Even Sydney locals will admit that living costs in Sydney make it challenging to regularly eat out, go to festivals and gigs, spend the night dancing or investigating the latest bars and restaurants. That said, there’s plenty of entertainment for everyone that doesn’t cost a cent to enjoy. Whether you prefer lying on the beach with a book, or scenic and challenging walks float your boat, whether it’s art, music or sport that appeals, here’s how to enjoy Sydney without breaking your budget.
Arts and Culture
The Art Gallery of NSW offers divine views over harbourside Woolloomooloo. Entry to view the main collection is free.
Nearby ArtSpace also runs a public program of artist talks, lectures, films and more at no cost.
Check out contemporary Chinese art gallery White Rabbit, also in Woolloomooloo. “Entry to the White Rabbit gallery is free and we also host free exhibition highlight guided tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm daily during opening hours which are Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm,” says White Rabbit’s Jane Petersen. “There are 2 exhibitions per year and they run from early March till the end of July and September till the end of January. The Gallery is shut in February and August for installation.”
Circular Quay is easily accessible by public transport. You’ll find buskers plying their trade daily, whether it’s didgeridoo players or street performers dancing, juggling or acting.
Sydney is home to some marvellous works of commissioned street art. Taking a stroll and a few photos is almost mandatory. In Harbour Street, Chinatown, Aboriginal rights activist and elder, Jenny Munro, has been immortalised in a mural. While you’re soaking in the rays on Bondi Beach, and enjoying the visual spectacle, also wander by the walls of murals along the boardwalk. The dog on a surfboard is not to be missed. In King Street, Newtown, I Have A Dream was painted in 1991 to advocate gender equality, environmental health and civil rights. King Street is rich with street art really, so a stroll in any direction will find treasures.
From The Rocks to Milson’s Point, you’ll enjoy views worth a million dollars over the 1-kilometre stroll, jog or run. Once you reach the other side, you can do a return walk or catch a ferry from Circular Quay.
There are guided tours of the Royal Botanic Gardens and you don’t need to be a green thumb to enjoy the divine views of native and international plants expertly curated for aesthetic and environmental impact.
Via the Botanic Gardens, take a walk to Mrs Macquaries Point where you are assured of Instagram-friendly views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
There’s plenty of self-guided walking tours via the City of Sydney’s Culture Walks app. Simply download the app to your phone, or pick up a brochure from the library or the City Host information kiosks. One of the walks is the Barani Redfern historical walk. This provides insight into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, and a unique historical perspective on this beautiful city.
Pirrama Park offers plenty of open space to lay out a towel and simply read a book or consider your next activity. You could also go for a morning swim before using one of the barbecues provided to prepare breakfast out in the open.
Congwong Beach is purely pale sand and sparkling blue water with no crowds; a total sanctuary. It is great for snorkelling or lazily paddling as there’s little to no waves here. Karloo Pools, in the Royal National Park, is halfway along the Karloo walking track so it tends not to attract major crowds. It’s definitely worth a stop-over.
Milk Beach is small in size, but offers big views of Sydney city and the harbour. Lifeguards don’t patrol this beach though, so it’s safest for a picnic or wading through the shallows and fishing rather than swimming.
While Sydney isn’t known as a cheap city to stay, dine or even live in, it is vibrantly alive with free art, nature, events and institutions from libraries to galleries and open spaces that invite locals and tourists alike to soak up the atmosphere.
With some forward planning around how to get from place to place – via ample public transport options, bike or foot – you’ll manage to fit walking, beach time, art galleries and street art appreciation into your day or weekend stay.