Australia is so expensive

Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk, Sydney, NSW © Destination NSW

Discover Australia’s coastline

An island continent, Australia offers a host of coastal experiences that cost next to nothing – take a look at this affordable itinerary, where you’ll discover clever insider tips like catching the Manly ferry, which takes you past the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge to Manly beach before returning you to the city for just AUD $18.20. Australia’s coastline also offers free experiences galore on-foot – including the famous Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. Take in world-class views of Bondi Beach and its equally beautiful neighbours Bronte and Tamarama, as well as the much-Instagrammed sight of Icebergs Pool. Alternatively, dip in and out of Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk or set out to conquer its 100 kilometre (60 mile) length. In Noosa, grab a coffee from a beachfront café before exploring the nearby National Park trails and enjoying views of the rolling surf waves. 

Discover Australia’s best coastal walks

Bitter Springs, Elsey National Park, NT © Tourism Northern Territory

Soak in a natural spa

Of course you can be pampered in high-end day spas in cities and towns around Australia, but sometimes there’s nothing better than enjoying a spa provided by nature. In Western Australia, Injidup Natural Spa (also known as the Wyadup Spa) is a special spot near the town of Yallingup – a three hour drive south of Perth – where waves froth and foam down through rocks into a clear pool. Tropical North Queensland’s Cardwell Spa Pool shot to social-media stardom in 2016, thanks to its unusual blue colour that changes hue throughout the day. Cardwell is a 2.5 hour drive south of Cairns. At Bitter Springs near Katherine in the Northern Territory, you can float along on a gentle current through the clear blue, thermally warmed water that is surrounded by tropical palms and bushland. That’s just the beginning – there are dozens more to be explored around Australia.

Track down Australia’s natural spas.

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory © Tourism Australia

Splash around in a waterhole

It’s a quintessentially Australian experience to take a dip in a beautiful waterhole, and there are stunning swimming spots dotted throughout the country. The Royal National Park near Sydney is home to the naturally carved, perfectly symmetrical Figure Eight Pools that have become an Instagram sensation. Reaching the formation, however, requires several hours’ trekking and the right combination of tidal and weather conditions, so a guide is recommended. The Northern Territory’s Litchfield National Park is home to Florence Falls, which cascades into a pretty plunge pool. Australia also has geothermal pools. El Questro, a vast wilderness park in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, is home to Zebedee Springs – an oasis that comprises several warm pools shaded by Livistona palms. Access is free to park visitors in the mornings; the afternoons are reserved for guests staying at the park’s Homestead.

Find Australia’s most amazing waterholes.

Aurora Australis, Cradle Mountain, TAS © Pierre Destribats

See the Southern Lights – Australia’s own lightshow

The Northern Lights grab all the global attention but you can view an equally spectacular lightshow in Australia. Your best chance of witnessing this phenomenon, which lights up the sky with streaks of green, blue, purple and red, is to head to Tasmania – an easy flight from Melbourne or Sydney. The Southern Lights can be viewed all year round although you’re most likely to encounter them during winter (June to August) and September’s spring equinox. One of the best spots for sky-gazing is Bruny Island near Hobart; the island is free from light and city pollution, with the added bonus of stunning beaches and wilderness, and a robust food scene. Since the easiest way to capture the phenomenon is to find a broad horizon away from artificial light (and bring a decent camera and tripod), climb the stairs at The Neck, point your camera southwards and hope for one of those magical nights.

Where to see Australia’s Southern Lights

Brodburger, Capital Brewing Co., Canberra, ACT © Brodburger

Eat for next to nix

When it comes to cheap eats, you’re spoilt for choice. Sydney has an abundance of cheap eats in hotspots such as inner-west Newtown, which is home to one of four outposts of Lentil As Anything – a social-enterprise vegan restaurant where you pay what you think your meal is worth. If you feel like dumplings, noodles or a bowl of steaming pho you’re also in luck: the city’s multicultural population has led to a slew of cheap Asian eats. In Melbourne, there’s possibly even more to choose from – don’t miss Belles Hot Chicken (its wildly popular fried chicken comes in five levels of heat), or Jimmy Grants, where fluffy pita bread is wrapped around lamb and chips, drizzled with mustard aioli, onions and parsley (AUD $11.90). Still hungry? Check out the cheap eats in DarwinPerthBrisbaneAdelaide and Canberra for inspiration – or head on Down Under to explore the streets yourself!

Discover Sydney’s best cheap eats

St Paul's Cathedral, Swanston Street, Melbourne © Josie Withers Photography

See Sydney and Melbourne for free

Who wouldn’t love the idea of exploring a world-famous city the local’s way – for free? Both Melbourne and Sydney offer plenty of insider experiences that visitors don’t necessarily know about. For instance: if you don’t have the cash to splash on doing Sydney’s famous Harbour Bridge Climb, take the pedestrian walkway over the icon instead and enjoy views of the Sydney Opera House for free. And while the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk gets plenty of attention, don't miss the 10 kilometre (6 mile) Manly Scenic Walkway, also known as the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk (don’t miss the Aboriginal rock engravings at Grotto Point along the way). In Melbourne, find street-art masterpieces tucked into the city’s hidden laneways. When you start to tire, hop aboard the city’s free City Circle Tram. Bibliophiles and lovers of grand architecture should pop into State Library Victoria for free guided tours of this dome-ceilinged 19th-century masterpiece.

Tips on seeing Sydney and Melbourne for free