Last updated on 1 December, 2022
Sydney Australia, on the lands of the original Aboriginal Gadigal people, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful cities. On the spectacular Sydney Harbour, scattered with iconic landmarks and with nearby stunning beaches and coastline, a vibrant city there are many fun free things to do in Sydney.
Exploring what to do in Sydney for free is easy with our comprehensive list complied by a group of experienced bloggers. Their recommendations of Sydney free attractions are sure to impress and give you ideas of what to do to make sure you get to enjoy all the diversity Sydney has to offer.
Visit Sydney as a solo traveller, as a couple or with kids. Sydney is for everyone and is easily done on a travel budget.
- Wander Iconic Sydney Landmarks
- Free Walking Tours
- Coastal Walks
- Get Your Art Fix
- Sydney City Gardens
- Visit Sydney’s Best Beaches
- Check Out a Sydney Market
- Save Money | Transport Tips
- Other Travel Guides
- PIN It!
Wander Iconic Sydney Landmarks
The Rocks Sydney
By Holly Kent from Globeblogging
Dating back to the late 1700’s, The Rocks is one of the oldest parts of Sydney. Steeped in a sordid history of crime, hardship and disease, and stone buildings dating back to the 1800’s, the old cobblestone streets offer many delights for the wanderer. Stop by to see the heritage listed Susannah Place, built-in 1844 the terrace of four houses is now a museum during the day. There are tales of murder behind number 64.
The Rocks boast several of Australia’s oldest pubs. The Hero of Waterloo is one of these, which has a hidden smugglers passage from the basement leading to the wharf. It was once used to kidnap drugged men and deliver them to the waiting whaling ships. By the time the men awoke they were far out to sea.
Be sure to stroll up to Observatory Hill for one of the best views in Sydney of the Harbour Bridge from the bandstand.
There’s plenty to see on a self-guided stroll, but if you are interested in the history there are also several walking tours to choose from, including Ghost Tours of The Rocks. Some of these are free and some will include access to ruins not publicly accessible.
Where: Via George Street, Sydney
Opening times: 24/7
Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk
By Wendy Werneth from The Nomadic Vegan
While the Sydney Bridge Climb comes with a hefty price tag, there’s another way to walk across the bridge that’s completely free. There are no official opening hours, so you can do this walk at any time of day. Take the pedestrian walkway along the road on the eastern side, which offers the most iconic views of monuments such as the Rocks, the Opera House and Fort Denison. Since you are walking next to a seven-lane highway, you won’t see anything on the western side. The lane on that side is for cyclists, not pedestrians
In total, the path is about 1.5 kilometres long, and it takes about 20 minutes to walk across. This is actually part of a longer walk called the Cahill Walk, which takes about 45 minutes in total. To get to the start of the walk, climb the Bridge Stairs and turn left at the top. There are other access points by lift that make the walk wheelchair accessible too. The high safety fence does obstruct the view somewhat, but there’s a gap at head height that you can take photos through. You’ll finish in Milsons Point, a popular place with more great views and some cute cafés. I recommend the wraps at Rotika, which is one of Sydney’s best vegan restaurants.
Where: Bradfield Highway, Sydney
Opening times: 24/7
Sydney Opera House
By Oksana and Max St John from Drink Tea and Travel
The Sydney Opera House is one of most iconic buildings in Australia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the most popular tourist attraction in the nation, and the result of a 1950’s competition.
An extraordinary engineering feat, meant to resemble a shell, the Sydney Opera House is free to explore from the outside! You can meander along the boardwalk at Circular Quay and hang out on the steps. Not only will you get up close to the immense building but from this perspective, you have beautiful views of the water and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
You can enter the building and explore the foyer free of charge but there is an additional fee for a tour or to see a show. If you feel like lingering outside a bit longer and have a little extra in your budget for a good meal or a refreshing drink, there are also three restaurants on site.
Where: Bennelong Point, Sydney
Opening times: 24/7
Stroll Around Circular Quay
Monique Skidmore at TripAnthropologist
Circular Quay is a harbour on Sydney Cove, between The Rocks and Bennelong Point on the edge of city’s northern side. It’s real name is “Semi-Circular Quay.” When Europeans landed in Sydney with the First Fleet in 1788, there were over 5000 Australian Aborigines of the Cadigal Clan living in the area around Sydney Cove. White settlement of Australia grew from Circular Quay across the country.
These days Circular Quay is an international passenger terminal for cruise ships as well as a domestic ferry terminal, and it is full of historic laneways, harbourside walks, shopping and dining areas, and tourist sites.
Construction of Circular Quay started in 1837 and today you can walk past high sandstone walls and the old wharves constructed in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the most historic building in Circular Quay is Customs House that dates from 1844. The wool industry grew so large that wool stores dominated the Quay and eventually shipping moved away to the larger Darling Harbour. This left the Quay free for passenger ferries. After the ferry terminals came the railway and so Circular Quay has become a major tourist site in Sydney in part because of its transportation links. Ferries leave from here to Taronga Zoo, Manly, Luna Park and other harbour side stops. It is a few minutes’ walk to either The Rocks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and Botanical Gardens. It is one of the most popular places to watch the free New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Where: Circular Quay
Opening times: 24/7
Play at Darling Harbour
By Bryony Sumner at Coasting Australia
Darling Harbour is one of our favourite places to visit when we visit Sydney. It’s a large recreational and pedestrian precinct with something for the whole family – you can definitely spend the day there with so many things to do in Darling Harbour.
Situated on the west side of the city, you can easily reach Darling Harbour on foot, it’s just a short walk from Sydney’s Town Hall train station. Our favourite free thing to do is to enjoy the giant children’s playground – Tumbalong Park – which is easily one of the best playgrounds in Australia. There is something there for kids of all ages from toddler to teen (as well as adventurous adults!)
There is a giant slide and an even bigger spider’s web style climbing frame – the Octanet – for older kids, as well as a 21 metre flying fox. Younger kids love the sand pit and the swings, and on a hot day the entire family can cool down in the water play area, with jets, pump stations, water scoops and screws. The playground is in the Darling Quarter area of the harbour, and surrounded by cafes and restaurants to keep your energy up!
Where: 11 Harbour Street, Sydney
Opening times: 24/7
Free Walking Tours
Take a Walk with a Sydney Greeter
By Paula Morgan from Sydney Expert
Sydney Greeters is a fantastic service that matches solo travellers or small groups and families with a friendly local who will show the visitors a part of the city they love.
Your Greeter will usually work with you to find something that fits your group’s interests and abilities. As one of the founding volunteers I have taken guests on dozens of walks including harbour bush walks, visits to some of our best beaches, street art hunts and inner-city strolls that take in interesting architecture and shops.
As well as getting some local insights on the city’s most exciting spots you will meet a local and perhaps make a new friend. We have about 50 volunteers who range in age from 30-70 plus.
At peaks times of the year, there are sometimes more requests than volunteers so try to request your greet a few weeks in advance 3-6 weeks before arrival is ideal. This gives you the best chance of being matched with a local.
Greets generally last 3-4 hours but sometimes they can run longer if everyone is having fun. If you have limited time, it’s best to let your Greeter know at the start of the day or during the planning email. It’s also important to tell them of any physical limitations anyone in your group may have.
The goal of the organisation is cross-cultural friendship and I can honestly say I have made new friends from around the world in the 5 years I have been involved. I have been lucky enough to meet my guests when I have travelled to their hometowns. It is a very rewarding experience for everyone.
Where: Varies – to be arranged with your Greeter
Opening times: Varies – to be arranged with your Greeter
Do a Free Sydney Walking Tour*
By Pauline Vergnet from BeeLoved City
If you want to explore Sydney, there is no better way to do it than by going on a walking tour.
There are several free walking tours in Sydney. The company I’m Free Walking Tours is the most popular. They have offices all over Australia including Sydney and Melbourne!
They run 3 tours per day, every day. You will meet your guide at Town Hall Square on George Street and walk around the city for a couple of hours.
During the tour, the guide will show you around and tell you plenty of stories about the city and its culture. You will learn about the opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge and plenty more!
It’s a great way to discover the history of Australia and see beautiful sights. The guide will also give you tips on where to eat and what to do. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, they love to share their knowledge!
Sydney Free Walking tours also offer a ghost tour and one dedicated to the history of the Rocks.
* Please note that although they are called free, they are on a “pay what you think it’s worth” basis.
Where: Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street, Sydney
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10.30am and 2.30pm
Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay Coastal Walk
By Cassie Bailey at Cassie the Hag
The Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay walk is one of my favourite things to do in Sydney. Despite beginning only a 20-minute bus ride away from Sydney centre, you’ll soon feel immersed in nature. The 8km walk winds across the coastline with ample views pointing towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background, over the deep blue waters. The boardwalks are beautiful and well-maintained and there are many nice cafes and sandy beaches to stop off at or take a swim along the way.
Watson’s Bay itself has gorgeous parks and beaches, including the sweet Camp Cove. From here, you can walk to the red and white striped Hornby Lighthouse. With the photogenic lighthouse and stunning city views beyond, this is one of the best photography locations in Sydney. Though this coastal walk is a must-do for anyone who wants to get a real sense of how Sydney brings modern city life and the outdoors closer together like no other. From Watson’s Bay, it’s a 50-minute bus back to the city or a scenic ferry ride directly back to Circular Quay.
For a shorter walk, you can just do the well-known Rose Bay Hermitage Foreshore Walk. At only 1.8km, this winding boardwalk has nearly constant stunning views over the Harbour Bridge, with perfect sandy coves and the Parsley Suspension Bridge adding to the scenery.
Where: Rose Bay or Watson Bay
Opening times: 24/7
Walk From Bondi to Coogee
By Kerrie and Woody from Just Go Travelling
When it comes to free things to do in Sydney, not many can live up to the Bondi to Coogee walk.
The walk is about 6 km taking you over the coastal cliffs with magnificent views of the ocean. In the walk, you will come across beaches, parks and rock pools. There is even a fun cove where people sunbathe and take their dogs for a swim.
To fully enjoy the Bondi to Coogee walk you will need a minimum of 2 hours. This is plenty of time to stop off at places such as Bronte Beach and top up on that golden sun tan.
The walk involves a slight climb in certain parts but it is not too strenuous and it is family-friendly.
A great insider’s tip is to start from Coogee and make your way towards Bondi, the walk is more downhill this way and easier on the knees.
Don’t forget to check out the famous Bondi Icebergs club which features a pool in the ocean. Also, Coogee Beach is very popular for beach volleyball for some fun at the start or end of the walk.
Where: Bondi Beach or Coogee Beach
Opening times: 24/7
Cronulla Headland Loop
By Matt Adams from Fittness
The Cronulla headland loop is a fantastic walk to do either by yourself, with a friend, your partner or entire family for fitness, fun or a new adventure.
At 5.4km, the walk is an easy one so you’ve got the choice to push the pace for a solid cardio exercise session or slow it down and take in the beauty of the ocean.
The walk starts at either Wanda Beach officially, but you can start from Cronulla Beach where it takes you around the picturesque peninsula with rock pools, beaches, playgrounds as well as some impressive waterfront homes.
On a clear blue sky day, the rich blue water sparkles and a quick dip at the end of your walk could be the perfect end to your walk.
One highlight to plan for is Salmon Haul Bay, a secluded spot to relax, plan a picnic or a swim and take in the scenic beauty.
There’s free parking available if you’re quick or metered parking in the surrounding streets so you shouldn’t have too far extra to walk. There’s also a train station in Cronulla if you’d like to leave the car at home.
Where: Wanda Beach or Cronulla Beach
Opening times: 24/7
Get Your Art Fix
Vivid Sydney | Light, Music and Ideas Festival
By Emma Healey from Mum’s Money
Vivid Sydney is an annual celebration of light, art and creativity that runs for three weeks from late May and is poised to return in 2021.
Most of the events run during Vivid are free to attend, making this one of the best free things to do in Sydney. Events at the festival include talks, live music and exhibitions but the main attractions are the light installations.
Seeing the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Town Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art illuminated in stunning light installations is magnificent.
From 6pm each night during the festival, the harbour foreshore including The Opera House to the Rocks, Darling Harbour and across the water in Luna Park and Chatswood have various light installations on display. The best way to see them is on foot, so wrap up warm and wear good walking shoes.
Attending the VIVID Sydney festival is a fun way to enjoy the beautiful Sydney harbour on a tight budget. The entire city is in party-mode and the festive spirit is palpable in the crowds. Pack a picnic and use public transport (starting at Circular Quay is best) to get to your destination and it won’t cost much at all.
Where: Various locations
Opening times: Three weeks over May and June
Find the Tracey Emin Birds
By Helen Foster from Differentville
At first glance, it might seem as if there are an awful lot of sparrows along Bridge and Grosvenor Streets in Sydney’s CBD. They’re perched on the edge of buildings, hiding under benches, peeking out from the top of bus stops – but if you look closer and realise they aren’t twittering or fluttering like real birds; Congratulations – you’ve just spotted some of the 60+ bronze birds that British artist Tracey Emin has placed along the road.
Called The Distance of Your Heart, it’s an artwork designed to symbolise missing those you love – but it’s also a really fun treasure hunt as you walk along the road trying to spot the tiny creatures. They start the Macquarie Street end of Bridge Street and go all the way along Bridge and then Grosvenor Street to Lang Park. It’s said that the work also extends into underpass on the other side of the road, but I haven’t spotted any of them down there yet. It’s best to try the hunt at weekends when there are fewer workers in the area. For more details on the birds and other fun things to do around Circular Quay, check out this post.
Where: Bridge and Grosvenor Streets, Sydney
Opening times: 24/7
Art Gallery of NSW
By Michael Turtle from Travel Australia Today
The front of the Art Gallery of New South Wales makes it one of the most distinctive buildings in Sydney; designed to look like a Greek temple – a devotion to art – with the names of some of history’s great creators displayed at the top. Yet, if you approach the gallery from the rear, the most striking thing you see is the eight-metre-high Brett Whitely sculpture of two matches.
It’s this juxtaposition that I love so much about the gallery because it captures what you find inside as well. Some of the halls have very formal artworks from the early days of the colony of New South Wales, while others have quite radical and modern works from artists who grew up in the city or migrated here from overseas. There is also, of course, an excellent collection of indigenous art, as well as a number of international pieces.
Next to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain, on the edge of the CBD, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is easy to reach and, if you live in Sydney or are here for more than just a couple of days, I would actually recommend visiting more than once and just concentrating on a specific area each time you go. I find it’s more rewarding to learn about a particular style or period than just wander through and have a cursory look at it all.
The Art Gallery is still free to visit at the moment but, because of the Coronavirus restrictions, you need to make a booking in advance for a specific time slot so they can manage the visitor numbers.
Where: Art Gallery Road, Sydney
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
Museum of Contemporary Art
By Ruma Dey Baidya from TheHolidayStory
Museum of Contemporary Art is a gallery with art exhibitions and collections from Australia and around the world. impressive. Run by a non-profitable organisation, entry to museum is free. It is similar to the National Library Kolkata Museum.
A mix of painting, sculpture, photography, mechanical and video art installations on display means there is something to interest everyone. Audio guides are available if you wish to know more about the artworks.
The Museum of Contemporary Art also has a variety of programs such as the Indigenous learning program, a ‘Art + Dementia’ and its Bella program performed by persons with disabilities. Also take the time, if your budget allows, to visit the café on top of Museum and enjoy the view of the opera house, Sydney harbour bridge.
No flash photography is allowed and there are seats throughout the museum where you can sit to take rest.
Have fun visiting the world of art!!
Where: 140 George St, The Rocks Sydney
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
Sydney City Gardens
Sydney Royal Botanic Garden
By Marianne Rogerson from Mum on the Move
The Royal Botanic Garden provides 30 hectares of beautiful green space right in the heart of the city. Just a short walk from Circular Quay and the Opera House, this is the perfect place to take a stroll, enjoy a picnic and soak in the harbour views.
There’s plenty of local wildlife to spot and self-guided walks to follow through the varied gardens, which include the Australian Rainforest Garden, Palm, The Fernery, the Australian Native Rockery and the Palace Rose Garden.
Free guided tours are on offer, as are aboriginal experiences, including a bush tucker tour. There is also a good choice of cafes and restaurants to keep you going. There’s even a small train called the Choo Choo Express if you get too tired to explore it all on foot.
The gardens are open every day from 7am til sundown.
Where: Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 7am to 5pm
Secret Garden in Sydney
Nestled on the edge of Sydney Harbour, not far from the famed bridge, is a lovely ‘secret’ garden that not many tourists know about but which is freely open to all to visit and discover.
Situated in Lavender Bay on Sydney’s north shore, it’s at the base of the home of Wendy Whitely, the widow of one of Australia’s most prized artists, Brett Whitely and where they lived for two decades.
The garden began life as discarded and overgrown railway land but after Brett died, Wendy threw herself into the task of attacking and redeeming the overgrowth and weed as a way to cope with her grief. Nowadays, she’s assisted with an army of volunteers and the public land has been permanently protected, and the garden remains open and free all year round.
There are no signposts to point the way but a bit of research will help you find it. It’s really not that much of a secret, but it is quiet and very special and has some of the most spectacular views in the world, and free.
Where: Lavender Street, Lavender Bay
Opening times: 24/7
Visit Sydney’s Best Beaches
Bondi Beach Sydney
By Ella Moore from Many More Maps
Possibly the coolest place to hang out in Sydney, Bondi Beach really does have it all. Expect epic surf, a long golden sandy beach and more hip surf shops than you could ever browse in a lifetime.
To keep your visit cost-free perhaps start by stopping by the famous Icebergs Pool Bondi Beach for an awesome photo opportunity of the pool overlooking the beach and ocean. Then wander along the beach making your way to the iconic Bondi Pavilion.
On the beach, lay out your towel, soak up some sun and watch some world-class surfers battle with the waves. Bondi is full of interesting characters so it is also the perfect place to people watch.
If you’re feeling brave, head into the water for a swim. The water is generally refreshing in the summer months but brace yourself for the cold water in the cooler months! Bondi Beach patrolled by lifeguards every day of the year, from 7am to 5pm; remember to always swim between the red and yellow flags!
Where: Bondi Beach
Opening times: 24/7
By Jessica Pascoe from Jessica Pascoe
One of my favourite free things to do in Sydney is a visit to the famous Palm Beach. This stunning, golden beach has likely been on your TV screen; it’s also known as ‘Summer Bay,’ where Home and Away is shot. Whilst there are some attractions and activities you can pay to do at Palm Beach (including grabbing a bite to eat at the picturesque boathouse), this destination can be enjoyed totally for free.
Pack a lunch and lounge on the beach, before a quick dip in the patrolled ocean, or, if you’re feeling active, head off on the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk. This walk, part of the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, is a steep but rewarding climb to the top of the headland at Sydney’s most northern point where you can admire the historic Barrenjoey lighthouse, as well as unbeatable views over Palm beach, Ku-Ring-Gai and the Hawkesbury River. Palm Beach is accessible by car or bus, which takes roughly an hour from Sydney’s CBD.
Where: Palm Beach
Opening times: 24/7
North Narrabeen Beach
By Anne Sutherland-Smith from the Pretraveller blog
North Narrabeen is a great option to have a more traditional Australian beach experience without leaving Sydney, and with a heap of free activities available! Located only 30 kilometres north of Sydney city, North Narrabeen is easily accessible by either car or public transport. It is a 35 minute drive or about 1:15 hours by bus.
A great option which we have enjoyed is to go camping or to stay in a cabin at the NRMA Sydney Lakeside Park – which is near to all the local activities. You can also do a day visit if you prefer.
Activities include going swimming or surfing at North Narrabeen beach, patrolled by surf lifesavers. On the Narrabeen Head you can also walk to the North Narrabeen Rockpool to have a swim, and explore the rockpools on the head, being cautious of the tides and the sea state.You can also go swimming in South Creek, the river behind the surf area – this is a great option is the surf beach is too rough, so you will almost always find a great swimming option. There is also a great 8.6 km hike around the Narrabeen Lagoon or you can choose from lots of different watersports options where you can hire a kayak or canoe from Jamieson Park Paddle. You can also go fishing in Narrabeen Lagoon and at the ocean foreshore areas.
Where: North Narrabeen
Opening times: 24/7
Check Out a Sydney Market
By Skye Gilkeson from The Fit Traveller
The Bondi Markets are iconic for locals and overseas visitors alike. Held at Bondi Beach Public School, across from the world-famous sets rolling in on the long stretch of Bondi Beach sand.
On Saturday, join the locals stocking up on farm-fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy treats while catching up with friends and enjoying a delicious coffee and some live music on the grass. On Sundays, search for a bargain or check out the up-and-coming designers sprucing their wares among the sea of marquees that fill the space. These markets have launched many well known Australian labels over the years such as Samantha Willis, Lover, The Label and Zimmermann. You’ll find everything from cutting edge pieces from sustainable brands to vintage finds and one-off homewares, perfect to take home as a reminder of your trip.
Make a day of your time in Bondi and hit the sand or stop in at one of the trendy local Bondi cafes for brunch or lunch afterwards.
Where: Bondi Beach Public School, Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach
Opening times: Saturday and Sunday
Save Money | Transport Tips
Public Transport | Off Peak and Sundays
Public transport costs in Sydney varies greatly depending on what time of the day you travel. If you are able to avoid travelling Monday to Friday 6am to 9am and 4pm to 6.30pm you can save around 30% on your fares.
By far the best time to use public transport to check out the sights of Sydney is Sundays. The most it will cost you to travel all day on Sydney’s train, bus and ferry network is $2.80. $2.80 all day will let you catch as many trains, buses and ferries as you want. This is something we regularly took advantage of when we did day trips to Sydney.
Driving | Tolls and Parking
Our advice is try to avoid driving into Sydney. Sydney has a number of toll roads and it is near impossible to get free or low-cost parking. If you insist on driving either set your navigator to avoid tolls or get yourself a Visitor’s e-Pass. The e-Pass will charge you for any toll roads you use but will save you money on the hefty administration fees charged if you use the toll roads without a pass.
Parking in Sydney can be very costly. Our tip is to get online and look up where there are parking stations near the attractions you wish to visit. Then book your parking online as there will often be discounts online.
Sydney is a beautiful vibrant city with so much to see and do for free. We hope you enjoy your time in Sydney!