Exploring Sydney- ‘I’m Free Walking Tours’

It’s fun being a tourist in your own city! I have to admit it gave me a great sense of pride, and I’m sure it’s this same sense of pride which motivates young people to become a ‘I’m Free Walking Tour’ guide – tours departing from Town Hall Square twice a day at 10.30am and 2.30pm, rain, hail, or shine.

Today we joined our first Sydney City walking tour, as my wife’s uncle was visiting from the States and what better way to see Sydney – but by foot! On this somewhat warm winter’s afternoon, at 2.15pm we found the guides in their light green ‘I’m free’ T-shirts, and we hung about until 2.35pm when the group was adequately large enough to set out walking.

The tours are in theory free, but in practice you’re encourage to pay what you deem the tour is worth to you at the conclusion of the 2 hour 30 minute walk. Once you arrive at the meeting point, you’re provided with a free colour map which marks out the stops along the way, and on the flip side there are handy tips which would enhance any tourist’s stay in Sydney.

At the time when we set-out, our tour group ended up being around 30 people in size. First we walked past the Town Hall – then into the QVB – before snaking our way down to Pitt Street Mall – and then onto Hyde park.

Then from the Park we walked to Macquarie Street and checked out the old Rum Hospital – before crossing back over to Martin Place where we  followed the mall down to George Street – ducking down some alleyways – to pop-up back on Pitt Street where we walked to the Gateway precinct for the half-point toilet break (it was 4pm by then).

We continued on to Circular Quay via Customs House, then Cadman’s cottage – and following the guide’s expert footsteps, we got to see the Harbour Bridge and Opera House from a vantage point which we’ve never seen our iconic landmarks from before (a lookout in the Overseas Passanger Terminal). And the tour ends in the Rocks, the time being 5pm by this stage.

And if you enjoy the Sydney City walking tour, at 6pm departing from Cadman’s Cottage every night (for an hour) you can join The Rocks walking tour offered by the same company.

The highlights:

One. The guide – he had an absolute passion for his city and an enthusiasm in re-telling all of his historic tales of Sydney. I learnt a number of stories which I was previously unaware of, and had a better sense of the limits of old Sydney township, i.e. that where the Town Hall sits today, was actually the Western outer limit of Old Sydney Town. Which emphasizes to me, how much we’ve grown as a city/nation in the past 200 odd years.

Two. Discovering unknown parts of our city- another highlight was walking down Angels Place, and experiencing the “Forgotten Songs” art installation for the first time. I was completely unaware of this place’s existence! It’s quite tranquil and relaxing, hearing all of those bird songs, I’d imagine it would be a nice way to de-stress if things are getting a bit too much at work.

Three. Random facts- And along with the handful of random facts which we learnt, the most handy random fact we learnt was that Opal card fares are capped at $2.70 for unlimited travel on Sundays! This is a random fact we ought to have known, but didn’t.

Four. Smiles- And it was a joy to hear my wife’s uncle laugh at some of the guide’s better antidotes; and seeing him enjoy himself as he saw our famous Sydney landmarks for the very first time.

Ideal time:

If you’re just a Sydney-sider who wants to better understand your city, you have the luxury to pick the perfect time to take this walking tour. As you know Sydney, it could either be too hot or too cold to be walking around for 150 minutes. Autumn or spring would be my best guess for the ideal time to take the tour. Or in the winter months it wasn’t that bad, just make sure you have a nice warm jacket and comfortable shoes. I personally think it’ll be a bit unpleasant to do the tour in the summer months.

In the end, the walking tour should be re-named as:

“I’m Actually Not Free Walking Tours”

As it’s not really free, at the beginning of the tour they hint that other similar tours which last half the length of their’s cost $30 pp, but don’t be influenced by this. In the end just give the guide how much you think the experience was worth to you. Before the  tour we had in mind just giving the guide $10, but after the tour we felt that it was worth more than that and we  ended up giving our guide $20 (which seemed like the going rate as each representative from their respective groups came forward and handed him $20).

If you’d like to learn more about the Sydney ‘I’m Free Walking Tours’, click HERE!

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