There are a lot of articles that showcase the 'Best Free Things To Do in Sydney'. However, their recommendations often focus heavily on places and activities within the CBD, and nearby.
More than once I have thought about how unfortunate this is. Sydney is a massive place, and there are a fair few gems located on Sydney's outer reaches. Some of these are even free. Let me get you started with a few of the best free things you can do in Western Sydney:
Visit Native Animals at Central Gardens Nature Reserve
Established in the 1970s, the Central Gardens Nature Reserve in Merrylands is a real special spot in Western Sydney. It is becoming increasingly rare to be able to visit Australian animals around Sydney without having to pay at least a small entry fee.
This is one of the exceptions, and also happens to be home to an aviary, walking paths and a waterfall feature. There is also plenty of space for barbecues and picnicking.
Cycle At Western Sydney Parklands
This massive area is home to 27 kms of cycle tracks including the popular Wylde MTB Trail, which caters to intermediate level mountain bike riders and above.
Visit the parklands for excellent views of the city, access to nature, lots of picnic areas and children's play equipment. Avid birders can also take a break from cycling to spot the prevalent local bird life, including Rosellas and Lorikeets, among others.
Play at Blaxland Riverside Park
A dream come true for adults who have never completely grown up, Blaxland Riverside Park is home to some super-sized play equipment. While kids are more than able to play here, all the equipment is big enough - and sturdy enough - to accommodate adults.
It may be your first chance in decades to experience a playground flying fox, or a climbing gym that didn't threaten to buckle under you - so make full use of it! Also a great spot for picnics with great views of the Parramatta River from the 12 metre high play house.
See The Greystanes Aqueduct
Sydney's very own aqueduct. Image Credit: Department of the Enivronment | Australian Heritage Photographic Library via Wikimedia Commons
The Greystanes Aqueduct is 225 m long with 22 arches and was constructed in the late 1880s. Thanks to the work of a local group, this historic aspect of Sydney engineering is intact, and has been converted to allow people to cycle over it. Visit it as a cyclist, a budding history buff, or merely as a place for some interesting photo opportunities.
Picnic Along The Hawkesbury
Some of the most beautiful picnic spots in Western Sydney can be found dotted along the Hawkesbury River. There are options for everyone, from parks with shady trees and paths you can bike along, to large grassy areas with barbecue facilities and covered picnic tables.
Get yourself situated early at your chosen spot and make sure to bring lots to do: balls and bats or a frisbee for the kids, perhaps a pad and pencil for the artist in you, or a maybe good book. Or bring your digital camera, and get some interesting shots of local wildlife, or the sun setting over the river.
Deerubin Park has picnic facilities as well as a boat ramp. Image Credit: Peter L Johnson via Wikimedia Commons
An excellent choice if arriving via public transport is Howe Park in Windsor, only a 15 minute walk from the Windsor Railway Station.
Swim in Lake Parramatta
In 2015, Lake Parramatta was reopened to swimmers after being closed for general bathing since 1942. This is a massive achievement in rehabilitating a water body - so get over there and make use of it.
The lake is located within Lake Parramatta Reserve, a 73 ha space which is a fantastic all round spot for swimming, walking, relaxing outdoors and having a barbecue. There are even non-motorised boating facilities.
Take The Migrant Heritage Walk
Scheyville National Park's Migrant Heritage Walk allows you to take a fairly unstructured gambol through bush and former farmland dotted with ruins from when the site was a migrant camp.
This walk will be a delight for history buffs who don't mind roughing it a little, as this walk does not have footpaths. However, the rough condition in which the site has been kept effectively conveys how life would have been for the people who were brought there to begin their new lives in Australia.
Remnants of a thriving migrant community in Western Sydney
The location is also home to some of the last remaining Cumberland Plain Woodland in the Sydney area, and its remote location allows for a peaceful and reflective experience escape from civilization.
Explore Parklea Market
If you haven't been to this sprawling indoor market just outside Blacktown, get yourself over there and check it out. Going to Parklea Market is an essential Western Sydney weekend affair, as it is the best place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at competitive prices.
It's also a great place to buy colourful knick-knacks, linen, cheap clothing, gardening supplies, cheap electronics and more. There are plenty of food stalls located in the market, and often there is a little live music to entertain you. Because the entire market is enclosed and covered, the market is suitable to visit all year round.
Visit The Chinese Gardens
Blacktown signed a formal agreement with Liaocheng City in China in 2003, making the two sister cities. As a symbolic gesture between the two cities, they worked together to design and construct the beautiful Chang Lai Yuan Chinese Gardens, located in the popular Nurragingy Reserve, Doonside.
The Chang Lai Garden features traditional Chinese architecture and includes a waterfall, lake, stone bridge and gateway. Landscaping complements the picturesque architecture and various waterbirds make this pretty spot their home. There is plenty of room for bush walking, picnics and small gatherings in the wider reserve area.
Hopefully, this rundown has given you some inspiration for an upcoming weekend - but be assured this is not an exhaustive list.
There is much more to be enjoyed for free out West. If you have local knowledge of any more free activities in Western Sydney, please let us know in the comments.
Cooling off in one of the many water play parks in the West is an ideal free family activity. You will find them in Blacktown, Dundas, Parramatta, Doonside, Penrith, Abbotsbury, Merrylands & Werrington.
Adding to Little Munch. There are water parks at Blacktown Showground and Nurragingy Reserve at Doonside. Both have picnic and bbq facilities. Blacktown has a cafe and Nurragingy has a kiosk. Both very different. A fun family activity!