Heading to Sydney and looking to save some money during your stay Down Under? In this travel feature, Hostelworld.com’s Rebecca Keenan takes a look at fifteen things to do for free in Sydney, including taking a stroll around Sydney’s famous Harbour, spending some time at the city’s sun-kissed beaches and plenty more.
1. Spend some time on Sydney’s beautiful beaches
With 37 sandy stretches to be enjoyed in and around the city, Sydney is the place to be if you want to top up your tan. Not only is this city the home of the world-famous Bondi Beach, it’s also where you’ll find popular spots like Coogee Beach and Manly Beach. All three are just a short trip from the city’s CBD and offer plenty of opportunities for a stroll in the sand, a swim in the sea or simply the chance to loll about under the sun. Don’t forget your sunscreen.
2. Go on a walk around Sydney’s famous harbour
There are huge number of different routes you can cover on foot around Sydney’s renowned Harbour which is home to some of the city’s most iconic sights including the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Depending on your schedule (and on how much you feel like walking), you can spend anything from a couple of hours up to an entire day strolling around and taking in the sights on Sydney’s Harbour Circle Walk. Covering 26 kilometres in total, there are plenty of different loops and shortcuts, all of which are covered here.
3. Stroll from Bondi Beach to Coogee
Amazing coastal views are just one thing awaiting you on this walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee. Stretching along the coast for around 6 kilometres, this walk generally takes between one or two hours and starts at the southern end of Bondi Beach. You’ll find plenty of spots to stop, refuel and marvel at the views along the way. Make sure you bring your swimsuit and go for a refreshing dip when you get to Coogee at the end of the walk.
4. Check out the Royal Botanic Gardens
If you’re looking for somewhere to escape to for a bit of quiet time, you can’t go wrong with Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Completely free to enter, these gardens cover over 30 hectares on the shore beside Sydney Harbour. Both native and international plants make up the huge collection which encompasses over 45,000 specimens. As you stroll around keep your eyes open for some of the wildlife living in the Gardens, including possums, flying foxes and a plethora of birds.
Location: Mrs. Macquarie’s Road.
Opening hours: Daily Nov-Feb 7am-8pm, March & Oct 7am-6.30pm, Apr & Sept 7am-6pm, May & Aug 7am-5.30pm, June & July 7am-5pm.
Image of Royal Botanic Gardens ©Hamilton Lund. Courtesy Tourism New South Wales
5. Pay a visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum
Celebrating Australia’s sea-faring history, the Australian National Maritime Museum houses a wide variety of exhibits for you to check out. Don’t miss the 14 vessels docked at the museum’s various wharves, including the impressive naval destroyer called HMAS Vampire. This museum, which doesn’t cost a cent to visit, was opened in 1991 and encompasses a collection of some 40,000 objects.
Location: 2 Murray Street, Darling Harbour.
Opening hours: Daily 9.30am-5pm.
Image of Australian National Maritime Museum ©North Sullivan. Courtesy Tourism New South Wales
6. Enjoy the sights on a hike from Manly to Spit Bridge
Part of the Manly Scenic Walkway, which was opened in 1988, the walk from Manly to Spit Bridge takes you through everything from beaches to subtropical rainforest along its 10km trail. Worth every second of the 3 or 4 hours it takes to complete, this walk takes in Manly Beach, Crater Cove, Clontarf Beach and lots more.
Image of Manly Harbour walk ©Hamilton Lund. Courtesy Tourism New South Wales
7. Explore the Darling Harbour area
On the periphery of Sydney’s CBD, Darling Harbour is home to some of the city’s top attractions including the Sydney Aquarium and the Chinese Gardens. However, if you don’t fancy paying in to these, you’ll find plenty to see by just walking around the area. An ever-changing array of free entertainment options can be enjoyed each week, and at night Darling Harbour really sparkles.
8. Check out the exhibits in the Art Gallery of NSW
One of the top galleries in all of Australia, the Art Gallery of NSW hosts a stunning collection of art, including works by Australian, Aboriginal, European and Asian artists. Some of the big names you’ll find on display at the gallery include Picasso, Charles Conder and many, many more. All permanent displays are totally free to visit, with temporary exhibitions usually charging an admission fee.
Location: Art Gallery Road, The Domain.
Opening hours: Daily 10am-5pm.
9. Take in some of the world’s best views at Circular Quay
Thanks to its location between the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay is one of the best spots to go to get incredible views of these two stunning structures. Many of the city’s ferries operate from this area, with lots of walkways for you to explore along the wharves. Circular Quay is also home to Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art which is free to enter.
Image of Circular Quay ©Hamilton Lund. Courtesy Tourism New South Wales
10. Spend some time in Olympic Park
Covering some 430 hectares and visited by over 8 million people each year, Sydney’s vast Olympic Park is one of the city’s top draws. Inside the park you’ll find a top-notch selection of parks, arenas and walks. During your visit, you can walk along the wooden boardwalk at the Badu Mangroves in Bicentennial Park, keep an eye out for some of the 180 species of birds who frequent the area, have a picnic on Wentworth Common, and lots more. You can also visit the free NSW Hall of Champions, which pays tribute to over 300 famous Australian athletes.
Location: Visitor Centre located at Corner Showground Road and Herb Elliott Avenue.
Image of Olympic Park ©Robert Wallace. Courtesy Tourism New South Wales
11. Take that postcard shot of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Specially made for the wife of the then Governor in the early 1800s, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair is a bench hand-carved from exposed sandstone. It’s a popular spot for a picnic, mainly thanks to the dramatic views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge which can be seen from here. And it’s definitely one of the best places to go for that picture perfect shot of Sydney’s unforgettable skyline.
Location: Mrs. Macquarie's Road, The Domain.
Image of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge from Mrs Macquaries Chair at dusk ©Hamilton Lund. Courtesy Tourism New South Wales
12. Explore ‘The Rocks’
On the south side of Sydney Harbour, you’ll find the ‘Rocks’ neighbourhood. As it’s close to Circular Quay, it’s a popular area with visitors to Sydney who come here to check out the historic sites, stroll through the weekly market or just chill out and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. If you want to learn more about this area’s past, drop into The Rocks Discovery Museum which is free to enter and hosts lots of interactive exhibits.
13. Play giant chess in Hyde Park
Named after Hyde Park in London, this oasis in the middle of Sydney’s bustling CBD is home to a giant chess set, which you’ll find near Market and Elizabeth Streets. Test you skill against other visiting masters to see who’ll be the first to call checkmate. Once you’re done with the pawns and knights, make sure to wander through the park, and visit the beautiful Archibald Fountain and the touching Anzac War Memorial.
Location: Between Elizabeth and College Streets.
Image Courtesy Tourism New South Wales
14. Meander through some of Sydney’s markets
Every weekend you’ll find markets buzzing with life in all corners of Sydney including Paddington, Balmain, Glebe, Bondi, Fox Studios and The Rocks. Among the huge assortment of items on sale you’ll find handmade Australian crafts, clothing, jewellery, art and lots of different food.
15. Test your knowledge at a free trivia night
For something a bit different, head out to one of Sydney’s free trivia nights and test your knowledge against locals and visitors alike. On Monday nights check out Toxteth in Glebe from 7.30pm, while on Tuesday it’s the turn of The Bellevue Hotel in Paddington, with Trinity in Surry Hills being the place to go on Wednesday nights for Trinity Trivia from 7.30pm. And those are just three of a multitude of trivia nights held at pubs throughout Sydney. Questions cover anything and everything, so know-it-alls take note. Answer the questions correctly and you could be in with a great chance of winning a variety of different prizes including cash.