Sydney is considered one of the most liveable and beautiful cities in the world. Located on the south east coast of Australia, set on the stunning harbour, with some of Australia’s best beaches, it really is a gorgeous city with so much on offer. A whopping 5 million people call Sydney home and whilst the city has been repeatedly listed amongst the most expensive cities in the world, our Adventure Clues experts were determined to share their secrets and hot tips of free things to do in Sydney , whether you are a local or a tourist. Whether you are looking for Sydney attractions, things to do in Sydney at night or even things to do with kids, we have you covered.
The CBD offers world-class theatres, great shopping, museums, art galleries and restaurants featuring cuisines from around the world. Sydney is a blend of cultures where 21st century architecture, a dynamic economy, pristine nature, work, quality of life and beaches blend into a modern, safe and easy-going city. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun in Sydney, whether you live there or you’re on holiday. Here are the 20 best free things to do in Sydney, for those days when you want to save some money but still see the sights or some of Sydney’s best attractions.
1. The Art Gallery of NSW
Admission to the gallery is free. Here you will find an impressive variety of art on display, they also have free talks and films on Wednesday nights, so don’t rush home, make a day of it!
2. The Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is the second-oldest national park in the world. With over 100km of walking tracks to explore, you can venture across rocky cliffs, onto beaches and into rainforest gullies. Whilst you pay $11 per car, it’s free on foot and easily accessible by public transport. This is a favourite for locals on weekends.
3. Murray Rose Pool
Don’t be fooled by the name, this isn’t really a pool, but an enclosure that is great for the whole family. It’s open year-round and has pontoons to relax on, for those who’d rather sunbake than swim. If you are looking for somewhere safe for the kids this is a great option, a perfect swimming enclosure for those less confident swimmers as well.
4. Barrenjoey Lighthouse
20 minutes walk from Palm Beach, made famous by Home & Away, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse is part of a hiking trail that’s popular with tourists and residents alike. You get amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the spit below. Sometimes, during winter, you might even be lucky enough to spot passing whales! This truly is a money can’t buy day out in Sydney.
5. Royal Botanic Gardens
No trip to Sydney is complete without visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens. There’s everything from a tropical greenhouse to succulents, and it makes a great spot for relaxing or having a picnic. There are also free tours, which are informative and interesting. This is great for the whole family, let the kids burn energy, run free and roam the beautiful surrounds.
6. The Bondi to Coogee Walk
This is an incredible 6km walk, along one of the most gorgeous coastlines you’ll ever see. You can expect this to take about 2 hours to complete. Along the way you will get to see quite a few iconic Sydney beaches, so take a break, have a swim or let the kids play on the beach.
7. Be amused at Luna Park
There’s no entry fee to this historic fun park with superb harbour views. It’s $10 per ride, though. Our hot tip is to enjoy The Coney Island ride which offers the best value for money. If you purchase your tickets online on Mondays you can get up to 27% off an unlimited rides pass!
Walking through Chinatown is a great way to spend an afternoon, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. It’s a must visit for anyone travelling to Sydney and is also a great place to pick up some interesting (and cheap!) souvenirs. Whilst not free, you can’t go past the cheap eats – they are truly delicious. Stop in for some dim sum, you will not be disappointed.
9. Harbour Bridge
Walking across the Harbour Bridge is free, and allows you to take in the harbour’s amazing views. You can watch boats and ferries go by; it’s a fun way to pass the time. What many people don’t know is that there are gaps in the mesh safety fencing so you can talk lots of photos.
10. Cahill Expressway Viewing Platform
This viewing platform is on top of the Circular Quay train station, and is easily accessed by two lifts in the Quay’s south-eastern corner. You’ll get stunning views of the harbour and the Quay. No need to pay tourist prices for some of the other attractions – you will see everything you need to from here.
11. The Museum of Contemporary Art
The MCA is a fantastic space, full of contemporary art exhibitions to view and ponder. You can guide yourself with the free app, or there are also free-guided tours. It’s located in Circular Quay, so it’s easily accessible. This is a fabulous option on a rainy day.
12. The State Library of NSW
This is a must-see for any book lover! Over 5 million books, along with a free daily tour and amazing exhibitions, means there’s no shortage of things to explore here. You aren’t allowed to borrow any books as this is a reference library, but it’s still fantastic to experience the atmosphere. If you are looking for something to do with kids during the week or in the school holidays they have a fantastic regular story time and school holiday program.
13. Centennial Park
This is a park with fascinating history: it opened in 1901, after men who were unemployed were recruited to transform the catchment area into a large, beautiful park. Perfect for a weekend picnic, rollerblading or a simple stroll. There are also lots events to attend. Check out their website for what’s on now. Whilst this is not free we just have to share this, today Centennial Park is one of the few inner city parks in the world to offer horse-riding facilities.
14. Get moving at Opera Bar
Whilst a drink will set you back, the terrace bar at Opera bar offers some of the most magnificent views in Sydney and they have free live entertainment each night and on weekend afternoons. Even if you are strolling by, let your toes get tapping.
15. Darling Quarter
Darling Quarter is a free wonderland for both adults and children. This amazing precinct has something for everyone. From yoga, to open air cinema and the famous kids playground this is a must see. Your kids will be in awe when they see this playground – this isn’t your typical playground. If your kids had a playground wish list what would be on it? Climbing ropes? A flying fox? Water games? Slides? This playground has all that and much more. The water play area is complete with pumps and water buckets so bring a change of clothes. You will get lost for hours here – so much to do for everyone.
16. Swim & Snorkel at Shelley Beach
We know Sydney is blessed with some of the best beaches in Australia, quite possibly the best in the world but Shelley Beach in Manly, truly is something else. Get up close to marine life and snorkel the calm waters. You will see a range of fish, sea dragons and stingrays. This is a family favourite – for locals and tourists.
17. Check out Surry Hills
Inner city Sydney suburbs offer something quite unique and very special. You will be mesmerised as you walk along Crown Street, Bourke Street and Cleveland Streets with leafy streets and old terrace homes; there are not many artistic suburbs quite like this one any more. Surry Hills will offer you an amazing range of cafes, wine bars and pubs if you are looking for a pit stop.
18. Bus About
We know walking around the city isn’t for everyone – especially if you have already done some of the coastal walks – you may be tired or just want to sit back and take in what the city has to offer. The free CBD shuttle (route 555) runs every ten minutes from Central Station to Circular Quay. The bus goes via Elizabeth and George Street. This is a great way to get about and see the inner city or simply just catch your bearings.
This is somewhat a controversial one for our team as we have no self-control and for us, markets can quickly become expensive. You will be tempted by some of the most tantalizing
foods, freshest flowers and hand made clothes and collectables. However, if you can fight temptation there is no better way to spend a weekend in Sydney. Stroll the markets and take in all they have to offer. Some of our favourites are;
- Paddington Markets – Open Saturday’s with 150 unique stalls
- Bondi Markets – Open Sunday’s offering original designer clothing, hand made jewellery, arts and crafts
- Paddy’s Markets – Huge market near Chinatown selling fruit & vegetables, clothing, flowers, sunglasses, jewellery, tourist souvenirs, and much more.
- Sydney Fish Market – authentic working fish market.
20. Observatory Hill
We have saved this one for last and to be honest we didn’t know if we wanted to share it. Just behind the Rocks you will find Observatory Hill, a popular spot for locals – which many tourists are not aware of. Observatory Hill gives you a million dollar view of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour and is the most perfect spot for a picnic lunch. The locals who know about Observatory Hill don’t want us to share this one with the masses.
As you can see there’s something for everyone when you’re looking for free things to do in Sydney, whether you’re a lover of architecture, a fan of nature and historical walks, an appreciator of art or otherwise. These 20 things are some of our favourite recommendations for those who’re visiting Sydney, or want to explore their hometown.