1. Walk Sydney Harbour Bridge
Climbing Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge is one of the priciest activities you can do in the city but did you know you can walk across it for free? Find the pedestrian access to the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the historic Rocks district and wander across the bridge to soak up the harbour lights and sights at night.
Opening hours: 24-hours Getting there: The pedestrian walkway is on the eastern side of Sydney Harbour Bridge and can be accessed from the south in Cumberland Street, The Rocks or from the north at Milsons Point.
2. Watch sunset at North Head
Sydney sunsets are legendary and none more so than those over the water. For a spectacular sunset viewing point head to North Head in Manly, where the harbour meets the ocean and the lookout has panoramic city and harbour views. Pack a picnic and spread out on the slopes for the evening.
Opening hours: 6am – 8pm daily Getting there: Catch a ferry from Circular Quay wharf to Manly wharf. From there, take the 135 bus to North Head Q Station.
3. Art After Hours, Art Gallery of NSW
Located in a temple-like building in Sydney’s Domain, the Art Gallery of NSW showcases fine international and Australian art including an impressive collection of European old masters. Entry to the gallery and its various events is completely free of charge, including Art After Hours, which is held every Wednesday. The whole gallery, including all displays and exhibitions, stays open until 10pm and there’s a rotating line up of talks, lectures and guided walks to check out too.
Opening hours: Art After Hours is held from 5.30pm to 10pm every Wednesday Getting there: Art Gallery Road can be reached on foot from St James and Martin Place train stations (both about 10 minutes walk). Bus 441 departs from the York Street side of Queen Victoria Building and drops off near the Gallery.
4. The Domain & Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney’s Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens have an enviable waterfront position that are perfect for an evening stroll or harbour front picnic, especially at iconic viewpoints such as Mrs Macquaries Chair. The Royal Botanic Gardens are the oldest in Australia and free guided tours are run by volunteers each morning. You are welcome to conduct your own evening tour of the flora and fauna though, check out the Royal Botanic Gardens website for helpful maps.
Opening hours: Opening hours change seasonally. Gates stay open until 8pm from November to February. Getting there: Catch bus 441 and walk from the Art Gallery of NSW. The nearest train station is Martin Place.
5. Fairy Penguins in Manly
It’s not just Melbourne that has its own penguin colony, there’s a small population of Fairy Penguins living on Sydney’s North Harbour too. The little penguins come in to nest nightly under the Manly Wharf, making them the only breeding colony on the NSW mainland. The penguins are watched over by volunteers who are available to educate visitors about the colony during their visit.
Opening hours: The penguins come in to nest nightly between July and February. Getting there: Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf.
6. Beach barbecue at Bronte
Sydney’s beaches are sprinkled with free bbq and picnic facilities and one of the prettiest can be found at Bronte Beach, 1km south of Bondi. This upmarket eastern suburb’s beach has golden sand and an ocean lap pool (also free) backed by grassy Bronte Park, which has numerous barbecues and picnic tables. Gather your mates, grab some snags and settle in for a fun evening.
Getting there: Catch bus 379 from Bondi Junction.
7. Historic Luna Park
It’s free to enter the eerie mouth of Luna Park, inspired by the park of the same name in Coney Island, New York. Although you’ll have to pay to enjoy the rides, it’s worth checking out the bright lights, retro signs and roving entertainers of this amusement park, which first opened in 1935 and was entered on the State Heritage list in 2010.
Opening hours: Varies seasonally. Open until 10pm on summer weekends. Getting there: Catch a ferry or train to Milsons Point.
8. Cheap eats in Chinatown
Sample the buzz (and bao) of Asia in Sydney’s Chinatown, which hosts The Chinatown Night Market every Friday on Little Hay Street. Come to Chinatown any night of the week to fill up on cheap Asian eats at food courts, dumpling houses, hole-in-the-wall eateries and roadside tables. Browse the aisles of Sydney’s best Asian supermarkets and hunt for bargains in the markets. Time your visit for during Lunar New Year and you’ll be treated to all sorts of festivities including dragon dances, lively night markets, dazzling light installations and lanterns.
Opening hours: Chinatown Night Market runs from 4pm to 11pm every Friday. Getting there: Walk to Little Hay Street from Central or Museum Stations.
9. Vivid Sydney
Simply the best fun and free thing to do in Sydney is to visit the Vivid Sydney festival. Every year hundreds of light installations and projections transform Sydney into a colourful canvas during a cutting-edge event that has won multiple awards for innovation. This year’s event will run from 25 May – 16 June 2018 and features spectacular light shows across the city, as well as gigs by Vivid Music and creative talks from Vivid Ideas.
Find all event details on the Vivid Sydney website.
10. Sculpture by the Sea
Another fantastic free event in Sydney is the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition held in Bondi. During Spring, the coastal walk between Bondi Beach and Tamarama Beach is transformed into the world’s largest open-air sculpture exhibition. The already pretty stretch of coast is turned into a 2km sculpture park with unique works of art popping up everywhere from the cliff face to the beaches. Over 100 international artists take part so you never quite know what will pop up in the sand next.
Find future event info on the Sculpture by the Sea website.