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12 Free Things to Do in Sydney When You're on a Budget

Make some room in your calendar for a fun, budget-friendly day out! Check out these totally free things to do in Sydney.


Whether you're strapped for cash or saving your dollars, Sydney is brimming with things to do, places to explore and events to enjoy that cost absolutely nothing. 

After all, living large doesn't mean having to empty your pockets; so if you're after a well-spent weekend without spending big bucks, you've come to the right place. From the great outdoors like coastal walks and bushwalking tracks to the great indoors like art galleries and music gigs, take inspiration from our essential budget-friendly guide to the harbour city.  Get the lowdown on all the amazing free things to do in Sydney — your bank balance can thank us later. 

Royal Botanic Gardens

1. Lose Yourself in the Botanic Gardens

Take a leisurely walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens, a sprawling oasis in the city where one can blend in with nature, be it for a casual stroll or a cheeky nap in the sun. The heritage-listed Royal Botanic Gardens offers everything from wildlife watching to stunning succulent gardens and free exhibitions across its sprawling 30-hectare site. 

Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

2.  Stroll Across Sydney Harbour Bridge

If you’re a Sydney local, the thought of dropping $300 to walk over Sydney’s most famous bridge is likely to leave you cross-eyed. Never fear though, because you can still soak up the same breathtaking views of the harbour free of cost (and harness!). Albeit about a hundred metres lower, taking a stroll across the pedestrian walkway still offers those iconic views of the Opera House, The Rocks and Fort Denison. It will take about 15 minutes if you don’t stop for pics, but obviously, you should – so factor in about 20 minutes one way.  

Balmoral Beach

3.  Visit the Most Beautiful Beaches

Sydney is synonymous with coastal living and is often referred to as the definitive beach capital of Australia. Our sandy shorelines stretch from the north, east and south sides of Sydney, ranging from bustling tourist hotspots like Manly Beach Bondi to quieter suburban inlets like Chowder Bay in Mosman. A day at the beach is completely free (this isn’t Europe, there are no overly priced sunbeds), so all you’ll need to bring is a good book and plenty of sunscreen. 


4. Window Shop Till You Drop

Ok, so this one has the potential to end up quite expensive, but with a little bit of willpower and self-control – window shopping can be quite a fun thing to do. Whether you’re building up a wish list for when you have more cash, or simply “just browsing, thank you” – head to one of Sydney’s many shopping spots for a day of window retail therapy. 

The Strand Arcade is probably the CBD’s prettiest shopping mall – it was built back in the 1800s, but today is full of designer dress shops and gorgeous jewellery boutiques to gawk at. The Queen Victoria Building also contains plenty of shops perfect for window shopping on top of gorgeous architecture. 

412-414A George Street, Sydney

5. Go Snorkelling 

Given you’ve got the gear, snorkelling in Sydney is on point (and more importantly, free), with many of our most famous beaches teeming with sea life. From Manly to Botany Bay you’ll find plenty of underwater worlds to explore. Don your snorkel, mask and fins and plunge into these great swimming spots

Our pick has to be Gordon's Bay in Coogee – it’s the only spot in Sydney with a dedicated underwater trail. Once you enter the north end (close to the car park at Clovelly pool) you’ll pick up a chain that makes a 500-metre loop around the bay.

Lane Cove National Park

6.  Get Hiking

From the beach to the bush, Sydney’s walking tracks are just waiting to be explored. Totally free, hug the coast or head inland and set off on a day hike. If you’re wanting to stay in Sydney, the gorgeous Berowra to Cowan Walk will occupy you for the best part of a day (part of the Great North Walk) or if you'd like to pick up lunch on the way head for the iconic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. 

Carriageworks Markets

7. Head to the Markets

Wandering around stalls packed with cute vintage clothes, jewellery and accessories might be a sure-fire way to empty your wallet. But if you demonstrate some serious willpower, heading to one of Sydney’s markets can wind up being fairly thrifty. They’ve usually got live music and entertainment on-the-go all day long, so just peruse the stalls or grab a spot on the grass and soak up the ambience. 

Opera Bar

8. Free Gigs

Why fork out hundreds of dollars for festivals when you can rock up to a Sydney bar virtually penniless and enjoy local Sydney talent for free? Ok, ok, so you may have to sacrifice ten dollars for a drink, but once you’ve done that you’ve basically bought yourself a night-long concert – winning! 

From Opera Bar to The Imperial, there are lots of different places to check out. 

Australian Museum

9. Visit a Museum or Gallery

A lot of Sydney's amazing museums offer free general admission to their experience their permanent exhibitions. Learn about our country's rich history with a visit to The Australian Museum, before checking out cool science and technology exhibitions at the Powerhouse Museum. The Art Gallery of NSW, White Rabbit Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Art are also top picks. If you time your visit right, you might even be able to join in on a free guided tour. 

State Library of NSW

10. Read a Book in a Gorgeous Library

Abandon the idea that libraries are meant to be dusty and gloomy. In fact, there are a handful of libraries in the Sydney that'll let you hang out for free as you read a nice book. Enrich your mind or go off on a literary adventure in some of Sydney's beautiful libraries.

If you'd like to grasp the grand force of the written word and learn more about Australia's history, head to the State Library of NSW and peruse various books, relics, and photographs, or enjoy a guided tour of the place. For stunningly designed modern libraries, head to Woollahra Library at Double Bay, The Exchange in Darling Square, or Marrickville Library and Pavilion

Hornby Lighthouse (Image Credit: NSW National Parks)

11. Visit a Stunning Lighthouse

Sydney's coastal charm isn't just about beaches; it's also home to a slew of remarkable lighthouses, blending history with stunning scenery for the local explorer. 

Channeling the spirit of a bygone lighthouse keeper, visitors can bask in the serene surroundings and take in coastal paths. Who knows, you might just be lucky to spot some whales. Guided tours are available for a few bucks, but save your currency and explore the area at your own pace. Don't know where to start? Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Hornby Lighthouse are top choices as free havens for those seeking a unique escape by the sea.

Adam Hollingworth via City of Sydney

12. Watch the sunset at Observatory Hill Park

Spend a lazy afternoon at this Millers Point spot. Grab a blanket, pack some snacks, and head to the Observatory Hill Park for a sunset picnic with an awesome view. While there's a short hike up the hill, it's all worth it for the peace and quiet it offers. What's more, as the sun bids adieu to the day, the city lights up; thus, you get an unparalleled panoramic vista of thecity and the Harbour Bridge. The best part is it won't cost you a dime at all!

Upper Fort Street, Millers Point

Loving our list of free things to do in Sydney and looking for more fun things to do? We have plenty more where they came from. From bottomless brunches and must-try wine bars to creative classes, Sydney has endless inspiration. 

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