15 free things to do in Sydney at least once in your life
Updated: Sep 9
What are the best free events and attractions in Sydney? We've created the ultimate bucket list
1. Become a Star at TV famous Palm Beach
If you’re tired of the hustle and bustle of Bondi and want to see what more Sydney has to offer, look no further than Palm Beach. Only an hour from the CBD, nestled in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, you’ll find the perfect home away from home getaway.
Rub shoulders with Sally Fletcher and Alf Stewart in Summer Bay, as you find yourself at the home of Home & Away. Palm Beach offers the sights of one of Australia’s most iconic shows, whilst you paddleboard, kayak, surf or even whale watch at the famous lighthouse on the hill. So for the price of a simple a bus trip up north, you might find yourself on the next guest spot of Home & Away.
2. Transport yourself to the historical Strand Arcade
Step through time to one of Sydney’s most famous historical monuments, the Strand Arcade. Originally opened in 1892 as an ahead of it’s time architectural feat, the Strand Arcade maintains the beauty which attracted customers all those years ago.
The multilevel shopping arcade hosts a stable of premier Australian fashion designers from Jac+ Jack, Lover, Sass & Bide and Dion Lee. Top your day with a visit to the grand haberdasheries and maintain that summer glow with stop by the many natural beauty product stores. Whether it be a quick visit, or you're an architectural fan, there is something for everybody at the Strand Arcade.
3. Join the Dawn Patrol at Bronte Baths
Bronte Baths proves to be a highlight along Sydney’s famous Bronte to Bondi walk. A hotspot for cheeky sunrise pic’s to fill the gram, this ocean pool will have you doing laps in no time.
Offering an easier time for the less experienced swimmer, the Bronte Baths provides safety from the rougher waves, as the gentler ones glide over the barricade and fill the pool. Make sure to get there early though, that sunrise is not something to be missed.
4. Discover Hidden Coasts on the Hermitage Foreshore Walk
Clocking in at just under 2km, the Hermitage Walk provides Sydneysiders and those visiting with one of the most spectacular views of the harbour. The Harbour Bridge, Shark Island and even the Sydney Opera House provide a backdrop for this stunning coastal walk.
Don’t forget to pack your swimmers, as you’ll pass Nielson Bay among other harbour beaches to sit down and relax at. Sunscreen is a must, even if you are there to take advantage of the harbour sunset views. .
5. Get your Cultural Fill at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
The MCA is famous for hosting some of the most exciting and in demand art exhibitions in Sydney, basing itself right by the harbour. Hosting an array of local artists as well as international superstars in the artworld such as Anish Kapoor, Yoko Ono and Grayson Perry, the MCA is an absolute must visit.
Complete your visit at the MCA with a coffee at their rooftop cafe and sculpture terrace, overlooking Sydney’s iconic harbour.
6. Grab your hiking boots for the Manly to Spit coastal walk
The Manly to Spit Coastal walk rivals the ever famous Bondi to Bronte, as you tour the miraculous views of the Pacific Ocean. Pack your hat, water bottle and sunscreen as you spend the day completing this Pacifc near half marathon, taking you down rocky ocean staircases to some of Sydney's most hidden beaches.
By the end of the walk you’ll have that perfect summer beach body ready to be shown off at the many sandy coves you’ll find along the way. But that's not the only reward, as you’ll reach the peak of the Grotto Point Aboriginal engravings, seeing historical Sydney landmarks engraved into sandstone itself.
7. Explore contemporary Chinese art at White Rabbit
The White Rabbit Gallery is located in Chippendale at the heart of Sydney's cultural hub, the Inner West. The multilevel gallery combines 21st century Chinese art along with a host of Australian and International art exhibitions. Much of the art is provided by founder Judith Neilson, who displays an impressive collection for the general public, free of charge of course.
If you’re interested in bold and unique art that is always pushing boundaries, then look no further than the White Rabbit Gallery. Oh, and while you're there, make sure you visit the inhouse tea room for some out of this world dumplings.
8. Marvel at the Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of NSW is a cultural juggernaut in Sydney, hosting wide exhibitions to both classic and emerging art. Recently host to the lauded Japan Supernatural exhibition featuring famed contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, the Art Gallery of NSW proves to be at the forefront of the Sydney art scene.
Whilst hosting over 40 exhibitions every year, there are a range of other activities, such as workshops, talks and film screenings. Check out the Art After Hours film screenings every Wednesday until late.
9. Spy on the sunset from atop the Hornby Lighthouse
Overlooking the scenic waters of Camp Cover past the Watson Bay Hotel sits one of Sydney’s most iconic lighthouses, the Hornby Lighthouse. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean in one direction, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge at the other, you’ll have a view like none other.
Catching the ferry from Circular Quay to Watson’s bay will provide you with a first hand view of the beautiful Sydney waters. Once arriving at Watson’s Bay, feel free to check out famed Watson’s Bay hotel. With a wide wine selection and a phenomenal lunch menu, a day trip to Sydney’s most eastern suburb will prove a treat to anyone visiting.
10. Celebrate Sydney's LGBT+ community at the Imperial Hotel
Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel is a mainstay of Sydney's famed LGBT+ community. Loud music accompanied by outstanding Drag, this celebration of Sydney’s queer community is a must for not just tourists, but all Sydneysiders.
Upstairs serves as the perfect after hours disco with cultural classics like Diana Ross, Cher, Madonna and Whitney Houstan in rotation, whilst the basement serves for some of the most iconic Sydney queer collectives, Heaps Gay and Girlthing. Make sure you head one evening for Drag ‘n’ Dine, for dinner and a show.
11. Discover the hidden gem of Wendy's Secret Garden
Lavender Bay is home to one of Sydney's best kept secrets in Wendy’s Secret Garden. Formerly private property, this garden was later made into a place for Sydneysiders to escape the hustle and bustle of the Sydney CBD. Don’t miss the chance to fill your feed with pics of towering fig tree’s and native plants, as you make your followers jealous.
12. Sleep under the stars with Bubbletent Australia
Overlooking the Capertree Valley, the largest valley in the world sits the experience of Bubbletent Australia. With an array of three tents to choose from, you’ll have an opportunity to see the night sky like none other.
Located three hours outside of the CBD, this experience avoids the light pollution of the city, giving you and your tent guests an experience you won’t likely forget. A little tip you didn't hear from us is to pick the Virgo tent if available for an absolutely stellar wood fire hot tub.
13. Make a Day of a Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney's harbour, and has been repurposed many a time over its history. From film set, to shipping yard, the island now serves as a location to art and cultural festivals. Explore the remains of the old Norfolk goal, or go glamping in the host of apartments and heritage holiday houses which now litter the island.
Although the red gum trees and Aboriginal fishing spots are long gone, the history of the island remains to be explored. Make sure to book quickly though, as many of the holiday packages go very quickly.
14. Go whale watching or hiking in the Royal National Park
The Royal National Park located at the south of Sydney is a host to too many activities to count. With over 26km of bush, the beautiful coastline walks, beaches and rock pools are only a few attractions to say the least. Make sure to check out the ever instagramable Wedding Cake Rock and Figure Eight Rock pools, or just lay back and relax at one of the many streams and lakes. Make sure to get there midway through the year if you want to catch a glimpse of the Whale Migrations passing through the area. Still an amazing sight for locals and tourists alike.
15. Travel from Bondi to Coogee along the coastal path
Starting in Bondi, this six kilometre walk is one of the most famous experiences in Sydney. Leading through Tamarama, Bronte and ending in Clovelly, explore 4 of Sydney's most iconic beaches. Used by runners and general tourists alike, this easy walk provides stunning views of the ocean from atop the cliffs from sunrise to sunset.
If you’re around towards the end of the year, you may even be able to see the Sculptures by the Sea, in which some of Australia’s most famous artists display their talents on the waterfront. An attraction which shouldn't be missed.