Australia is not exactly known as a cheap country. Things such as food and accommodation can be quite expensive, but there’s also good news for people who are planning to visit the land down under. There are heaps of free things to do! Here’s a list of 42 free things to do and see in Australia’s biggest city, Sydney.
01| Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
The Bondi to Coogee walk – starting on the famous Bondi Beach – is probably the most popular coastal walk in Sydney. The walk leads you along some beautiful beaches and bays and takes about 2 hours tops.
Also read: Walking Coastal Sydney: Bondi to Coogee
02| Walking Tour of the City Center
I’m Free Tours offers a free city tour in the center of Sydney. This tour starts twice a day every day and takes about 2.5 to 3 hours.
Also read: Free City Tours in Sydney & Melbourne
03| The Opera House
Nobody comes to Sydney without seeing the iconic and world famous Opera House. You can’t really go into the building unless you have tickets for either a show or a guided tour, but you can walk up the steps and around the entire building.
04| The Rocks Discovery Museum
The Rocks Discovery Museum is my favorite museum in the city. It’s small but full of information on the city’s fascinating history.
05| The Harbour Bridge
Climbing the Harbour Bridge is extremely expensive ($250-360) but just walking across the bridge is free and also provides some great views over the harbour and especially the Opera House. The stairs are located in Cumberland St. opposite Gloucester St.
06| Manly to Spit Bridge coastal walk
A pretty long walk, but absolutely worth it. Walking from Manly to The Spit is one of my favorite things to do in Sydney. The track is about 10km long and takes about 3 hours to complete.
07| The Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens are located in between the Opera House and The Domain and are a great spot to have a little picnic or simply to walk along the water and enjoy some great views. Don’t forget to visit Macquarie’s Chair and do a free tour of the park.
08| Walking Tour of The Rocks
I’m Free Tours doesn’t just offer a tour in the city center. It also offers a free tour of The Rocks, the oldest part of the city. This tour is a personal favorite! Starts every night at 6pm and takes about 1.5 hours.
09| The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art is great for art lovers. Even though you have to pay for certain special exhibitions, admission to the MCA and its exhibitions is free. The museum even offers free guided tours every day. Don’t forget to have some drinks at the MCA cafe (great views!).
10| Watson’s Bay & Camp Cove
Where the ocean meets the harbour. Camp Cove is one of my favorite spots in Sydney. A short 1.4km loop (the South Head Heritage Trail) leads you along the water while passing the Hornby lighthouse. Beautiful coastal views. Watson’s Bay also has a nice little beach and the nearby The Gap lookout offers a great view over the harbour, the Sydney skyline and the ocean.
11| Dover Heights
Not far from Watson’s Bay is Dover Heights. This is not more than a grass field with playground, but it’s famous for its swing on which you can enjoy the skyline of the city. Also a great spot to watch the sunset.
12| Bradley’s Head
Take the ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo and walk to Bradley’s Head. Probably one of the best views over the city, including the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
13| The Rocks markets
The Rocks area near Circular Quay has a great souvenir market on Saturdays and Sundays. Lots of handcrafted things. Just an overall nice and relaxed atmosphere.
14| Manly Beach
One of the most famous beaches in Sydney and for good reason. It gets a little crowded, especially during the weekends, but worth checking out nonetheless. And if you’re lucky like I was you get to see some dolphins passing by!
15| Observatory Hill
Located in The Rocks, Observatory Hill offers great views over the city. Perfect for a picnic!
Chinatown in Sydney is located in between Central Station and Darling Harbour. Lots of Asian eateries here and also the Chinese Garden of Friendship (entrance fee) and Paddy’s Markets, a big hall with lots of small vendors selling all kinds of stuff.
17| Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is a large recreational area with theaters, a museum and lots of inside and outside eateries. It has Sydney’s best playground and waterpark for kids and free fireworks on Saturday nights.
18| Museum of Australian Currency Notes
The Museum of Australian Currency Notes is located in Martin Place in the city’s CBD. It presents the history of Australian currency between the first settlement in 1788 and now. The museum is open on business days only.
19| Centennial Park
Centennial park is one of the biggest parks in Sydney. You’ll see a lot of people playing different kinds of sport here but also people having a picnic on the grass and kids playing in one of the playgrounds. Great for families.
20| Weekend markets
There are plenty of weekend markets in Sydney. Some of the most popular ones include the Paddington designer markets, the Bondi markets, the trendy Glebe markets and second hand shopping at the Rozelle markets.
21| Henry Head walking track
The Henry Head walking track is located near La Perouse and is a beautiful walk through the bush and along the coast in Kamay Botany Bay National Park. It’s an easy 4km return track.
22| The Government House
The Government House is located near the Royal Botanic Gardens and offers free tours most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Registration is required. The gardens are open daily from 10am until 4pm.
23| Circular Quay to Darling Harbour walk
From Circular Quay it’s about an hour walk to Darling Harbour. On this harbour side walk you pass Barangaroo Reserve park, you walk underneath the Harbour Bridge and you have some good views over the water.
24| Palm Beach
Palm Beach is one of Sydney’s most popular beaches located a bit further north of the city center. Great place to go surfing or hike up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
25| Hyde Park
Hyde Park is Sydney’s oldest park located in the middle of the city center and a popular picnic place for many locals and tourists.
26| St. Mary’s Cathedral
The St. Mary’s Cathedral, located in between Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens, is the longest church in Australia (107m). Its impressive twin spires stand out against the high rising buildings of the Sydney CBD. Free to walk in on most days.
27| Town Hall
This sandstone building in the CBD of Sydney is impressive from the outside but the Victorian interiors are also worth a visit. Town Hall is open on business days between 8am and 6pm.
28| Art Gallery of NSW
Admission to the general exhibition area of the Art Gallery of NSW is free. The exhibition includes one of the largest galleries of Aboriginal art in the country. The daily guided tours are also free of charge.
29| The Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is located about an hour drive south from the city and offers some great bushwalks, lakes, waterfalls, Aboriginal engravings and the popular Figure 8 Pools.
30| Heathcote National Park
Heathcote National Park is located right next to the Royal National Park and also has some great hiking trails.
31| Shelly Beach
Only a short walk away from Manly beach, Shelly beach is a bit smaller, but just as inviting. Don’t forget to hike up the rock located next to the beach for some great ocean views. Also a great place to go surfing and spot some water dragons in the nearby bushes.
32| Bondi Junction Village Markets
The Bondi Junction Village Markets are held in the Oxford St Mall every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9am – 5pm. Come here to try foods of different countries all over the world and shop for chemical free and sustainable products. Great atmosphere.
33| Maroubra Beach
Maybe I’m biased because I used to live near Maroubra beach for 5 months but I think this beach is one of the most beautiful in Sydney. Not too busy like Manly or Bondi beach, but still a great place to go for a dip, lie on the sand or go for a sunset beach stroll.
34| Queen Victoria Building
Located next to Town Hall, the Queen Victoria Building (or simply QVB) is home to some of the more fancy (designer) boutiques. It’s a beautiful building though and worth checking out. You can find some good deals in the basement of the building but the higher you go the more expensive the shops seem to get.
Newtown is definitely one of my favorite areas in Sydney. Here you’ll find great thrift stores, the best eateries (heaps of vegan food!) and just an overal bohemian hipster feel.
36| North Head (Manly)
North Head in Manly is situated in the far north end of the Sydney Harbour. It’s a good hike along the water from the nearby Manly Beach and offers a great panorama of the Sydney skyline on one side and never ending ocean views on the other side of the park.
37| Australian National Maritime Museum
Located on the northern end of Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum is great entertainment especially for families and people interested in the world of underwater war, famous ships, maritime history, research and construction. Admission to the permanent galleries is free.
38| Cockatoo Island
You can get to Cockatoo Island by taking the ferry from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and formerly used as a convict penal establishment and later on as one of Australia’s biggest ship yards.
39| Parramatta Park
The best way to get to Parramatta is to hop on the ferry from Circular Quay (tip: only $2.50 return on Sundays). This will take about 1.5 hours (one way) but is a great way to see the city and its suburbs from the water. Parramatta Park is a great big park to stroll around and have a nice picnic.
40| Rock Pools
I’ve never seen so many rock pools in one place! A great way to spend a sunny spring or summer day. They’re located along the coast line all over the city. Like this one close to Maroubra Beach:
41| Hornsby Blue Gum Walk
The Hornsby Blue Gum walking track is part of the Berowra Valley National Park. The start of the track is located right next to the Hornsby train station. The walk takes about 3 hours and can be a bit challenging here and there, but definitely worth it.
42| State Library of NSW
The State Library of NSW is the oldest library in Australia and surely worth a visit when you’re in the area. The reading room is quite impressive and also a good place to study or read in silence. The library also offers free wifi.
Free Annual Events in Sydney
- Sydney Festival
- Vivid Sydney
- Mardi Gras Parade
- Carols in the Domain
- New Year’s Eve
- Night Noodle Markets
- Sculpture By The Sea
Budget Travel Tips
01| When you arrive at the airport and need to travel to the city center don’t take the Train Link. Taking the train will cost you about $17, which is extremely expensive for only 10-15 minutes of train travel. There is another way! From the airport take a bus to Mascot station, then hop on the train towards the city center. It takes a bit longer, but it will only cost you about $5.
02| Get an Opal Card. It’s free (you just have to charge it “top up”). Super easy for traveling by train, bus and ferry. It gives you a 30% off-peak discount, you don’t spend more than $15 a day (no more than $60 a week) and on Sundays you get unlimited travel for only $2,50 for the entire day. Also, when you take 8 paid journeys from Monday – Sunday you can travel for free the rest of the week. Check this map to find an Opal Card retailer.
03| Places like Starbucks, Gloria Jeans Coffee, McDonalds, public libraries, shopping centers & food courts offer free WIFI.
04| Get a Sydney Attraction Pass if you’re planning to do things that are a bit more expensive, like doing an Explorer Bus Tour, a whale watching tour, a harbour cruise, the Sydney Tower Eye or the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains.