Top 10 Free Things to Do in and Around Sydney
Sydney is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but unfortunately it’s also one of the most expensive places to live or to spend your holiday.
However, with a near perfect climate and a great variety of natural and man-made landmarks and sights on offer, there are also lots of free things to do in Sydney.
To help you save some of your hard-earned dollars, we have compiled a list of our favorite things to do in Sydney without having to spend a single dollar. So once you’ve booked your hotel in Sydney, it’s time to start exploring this beautiful city!
- Hike from Bondi to Coogee
- Visit Sydney’s Free Museums
- Do a Sydney CBD Discovery Walk
- Visit One of Sydney’s Many Secluded Beaches
- Explore Sydney’s Trendy Suburbs
- Spend a Day in the Blue Mountains
- Discover the Royal Botanic Garden and the Domain
- Visit Manly North Head
- Walk the Harbour Bridge
- Visit Cockatoo Island
1. Hike from Bondi to Coogee
One of the most famous walking tracks in Sydney and New South Wales is the beautiful 6km coastal trail between Bondi and Coogee.
Tourists from all over the world as well as local Sydney-siders come to Sydney’s east coast every day to enjoy some of Australia’s best beaches, amazing ocean views and lots of parks and cafe’s on their way from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach.
2. Visit Sydney’s Free Museums
Just like any other famous city in the world, Sydney is home to some top quality museums that are worth a visit while you’re in town. The good news is that some of these museums are actually free.
Here are a few of these free museums for when you need a relief from the hot Sydney sun:
Museum of Contemporary Art (Circular Quay)
If you’re a fan of cutting-edge Australian and international modern art, a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) at Circular Quay is an absolute must.
Housed in an impressive art deco building facing the Harbour, the MCA is dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and interpreting the work of today’s contemporary artists.
Australian National Maritime Museum (Darling Harbour)
Opened in 1991 as part of the redevelopment of Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) is now Australia’s national centre for maritime collections, research, exhibitions and archaeology.
Besides the free permanent galleries, the ANMM also hosts an ever-changing program of temporary exhibitions and a fleet of historic craft at its wharves in Darling Harbour.
Art Gallery of NSW (Domain)
Quietly housed in an impressive classical building on the eastern side of the Domain, the Art Gallery of NSW is Sydney’s most important public gallery and one of the largest in Australia.
The general exhibition space is free and displays a wide variety Australian (from settlement to contemporary), European and Asian art.
3. Do a Sydney CBD Discovery Walk
The Sydney CBD is relatively small with most iconic landmarks and tourist attractions all within walking distance. Therefore, the best way to visit Sydney’s highlights is by simply wandering around. And should your feet get a bit achy after a few hours of walking, the city circle train line can always provide a bit of relief.
Starting at Central Station, the below walking tour takes in the best that Sydney has to offer, including Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, The Rocks, Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay, Opera House, Royal Botanic Garden and Hyde Park. Depending on your pace, this CBD discovery walk should take around 6-8 hours to complete.
- Darling Harbour
- King St Wharf + Barangaroo
- Barangaroo Reserve
- Sydney Harbour Bridge
- The Rocks
- Sydney Opera House
- Royal Botanic Garden + Domain
- Hyde Park
4. Visit One of Sydney’s Many Secluded Beaches
Sydney is blessed with more than 100 beaches, some big and world-renowned, others much smaller and not so well-known.
While it’s great to spend a day at Sydney’s popular beaches in Manly or Bondi, chances are you’ll be surrounded by thousands of other beach-goers and sunbathers. Sometimes we just want to escape the world and have a whole beach to ourselves.
And while that may be virtually impossible these days, there are still beaches in and around Sydney that are a bit of a secret. Beaches with hardly any facilities, but where you can still appreciate Sydney’s natural beauty in peace and quiet with maximum privacy.
5. Explore Sydney’s Trendy Suburbs
While the city of Sydney has a lot of free things to offer, visitors often ignore the trendy suburbs that surround the CBD. Here are a few examples of exciting Sydney suburbs that are definitely worth exploring.
The small suburb of Chippendale is situated right behind Sydney Central Station and is home to Central Park, a major mixed-use urban renewal project with lots of high-rise, shopping malls and restaurants.
Tucked away on the edge of Central Park, hipster Kensington Street is one of Sydney’s newest lifestyle and dining destinations. The highlight is Spice Alley, a tiny laneway with six hawker-style eateries covered by a ceiling of glowing lanterns.
Art galleries, Small theatres, fine dining restaurants, hipster cafes, fashion boutiques, great pubs, and of course the hugely popular Bourke Street Bakery. You can experience all of this and much more in the trendy inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.
If you’re a true foodie and you don’t want to be surrounded by tourists, Surry Hills is a great place to visit. Despite the somewhat overhyped hipster culture, Surry Hills really is a cool place with lots of great options for food and coffee.
Potts Point (Including Kings Cross)
If you’re looking for an area with great nightlife, lots of cafes, pretty Victorian style properties and affordable hotels, Potts Point should definitely be on your radar.
Kings Cross is an inner-city locality within the suburb of Potts Point and has its own train station, one stop away from the city. While Kings Cross may still have a reputation of being a rough neighbourhood, the area nowadays actually feels very safe during the day.
Strolling through the streets of Potts Point and having a coffee at one of the many cafes is quite a pleasant experience.
6. Spend a Day in the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is one of the most popular tourist and weekend-getaway destinations in New South Wales. Just over an hour away from Sydney, this World Heritage listed area is home to a large number of beautiful walking tracks, waterfalls, deep valleys and canyons, rainforests and numerous lookout points with breathtaking views.
The best way to experience the true beauty of the area is by doing one or more walking tracks. The Blue Mountains region is a true paradise for bushwalkers with literally hundreds of beautiful walking tracks to choose from, some very short and easy, others much more challenging.
If you do have dollars to spare, a Blue Mountains day tour may be a good option. It allows you to see all the highlights in one day without having to worry about transport and directions.
7. Discover the Royal Botanic Garden and the Domain
Established in 1816 and 30 hectares in size, the Royal Botanic Garden is Australia’s oldest botanic garden and scientific institution. Popular with tourists as well as with local office workers, the Royal Botanic Garden is home to a huge collection of plants from all around the world with a focus on Australia and the South Pacific.
Facing the eastern edge of the CBD skyline, the best way to access the Royal Botanic Garden is via Circular Quay and the Opera House. Follow the beautiful shoreline of the park to reach Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, a sandstone bench carved by convicts in 1811 for the then-governor’s wife.
From there, the path continues and connects with The Domain, a huge 34 hectares of open space just south of the Royal Botanic Garden.
8. Visit Manly North Head
Perhaps one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Sydney is Manly North Head, an area that not only offers panoramic Sydney Harbour views but also has a rich military history.
In addition, Manly North Head is home to very diverse wildlife and flora that can be best discovered by following an exciting walking track. This track is part of the famous Manly Scenic Walkway that also includes the Spit to Manly walk.
9. Walk the Harbour Bridge
You can’t leave Sydney without having walked across one of the world’s most famous bridges at least once. While climbing the Harbour Bridge may be an expensive exercise, walking across the bridge is absolutely free. The beauty of walking the Harbour Bridge is that you get to enjoy the most amazing views at both ends of the bridge, as long as you know where to go.
A popular spot with locals and city workers, Observatory Hill Park at the southern end of the bridge offers panoramic views of Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. From this park it’s only a short stroll to the pedestrian access point to the bridge.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge by foot, be sure to head down to Bradfield Park from where you can enjoy the most amazing views of the Sydney CBD and the bridge itself. Make the most of your time in this part of the city and head to nearby Luna Park and Wendy’s Secret Garden for more free things to do in Sydney.
10. Visit Cockatoo Island
The last activity in our list of free things to do in Sydney is visiting Cockatoo Island, conveniently situated in the middle of beautiful Sydney Harbour. Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World-Heritage and National Heritage Listed island. The island has a surprisingly rich history as a shipbuilding yard and Commonwealth naval base and also as a notorious convict island.
You can experience this part of Sydney by wandering around on the island and absorbing its well-preserved history. Catch a ferry from Circular Quay, score a free map from the visitor centre and enjoy a wonderful day out. Or you can also book a tent on the camping site and enjoy two days on this unique island.