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Adventure Vacations: The Ten Best Free Attractions in Sydney

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Editor's Note: We have been considering adding an adventure vacation to Australia in 2015 so it seemed fortuitous when someone approached us with a blog post on Sydney.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Glamorous Sydney is one of Australia’s priciest cities, but that needn’t deter visitors on a budget. Like all great cities, Sydney has plenty of freeattractions. 

Circular Quay
With its combination natural beauty and urban charm, Sydney Harbour is one of the world's great waterways. At the center of it all is the Circular Quay, home to shops, cafes, street performers, and waterside views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Along the Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the colonial era Customs House offer free admission. Not to be missed is the glass floor of the Customs House, through which visitors can view a scale model of the entire city.

Harbour Bridge
While many have heard of Sydney’s dizzying Bridge Climb, few people know there’s a free pedestrian walkway across the bridge that skips the vertigo and offers excellent views of the Harbour and the iconic Opera House.

The Rocks 
Located on the south side of the Harbour, the Rocks is Sydney's oldest European settlement. Restored buildings give a sense of 19th century life, as do the interactive exhibits at the free Rocks Discovery Museum. An abundance of cafes, pubs, and shops make for a lively visit. There are three open air markets each week, featuring food on Fridays and arts, crafts and locally found fossils on Saturdays and Sundays.

Replica of the Endeavour
Darling Harbour, on the south side of Sydney Harbour, is home to the National Maritme Museum. While the museum requires a fee, its collection of historic vessels lie at anchor outside, and can be seen from the walkway. Included is a faithful reconstruction of the Endeavour, the ship commanded by James Cook when he explored the east coast of Australia in 1770.

Queen Victoria Building 
Aside from the 200 boutiques it houses, the QVB is a grand reminder of ambitious colonial architecture. There are tiled mosaic floors, a spiraling Grand Staircase and wrought iron balustrades on the gallery levels. There’s also an animated clock with mechanical figures that act out scenes from British history every hour. A free 45-minute tour departs from the ground floor and points out details that might otherwise be missed.

Strand Arcade
Rivaling the QVB for flounce and swagger, the Strand is the only Victorian-era shopping arcade to survive intact. Upscale clothing shops dominate the three floors and spotlight Australia’s leading designers. 

Nicholson Museum
This small but jam-packed museum at the University of Sydney houses the largest collection of antiquities in Australia, with pieces from Greece, Cyprus, the Near East, Egypt and Italy. By popular demand, an exhibition featuring a model of Rome’s Colosseum in Legos has been extended through March.

Sydney Beaches
Most of Sydney’s beaches are free, including famous Bondi, the 90210 of beaches for people watching. Nearby Tamarama Beach is tops with surfers while Bronte Beach is a favorite with families. Public beach amenities include picnic areas, refreshment stands, changing rooms and toilets.

Bondi to Coogee Walkway
A well-tended walkway follows the coastline south from Bondi Beach and overlooks several other beaches. It’s just a half hour walk from Bondi to Tamarama and Bronte beaches. Energetic walkers can continue on to Clovelly (2.2 km from Bronte), Coogee (another 1.8 km) and even as far as Maroubra (3 km from Coogee). The views of sea, cliffs and beaches are stunning, with resting places and inland points of interest along the way.

Whale watch
From May to November, some 3,000 whiles swim by Sydney during their annual migration. Good viewing points are from any of the beaches and along the walk from Bondi to Coogee. Best chances for sightings are early mornings and late afternoons. 

Author bio: This was a Guest Post by Brenda Panin. Brenda is a regular contributor to several travel blogs. She is currently a web content writer for Sydney flights. In her free time she loves to write about her travel experiences.

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