Between accommodation, dining out and booking day trips, Sydney is a fairly pricey city to visit. However, with its natural beauty and if you know where to go, there are plenty of free things to do. Next time you’re visiting, try some of these free things to do in Sydney.
Note: Not all of these ideas are dog-friendly. If you have a dog, also check out my guide to visiting Sydney with a dog. Share travelling tips and get the chance to draw more attention to your account. Buy instagram likes and increase your social media visibility.
1. Walk Across the Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from below at Walsh Bay
One of the best free things to do in Sydney is to walk across the Harbour Bridge. Yes, it’s possible to pay hundreds of dollars to climb the bridge at the centre of Sydney. But it costs nothing at all to walk across it.
Climb the steps and follow the footpath on the eastern side for over a kilometre to the northern shores of the harbour. Along the way take in views of the Opera House, the city skyline and boats down below.
If you’re feeling fit, you can also jog across. Or take the bike path on the western side if you are on a bike. Don’t forget to be careful with your hat if it’s a windy day!
2. Go for a Swim
Shelly Beach in Manly is relatively calm and perfect for a swim or snorkel
It’s hard to justify visiting Sydney and not going for a swim at one of the many beaches, although for most locals the main swimming season is only from November through to April.
Go to the world famous Bondi Beach, or head further south to Bronte Beach or Coogee Beach. To the north of the harbour, give Manly Beach a trip. Or walk south along the footpath to the calm Shelly Beach, also a great spot for snorkelling.
3. Picnic in the Botanic Gardens
Enjoying a beautiful day on the lawns of the Royal Botanic Gardens
Just past the Opera House are the Royal Botanic Gardens, founded in 1816. Located on the picturesque waterfront, and with many beautiful sunny lawns to spread out on, this is a beautiful spot to take a picnic and some wine to enjoy, either at lunchtime year round or during the evening in summer (gates are open until 8pm from November to February).
For a different type of picnic, there are also two more botanic gardens located to Sydney’s west, with the Australian Botanic Gardens in Mount Annah and the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens in Mount Tomah, also free to enter.
4. Explore the Exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art
An interactive exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art (or just the MCA) is located in the Rocks area of Sydney, close to Circular Quay station and the ferry wharves. Most exhibits at the museum are free to enter, except for some ticketed exhibits.
On rotating display are artworks from the museum’s collection, featuring contemporary artwork from Australian artists since the 1950s. There’s a particularly strong showing of recent indigenous artwork. Plus there’s new temporary exhibits every few months.
Afterwards, relax with a drink or something to eat at the cafe on the Sculpture Terrace, with its beautiful views across to the Opera House.
5. Catch some Free Music at the Opera Bar
The Opera Bar on a busy summer evening
Another great spot to have a drink on the harbour in Sydney is the Opera Bar, located on the waterfront just steps from the Opera House. Whilst the drinks are definitely not free, there is free music on offer most days of the week.
A variety of songwriters and bands perform, ranging from low-key to funky. It’s the perfect accompaniment to sitting back and enjoying the stunning harbour views.
6. Head to the White Rabbit Gallery
Chinese art on display at White Rabbit Gallery
Located in the inner-city suburb of Chippendale, just minutes from Central Station and the recent Central Park development, is the White Rabbit Gallery. Owned by a private art collector, it features four floors of contemporary Chinese art.
The exciting exhibits change over twice a year. (Double check the website before visiting, as it shuts during the change over period. Also note the gallery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.)
If you want to spend longer in the hip neighbourhood, the teahouse on the ground floor is worth visiting. It serves a wide selection of Chinese teas and handmade dumplings between 11:00am and 3:30pm. Plus the surrounding streets are home to many smaller commercial art galleries, artist-run spaces and cute cafes.
7. Complete the Bondi to Coogee Walk
Icebergs Pool at Bondi Beach
Whether it’s ideal weather or not for a dip in the water at Bondi, except on the hottest of days of the year the Bondi to Coogee Walk is a popular free option.
Starting at the southern end of Bondi Beach, the walk meanders for 6km along the ocean front of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. It passes through Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and Gordons Bay, before finishing at Coogee Beach.
It’s hard to resist stopping along the way at one of the many cafes or for a swim. 8. Or Walk from the Spit Bridge to Manly
Lighthouse along the Spit to Manly Walk
Another popular walk close to the centre of Sydney is the walk from the Spit Bridge to Manly, on Sydney Harbour’s northern shores. More of a bush walk than an oceanfront stroll, it takes 9km to complete one way.
Both ends are accessible by bus, plus there’s the option of returning from Manly to the city by ferry. Along the way you’ll pass through Clontarf Beach, parts of the Sydney Harbour National Park, Aboriginal rock engravings, many vistas of Sydney harbour and multiple small beaches to swim at.
For maps and notes, see this information pamphlet from Wildwalks, a great website that also has many other details of walks around Sydney.
9. Catch a Free Festival
Free concert at Sydney Festival
Year round in Sydney there are multiple free festivals to catch, so there’s bound to be something happening when you’re visiting Sydney. Some of the stand out festivals that happen every year include:
- Vivid Sydney: View the free light installations along the Sydney waterfront plus in other inner city locations. Runs from late May to June each year, free except for ticketed programs of events.
- Sculpture by the Sea: For a couple of weeks from late October to November, the headland south of Bondi Beach and Tamarama are populated by over 100 sculptures, all free to view. It’s very busy on the weekends; try and catch it during the week.
- Sydney Festival: Every January in Sydney it’s Sydney Festival time. Whilst the bulk of the music, theatre, dance and arts program is ticketed, some free concerts are included, usually at the Domain and Parramatta Park.