Sydney is one of the largest cities in Australia and probably the most popular city in Australia and whole of Oceania. This famous metropolitan in New South Wales is famous for its iconic harbour – housing the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Sydney is also famous for its great beaches, awesome weather and expensive cost of living. With that being said, Australia as a whole is an expensive place to travel to. But don’t let that deter you from experiencing this Australian city because even though this place is expensive, the best things to do in Sydney are actually free. So here are the top free things to do in Sydney that you shouldn’t miss!
1. Catch a sunset at Jeffrey St Wharf
Sydney has some amazing sunrise and sunset spots, but the magical one that shouldn’t be missed is sunset at Jeffrey St Wharf in Kirribilli. You feel as though the harbour bridge is looming over you and no matter how many times you see it, it never fails to attract a wow.
There are plenty of places to sit and take in the evening action on the harbour, as well as plenty of space to set up your tripod ready for when the glorious colour comes. If you are particularly into photography, look out for the permanent puddle which produces the perfect reflection of the harbour bridge.
How to get to Jeffrey St Wharf
The most beautiful way to get to Jeffrey Street Wharf is definitely by taking the five minute ferry ride from Circular Quay. You can also take the train to Milsons Point train station, exit at the Kirribilli side and head down to the water, it takes around five minutes. If you are keen on walking you can actually walk over the harbour bridge from The Rocks to Milsons Point, which gives you some great views, and head down to the water from there, this would take around 30-40 minutes.
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2. Get active at Manly Beach
Manly Beach, on the north side of Sydney Harbour, is, along with its southern counterpart Bondi Beach, one of the biggest, most impressive beaches in Sydney. Although you will hear many languages and accents spoken by the tourists here, it is also a beach that is beloved by locals.
At Manly you will find people in the water all year long, but most popular are the warmer months of November to March. Get into the water yourself paddling, swimming or taking a surfing lesson. Play beach volleyball, take a walk along the beach, perhaps as far as Shelly Beach if you’re feeling energetic, or sit and relax and breathe the fresh sea air.
If you’re travelling with kids, then build a sandcastle, visit the playgrounds along the beachfront, go rollerblading or bike riding. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting!
How to get to Manly Beach
The best way to get to Manly Beach is on the ferry from Circular Quay in the city. This ride in itself is one of the must-do’s in Sydney as it allows you beautiful views as you relax and enjoy the half hour trip through Sydney Harbour.
Source: Kirralee Baker of Escape With Kids
3. Walk Across the Harbour Bridge
When visiting Sydney, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Harbour Bridge. It dominates Sydney Harbour, just north of the main CBD, forming the backdrop of countless photos. It’s possible to drive across it, take the train across it or even climb it. But my favourite free way of appreciating this Sydney icon (and having a lovely walk, as well) is to walk across it.
How to get to the Harbour Bridge
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4. Relax at Royal Botanic Gardens
Escape the busy Central Business District and relax at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. The beautiful garden is huge at 30 hectares and is perfect for all ages to visit. Spend a few hours walking, running, and having a picnic. Enjoy the views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House during the stroll along the waters. The main highlight is seeing the variety of plants and flowers such as colorful roses, fresh herbs, rainforest plants, ferns, native Australian plants, and more.
The garden offers free 1.5 hours daily guided tours, starting at the Information Centre, to learn about the history of the garden. If you’re interested in learning about the Governor of New Wales’s Government House, take a free 45 minutes tour. It’s a picturesque castle in the northern area of the garden.
How to get to the Royal Botanic Garden
It’s easy to get there by walking. The garden is next to the Sydney Opera House and nearby the Central Business District. The closest train stations are Martin Place station (T4 line), and St James station and Circular Quay station (T2, T3, and T8 lines), and take a short 10 minute walk.
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5. Take a walk at Royal National Park
Sydney is blessedly full of awesome free things to do. One of the most fun free things to do is doing the coastal walk in Royal National Park. There are many trails through out the huge park, but the views along the coastal trail are definitely unbeatable.
The Tasmanian sea crashing onto the majestic stone cliffs along the path emphasizing the deep blue sky will fill your senses with peace. The wildlife you can spot along the way is pretty wonderful. Be mindful that it can get lonely at some parts. The hike leads to gorgeous beaches along the way. Be sure to stop at Little Marley beach.
How to reach Royal National Park
Take a train from any station in Sydney to Cronulla and hop on a short ferry to Bundeena to reach Royal National Park. Grab a free map at the visitor center and enjoy this gorgeous park.
Source: Priya of Glorious Sunrise
6. Take a peek at a world-class Art Gallery
One of the best free things to do in Sydney is to visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales, one of the best art galleries in Australia. Entry to the gallery is free, and you can also visit most of the permanent collection free. It’s a great place to see European art, from Canaletto paintings of Venice to Impressionist works by the likes of Monet and Cezanne, to later greats like Picasso and Braque.
Another major highlight is the Australian Indigenous art collection, which has some outstanding spot paintings – it’s worth visiting for these alone. The Art Gallery also hosts some paid events, including the famous annual Archibald Prize for portraiture and part of the Sydney Film Festival.
How to get to the Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Gallery is very easy to reach. It’s on Art Gallery Road, which crosses the area of parkland called the Domain. It’s about a five-minute walk from St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Hyde Park Barracks Museum. It’s also close to the Royal Botanic Garden and around a ten-minute walk from the best viewpoint in Sydney, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
Source: David Angel of Travel With Little One
7. Immerse yourself in history on an island in the middle of Sydney Harbour
How to get to Cockatoo Island
8. Enjoy the coastal walk in South Head
Sydney has one of the largest and most spectacular harbours in the world, also known as Port Jackson. As a coastal city, Sydney has a number of pathways running along the ocean. These walks are free to access and make for a wonderful day out. One of my favourite coastal walks is South Head. Starting in Watsons Bay, a charming fishing village, the walk meanders around the headland, on boardwalks and convict-built paved tracks.
In about two hours, you will pass through secluded beaches and enjoy some of the most scenic views over Sydney CBD and the entrance to the harbour. Looking over the Pacific Ocean, the Gap offers some incredible views along the coast and you catch glimpses of the city beyond the houses of Watsons Bay. This walk is a pleasant and diverse distraction from the hustle and bustle of Sydney, and you can finish your tour with a drink or a meal by the harbour.
How to Get There
The most pleasant way to get to South Head is by ferry, from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay, which takes about half an hour. This is my favourite way of travelling around Sydney, it’s just as good as a harbour cruise and much cheaper! Alternatively, there are buses running from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay along Old South Head Road.
9. Join Bondi to Coogee Coastal Pathway walk with locals
The coastal path from Bondi to Coogee is one of the most stunning walks in Australia. You can start at either Bondi or Coogee beach and walk the cliff top path in either direction. You’ll pass by stunning Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach and Clovelly Bay plus numerous rocky outcrops where you can take a break and enjoy the view of the Tasman Sea.
Around 6kms in length, many people choose to stop at a cafe along the way (there are many) but if you want to power through, the walk will take around two hours in total.
The path is well-paved, however, with a few steep inclines and one monster staircase, sections of the path are not suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.
How to get to the Bondi to Coogee Walk
Both Bondi and Coogee beaches (and the beaches along the way if you only want to complete a segment of the walk) are well-serviced by Sydney’s bus network. You can also walk to Bondi Beach from Bondi Junction train station, via Bondi Road. It’s an easy 25-minute walk to the start of the pathway.
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Looking to visit Sydney soon and don’t know where to stay yet? Check out the list of awesome hotels in Sydney here.