As avid budget travelers, we love checking out the best free and cheap things to do in the cities we visit. We like to be conscious of the money we spend to take it as far as possible. And, we like helping other people save serious funds along the way.
Australia was our big adventure for 2018. Our goal is to travel to at least one new country each year, and we were thrilled to pack in 10 days under the Sydney sun.
But enough about us – as promised, here are the best free or cheap things to do in Sydney, Australia:
Free Things to Do in Sydney
While Sydney isn’t known for being cheap, there are a number of free things to do within its limits. While there were a few things we knew we wanted to see before we visited (Opera House, anyone?), many of these spots surprised us. And yes – we did every single activity on this list. We’re not in the business of recommending things we haven’t done ourselves.
Wander through The Rocks
The antique, eclectic buildings of The Rocks regularly attract both tourists and locals. There’s a lot to see just by walking around: local shops, eateries, outdoor markets and more.
Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens opened in 1816 and remain to be one of Sydney’s most visited attractions. Open every day of the year, you can take a free walking tour or enjoy the grounds on your own time.
Take a Picture from Mrs MacQuarie’s Chair
If you want a great photo-op, hike up to Mrs MacQuarie’s Chair. Catch it right before sunset for a dramatic view of the Opera House.
Hike from Corgee to Bondi Beach
The coastal hike from Corgee to Bondi Beach was one of my favorite parts of Sydney. You’re watching the ocean crash up against the cliffs and think it can’t get any more beautiful until you turn and, somehow, it does. I highly, highly recommend you take time for this in Sydney.
See the Sydney Opera House
You don’t need Orchestra seats to enjoy Sydney’s top attraction. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon in the 1950s, the Opera House was a work of technology and creativity before its time that draws millions of visitors to Sydney each year.
Walk through Darling Harbour
A walk through Darling Harbour will give you a taste of life in Sydney. From restaurants and shops to open air stands and street performers, there’s always something going on at this not-so-little hub.
See St. Mary’s Cathedral
St. Mary’s is an incredibly large cathedral and a gorgeous work of architecture. Just a few decades ago, it was given the honor of being named a minor basilica.
Check out the Angel Place Birdcages
Also known as “Forgotten Songs,” this art installation plays tribute to over 150 species of extinct or endangered birds in Australia. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Relax at the Beach
When you’re visiting the island country, it only makes sense to spend a day on one of its many gorgeous beaches. Bring a book or enjoy the waves – either way, don’t forget the sunscreen. (If you don’t heed the warning, it’s good to know that aloe vera isn’t too expensive in Sydney).
Enjoy the Open Air Markets
From painted watercolors to fresh produce and your new favorite bag, there are an endless supply of goods at Sydney’s famous open air markets. We stumbled upon a few of these completely by accident and it was a lot of fun talking to local artisans.
Cheap Things to Do in Sydney
Sometimes you can get an incredible experience by just spending a couple dollars. These were a few of our favorite cheap things to do in Sydney, Australia:
Grab Some Amazing Coffee
Fun fact: Starbucks notoriously failed in Australia because its drinks didn’t suit the Aussie taste. That’s because of the many local coffee shops that serve the best iced lattes I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.
My favorite was at Upside Cafe (seriously, I went back three times).
Cost: $4 AUD each
Take the Ferry to Manly Beach
Get an incredible view of the Sydney skyline on the ferry from Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach. It’s an inexpensive way to get on the water and see another of Sydney’s beaches.
Cost: $9.70 AUD per adult ($2.60 AUD on Sundays)
Go on a Day Trip to the Blue Mountains
Get out of town for a day or two and head to Katoomba, a small mountain town outside of Sydney. It’s just a two-hour train ride away but feels like a whole different world.
Here were a few of our Katoomba favorites we consider must-do’s:
Stay at 14 Lovel Street Hostel: This cozy little hostel was a quiet getaway that felt so much like home. We can’t recommend it enough.
Eat at Pomegranate Cafe: You can’t even say “brunch” until you’ve had a meal at this local gem. I recommend the corn fritters!
Get hiking: The Blue Mountains, famously dubbed Australia’s Grand Canyon, is worth every drop of sweat. Go with a group – or venture out on your own (following the trails, of course).
Enjoy Seafood Along the Beach
Seafood – cheap? What now?
When it comes to the island country, and if you go to the right spot – then, yeah; cheap. Fish and chips can be found inexpensively at many locations, and you won’t find fish as fresh.
BONUS: Ways to Save Money in Sydney, Australia
Travel on Sundays
You can spend a maximum of $2.60 AUD when traveling on Sundays. That means you can take any mode of public transit – bus, train or ferry – and you’re capped at $2.60. So if your schedule allows, wait on your ferry until the next Sunday comes around.
Check Groupon for Deals
If you’re hoping to try something a little more costly, like a surf lesson on Bondi beach or whale watching, check out Groupon for some great deals on activities.
Eat Thai Food
Thai food is some of the cheapest fare you’ll find in Sydney – not to mention delicious. You can save some serious cash by sticking to those cheaper eats.
Plan in Advance
One of the best ways to make a trip more costly is by winging it. The more you research and plan ahead of time, the easier it will be for you to stick to your budget. Check out our budget travel planning services to learn more about how we can help you plan the budget adventure you’re dreaming of.
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