The best things to do in Sydney. Including free attractions, cheap activities, and expensive ways to treat yourself.
Sydney is a huge city in New South Wales, Australia. It has famous landmarks, plenty of entertainment, and insanely beautiful beaches.
Here are some of the best things to do in Sydney, organized into three different price ranges.
Australia is an expensive country to visit, so I want to make sure travelers of all budgets can enjoy Sydney.
In this article, I’ll list 9 free things to do, followed by 9 cheap activities that cost money but are still affordable.
I’ll end with 7 expensive activities. While exploring the world, you should treat yourself to some incredible experiences once in a while.
So whether you’ve got lots of money to spend or you’re trying to be frugal, you can combine any of these Sydney highlights into an itinerary that fits your budget!
25 Best Things To Do In Sydney
From marveling at the Sydney Opera House, to swimming at Bondi Beach, here are some of the most iconic Sydney attractions.
Keep in mind, Sydney is huge. So be sure to factor in the costs of transport when doing any of these activities.
Check out the official NSW Transport website for info on public transport costs.
9 Free Things To Do In Sydney
Sydney is a notoriously expensive city. Even street food and backpacker hostels are more costly than most other countries in the world.
However, there are plenty of free activities in the city. So if you’re on a budget, stick to these activities and save your money!
1. Admire the Sydney Opera House
This is, without a doubt, Sydney’s most famous attraction.
The towering, curved white waves of the Sydney Opera House are simply iconic. Seeing the building in person for the first time is always surreal.
Though you have to pay to attend a show or take a tour of the Sydney Opera House, you can admire the structure from the outside for no money at all.
2. Stroll Along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
After the Sydney Opera House, this is probably the second most famous attraction in the city.
Starting at the world-renown Bondi Beach, this 6 km walking path stretches along Sydney’s breathtaking eastern beaches.
The walk is an excellent workout, and it’s full of exquisite ocean scenery.
3. Swim in the Ocean Pools
You’ll pass plenty of ocean pools along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, and there are many more scattered all over Sydney.
Ocean pools allow you to swim in the salty sea water without dealing with the waves breaking on the sand. They’re also incredibly photogenic.
Some popular ocean pools cost money, like the famous Bondi Icebergs and some of the pools in Coogee.
Here are other ocean pools in Sydney that are free:
- Bronte Baths in Bronte
- South Cronulla Beach Pool (as shown in cover photo), Shelley Beach Pool, and Oak Park Pool in Cronulla
- Mahon Pool in Maroubra
- Fairy Bower Pool and Queenscliff Pool in Manly
- North Curl Curl Rock Pool and South Curl Curl Rock Pool in Curl Curl
- Fairlight Tidal Pool in Fairlight
- Mona Vale Rock Pool in Mona Vale
4. Check out St. Mary’s Cathedral
Whether you are religious or not, visiting the majestic religious buildings of different cities is always interesting.
St. Mary’s Cathedral is a beautiful catholic church that makes a nice stop on a day of sightseeing.
5. Walk through the Botanic Gardens
Of all the free attractions in the city, the Royal Botanic Gardens are one of the best.
Located right next to the Harbor and the Opera House, the Botanic Gardens consist of sprawling grassy fields, landscaped gardens, fountains and statues, flowers, exotic plants, and more.
You’ll hardly feel like you’re in the city as you meander through all the greenery.
6. Explore Darling Harbor
Darling Harbor is an area of central Sydney that is full of life.
Walking along the waterfront you’ll see restaurants, museums, street art, gardens, statues, monuments, and more.
It’s a popular spot for people watching and sightseeing. Be sure to check out the “Welcome Wall” which celebrates Australia’s immigrants throughout history.
7. Visit a Museum
Museums are a great way to learn about a country’s art, history, and culture. They’re also a great place to go on a rainy day.
Here are some of Sydney’s best free museums:
- The Australian Museum (Australian natural and cultural history)
- Museum of Contemporary Art (Interesting modern Australian art)
- Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australian and Aboriginal art, as well as international art)
- The Rocks Discovery Museum (Sydney’s history)
- Nicholson Museum (antiques and artifacts from all over the world)
8. See the Sunset or Sunrise on the Beach
Visiting the beach is easily one of the best free things to do in Sydney. Combine the beaches with the natural beauty of sunrise or sunset and you’re in for a treat.
From the famous Bondi Beach, to the northern beaches near Manly and the southern beaches near Cronulla, there is no shortage of beautiful beaches.
Sunrise is particularly incredible because the beaches face east!
9. Window Shop in Newtown
Newtown is one of Sydney’s trendiest neighborhoods.
While walking around Newtown you’ll find vintage stores, quirky clothing stores, bookshops, and plenty of street art.
If you did want to spend a little money, you can head to one of the nice eateries or entertainment venues. But exploring Newtown is possible without spending any money!
9 Cheap Things To Do In Sydney
Of course, not everything in the city is free. There are some activities in the city that are super fun and worth spending a little money on.
These cheap Sydney activities range from just a few dollars to around $40.
Because Australia is expensive, I consider $40 to be pretty cheap here!
1. Hike to the Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse
This activity is actually free, but you have to pay for parking. Once you see the view from the lighthouse, however, that small parking fee is 100% worth it.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse is the northern-most point in all of Sydney. It’s located in the beautiful Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Walk up the short but steep trail and enjoy a stunning view of the vivid blue ocean and the surrounding beaches.
2. Ride the Ferry to Manly
If you don’t want to pay for a pricey cruise through the harbor, you can just catch the local ferry from Circular Quay to Manly.
This 20 minute ferry ride takes you through the heart of Sydney Harbor and up to the northern beaches. You get a nice view of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge from the water.
The ferry ride costs around $7 – $11. You can buy a single ticket or just use your Opal Card (Sydney’s rechargeable public transport card).
3. Go to a Latin Dancing Night
This multicultural city has a large Latin population. This means there are lots of incredible bars and clubs that host Latin nights.
From enticing Spanish music to salsa dancing lessons, a Latin Dancing Night is definitely one of the best parts of Sydney’s nightlife!
Some popular clubs with Latin nights include:
- The Junction Latin Club
(Be sure to check the club websites for any Covid closures!)
Most of these don’t have cover charges, but transport and drinks may cost you a little money.
4. Chill in a Cafe
Australia’s cafe culture is beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Nothing embodies the chill Aussie lifestyle like sipping on a coffee and eating avocado toast in a trendy cafe, watching the world go by.
You’ll find a nice cafe on pretty much every street in Sydney.
A coffee or tea usually costs $4, a pastry or treat costs $5-$7, and a meal costs $12-$20.
5. Take a Day Trip
Sydney is surrounded by lush natural beauty and charming small towns.
There are so many day trips from Sydney that are easy and affordable.
With such a gorgeous strip of coastline on the outskirts of Sydney, snorkeling is a great way to explore the underwater world.
The northern beaches have some of the best snorkeling in Sydney. You can buy or rent your own snorkel gear, or book a guided snorkeling tour.
There are plenty of dive shops where you can rent snorkel gear. For example, Dive Sydney in Manly rents out a mask, snorkel, and fins for $35.
If you already own snorkel gear, then it’s free! If you want to book a guided snorkeling tour in Manly, that can cost around $80.
7. Go to a Comedy Show
A comedy show can range from $20 – $40. For an hour of nonstop laughs, I think the cost is worth it.
It’s a super fun and low-key way to spend a night in the city!
8. Picnic on the Beach
This is one of my favorite activities in Australia.
Having a picnic on the beach is cheaper than eating out, and you get to enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery while snacking.
Pack a blanket and some music. Then head to the local Woolies or ALDI to buy some cheap snacks. That should only cost around $20 and you’re set for the evening.
9. Visit the Sydney Tower Eye (the tallest building in Sydney!)
This structure towers over the Sydney skyline, making it the best place for an aerial view of the city.
It’s actually the second tallest observation tower in the entire Southern Hemisphere (The first is in Melbourne).
The entrance ticket is $24, and you can find more info on the official website.
I recommend booking your ticket with Get Your Guide. It’s the same price and allows you to skip the line!
7 Expensive Ways To Treat Yourself in Sydney
There is no shortage of ways to treat yourself in Sydney.
Whether you’re a budget traveler or a luxury traveler, buying at least one expensive activity in the city can take your trip to the next level.
Here are some of the best Sydney attractions that cost a fair bit of money.
1. Attend a Show
Going to a show in Sydney definitely falls in the “treat yourself” category.
An average theater or opera ticket can cost around $100. Shows and concerts at smaller venues can be cheaper, whereas top-notch seats can be much more expensive.
Regardless of the cost, enjoying a night out at the theater or the opera is exciting.
2. Book A Lavish Boat Cruise in the Harbor
One of the most popular activities in Sydney is a boat cruise through the harbor.
Most tours include a nice meal as well, so you can enjoy the city scenery while treating yourself to some delicious food and drinks.
Check Get Your Guide for the best boat tours with the highest ratings! Most cost around $100.
3. Go Kayaking
Water sports are an amazing way to enjoy a city surrounded by water! For an active day in Sydney, rent a kayak or book a kayaking tour.
You can kayak in the ocean, or right through the harbor.
For more affordable hourly rentals, check out:
Guided tours are a bit pricier, but they save you a lot of hassle. Check out these companies:
4. Climb the Harbor Bridge
If you’re not afraid of heights and you love aerial views, climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge is a must.
Book a tour with Bridge Climb Sydney, the most popular and reputable tour company.
They have high-quality equipment and experienced guides that will help you get to the top of the bridge safely.
Prices start at $198 for adults, for a 3-hour climb.
5. Take Surf Lessons
Surfing is one of the most cherished sports in Australia. If you’ve never tried surfing, Sydney is the perfect place to give it a try.
Most popular beaches around Sydney have surf schools where you can book a lesson and rent your board and wetsuit.
Surf lessons can cost $50-$100 for a few hours. Or you can spend a few hundred for an immersive, multi-day surf excursion.
6. Dine at a Really Nice Restaurant
Nothing makes you feel rich and famous like a really nice dinner.
Why not spend a night at one of Sydney’s best restaurants? Treat yourself to some cocktails, appetizers, delicious mains, and desserts. It will be costly, but it will be so much fun.
Here are some of Sydney’s nicest restaurants:
7. Fly Over Sydney Harbor
One of the best ways to see Sydney Harbor is from the sky.
For $190 you can book a helicopter ride over Sydney and see all the famous sights from above.
This is definitely one of the most expensive Sydney activities, but I’m sure it’s unforgettable and great for photo opportunities.
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Before traveling to Australia…
☼ Book your accommodation in Sydney. I always recommend Hostelworld, as it’s by far the cheapest option in an expensive place like Australia.
☼ Check Skyscanner for cheap flights to Australia!
Check out my other travel articles about Australia…
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