Top 10 free things to do

Sydney might be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but there are plenty of ways to experience it without spending a cent. Here are the top 10 free things to do.

1. Walk across the Harbour Bridge

top free things to see and do
Walk across the Harbour Bridge for free.

It’s an instantly recognisable landmark, the vast steel structure spanning the two shores of Sydney Harbour. It’s the largest steel arch bridge in the world, stretching for 1149 metres. Climb the stairs from The Rocks on the south side or Kirribilli on the north side to walk along the enclosed pedestrian corridor, more than 50 metres above the water. You’ll get spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House, city skyscrapers and the bustling harbour traffic below.

2. Get arty at the galleries

free things
Visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. Picture: DNSW

Sydney’s two major art galleries – the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of NSW – both offer free admission to their permanent collections of thousands of works. (Note that there may be a fee for special exhibitions.) The excellent White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale is also free and houses one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Chinese art.

3. Cool off with a swim

Free things
Swim in Marrinawi Cove, Barangaroo Reserve, Barangaroo. Picture: DNSW

With more than 100 beaches and 35 ocean pools in Sydney, from north to south, there’s always somewhere for a dip. Entry to every beach is free (and you won’t find anyone bothering you to rent a deckchair or umbrella) and almost all the ocean pools are free as well, with a few exceptions. If you don’t want to stray too far from the city, there’s a new swimming spot at Marrinawi Cove at the end of Barangaroo where you can jump straight into the harbour.

4. Relax in the Royal Botanic Garden

free things
Jacaranda trees in full bloom in Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Picture: DNSW

Established in 1816, the harbourfront Royal Botanic Garden was the first in Australia and is still a leafy pocket of tranquillity in the heart of the city and is one of the first free things you should do in Sydney. Wander the pathways, admire the exotic plants or just stretch out on the lawns. If you’d like to learn more about the thousands of plants within, join the free guided tour that departs every day at 10.30am. (You’ll need to book ahead – visit

5. Go window shopping in the city

Free things
Enjoy a day of shopping at The Strand Arcade. Picture: DNSW

It costs nothing to look, right? Start in the Queen Victoria Building, a spectacular multi-level shopping arcade that opened in 1898. Nearby is The Strand Arcade, an elaborate Victorian-style arcade that opened around the turn of the century. For glitzy modern flagship stores, head to the blocks around Castlereagh and King streets where brands like Gucci, Dior, Cartier and Tiffany have spectacular window displays on show.

6. Walk around rugged South Head

Free things
Head to Watsons Bay and take the walk around South Head. Picture: DNSW

South Head marks the southern entrance to Sydney Harbour and is threaded with walking trails and is one of the top free things to do. Simply catch the ferry to Watsons Bay and follow the Gap Bluff Loop to admire dramatic ocean cliffs at The Gap. Then continue on the South Head Heritage Trail to historic Hornby Lighthouse at the end of the peninsula for one of the truly spectacular free things to do in Sydney.

7. Step back in time at the museums

free thing
Enjoy the exhibits at the Australian Museum.

Whatever your historical passions, there’s a free museum to suit you in Sydney. See dinosaur skeletons and deadly native animals at the Australian Museum. Learn about Australia’s fascinating history of innovation in science, aviation and design at the Powerhouse Museum. And see why Sydney once had the nickname Sin City at the Justice & Police Museum. (Note that there may be a fee for special exhibitions.)

8. Snorkel at Shelly Beach

Swim with the fishes at Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Manly. Picture: DNSW

This quiet cove at the southern end of Manly Beach has calm, crystal clear water that makes for excellent snorkelling. It’s part of Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, so the marine life has been able to flourish. You can walk in straight off the sand and spot huge blue groupers, harmless Port Jackson sharks, wobbegongs and maybe even a dolphin or turtle or our beloved blue gropers (above).

9. Join a free walking tour

free things
Explore the historic Rocks area. Picture: DNSW

You don’t have to pay anything to take an informative walking tour, led by a passionate local guide. I’m Free Walking Tours runs a Sydney Sights tour at 10.30am every day, departing from Town Hall. Or if you have an evening in town, their tour of The Rocks departs from just next to the Overseas Passenger Terminal at 6pm Monday to Saturday. Visit to book.

10. Explore the huge Centennial Park

Children enjoying The Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden in Centennial Park. Picture: DNSW

It’s called the ‘lungs of the city’, a grand European-style park with 189 hectares of formal gardens, wetlands, sporting fields and walking trails and is a one of the great free things for families to do. Admire the enormous Moreton Bay fig trees, seek out the historic buildings and sculptures dotted throughout the grounds, or set the kids free in the immersive Ian Potter Wild Play Garden (just be prepared for them to get dirty). is the ultimate guide to visiting Sydney. It provides up-to-date information on attractions, places to visit, restaurants, shops, visitor information and transport. The site is published by Cruise Media Australasia, a Big Splash Media company. Editor-in-Chief and Publisher: Peter Lynch.

All map distance references are taken from the Sydney Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay.
Images courtesy Destination NSW

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