As the state capital of New South Wales and the most populated city in Australia, Sydney is a big draw for tourists.
With its beautiful beaches and iconic architectural structures, it features heavily in promotional material for Australia, and is therefore the place people usually think of first.
I lived and worked in the Sydney area for a number of months and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
Yes, it is one of the most expensive cities in the world; however, there are plenty of free and cheap things to do if you know where to look.
Let me show you how you can enjoy the wonders of this Aussie metropolis without completely breaking the bank.
1: Sydney Opera House
Think Sydney, think the Opera House and its famous white sails.
(Spoiler: they’re not actually white! I always hear people completely surprised when they first see it. And I was one of them!)
It is completely free to look around the area; you only need to pay if you want to actually watch a show.
Head to sydneyoperahouse.com to check out what’s on and book tickets if you’d like to see a show.
It’s really a must-see if you’re in the area, plus there are a lot of bars and restaurants around too.
2: Harbour Bridge
If you’re already at the Opera House, you can’t miss the Harbour Bridge.
Crossing the water to the North Shore of the city, the bridge carries cars, trains, bicycles and pedestrians.
It is another classic icon of Sydney that mustn’t be missed!
There is also the option to do a BridgeClimb, which is not free, but gives you a great view over the harbour.
3: The Rocks
Located near the south end of the Harbour Bridge is a little area called The Rocks.
It’s a historic area dating back to 1788, and its old buildings, shops, pubs and weekend markets draw many tourists.
It’s also very close to the popular area of Circular Quay.
Take some time to stroll around the area and enjoy a little of the culture.
4: Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens cover an area of 74 acres right next to the Central Business District (CBD) and the Opera House.
Entry is free and you can easily spend hours walking around the gardens and admiring all the plants.
There are cafes and restaurants, a chance to learn about some Aboriginal culture and a train ride with a guide who will tell you all about the gardens.
5: Mrs Macquarie’s Point
If you follow the path at the end of the botanic gardens by the sea, heading away from the Opera House, you will find Mrs Macquarie’s Point.
This place is famous for a sandstone rock carved into the shape of a bench, known as Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
So who was Mrs Macquarie?
She was the wife of the Governor of New South Wales, Major General Lachlan Macquarie, who held his position from 1810 to 1821.
Mrs Macquarie is said to have spent a lot of time on the peninsula, sitting on a rock and watching for any ships sailing from Great Britain.
It’s easy to understand why she loved sitting there so much; the views over the harbour are wonderful!
6: Hyde Park
Heading back inland from the Botanic Gardens, we find Hyde Park.
This is a rectangular shaped park with a large water fountain at the northern end and an ANZAC war memorial at the southern end.
There are often musicians and entertainers around, and the park is popular with both tourists and city workers on their lunch break.
7: Circular Quay
Circular Quay is the main harbour area by the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
Many boats, ferries and cruise ships come in and out on a regular basis, and there are lots of shops, restaurants and bars around.
With The Rocks and the Harbour Bridge to the west and the Opera House and Botanical Gardens to the east, as well as boats out to various destinations on the north shore, you will likely find yourself in Circular Quay more than once.
8: Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is located to the west of the CBD and is a nice place to spend some time.
The Chinese Garden of Friendship is here: a walled garden designed by Sydney’s sister city in China, Guangzhou.
The Australian National Maritime Museum is also in Darling Harbour, which is well worth a visit if you’re interested in climbing aboard the submarine in the harbour or a replica of the HMB Endeavor.
There is often a fireworks display at the Darling Harbour for Chinese Lunar New Year, Australia Day and other celebration days.
9: Luna Park
Head over Harbour Bridge or catch a boat to Sydney’s North Shore and you can visit Luna Park.
Opened in 1935, 23 years after Australia’s first Luna Park opened in St Kilda, Melbourne, the park was an instant success.
Since the initial opening date the park has closed for repairs a few times and has changed hands, but is still popular.
Luna Park is a great day out with lots of rides and places to eat and drink.
10: Bondi Beach
Probably Sydney’s most famous beach, Bondi is hugely popular with tourists and locals alike.
It is located around 7km east of the CBD and can be accessed by bus or train from the city.
1km of sand provides plenty of space for sunbathing, and swimming is recommended between the red and yellow flags.
In some areas there are dangerous rip currents, so make sure you follow the guidelines.
Visit the Bondi Baths at the Iceberg club, a swimming pool fed by salt water from the sea and a popular photo spot.
11: Manly Beach
A trip to Manly Beach from the city centre is a good opportunity to get a view of Sydney harbour from the water.
Boats run from Circular Quay out past the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, then heading north-east. The journey takes around 30 minutes.
There are areas for sunbathing and some rocky areas to explore.
The seaside town of Manly is also worth having a wander around, and sometimes events are held by the beach.
12: Coogee to Bondi Walk
This is a delightful 6km walk along the coastal cliffs which passes beautiful beaches, bays, parks, rock pools and stunning views all round.
You can do the walk in either direction, but I found it nice to end up in Bondi for a bit of beach time.
Catch a bus to or from either end. There are some barbecues in the bays along the way, so you could bring some food and make a day of it!
The walk itself is not too difficult but does include some steep inclines and staircases, so make sure you wear comfy shoes.
13: Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are located further out away from the city.
You can catch a train from the city centre or drive to the National Park.
It is well worth taking a trip out, as the views are amazing.
The Blue Mountains area gets its name from the blue haze that coats the mountain range when you look at it from a distance.
The most popular view is of the Three Sisters rock formation and the Jamison Valley.
Give yourself at least a day to look around as there are plenty of walkways and things to see in the National Park.
From natural attractions such as waterfalls, forests and, of course, the mountains themselves, to scenic railways and cable cars, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy your visit.
The area is free to enter so, other than transport out there, you can have a free day out! Or, you can choose to pay for some of the other attractions available.
This is just a selection of the cheap and free things that you can do around Sydney.
The best thing you can do is to get out there and start walking, and see where you end up!
I absolutely loved the time I spent in this city! And I really hope that I’ll be able to visit it again sometime soon.
Is there anything you’d add to this list? What are you looking forward to the most if you’re visiting soon? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- 8 Marvelous things to do in Melbourne
- Moving to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa
- Travel Safety Guide: 12 tips that could save your life
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