If you are planning the great Australian adventure, chances are that you will be stopping by Sydney for at least a few days. Sydney is the backpacking mecca of Australia and for many, the city in which most travellers gain their very first taste of the laid back Australian way of life. Sydney is located around a 10 hour drive from its neighbouring cities: Melbourne and Brisbane. Yes we know... Australia is a VERY BIG country! So if you are planning (which is highly likely) to visit Sydney, here are some of the best free or cheap ways to experience what Sydney really has on offer.
Free Things to Do in Sydney
Explore the Suburbs
Like most major cities, the outer suburbs are the best places to get a 'real' taste of what life in Sydney is all about. Glebe is one of our favourite suburbs within Sydney and is just a short 1km walk from Central Station. Expect to see some pretty funky little cafes, restaurants and boutique stalls. If you are in Sydney on the weekend, check out the Glebe Markets! In the opposite direction and just a 10 minute walk from Central Station you will stumble upon Surry Hills - a great place to grab an afternoon drink or a night out. And of course - a visit to the hipster capital of Sydney - Newtown - is a must! Newtown is just a short train ride from the CBD and reminds us a little bit of Melbourne - graffiti lined streets, great live music and happening bars. And last but not least - King's Cross, Sydney's iconic nightclub strict, is also worth a looksie - enjoy the craziness and a night out.
TIP: If you're lazy or boasting a killer hangover - check out the FREE 555 Bus that takes you around the CBD. There is also a FREE City Walking Tour departing 3 times each day from Town Hall Square.
Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk
Prepare to have your mind blown! You WILL get hometown envy on this walk. Catch a bus (ok, the bus isn't free but it is cheap) from Sydney's CBD to either Bondi Beach or Coogee Beach. From there you can follow the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Trail along the ocean. The beaches are absolutely stunning with plenty of opportunities. After the walk, enjoy the beach and grab a beer at one of the beach front bars.
Check out Darling Harbour & Circular Quay
Ok so for some inner city sightseeing, be sure to check Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. Darling Harbour's shops, cafes and attractions are situated around the beautiful harbour. If you do fancy spending money here you will find the Sydney Aquarium, IMAX Theatre and you can actually spot a real Koala out the front of Wild Life Sydney. Now if you feel like walking (if not you can catch the ferry or the train), head on down to Circular Quay. Here you will be able to grab some photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or sit on the famous steps of the Sydney Opera House - our tip: grab a drink at the Opera Bar whilst the sun sets!
Paddy's Markets and Chinatown
With Sydney's multicultural community, a trip to Chinatown is a must. On your way, make sure you stop by Paddy's Markets - a great place to pick up some cheap clothes, jewelry, souvenirs and pretty much anything you can think of! Chinatown is a great place to grab a cheap delicious eat with a bottle of BYO wine - yummo! On Friday nights, be sure to check out the Chinatown night markets
Markets at the Rocks
The Rocks is a bustling little inner city area right by Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is a great place for a bar crawl and there are usually many festivals or events on. On Friday, Saturdays and Sundays there are some great markets to check out with loads of cheap food trucks to fill your hungry belly. Also take a walk up to Sydney's Observatory for some great photo opportunities of the Harbour Bridge.
Read more about the markets found in Sydney here.
There are many historical buildings and free art galleries and museums to check out when visiting Sydney. A stop by St Mary's Cathedral in Hyde Park is worth a little squizz, The Rock's Discovery Museum provides a great in depth overview of the area's Aboriginal History, if you feel like getting artsy then stop by the Art Gallery of NSW, for a look into Sydney's maritime history then a visit to the National Maritime Museum is a must and the Museum of Contemporary Art always has amazing 'out of the box' exhibitions to explore. Read our guide to Sydney's Museums here.
Hit the Gardens
Sydney's city centre is bustling with some pretty sweet gardens where you can chill out, grab a picnic or read a book. Hyde Park is worth a little visit as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens and Pirrama Park in Pyrmont. Check out our top Sydney BBQ spots here.
Cheap Things to Do in Sydney
Take a Ferry ride around Sydney Harbour
This is one of the cheapest and scenic ways to explore Sydney. Surrounded by water, taking a public ferry is a fantastic way to cruise past the city's iconic attractions and beaches without paying a huge amount for a tour. There are ferry terminals located around the city but the two major hop on and hop off points are Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. Return ferry tickets will cost you around $12 per day and will allow you the opportunity to hop and hop off as you please. We highly recommend jumping on at Darling Harbour - the views as you cruise under the Sydney Harbour Bridge towards Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House are stunning! Once you have jumped off and had time to get some selfies at the Opera House, jump back on a ferry and head over to Manly Beach for the day! Manly
TIP: Head to Shelly Beach for some marine spotting and snorkeling!
$10 Rides at Luna Park
Yep that's right! As you take the ferry around Sydney Harbour there is no doubt that you will spot the BIG smiling face of Luna Park (designed on the Coney Island Smiling man at St Kilda Melbourne's theme park). Entry to the historic building is free and rides are just $10 a pot.
Sydney Tower Eye
To really get a grasp on Sydney, we definitely recommend a little visit to the Sydney Tower. When you reach the top, the observation deck offers 360 degree panoramic views of the city - you may even be able to spot the Blue Mountains! Tickets are around $27.
Where to stay in Sydney? Westend Backpackers is located smack bang in the middle of the CBD.