So you’ve arrived in Australia? Welcome to possibly the most expensive country in the Universe! Don’t be put off though, because honestly, my love for Australia runs deep into my heart. The people are friendly, the views are amazing and the beaches are gorgeous.

Australia isn’t the most budget-friendly option for travellers, however, I managed to stay there for a year without becoming completely bankrupt. So, what I’ve done is compiled a list of 5 free things to do in Sydney! When I read these sorts of posts, I always imagine them to be well boring but honestly, you will really enjoy them! Sydney is such a beautiful city.

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a fantastic place to visit if you’ve just arrived. In fact, when my parents landed at the airport, we headed over to Darling Harbour for dinner when they were fresh off the plane. The atmosphere is perfect for families as there is a huge playground complex, however, if you’re a budget traveller I’m guessing that you won’t have any children with you… or you might, who knows.

The harbour itself is lined with bars and restaurants where you could literally find whatever tickled your fancy. It is also home to Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds and The Hard Rock Cafe.

If you do want to part with a few dollars, then head to Pontoons bar and restaurant which is open for lunch and dinner. Meals range between $10 – $20, which for Sydney is pretty decent. There is also an excellent bar called Tokio Hotel, which offers $5 beer, wines and spirits between 4 pm and 8 pm. They also have live music every night from 7 pm where you can see some amazing acts free of charge!

Even though the main attraction of Darling Harbour is food and drink, it is still well worth the stroll along the waterfront if you didn’t want to part with your precious dollar bills.

herons at darling harbour
Water feature at Darling Harbour.

Bondi to Coogee Walk

Or Coogee to Bondi. Whichever way you do the walk, you will see some spectacular coastal views. Set aside around 2 hours, heaps of sun cream and plenty of water. You can catch a bus outside central station headed for Coogee, or grab a train heading to Bondi Junction and then a bus to Bondi Beach. You will have to pay an Opal charge to get there… sorry.

The walk takes you along cliff tops, past rock pools, through small coves and offers incredible views over a number of beaches. Depending on the time of year, keep your eye on the sea for dolphins and whales.

Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and take a break from the walk. You can easily go for a dip in the sea, stop for an ice cream and there are a couple of public BBQ’s along the way. This was one of my favourite things to do in Sydney and is even good to do if it’s an overcast day. In fact, that would probably work in your favour as opposed to doing it in the 40-degree sun.

coogee beach
Coogee Beach.

  Royal Botanic Gardens

Possibly one of the ultimate freebies in Sydney! Well, if you’re into nature and great views. There are a number of entrances into the Botanicals and it is well worth a visit. You won’t believe that you’re in the city once you’re surrounded by towering trees and lush greenery. The gardens are a perfect place to bring a picnic and watch the world go by.

You are also in the perfect place to spot wildlife! Expect to see lizards, possums and cockatoos! Head to the main pond, which is literally called the main pond, and have a look to see if you can spot the eels. Some of them are huge!

It is also worth a stroll up to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair! The story goes that Mrs.Macquarie used to sit at the same point to look out over Sydney Harbour. Her husband loved her that much that he carved her a chair into the rock which is still there today. I mean, that’s the story I heard anyway.

Walk along the coastal pathway that overlooks Farm Cove and you will get a fantastic view of the Opera House. Dare I say, it is the best view of the Opera House that you can get. In my opinion anyway.

sydney botanical gardens
View of Sydney Harbour from the Botanicals.


Okay, so I may have lied slightly again. You will have to pay an Opal charge to get to Manly, so I suggest going on a Sunday so it’s only $2.50. Head to Circular Quay and jump on the ferry headed to Manly. The ferry takes about 30 minutes but offers amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Keep your eye on the steps leading into the sea from the Opera House, as very occasionally there is a resident seal having a sunbathe.

Manly is such a feel good area. Head across the road as you come out of the wharf and down the main high street. You can find a great variety of restaurants, as well as retail stores such as Billabong, Cotton On and Rip Curl. Manly Beach is a stones throw away from the high street. It is perfect for sunbathing or chilling with an ice cream. It also offers great surfing if you’re a keen surfer.

To the right-hand side of Manly Beach, there is a short coastal walk that leads to Shelly Beach. I personally prefer Shelly as it is a small cove surrounded by palm trees and forest. There are also virtually zero waves at Shelly, which means you can have a swim without choking on sea water. If you have a snorkel then definitely bring it along and check out the wonders of Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

The Boat House is a restaurant that is located at Shelly Beach and is just perfect to stop for a drink or a bite to eat. It also showcases a fantastic view over Shelly and Manly beach. Next to The Boat House, you will see a small stairway leading into the forest. Follow this pathway and you will find yourself in a green oasis. Keep your eyes peeled for Water Dragons. Once you’ve spotted one, you won’t be able to stop spotting them as they crop up everywhere!

shelly beach manly.
View of Shelly Beach from the coastal walk.

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are around 2 hours away from Sydney’s Central Station. I’d suggest going on a Sunday so that you only pay the $2.50 cap on Opal travel. Okay, okay so it isn’t exactly free because you have to pay to get there, but it’s free in terms of you don’t have to pay an entrance fee.

The view from the main Three Sisters lookout point is amazing! Especially at sunrise or sunset if you’re feeling adventurous. Also at the Three Sisters, there is an interesting Cultural Centre that offers Aboriginal dance performances every 20 minutes. It gives a fascinating insight into the aboriginal dances and beliefs. Side note, the dance performance isn’t free.

There are various walking tracks that you can do, some more challenging than others. We did a route down the Giant Stairway which consists of 998 steps! My thighs and calves were absolutely killing by the end of it, but the views are well worth it and you can spot an abundance of wildlife, from skinks to cockatoos! A well worth it day trip.

the three sisters
The Three Sisters.

So there we have it boys and girls, the ultimate guide to a budget-friendly day in Australia’s most expensive city. Perhaps the most expensive city in the world. In the most expensive country in the world. It’s just pretty expensive, okay?

Let me know what other freebies there are or different ways you have saved money on days out in Sydney. I’m always down for a freebie after a few days of spending too much.

Granted, some of these activities do have an opal cost and at some of the places you can have an optional beverage (which I would recommend) but on the whole, this is a pretty bangin’ list of freebies, even if I do say so myself.

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