35 Free Things to Do in Sydney (Activities and Places)

Last updated: December 22, 2023

Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive places to live or spend your holiday.

However, with a near-perfect climate and a great variety of natural sights and unique landmarks 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 favourite free things to do in Sydney that will spare your wallet.

Join us, as we uncover the city’s hidden spots and budget-friendly wonders, proving that the best things in life (or at least in Sydney) are indeed free.

Top 35 Free Sydney Activities

In no particular order, here are 35 free Sydney activities you should consider.

1. Hike from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

One of Sydney’s most popular walking tracks is the Bondi to Coogee Walk, a 6 km long coastal walk between two of Australia’s best beaches.

With so much to see and do along this coastal trail, hiking from Bondi to Coogee is a must for every visitor. And, of course, this walk is completely free.

Read more about this hike in our guide to the Bondi to Coogee Walk.

2. Do a Sydney CBD Discovery Walk

Sydney CBD discovery walk
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 simply wandering around.

Sydney’s city is home to various walking trails, but our favourite is the CBD Discovery Walk. And should you get a bit tired after a few hours walking, the City Circle train and George Street light rail can provide relief!

Sydney CBD Discovery Walk:

  1. Chinatown
  2. Darling Harbour
  3. King St Wharf + Barangaroo
  4. Barangaroo Reserve
  5. Sydney Harbour Bridge
  6. The Rocks
  7. Sydney Opera House
  8. Royal Botanic Garden + Domain
  9. Hyde Park

Read our guide to the best city walks with more of these exciting walking trails in or close to the Sydney CBD.

3. Discover the Royal Botanic Garden

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Established in 1816 and 30 hectares in size, the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney is Australia’s oldest botanic garden and scientific institution.

Popular with tourists and local office workers alike, the Royal Botanic Garden is home to a vast collection of plants from all around the world.

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. From there, follow the shoreline and start exploring this beautiful area.

4. Explore Manly’s North Head

Burragula Lookout on Manly's North Head
Burragula Lookout on Manly’s North Head

Perhaps one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Sydney is Manly’s North Head. This area not only offers panoramic Sydney Harbour views but also has a fascinating military history.

North Head is also home to diverse wildlife and flora that can be best discovered and explored by doing the exciting Manly North Head circuit walking track.

Read our guide to the Manly North Head Walk for a complete outline of this fantastic hiking adventure.

5. Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk
Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk

One of the best free activities in Sydney is walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. While climbing the bridge may be expensive, walking across the Harbour Bridge is free.

Once you’ve crossed the bridge from the city, head down to Bradfield Park, where you can enjoy the most amazing views of the Sydney CBD and the bridge itself.

Read our guide to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk to learn more about this unique free Sydney activity.

6. Explore Cockatoo Island

Convict Precinct on Cockatoo Island
Convict Precinct on Cockatoo Island

One of our favourite free things to do in Sydney is visiting Cockatoo Island, beautifully located in the middle of Sydney Harbour.

Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage and National Heritage Listed island, and has a rich history as a shipbuilding yard, Commonwealth naval base, and a notorious convict island. So, catch a ferry from Circular Quay and explore this unique island.

Read our Cockatoo Island guide to learn more about this unique spot in Sydney Harbour.

7. Visit a Secluded Beach

Athol Beach
Athol Beach

As most will know, Sydney is home to a beautiful Harbour and has a long coastline. As such, it’s no surprise that Sydney has a lot to offer when it comes to beaches.

We all know Bondi, Manly, Coogee, and Cronulla. But if you prefer a more quiet and secluded beach experience, Sydney may have a few surprises up its sleeve. Athol Beach, Resolute Beach, and Milk Beach are just a few of our favourite secluded beaches.

Read our guide to the prettiest secluded beaches in Sydney and pick your favourite strip of sand to visit.

8. Explore Trendy Potts Point

Potts Point in Sydney
Potts Point in Sydney

If you’re looking for an area with great nightlife, lots of cafes, beautiful Victorian-style properties and affordable hotels, Potts Point should 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 from the city.

Strolling through the streets of Potts Point, combined with a coffee at one of the many cafes, is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

9. Spend a Day in the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters

Just over an hour from Sydney, the Blue Mountains area is home to many beautiful walking tracks, waterfalls, valleys, rainforests, and countless lookouts with breathtaking views.

If you wish to escape the city for a day, the Blue Mountains is where you must go. Easy to travel to by car and by public transport, a day in the Blue Mountains will make you feel instantly refreshed.

Read our guides to the best Blue Mountains walks and the best things to do in the Blue Mountains to help plan your day out.

10. Enjoy a Picnic with Views

Picnic at Berry Island Reserve
Picnic at Berry Island Reserve

With so many beautiful parks, lookouts, beaches, and other sights in Sydney, going for a picnic with friends and family is a local’s favourite pastime.

Some of the best spots to go for a picnic are the Royal Botanic Garden, Observatory Hill, North Head, Robertson Park in Watsons Bay, Cremorne Point, Berry Island, and the West Head Lookout.

Read our guide to the best Sydney picnic spots for a complete list of great locations to organise a picnic with views.

11. Explore Sydney’s South Head

Hornby Lighthouse in Watsons Bay
Hornby Lighthouse in Watsons Bay

South Head is one of the two Sydney Headlands that form the entrance to Sydney Harbour, with North Head being the other headland.

The best way to explore South Head is by doing the Watsons Bay walking trail, which includes highlights such as the Hornby Lighthouse, South Head Heritage Trail, and Camp Cove Beach.

Read our guide to the Watsons Bay Walk with a summary of the highlights at South Head.

12. Watch a Sydney Sunset

Views from Observatory Hill Park
Views from Observatory Hill Park

With such a beautiful skyline and an even prettier Harbour, it’s hardly surprising that there are many places in Sydney where you can enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Some of our favourite spots to watch a sunset are Robertson Park, the Burragula Lookout, Mrs Macquaries Point, Dudley Page Reserve, and Observatory Hill Park.

Read our guide to the best Sydney sunset spots for a complete list of beautiful locations to watch a sunset.

13. Go Snorkelling at Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach
Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach in Manly forms part of Cabbage Tree Bay, a protected aquatic reserve covering around 20 hectares. To get there, simply follow the walking path from Manly’s main beach, past the Manly Life Saving Club and the Fairy Bower Sea Pool.

Besides swimming, the beach is a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkelling, with lots of marine life to discover in the shallow water.

Read our article with the best things to do in Manly for a complete list of exciting activities in this beautiful part of Sydney.

14. Enjoy City Views from Kirribilli

Broughton St Lookout in Kirribilli
Broughton St Lookout in Kirribilli

Kirribilli is an affluent suburb on Sydney’s lower north shore, just east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The southern shoreline of Kirribilli offers fantastic views of Circular Quay and the city skyline. Start at the Broughton St lookout, and from there, walk eastbound for more viewpoints.

Read our guide to the best lookouts in Sydney for more of these great lookout points with the best views.

15. Visit the Art Gallery of NSW

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery of New South Wales

Housed in an imposing building along the eastern boundary of the Domain, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is Sydney’s most important public gallery and one of the largest art museums in Australia.

The free general exhibition space is free and has a wide variety of Australian, European, and Asian art on display. The new Sydney Modern Project extension, which opened in December 2022, is also free to visit.

Read our list of free museums in Sydney for more ideas to spend a lazy but educational afternoon.

16. Visit the Justice and Police Museum

Justice and Police Museum in Sydney
Justice and Police Museum

Another free museum we strongly recommend is the Justice and Police Museum at the corner of Phillip Street and Albert Street. It is open each Saturday and Sunday.

The museum consists of two 19th-century courthouses and a police station. It offers an extensive collection of historical artefacts, photographs, and documents related to police and law.

17. Walk to Bradleys Head

Bradleys Head
Bradleys Head

For a quick and easy Sydney Harbour escape, catch a ferry to Taronga Zoo and do the short, family-friendly walking trail to Bradleys Head.

Bradleys Head is a fascinating spot in Sydney Harbour, easy to recognise from the water by the large mast that stands on the tip of the headland, overlooking the Harbour.

Read our Bradleys Head Walk article with all the highlights of this walking trail, including pictures.

18. Discover the Auburn Botanic Gardens

Auburn Botanic Gardens
Auburn Botanic Gardens

Established in 1977, the Botanic Auburn Gardens in Sydney’s west are home to several themed gardens, a community picnic area, a large playground, a rainforest garden, and a scented garden.

The highlight of the park is the Japanese Garden, built around a large lake. This garden is at its best during the cherry blossom season but is a beautiful spot to visit year-round.

Read our guide to the best gardens in Sydney for more of these beautiful places to visit.

19. Enjoy the Views at Dobroyd Head

Views from Dobroyd Head
Views from Dobroyd Head

Dobroyd Head in Balgowlah Heights is home to a few vantage points that offer fantastic views of the Harbour, the two Heads, and the ocean further away.

Getting to Dobroyd Head by car is easy, with ample parking at Tania Park. But an even better way to travel to Dobroyd Head is by doing the Spit to Manly Walk.

Read our guide to the Spit to Manly Walk with Dobroyd Head as one of the many highlights.

20. Explore The Rocks

The Australian Heritage Hotel in The Rocks
The Australian Heritage Hotel in The Rocks

The Rocks is Sydney’s once-notorious historic district located west of Circular Quay and south of the Harbour Bridge.

This small neighbourhood is a wonderful area to explore, with lots of cafes, restaurants, pubs, and museums to visit.

Read our guide to the best pubs in The Rocks to help you plan your day out in this popular area in Sydney.

21. Visit the State Library of NSW

State Library of New South Wales
State Library of New South Wales

The heritage-listed State Library of New South Wales, located between the Domain and the Royal Botanic Garden, is Australia’s oldest library, established in 1826.

Besides being an actual library, the State Library is also home to several galleries with various artworks on permanent and temporary display.

If you’d like a few hours of quiet reading or studying, go and visit the State Library. It’s quite an inspiring place to be, with a cafe nearby if you’d like a coffee.

22. Swim in an Ocean Pool

Dee Why Rockpool
Dee Why Rockpool

Sydney’s coastline, from Palm Beach in the north to Cronulla in the south, is home to a surprisingly large amount of ocean and rock pools.

Almost all of Sydney’s major beaches have one or more of these man-made ocean pools, and some of them even have a strong heritage value.

Read our guide to the best ocean pools in Sydney with a complete list of pools along the Sydney coastline.

23. Explore the Paddington Reservoir Gardens

Paddington Reservoir Gardens
Paddington Reservoir Gardens

The Paddington Reservoir Gardens are a state heritage-listed site hidden away in the trendy suburb of Paddington.

The Gardens incorporate the former Paddington Reservoir, which was part of Sydney’s third water supply system in the 19th century.

The site opened in 2009 in its current form and has become an interesting mix of the original reservoir’s foundations, boardwalks, and garden beds built in and around it.

Read our guide with hidden gems in Sydney for more of these unique places to visit in Sydney.

24. Swim at Barangaroo Reserve

Marrinawi Cove swimming pool at Barangaroo Reserve
Marrinawi Cove swimming pool

Did you know there is a public swimming pool at Barangaroo Reserve? Opened in 2023, the new swimming enclosure at Marrinawi Cove has been a welcome addition to Sydney Harbour.

The enclosure has safety netting around the swimming area, safety railings, signage, and shower and toilet facilities.

Read our Barangaroo Reserve article to learn more about this unique area so close to the Sydney CBD.

25. Explore the Royal National Park

Royal National Park
Royal National Park

Established in 1879, the Royal National Park is Australia’s first and the world’s second national park.

Located just south of Sydney, the park is home to various walking trails, lookouts, waterfalls, and beaches. All of this is free, but you do need to pay a small fee to park your car inside the boundaries of the national park.

Read our guides to the best walks in Royal National Park and the best Royal National Park beaches to help plan your day out.

26. Visit a Weekend Market

Manly Markets
Manly Markets

Throughout Sydney, various open-air markets come alive on the weekends.

These markets offer an eclectic mix of artisan goods, fresh local produce, and unique handcrafted items, reflecting the city’s diverse culture and creativity.

Some of the most popular free weekend markets to visit:

27. Discover Sydney’s Historic Buildings

Cadmans Cottage in Sydney
Cadmans Cottage

Sydney may be a relatively young city, especially compared to many European cities, but the city is still home to various historic buildings from the 19th century.

Many of these historical buildings are on Macquarie Street, such as the Hyde Park Barracks, the Sydney Mint, and the Parliament House. Some of these buildings are free to visit.

Read our guide with historical buildings in Sydney to plan a fun day out exploring in the Sydney CBD.

28. Visit the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park

Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park
Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park

The impressive Anzac Memorial is a heritage-listed war memorial, museum, and monument located in the southern part of Hyde Park near Liverpool Street.

The Anzac Memorial is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and is free to visit. You can also join a free one-hour tour on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, exploring the fascinating art, architecture, and history of the Memorial.

29. Explore the Queen Victoria Building

Queen Victoria Building in Sydney
Queen Victoria Building in Sydney

First opened in the late 19th century, the heritage-listed Queen Victoria Building (the QVB) is one of Sydney’s most impressive buildings, located on George Street in the middle of the CBD.

After having undergone several major renovations over the years, the QVB is now one of Sydney’s most popular shopping destinations, offering a variety of fashion boutiques, jewellery shops, and cafes.

30. Visit the Darling Square Library

Darling Square Library
Darling Square Library (photo: City of Sydney)

The futuristic Darling Square Library spans across two floors of the already iconic Exchange building in the new Darling Square precinct in Haymarket.

The library offers public computers, a children’s area, free WiFi, plenty of study spaces, meeting rooms, and ample free space to read or study.

31. Swim at MacCallum Pool

Maccallum Pool
Maccallum Pool

The MacCallum Pool in Cremorne Point is a historic swimming pool where visitors can swim laps against the backdrop of the Sydney skyline and Harbour Bridge.

The pool is free for everyone to enjoy, but it does close regularly for cleaning. Check the North Sydney Council website for exact opening hours.

Read our Cremorne Point Walk article with a summary of the highlights and photos of this fun walk.

32. Cycle Along the Parramatta River

Parramatta Valley Cycleway
Parramatta Valley Cycleway

Love cycling? The Parramatta Valley Cycleway is a 15 km long shared-use cycle and pedestrian path along the Parramatta River in Sydney’s west.

The starting point of this cycleway is at Morrison Bay Park in Putney, and continues along the river to Parramatta Wharf.

Read our guide to the best cycling routes in Sydney for more of these great bicycle tracks.

33. Visit the St Mary’s Cathedral

St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney
St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney

The impressive St Mary’s Cathedral, located on Collins Street next to Hyde Park, is the spiritual home of Sydney’s Catholic community.

Everyone can walk in for free, or otherwise, free guided tours take place every Sunday at 2 pm, exploring the history and architecture of the cathedral.

34. Climb to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Barrenjoey Lighthouse
Barrenjoey Lighthouse

The heritage-listed Barrenjoey Lighthouse was built in 1881 and stands 113 metres above sea level on the Barrenjoey Headland.

Visiting this lighthouse is free, but you will need to do the steep Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk to get there.

Read our guide to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk for more details about this exciting walking trail, including photos.

35. Be Active at Centennial Park

Centennial Park
Centennial Park

Centennial Park is Sydney’s biggest free outdoor playground in the Eastern Suburbs and consists of 189 hectares of wide-open spaces dedicated to recreation and leisure.

Go for a stroll or a jog, play football, walk the dog, or have a picnic; Centennial Park is a wonderful place to spend a few hours outside.

 
 

35 Best free things to do in Sydney

 

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