Free Things to Do in Sydney in 2019
Sydney Australia, the city often mistaken for the capital, is truly one in a million. After being lucky enough to live here in 2018-19 this city captured our hearts in more ways than one. From the famous landmarks that leave you speechless to the dozens of gorgeous beaches around almost every corner you turn.
Sydney is the city that has it all. It’s the perfect blend of big city living and beach town vibes. Sydney is undoubtedly the most famous city in Australia so naturally, like London, New York, Paris, you except Sydney to come at a price. Which if I’m being totally honest with you, it does. We definitely spend more on living costs here compared when we lived up north in Brisbane. That said, like most other cities in the world there are so many free things to do in Sydney in 2019, it’s just knowing where to look and knowing a few little hacks – like did you know that on Sundays transport in Sydney is capped off at $2.70! You’ll be pleased to know that Sydney is more than doable on a budget and most of the top attractions are actually free!
Here’s my list of Free Things to Do in Sydney in 2019!
Visit Circular Quay
Circular Quay, most would say, is the busiest area for tourists visiting the city and with good reason. Circular Quay is home to the famous landmarks that put Sydney on the map. The Sydney Opera House and The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Both are magnificent pieces of architecture and not to be missed on your visit to the city. Prepare for a busy day or night in Circular Quay whenever you visit, with cruise ships arriving and leaving daily and every tourist wanting a glance of the Opera House! Take your cameras in tow and enjoy making memories at the most famous theatre in Australia!
Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The views from the Sydney Harbour bridge are stunning. The landscape stretches over the harbour, the Opera House and out into the ocean! (I would show you but my laptop died one me, leaving me without so many of my amazing photographs! Backing up lesson learnt!). There are plenty of epic ways to see this view like by helicopter rides and actually climbing to the top of the bridge, both of which come with a hefty price! To experience the iconic bridge climb you’re looking at around $150 and the helicopter ride coming in at over $200! If you’ve got the cash then these adventures will be worth it, but if you’re like us looking to save wherever you can then take a leisurely stroll across the bridge! You see the identical view from the bridge, you’re just not as high up (which for Dave is always the preferred option!).
Budget: FREE but if you do fancy being a little higher in the air then you can climb to the top of the bridge pylons for just $50!
Picnic and Explore the Sydney Botanical Gardens
The Botanical gardens is the most beautiful place in the inner city. With the biggest business district in the whole of Australia, Sydney is usually full of the suited and booted running around from office to office! Head to the botanical gardens with a picnic and escape the madness. The gardens stretch over 74 acres so you can indulge in lush green lawns, a variety of pools and a gorgeous little bar that you just have to visit, you can check out their page here! The botanical gardens is also home to the famous look out point ‘Mrs Macquaries Chair’ otherwise known as the postcard shot! From here you can see the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and city skyline. It’s one of the best places in the city to catch an amazing sunset in Sydney. The gardens do close the gates at 8pm but you can still access the point via the main road.
Budget: FREE, a few extra dollars for a beer at the bar?
Take a walk at Milsons Point
Milsons point is one of my favourite spots in the whole city. The views looking back on the city are incredible and it’s extremely peaceful, especially at night! If you want views of the famous landmarks without the crowd’s then Milsons Point is your place! There’s a small walkway where you can stroll along the harbour front, taking in all the magnificence of the city from a far.
Visit the Luna Park
Whilst you’re over at Milsons Point you can visit the Luna Park situated just underneath the harbour bridge. The Luna Park is fun for all the family whether you’re into the Ferris wheel or not, it’s a great place to visit whilst your exploring Sydney! The bonus is that it’s completely free, so if you don’t like rides then it’s a great excuse to have a nosy around the place anyway! Of course you do have to pay to go on the rides and you’re looking at anything from $15 upwards to have a go! Top tip, make sure you get the train to and from Milsons point to save money. The train will cost $2-3 where as the ferry will set you back $6 each way!
Budget: FREE, $15 upwards for the rides.
Bondi – Coogee Walk
Sydney is full of gorgeous coastal and inland walks but this has to be one of the most famous, and actually one of the best! This walk takes you from Bondi Beach right up to Coogee at the other end. You’ll follow the coastal walk along beaches, upon cliff tops and through some of the prettiest suburbs on the along the East Coast of Sydney.
The best stop-off points, I think, on this walk are, Bronte and Clovelly (pack your snorkel)! That said, it’s all breathtaking after all you do get to see five of Australias most famous beaches along the way! The walk itself is 6km (that’s 3.5 miles for us English folk) and will take anything from 2-3 hours or longer! You could easily spend a whole day on this walk because of the awesome stop off points along the way! Make sure you pack your swimmers and swim in all the pools and bathe in all the beaches! The best baths to swim in for free are, Bronte Bogey Hole and Wylie Baths at Coogee!
Visit the Beach
Australia is known for its beach lifestyle and Sydney is no exception! Like I said before, Sydney has a beach around every corner, so having a day on the beach is easy! No more packing up the car for a four hour commute to the nearest beach! The hardest decision will be deciding which beach you’re going to visit! If it’s your first time in Sydney then you have to go and experience Bondi or Coogee (Coogee photographed above), it’s a must!
Though a little touristy they each make for a fantastic day out! You’ll find Bondi lined with cool street art and surfers all day long so there’s never a dull moment! You can try and snag a photograph with the Bondi lifeguards too! Other than Bondi & Coogee my favourite beaches in Sydney are, Milk Beach, Bronte Beach, Manly Beach and Narrabeen beach.
Budget: FREE, make sure you take a picnic for lunch then you don’t have to fork out extra money!
Watch the Fireworks at Darling Harbour
Every Saturday the city lights up with sparkling fireworks over Darling Harbour! Head over for 21:00 and enjoy the display for free! Fireworks are in fact illegal to buy in Australia so, a display is the only way you can watch and enjoy fireworks! I wasn’t sure if this display would be any good considering they do it every week but I must say I was impressed! They last around 20-30 minutes and I just enjoy the fact they do it every week! Its like celebrating life with fireworks every Saturday rather than just on special occasions! The sunset is also gorgeous over Darling Harbour so if you can pair the both together it makes even more spectacular night! Check out more about what’s on in Darling Harbour throughout the year here.
Budget: FREE every Saturday at 21:00
Visit The Rocks
I like to call the rocks ‘England in Sydney’. The rocks is a historic neighbourhood in Sydney located just behind Circular Quay. The Rocks are made up of cobbled laneways lined with pubs, restaurants and bars, it literally feels like a side street in York (Google York in the UK if you have no idea what I’m talking about here!). Slip away from the crazy vibes at Circular Quay and hide away in some Sydneys oldest pubs and restaurants. You’ll find regular open air markets hosted at the rocks as well as speciality markets on special holidays! Be sure to visit at night to see The Rock’s lit up with beautiful fairy lights giving it a magical feel!
Budget: FREE to stroll around
Visit the Markets
Sydney’s Markets have everything from fresh organic foods, products from local businesses, handmade goods and so much more every single week! From the huge fish market over at Darling Harbour to the weekly market at The Rocks, which is home to artists and jewellery makers galore! You can pick up gorgeous gifts for your friends and family back home or a lovely present to yourself – the best kind if you ask me! Find out which markets are on when here!
Budget: FREE unless you make a heap of purchases of course!
Snorkel at Clovelly or Shelley Beach
When in Australia a bit of snorkelling is a must and you don’t just have to do it on the Great Barrier Reef! You can find some amazing snorkelling spots a lot closer to the cities if you know where to find them! In Sydney Clovelly and Shelley Beach are the best snorkelling spots and both diverse from one another! You’ll find Clovelly on the Bondi – Coogee walk in the Eastern Suburbs and Shelley Beach over in Manly. Both spots are filled daily with people on the look out for Nemo and his other fishy friends! You can pick up cheap snorkelling gear at almost any souvenir shop in Sydney from $15 upwards.
Budget: FREE, Snorkelling Gear $15 upwards
The Art Gallery of New South Wales
If you’re into the arts then make sure you head to The Art Gallery of New South Wales! It’s completely free and you’ll see work from artists from all over the world. The gallery is filled with five levels of art and has some spectacular views of the Botanical Gardens. It also includes one of the largest galleries of Aboriginal art in Australia. You can hop on a free guided tours of The Art Gallery available in a number of different languages! Final tip, if you visit on a Wednesday until 10pm the Art Gallery hosts celebrity talks, film, music and inspirational speakers too! It takes about 10 minutes to walk here from Circular Quay! Find out what exhibitions are on here!
Free Walking Tours of the City
First time to Sydney? Then there is no better way to explore the city than with a free local walking tour! The tour covers the main sights of the city and departs everyday at 10:30am and 2:30pm from Town hall square! No need for booking and just look for the guy or gal in a bright green t-shirt – pretty hard to miss! There is also a late evening tour at 6pm which departs from The Rocks! You can find more information on these tours here!
Hermitage Foreshore Walking Track
Milk Beach is one of the many unique beachy coves you’ll find on the Hermitage Foreshore Walking Track just past Rose Bay. In my opinion it’s one of Sydney’s most underrated walks and we stumbled upon it totally by accident! This walk begins on a paved track and winds in and out of tiny beaches and grassland. The views are awesome because you can see right across the harbour with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the distance!
You’ll find Milk Beach about 1 mile into the walk and it’s easily one of the best beaches in Sydney. It’s tiny and not a whole lot of tourists know about it so you can guarantee it will be a lot quieter than the likes of Bondi, Coogee or Manly. Hermit Bay is also another secluded beach area you’ll pass on the walk. Both these bays have calm waters making it ideal for swimming or floating on a magical unicorn or whatever you’re into!
Go for a Swim in Manly Dam
Located in Manly Vale, hidden away from the busy Condamine street, you’ll find Manly Dam. A top hit with the locals and a gorgeous place for a swim on an evening. The Dam is surrounded by grassland completed with BBQ pits creating a great place for a get together! The water is warm in the summer so makes for a glorious swimming destination away from all the noise at the beaches! You’ll also find plenty of other Aussie natives hanging out here from snakes to wallabies!
Swim in the Free Swimming Pools at the Beaches
If you’ve been researching your trip to Sydney then you’re probably dying to jump in the Bondi Icebergs right? I mean just looking at the photograph below makes me want to jump in feet first! Unfortunately the Bondi Icebergs aren’t free! I know, I know c’mon Sydney what are you doing? But there are plenty of other swimming pools around that are completely free! My favourite is the Bogey Hole at Bronte! There’s also free pools at Manly, Clovelly and Coogee & many other places too! Basically if there’s a beach there’s probably a free ocean pool there to go along with it!
Budget: FREE, Bondi Icebergs $7
This is by no means an exhaustive list of free things to do in Sydney but so far these are the best things that we’ve done in Sydney for free! If you haven’t got much time then the main sights you’re going to want to see are, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, both which can be explored for free which I think is brilliant! My top tip if you’ve got more time to do more than just the main sights is to head to the Northern Beaches and I’m giving you an extra day out below so take a look! We literally stumbled upon this gorgeous lagoon and were speechless at its beauty and the fact we were only an hour from the city!
If you’ve got a little time to spare when in the big city then be sure to head north of the bridge to the Northern Beaches. We lived in both the Eastern Suburbs and the Northern side in Sydney. During our time in the Northern Beaches our eyes were opened to a whole new Sydney and I must say maybe a better one!
The Eastern Suburbs are all you’d imagine the Australian beach lifestyle to be. Thongs, BBQ’s and beers all day every day but the Northern Beaches are filled with lakes and dams that are made for walking, kayaking and of course swimming! I mentioned Manly Dam above which is beautiful and perfect for an evening swim but Narrabeen Lagoon is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve visited here in Australia. The vibe is peaceful tranquility especially on the lagoon, you can hear nothing but the water and chirping of the birds! You’ll also see plenty of ducks which really made us feel like we were back in the countryside! You can take a leisurely walk around the lagoon or do the full 8.km loop! There are also options to hire peddle boats, paddle boards and kayaks on the lake! Prices start at $20 for an hour but just walking around the lake is beautiful enough if you’ve got a budget to stick to!
Budget: FREE or starting at $20 for water sports on the lagoon!
So I guess we go back to the question in hand. Can you explore Sydney on a budget? Of course! There is so much to do if you’re watching the bank balance or not! Even if you’ve got the cash to spend I recommend doing everything on this list before you go throwing it around!