drive was used as an international motor-racing circuit in the 1950s, and since 1996 the revamped track has been the venue for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix each March. The lake offers stunning views of down-town Melbourne, so worth the visit for a bit of camera action.
Indigenous art at Alcaston Gallery
Set in an imposing boom-style terrace, the Alcaston is a contemporary Australian art gallery, focusing on living indigenous artists. The gallery works directly with communities and is particularly attentive to cultural sensitivities. There's also a space dedicated to works on paper.
Directions: Take tram 112 from city centre
Chinatown for slug dim sum
The red archways across both ends of Little Bourke St's Chinatown are your gateways to clattering woks, glowing neon, exotic aromas and shops with floor-to-ceiling chambers of medicinal herbs and tinctures. Melbourne's Chinatown dates back to the 1850s when Chinese prospectors joined the rush to find gold. In the 19th century the single-storey brick buildings once housed brothels, opium dens and boarding houses. It's the best place for yum cha (dim sum) or sea slug in Sichuan sauce for the adventurous eater!
Flinders Street Station for a schooner in a dirty old boozer!
Melbourne's first railway station, Flinders Street, was built in 1854 and designed by two railway workers who ensured fabulous facilities for their fellow workers. Sadly the station is in disrepair but in its heyday buzzed with a concert hall, a library, and even a ballroom. Now it’s reportedly one of the busiest train station in the Southern Hemisphere!
Enjoy a schooner (slightly smaller than a pint) in the city’s iconic pub Young & Jackson’s, which sits opposite the station and has been in service for over 140 years. It’s also famous for the naked young lady who hangs around upstairs! The nude portrait Chloe, painted by Jules Lefebvre, caused an outcry in the puritan Melbourne of 1883. Public opposition saw the painting taken down from the National Gallery of Victoria and bought by the hotel in 1908.
More travel tips for Melbourne
Written and contributed by Laura Johnson