A great weekend date night for under $30? In Sydney? No probs. Dinners filling enough to last you until breakfast, wide open spaces, long romantic walks? Free music on the boulevards? We've got you covered. All that's required is a little bit of planning, some imagination and comfy shoes or sandals (aka thongs, dressy enough for a date night).
Take full advantage of daylight savings (read: very late sunsets, c.9 pm) and the spectacular summer weather in Sydney. Meander through perhaps the CBD's greatest treasure: Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. Nil entry fee. Zilch. Roam freely, smelling the treasures blooming in the Rose Garden as you tread on the grass holding hands (they actually have signposts begging you to "please walk on the grass")...
You get the idea. Run by the Royal Botanic Garden's Trust; the Botanic Gardens is proudly kept to a standard rivalling those of the world's best loved gardens. Incorporating views of the great harbour spanning west to east - including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, you just can't go wrong.
There are several entry and exit points, the best one - in my opinion - is the Queen Elizabeth II gate. It's also the most disabled friendly access. Adjacent to the Sydney Opera House steps, follow this entry point along the water and it will take you all the way around Mrs Macquarie's Chair, out into the Domain and onto the Art Gallery of NSW, all the while taking in vistas of the Eastern Suburbs such as Garden Island (where you'll find naval ships docked and being primed for the open seas).
Opening late until 8 pm between November and February, you and your date will find no shortage of intimate spots from which you can savour the vista (and the views are fantastic) and each other's company. Check out Botanic Gardens entry and exit points and Botanic Garden visitors info. This site will tell you all you need to know about your visit to the Gardens including opening hours and helpful maps.
If you rustle up a picnic hamper and plan to have your picnic in the park, do it before close. Don't fret, though, as a ranger is sure to inform you before the park shuts its gates. A well guarded secret (shh…) is that there are two one way exit points after hours. If, however, you don't have time to rustle up a picnic hamper some well deserved replenishment after that long romantic walk, head down south on Art Gallery Road, crossing the traffic lights at St Mary's Cathedral into a stretch of Hyde Park.
Go towards Museum Train Station, take Liverpool Street and head west to Chinatown. Keep going up Liverpool Street, past a couple of Traffic lights (you'll know when you're in Chinatown) until you find yourself on an intersection with the infamous Dixon street. On your right, at 44/1 Dixon Street in a mall called NUMBER ONE DIXON, is a veritable treat for food and noodle lovers alike, The Twisted Noodle. Now I'm loathe to share this little eatery with many more folks than I need to, but here it is...
The Twisted Noodle, as the name suggests, is all about noodles, though of course, there are some other yummy treats in store for you, too. Among these, the "soft pork bone" side plate ($5) and the lime ice tea ($3.50). The restaurant's concept is simple, diners pick the level of sourness and chilliness for the soup base and go from there. You can go from nil to large-sour and large-chilli which I'd only recommend if you're Genghis Khan or some other hardened warrior. Careful here, you've been warned.
I always go for small sour and no chilli. Flavoursome fare, comfortable seating indoors and outdoors and often friendly service (I say often, because waiters aren't always as bouncy as we'd like them to be). My top pick is the fish head soup on a rice bed in small sour and no chilli. Mains start at $9.80. Without drinks, two will set you back between $19 to $23 without tip or drinks. You're not expected to tip in Chinatown but it's nice to be nice. They gladly serve Sydney tap water (free or course and just the ticket after all that walking). Do treat your date to the lime ice tea for a little extra change. Open 7 days 'til midnight except on Sundays.
Afterwards, well, that's up to you. Perhaps pop in next door to Darling Harbour for some more sight seeing. You will find a world class saxophonist or two, perhaps, busking around Darling Harbour, in Town Hall, and in and around the city serenading your journey homewards. Spare some loose change or two for the buskers. You can afford it.
Total date cost ($30) = free dinner ($19 to $28)
Full credit to flickr member and photographer trevamones for the Twisted Noodle pics, to the RBGSYD Trust for the Gardens info links and to gardenvisit.com for the breathtaking Gardens' pics.