The first stop on my road trip from Melbourne to Cairns was Sydney. I had half a day to spare and was able to enjoy a few of the city's highlights without a dollar spent.

Roojin, a Canadian girl I had met at a couchsurf meetup in Berlin, was my tour guide for the day. We decided to hit some of the quintessential parts of Sydney within walking distance of the Harbour.

As we stared in awe at the Opera House architecture, strolled through the royal gardens, and took in the exhibition at the gallery, we realized the day we were having would make a perfect date!

So here it is, the perfect plan for a date while visiting Sydney on a budget.

The Harbour and Opera House

The morning was late and the Harbour was shrouded in mist as Roojin and I ascended the concrete stairs to the Opera House.

We were lucky to be among only a few tourists in the area probably due to it being a muggy weekday morning. Avoiding the crowds is a rarity here since the Opera House is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in all of Australia.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007, the committee called the Sydney Opera House “…one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind."

From far away it looks like one whole building but upon closer examination it’s actually made up of separate structures. Inspired by his maritime roots and the nearby Harbour, the architect, Jørn Utzon, likened these separate structures to sails of a ship.

Like Peter Pan flying around the rigging of Captain Hook’s vessel, Roojin and I wove between the concert hall, the theatres, the playhouse, and so on.

We didn’t get to go inside the Opera House on this occasion, but the outside was impressive enough. If I ever have the opportunity to go inside I hope it’s because I have tickets for a performance. I would love to return one day to see a concert!

Royal Botanic Gardens

Roojin and I walked back down the stairs and headed toward the gates to the Royal Botanic Garden.

Workers were busy clipping away at hedges reading 2-0-0. Apparently, this September 2015 marks the 200th birthday of the Royal Botanic Gardens next to the Harbour.

The gardens were full of a variety of flora—from huge native figs to East Asian plants and flowers. I’ll let the photos do the talking…

At one point we came upon the Sydney Fernery. The Fernery was formerly the Governor’s kitchen garden. Now it’s a public spot to escape from the busy city center.

We could still see the tops of the building through the Fernery caging which made for a really cool urban atmosphere in this greenhouse-like building.

I think we could have spent all day exploring the gardens! Pathways went in every which direction. We might have gotten lost if it weren’t for the occasional map and our GPS to guide us!

Art Gallery of New South Wales

After wandering for a while and asking for directions only once, we finally emerged onto Art Gallery Road. Art Gallery Road is obviously the most creative name they could have thought of for the road on which the Art Gallery is located.

Roojin suggested we stop into the gallery and I’m so glad we did.

The place is huge and the exhibits were awesome. We stuck to touring the main floor while we were there which took up the better part of an hour.

My favorite stuff in galleries is usually the abstract art, like these paintings and sculptures:

But my favorite exhibit of all was this huge display of bones made of resin and formed into words. The Indian artist, Jitish Kallat, used these bones to write out the entirety of Mahatma Gandhi’s speech from the start of his Salt March. It took up two 100m walls, floor to ceiling.

The bones and the words are meant to “stare back at us like discarded relics,” said the artist, in which Gandhi’s words from 1930 are still relevant to the wars being fought today.

I stood and read the whole thing—which was a challenge given its size and length.

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One could easily do this date in reverse starting with the gallery and ending at the Opera House. I actually think it’d be ideal to have the time in the gardens to reflect on the powerful artwork seen in the gallery. If planned right, you could arrive at the Opera House at sunset and watch as the city and Harbour lights up for the night. Romantical!

The Harbour was still a gorgeous sight during the day. And the walk through the gardens and visit to the gallery afterward made it the perfect day trip for any pair, dating or not!