7 Free and Cheap Date Ideas To Try in Sydney

The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge provides a stunning backdrop
The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge provides a stunning backdrop | © kbrowne / Shutterstock
Caitlin Morahan

While Sydney has ample natural beauty, its rising price tags make the Netflix-and-chill option much more desirable. But with the weather cooling down and the days still long and light, here are a few date ideas that aren’t a coastal walk and won’t pull on the purse strings.

Walk through Wendy Whitely’s secret garden

If you’re looking for a romantic picnic spot that isn’t the typical Hyde Park or Observatory Hill (although both are excellent locations) visit Wendy Whitely’s Garden in Lavender Bay. Wife of the renowned Australian artist Brett Whitely, who painted iconic pictures of Sydney Harbour Bridge. After her husband died, Wendy began to create a garden that was driven not by any green thumb, but for a passion for colour, aesthetics, and whimsical beauty. The garden is open seven days a week and entry is free, however make sure you look up directions, because there are no visible directions in an effort to maintain the ‘secret’.

Wendy’s garden has exquisite views of the Harbour Bridge

Head to Govinda’s

An innovative twist to the classic dinner-and-movie date, Govinda’s is a much-loved institution in Darlinghurst. Operating as a vegetarian buffet and a boutique movie cinema, $29.80 will get you a tantalising multiple-trip ticket to the Indian buffet – where no two nights are ever the same – and entry to the cosy living-room-esque movie theatre, where patrons are invited to kick off their shoes and relax on floor cushions, couches and tub chairs. There are usually three films a night, ranging from arthouse to new-release, so all in all, you can’t go wrong.

Govinda’s has a delectable range of Indian cuisine

Go for a scenic train ride

Opal cards are capped at $2.60 on Sundays, and train lines stretch across the state. Take the train from Central down to Kiama and see the legendary blowhole, or to Leura and go and see the famous Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters, or get off at Brooklyn for views of the Hawksbury River. Pack a bag with snacks and wear some decent walking shoes, and you’re good to go.

For ideas on where to take your adventure, check out the CityRail website.

The iconic Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

Live music at Opera Bar

The view from Observatory Hill is second only to that of Opera Bar. Not only do you have prime views of the architectural wonder of the Opera House itself, but it’s location on the edge of the harbour offers perfectly unobscured views of Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. While a glass of wine and a beer will set you back around $22, the views come with the drinks. Opera Bar also hosts a diverse range of Aussie musicians, from sultry Blues crooners to acoustic folk guitarists, there’s something for every taste.

Sunset is the perfect time for a cocktail at Opera Bar

Brush up on your art knowledge

Both the Sydney Art Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art don’t charge admission. Sydney Art Gallery hosts a variety of art collections, from traditional Indigenous paintings to Colonial portraits to Asian paper art, and has over 30 special guest exhibitions per year. For a twist on classic art, the Museum of Contemporary Art houses a collection of over 400 contemporary artists, set upon the glittering harbour. After wandering through the whimsical exhibitions the museum has to offer, take a picnic and sit among the awe-struck tourists and jaunty buskers.

The exhibitions are ever-changing at the gallery

Have pie at Harry’s Café de Wheels

The meat pie is an iconic staple of Australian cuisine, and no one does the pie/mash/mushy pea combo better than Harry’s Café de Wheels. More caravan than actual restaurant, there a few locations over Sydney, however the original is parked at Woolloomooloo.

While the menu offers a range of different pies and hot dogs, you really can’t go past the house special Harry’s Tiger, a chunky beef pie piled high with buttery mash, mushy peas and his secret-recipe gravy.

The Original at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels

Night markets in Chinatown

Every Friday night, Dixon Street hosts rows of colourful stalls, selling everything from oriental jewellery to ornamental cats. But the real allure to the markets are the street food stalls, representing every corner of Asia. Sample octopus balls, dumplings, laksa, and any kind of meat you can imagine barbequed on a stick for only a few dollars. It’s an authentic taste of the most multicultural community Sydney has to offer.

Haymarket Chamber of Commerce have designed an app that will take you on a digital walking tour of Chinatown, with history and cultural insights. Continue your date with a romantic moonlight walk down to Darling Harbour for an ice cream afterwards.

Drop into Haymarket Chinatown for some dumplings

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