Summer in Australia is paradise and although the East Coast of Australia has loads of free sights and amazing beaches, Rainforests and national parks to visit (check out our 101 free or cheap things to do in Australia here) the major cities and towns celebrate the sunshine with a number of free festivals, events, open air cinemas and night markets. To put it simply, there is always something fun to do, the atmosphere is brilliant and the best bit? You can do it all on a backpacker budget! Here are our local tips to Australia’s best free and cheap events.

MELBOURNE

Australia’s capital of cool shows its true colours in summer as the locals come out to play. Open Air cinemas, music and cultural festivals and SO many markets are on throughout the entire summer!

Melbourne Markets

Melbourne Night Noodle Market, Queen Victoria Night Markets, St KIlda Night Markets and South Melbourne Night Markets are all well worth a visit during summer.

Ben & Jerry’s St Kilda Open Air Cinema

What better way to chill out with a hang over than by snuggling up on a bean bag and watching a movie on a blow up screen as the sun sets over St Kilda Beach? The pop up outdoor cinema is set up on the shores of St Kilda Beach (right by Republica and the Sea Baths) and features an pop up bar, restaurant and of course, Ben & Jerry Ice Cream stand. Tickets need to be purchased on line.

Melbourne’s Moonlight Cinema

Set in the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens, this pop up cinema overlooks the skyrises of Melbourne’s CBD and the best bit? You can BYO alcohol and nibbles! You can also bring your own rug or bean bug – or hire them at the venue! This is one of our favourite summer experiences to be had in Melbourne!

Christmas and New Year

Like any major city you’ll find lots going on over the holiday season in Melbourne. For a full round up of some affordable things to do including the best spots to watch the New Years Eve fireworks click the more info link below

More info: here

Melbourne’s Australia Day Celebrations

One of the biggest days of the year, and a public holiday of course, Australia Day celebrates all things Australian! Each year on 26th January there are a number of events held throughout the city that are cheap and free.

When? 26th January
More Info: here.

St Kilda Festival

We still cannot believe that this huge music festival is FREE! Locals flock to St Kilda beach and surrounds to catch some great Aussie and international music. Set amongst various stages – the main stage being on St Kilda Beach – every pub, cafe, park, restaurant, footpath and road is jam packed with festival goers – a MUST!

More info: here

White Night Melbourne

Much like Sydney’s VIVID festival, White Night turns the city of Melbourne into 24 hour mode, lighting up the city’s most iconic landmarks in a display of Light and Music. Most of the major galleries and museums are open for the entire night! A GREAT night to head out on the town!

Melbourne light festival
By Chris Phutully from Australia (Gertrude Street Projection Festival 2013) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

SYDNEY

Sydney Markets

Sydney is the king when it comes to markets – with so many to choose from not just in summer, but all year long! Check out The Rocks Markets, Paddington Markets, Bondi Beach Summer Markets, Chinatown Night Markets and more.

Ben & Jerrys Sydney Openair Cinema

The pop up open air cinema is on again and the experience is a must! Located just 5 minutes from Sydney’s Redfern Train Stations (in the city’s inner west) Ben & Jerrys Open Air Cinema has a range of nightly films to chose from – you can hire your own bean bag (or bring your own rug), grab a drink or two from the bar and food from the pop up stalls. Gates open at 6:00pm for free film festivities and live music.

Christmas and New Year

For a full round up of some of the many things to do over Christmas and New Year in Sydney click here.

Sydney Festival

Throughout January, Sydney Festival takes place in and around Sydney CBD with over 100 events on offer (some free, some cheap – and some a little beyond the backpacker budget)! The festival hub – Meriton Festival Village – will be in Hyde Park and every night (apart from Mondays) will host food trucks, theatre, live music, stalls, magic acts and pop up bars opening from 4:00pm). Free concerts will also be held in Sydney’s Domain.

Sydney’s St George Open Air Cinema

Overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge, the pop up cinema screen is the ultimate place to catch a night flick as the sun sets over the beautiful Sydney Harbour. There will be loads of films to choose from and the temporary venue features a Bar and Restaurant.

More info: here

Bondi Beach Flickerfest Short Film Festival

Each year Flickerfest takes place on the shores of Bondi Beach with a range of Australian and international short films on display. The bar upstairs is a great place to grab a drink beforehand and watch the sunset over Sydney’s infamous beach. Not to mention, the film festival is a great way to get a little insight into Aussie life!

Sydney’s Australia Day Celebrations

Sydney’s bars and clubs will come alive on Australia Day, hosting huge parties! Bondi Beach, Coogee Beach and the Botanical Gardens are great places to head for the day with a rug, an esky of Aussie beers and some nibbles.

When? 26 January
More Info: here

Chinese New Year Festivities

For the last half of February there will be a number of events taking place around Sydney to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Every night of the week, Chinatown holds festivities and the restaurants that line the area are a great place to BYO booze and grab a cheap feed. On the opening night, head on down to Sydney Harbour to witness the breath taking release of the Lanterns. Other events not to be missed are the Chinese New Year Street Parade and the Dragon Boat Races held in Cockle Bay.

More info: here

Sydney Mardi Gras

One of the biggest nights of the year in Sydney – alongside VIVID and New Year’s Eve – the festival attracts thousands from across the globe each year as visitors, participants and locals join together to celebrate all things gay and lesbian. The festival parade is the largest of the events and is held on the last day. 10,000 take part in the parade that makes its way in flying colours through Kings Cross’ Oxford and Flinders Streets. Accommodation gets busy so be sure to plan your stay early!

More info: here

sydney mardi gras
By Hasitha Tudugalle [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

BYRON BAY

Byron Bay Markets

What better way to get a taste of the Byron Bay community than to check out the local artist market? Held every Saturday evening throughout summer, the Byron Bay Artisan markets have a great, relaxed and creative atmosphere as local artists gather to showcase their arts and crafts, clothing, healing methods, massage, hand made jewellery, leather work and more! There is always local live music adding to the vibe and some great, culturally diverse food stalls.. Alternatively try the Byron Community Market held on the first and third Sunday of December and January. Enjoy Buskers, music, tie dying workshops, local arts and crafts, food stands and over 300 stalls. A Byron Bay must!

More info: here

New Years Eve Byron Bay

Besides celebrating New Years Eve at the beach you can also party in the many bars Byron Bay has to offer.

More info: here

Australia Day Byron Bay

Enjoy an early morning breakfast in the park, join in the ‘Celebration of the Survival of Indigenous Culture’ where there’ll be music and dancing (no alcohol!) or check out some of the very Aussie challenges such as thong throwing or mullet throwing.

More info: here

Check out our Byron Bay Events Guide for a list of events happening all year round.

byron bay farmers market
Byron Bay Farmers Market

BRISBANE

Brisbane also knows how to throw a great market and the city’s Southbank has loads of activities for you to enjoy the sunshine all summer long.

Brisbane’s Green Jam Sessions

Head on down to Melbourne Street Green to catch some free live music on the waters of Brisbane’s southbank – a great place to catch some up and coming local talent! There is a pop up bar and restaurant on site.

More info: here

Eat Street Markets & Drive In Cinema

One of our favourite Aussie markets, Eat Street Markets are on every Friday and Saturday night throughout summer. Think pop up cafes in shipping containers, pop up bars, lights, music, designer clothing stores and a little bit of anything and everything. Not only that – it is easily accessible by taking a ferry from Brisbane CBD! A great experience! Eat Street Markets have recently introduced an outdoor drive in cinema (don’t worry – you don’t actually need a car to grab a blanket and perch on the grass).

More info: here

Brisbane Night Markets

Boundary Street Night Markets – Located in the alternative suburb of Brisbane’s West End, the Boundary Street Markets (Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday mornings) put on a fantastic atmosphere with everything from food trucks, live music, clothing stalls and more! West End is just a short drive from Brisbane’s CBD and a great place to head out for a drink or two! Our tip:  grab a cheap at the markets before exploring West End’s bars. More info: here

Indie Twilight Market – Located in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD, the BrisStyle Twilight Market takes place on 4th December and brings over 80 stalls to King George Square. A favourite among the locals with live music and all the goodies and atmosphere that come along with a night market! More info: here

eat street markets brisbane
By Misaochan (Own work) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

NOOSA

Tastes of Noosaville Night Market

Noosa has launched its very first night market! Local farmers and artists come together to offer their yummiest local produce and home made arts and crafts. With loads of gourmet treats on offer and live music – this is a must before hitting up KBs Bar at Nomads Noosa!

More info: here


AIRLIE BEACH

Airlie Beach Markets

Every Saturday throughout the year, beat that famous Airlie Beach hangover with a little visit to the waterfront markets. With everything from cheap souvenirs, jewellery, clothing and bits and bobs, there is always a great atmosphere at this chilled out little market.

More info: here


CAIRNS

Free Fitness Classes

From Monday to Saturday all year round, there are free fitness classes that anyone can join on Cairns Esplanade! Classes start at 6:30am during summer (yes we know this is early) and run for one hour! Mondays & Fridays: Aqua Aerobics in the lagoon, Tuesdays: Yoga, Wednesdays: Boot Camp at 5:30am, Thursdays: Pilates, Saturdays: Yoga Meditation at 7:30am.

More info: here

Cairns Markets

Head on down to Cairns Lagoon to catch some tropical market goodness, a great vibe and live music at Cairns Esplanade Markets on the pop up stage before taking a dip in the Cairns Lagoon! Or Check out the Cairns Night Markets – The home of cheap massages! The night markets are located across the road from the lagoon and are held every night of the year! It is a fantastic place to pick up some Aussie souvenirs, cheap clothes and accessories… oh and Ugg Boots!

More info: here

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