Free things to do in Sydney

Free things to do in Sydney was written by travel blogger Anna Phipps of  Global Gallivanting.

Australia, and in particular Sydney, is an expensive place to visit. Luckily there are plenty of free things to do in Sydney so you can enjoy exploring this fabulous city even on a small budget. The city has many museums you can enjoy for free and there are parks, beaches and great walks – many of which are free. Here are some cool free things to do in Sydney.

The Rocks and the Rocks Discovery Museum

The Rocks Market on a beautiful late-summer day in mid-March, photo Henry Lee

The Rocks Market on a beautiful late-summer day in mid-March, photo Henry Lee

Sydney’s museums are a great way to discover the city on a budget and many are free. At the  Rocks Discovery Museum, housed in an 1850s sandstone warehouse in The Rocks, the oldest part of Sydney, you can learn about the city’s history and people The first Europeans arrived in Sydney in 1788 shortly after the penal colony was established and settled in The Rocks. The museum houses an interesting collection of images and archaeological artifacts that were found in the area. There are also interactive touch screens as well as audio and visual displays that help bring the history to life. After visiting the museum explore the steep lanes, historic houses, shops and pubs of this historic district.

Take a free walking tour

free things to do in Sydney - The free walking tour meets at. Andrew's Cathedral, photo Anna Phipps

The free walking tour meets at. Andrew’s Cathedral, photo/Anna Phipps

What better way to get your bearings in Sydney than by taking a walking tour. Luckily, if you’re on a budget there is an excellent free walking tour everyday 10.30am and 2.30pm departing from Town Hall Square on George Street adjacent to St Andrew’s Cathedral. The cathedral itself is historic. Completed in 1868, it is the oldest cathedral in Australia. The free walking tour lasts about three hours and is packed with historical and other interesting facts about the city. The guides also give you handy tips about transport, culture, restaurants, nightlife and events in the city. The tour takes you from Sydney’s convict beginnings right up to the modern day and includes the iconic sights of the harbour and opera house. During the tour you’ll see The Rocks District, Hyde Park Barracks, Customs House, St Mary’s Cathedral, Queen Victoria Building, Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House and underground tunnels.

Soak up the Iconic Sights

free things to do in Sydney - The Sydney Opera House, photo Anna Phipps

The Sydney Opera House, photo/Anna Phipps

You can’t visit Sydney without seeing the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Unfortunately, the only way to get inside the Opera House is to take a tour or buy a ticket for a performance, but you can enjoy it from the outside for free. Central Quay is a lovely area to walk around. You’ll discover memorable views of the opera house and the bridge. There’s also a nice bar outside the Opera House which is quite reasonably priced considering the location but the best views are from the Botanical Gardens which are free to enter and enjoy.

Relax in the Royal Botanical Gardens

Birds and flowers at the Royal Botanical Gardens, photo Sue Slaght

Birds and flowers at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydmey, photo Sue Slaght

Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens are a great way to relax in nature and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You’ll also get great views (and photo opportunities) of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The gardens, a short walk from Circular Quay and Hyde Park, have thousands of plants and birds to enjoy. Go all the way around to Mrs. Macquaries Point for the best photo opportunities of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The Government House is located in the Botanical Gardens and is free to explore. Volunteer guides lead free walks through the gardens every day (click here for schedule).

Walk over the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge

free things to do in Sydney - You can walk across the Harbor Bridge, photo Anna Phipps

You can walk across the Harbor Bridge, photo/Anna Phipps

There are two ways you can enjoy the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, one is by doing the bridge climb which is pricey; the other is by walking or cycling over the bridge for free while soaking up the gorgeous harbour views and getting amazing photos of the Sydney Opera House. You can access the bridge either from Cumberland Street in The Rocks or near Milsons Point jetty. It takes about 20 minutes to walk across.

Spend the day at the Beach

free things to do in Sydney - Spend a day at Bondi Beach, photo Anna Phipps-

Spend a day at Bondi Beach, photo Anna Phipps

Australia is famous for its beaches and Sydney is blessed with a gorgeous harbour and coastline. Some of the best beaches in the world are close to Sydney; best of all a day at the beach is free and they are all easily accessible by public transport. Manly and Palm Beach are two of the best in the North. The South is home to quieter beaches like Cronulla. Bondi Beach is Sydney’s most famous; it can get pretty crowded but it’s something you don’t want to miss when in Sydney. Relax on the beach, surf, swim or chill out on the grassy hill that rises above the stunning bay while watching the bronzed surfers.

Enjoy stunning coastal walks

free things to do in Sydney - The Bondi to Coogee walk, photo Anna Phipps

The Bondi to Coogee walk, photo/Anna Phipps

Another way to enjoy Sydney’s natural beauty and its dramatic coastline is by taking a coastal walk. The two I recommend are from Manly to Spit Bridge and the famous Bondi to Coogee walk. The Manly to Spit walk is an easy 10km jaunt that rises and dips over the cliffs and hugs the shore line as it passes through some of North Sydney’s most stunning beaches, bays and inlets. You’ll also pass glamorous harbour-facing houses, boat clubs and scenic deserted coves and beaches. It takes about three hours to complete. If you want to spend money, take the ferry to Manly ($14 return); it’s is a beautiful experience. The Bondi to Coogee walk is 6 km long and features stunning coastal views, beaches, parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools. You can feel the exhilarating force of the waves crashing below as you follow the path as it winds around the headland revealing ever more glorious views. Looking out to sea, you may even spot a humpback whale. The walk takes about two hours to complete. Stop to have a swim along the way or enjoy one of the cafes you pass along the way.

Art Gallery of NSW

Art Gallery of New South Wales, photo Henry Lee

Art Gallery of New South Wales, photo;Henry Lee

The Art Gallery of New South Wales, one of the best art collections in all of Australia, is free. The museum is a beautiful space with plenty of natural light and lovely views over Sydney and the harbour. The galleries have great collections of modern and contemporary Australian and International art including Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander art, Asian, colonial, and 19th century Australian and European art. Visitors can also explore temporary exhibitions, events, tours, talks, music and films.

This is the best of the many free things to do in Sydney. The city is blessed with stunning natural beauty, a great climate, iconic sites and world class museums making it easy to enjoy on a budget.

Want to know where to eat in Sydney? Read our post.

Anna Phipps is a travel writer, blogger and digital nomad who quit her job in the UK in 2012 to travel full time, independently and on a budget across Europe, India, Southeast Asia and Australia. She spent a year working and traveling around Australia in a campervan. The result: her and wrote a free e book about how to make the most of your working holiday in Australia. She is now based in Goa, India and shares her tips on traveling on a budget and working around the world on her blog , Global Gallivanting You can also follow her adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to Sue Slaght of Travel Tales of Life for the Royal Botanic Garden photo and to Henry Lee of Fotoeins Fotografie for The Range Market and Art Gallery of New South Wales photos.

What are your favorite free things to do in Sydney?

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6 Responses to “Free things to do in Sydney”

  1. Henry @fotoeins
    July 26, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

    Thanks for including my pictures in this post about (free things to do in) Sydney – a city which I greatly miss!
    Henry @fotoeins recently posted..Fotoeins Friday: Aoraki-Horokoau flyby, New ZealandMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      July 26, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

      My pleasure. Thank you for letting us use them.

  2. Anna
    July 31, 2017 at 3:53 am #

    Thanks for publishing my post – looks great and hopefully it can help budget travellers make the most of their time in this fab city!
    Anna recently posted..A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Berlin: Where to Work, Stay and Hang OutMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      July 31, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      Our pleasure.Thanks for taking the time to write it for us. Sydney looks like a cool place to visit.

  3. Nienke
    August 1, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

    LOVE Sydney! Hopefully we’ll be back for 2 days in October, way too short but always better than no Sydney 🙂 Can’t wait!!
    Nienke recently posted..A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek’s Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan’s ‘Otaku’ CultureMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      August 1, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

      You can use our free things to do list for your 2 days!

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