Sydney definitely isn’t the cheapest city to visit, however it does offer plenty of free activities which makes it easier to enjoy the city even if you’re on a budget. Here are my top 20 free things to do in Sydney.
How to get around
You will need to purchase an opal card to use local buses and trains. There are around 2,100 Opal retailers across the Opal network, including many newsagents, post offices, convenience stores and supermarkets. The best day to travel a great distance is on Sundays as travel is capped at 2.70!!! If you’re sticking to the centre you can also catch the 555 bus between Circular Quay, George St & Central Station for free!
Where to stay
Sydney is pretty well connected so in general you will easily be able to get into the centre from wherever you stay. If you want to stay near a beach I would recommend Bondi (but this is probably the busiest area), Coogee, Bronte and Manly (boat ride from the centre). Bondi Junction is a good location if you want to be near the beach (30 minute walk to Bondi) and near the city (10 minute train ride).
IN THE CITY CENTRE:
1) See the Sydney Opera House
The most iconic building in Sydney! If you don’t have a photo with the opera house have you even been to Sydney?! You will need to pay to go inside, or have a ticket to an event, but you can happily walk around the outside taking in this beautiful piece of architecture.
2) Walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge is open 24/7 and gives you sweeping views over the harbour and city centre. Walking over it is free, however if you wish to splash the cash you can opt to climb over it!
3) Walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens
Located right in the centre of Sydney, the Royal Botanic Gardens have amazing views over the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It is the perfect spot for a picnic or simply to walk around and enjoy the nature and views.
4) Watch the sunset at Mrs Macquaries chair
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is an exposed sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench on a peninsular in Sydney Harbour. Make sure you come here around sunset as the view has the perfect angle to watch the sun set behind both the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
5) Visit the Art Gallery of NSW
Explore five levels of modern and contemporary art at one of Australia’s most popular art museums. Admission to the Gallery is free, as are their permanent galleries and most of their exhibitions and events. The gallery has a multitude of large rooms with a mix of international and Australian art.
On Wednesdays they are open until 10pm, as part of their ‘art after hours’ event they invite artists in to talk about their exhibitions as well as offering free guided tours and live music.
6) Explore the Rocks
The Rocks is a historic area located right in the centre of Sydney. It is full of charisma with it’s beautiful cobblestone streets, old sandstone buildings, great pub food and markets.
Make sure you stop by the Rocks Discovery Museum to learn more about the history of the area and the stories of those who lived there during the early years of white Australia.
7) Watch fireworks at Darling Harbour
Adjacent to Sydney city centre is Darling Harbour. This is a great place to wander around and dream about owning your own boat.
From September to June they also organise weekly firework displays on Saturdays! Check out the full schedule.
8) Enjoy the Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art epitomises Australia’s thriving modern art scene. The museum is dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and interpreting the work of today’s artists. It contains over 4000 works by Australian artists as well as International pieces, these include paintings, photography, sculptures, works on paper and moving images. Admission to the museum and temporary exhibitions is free. They also have a café with amazing views over the harbour.
9) Learn about the night sky at the Observatory
Sydney Observatory is a historical, hilltop site in the Rocks with harbour views featuring an observatory & planetarium.
The Observatory is free to walk around the grounds, fort remains and exhibitions. Exhibitions include Indigenous astronomy, telescope domes and opportunities to explore the sky with guides.
OUTSIDE THE CITY CENTRE
10) Hike the Bondi – Coogee Coastal walk
If you like walking, epic ocean views, towering sandstone cliffs and beautiful beaches then make sure you spend a morning or afternoon walking the coastal path. The track is a paved walkway and is suitable for most ages and fitness levels.
Depending on how much time you have you can choose how much of the coastal path you do.
- Bondi – Coogee = 6km (3.5 miles) one way. You will need 2.5 – 3 hours to comfortably complete it.
- Bondi – Bronte = 2.5 km (1.5 miles) one way, or 5 km roundtrip (3.1 miles). You will need around 1-1.5 hours one way and 2.5 hours for the roundtrip.
Make sure you stop off at Bondi Icebergs which is located at the beginning/end of the coastal path in Bondi.
11) Chill on the beach
Sometimes on a hot day you want to do nothing more than chill on the beach, swim in the sea and watch local surfers. Sydney has a multitude of beautiful beaches including Bondi, Bronte, Tamarama, Coogee and Manly. Most of these have BBQ areas which is the perfect way to save money by not eating out.
12) Treat your ears to free classical music
During the academic year, Australia’s premier musical training institution hosts Lunchbreak series with free classical music. Check out the full schedule.
13) Hike the Hermitage Foreshore Walk
The Hermitage Foreshore Walk is my personal favourite walk in Sydney. Not only does it give amazing views over the harbour but it is a lot less busy than the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk. The path is a wooden walkway which stretches 1.8km from Neilsen Park to Shark Beach.
14) Swim in a rock pool
If you’re down by the beach make sure you explore the many free rock pools that are available, these are a great place to swim and relax without the risk of rips (or sharks). The most free notable ones are Bronte Baths, Fairy Bower Pool in Manly, McIver’s Baths and Wylie’s Baths in Coogee and Mahon Pool in Maroubra.
15) Visit the Grounds of Alexandria
The grounds of Alexandria is one of Sydney’s most instagrammable places! You can visit for free just to take photos and check out the mini farm and market. It’s also a great spot for breakfast or lunch with 2 restaurants and a couple of ‘takeaway’ style food vendors.
16) Marvel at Diamond Bay
Marvel at the dramatic clifftop walk and milky blue crashing waves at Diamond Bay. What I love most about this spot is the old archway and broken stairway that once led down to the ocean. It’s a perfect spot to whale watch as well as snap a few photos.
17) See a Shipwreck
Just a few kilometres west of the Opera House, lies a group of rusting wrecks that are completely colonised by trees. While most wrecks are hidden deep under the ocean, the remains of the SS Ayrfield, and its neighbours, are completely visible from land.
18) Enjoy the marine life
Sydney’s coasts are bustling with marine life, and so it’s the perfect place for a snorkel. I highly recommend Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay.
19) Wendy’s secret garden
Located to the west of Luna Park, Wendy’s Secret Garden is a fairly secluded spot with beautiful views over the harbour. It’s a great place to relax, and it is also next to a pontoon which is a perfect spot for a photoshoot.
20) Paddington market
Enjoy all the sights, sounds and smells at the Paddington Market. It runs every Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
I hope you have a wonderful time in Sydney. If you’re thinking of going on any day/weekend trips make sure you check out Jervis Bay, Figure 8 Pools, Port Stephens and the Blue Mountains.
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