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25 Free Activities to do in Sydney & Surrounds

Home > Sydney > Markets | Free | Festivals | Exhibitions | Art | July | September | Lists
by Gary Brown (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the Fishing Monthly Group and Australian Fishing Network. I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published February 25th 2015
Everyone likes to get something for free, and if you can take the family along and enjoy it together and still get it for free, that's even better.
It's Free. Photo courtesy of Digital Photos . net.

Sure there have been a lot of articles written on Weekend Notes over the years of activities that are free to do in Sydney. So why is my article any different?

What I have tried to do is create a list that will cover a number of activities that I have done over the years or would like to do in the near future. All of the list of activities are free for the public to attend, but while there you may decide to buy some items at the fairs, markets, festivals, etc, as some of the things you may not be able to resist.

In this list of 25 of that I have put together I have covered the following activities:

• Walks
• Gardens
• History
• Art
• Markets
• Fairs
• Events
• Exhibitions
• Museums
• Festivals

1. Did you know that the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney offer free guided walks daily at 10:30am that start from the Garden Shop? Over the years we have walked through the oasis of 30 hectares that is in the heart of Sydney and walked around some of the path and had a look at the various plants, shrubs and trees. What the free walk will give you is a better insight into what there is actually there on display. Aboriginal Heritage Tours of the Royal Botanic Gardens run 10am Fridays or by request for groups.
Royal Botanic Gardens. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Where: Mrs Macquarie's Road Sydney.
Time: 8am to 5pm
When: Year round

Click here for more information.

2. If you like viewing different types of art, you could take a drive over to Bundeena and experience the Bundeena and Maianbar Art Trail open day and Markets in the Royal National Park. This is on the first Sunday of the month and you can walk or drive to open artist's studios in the villages of Bundeena and Maianbar. All visitors are welcome, the first time 'trailer' or the open day regular, the serious collector or the window shopper.

There are more than 20 very different artists waiting to welcome you, not only into their studios but also into their private world of creativity. Artworks on show and for sale include paintings, drawings, printmaking, woodcarving, decorative and functional pottery, glassware and jewellery. There is something here for everyone.

Where: Bundeena
Time: 10am to 4pm
When: First Sunday of every month

Click here for more information.

3. Lisgar Gardens was originally purchased in 1917 by Max Cotton (1887 to 1967) from his brother Leo, specifically for the purpose of creating the gardens. In 1967, Hornsby Shire Council purchased the property, naming it Lisgar Gardens.

Built on a steep hillside, the gardens' different levels were created by the construction of sandstone block walls. By 1950, the gardens were planted with rhododendrons, azaleas, gardenias and other exotics in harmony with native trees and ferns, highlighting the seventy two varieties of camellias.

Some of the original camellias still exist in the gardens today and are now over fifty years old. The gardens now boast over ninety varieties of camellias, a covered pavilion for weddings and other celebrations, a shade house containing the fish ponds, a gazebo, three waterfalls, informal lawn areas, picnic tables, and a rainforest walk.
A fish pond at the Lisgar Gardens. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Where: Lisgar Road Hornsby.
Time: Mon to Fri – 8am to 3.30pm & Weekends 10am to 4pm.
When: Year round

Click here for more information.

4.The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is Australia's leading museum dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art from across Australia and around the world. They have a program of exhibitions and related special events. From major thematic exhibitions and surveys of established artists, solo exhibitions, new work by emerging artists, painting and sculpture to new media.

Where: 140 George Street The Rocks.
Time: Mon to Wed 10am to 5pm, Thurs 10am to 9pm, Fri to Sun 10am to 5pm.
When: Year round

Click here for more information.

5. Paddy's Markets caters for both locals and tourists and they claim to have over 1,000 stalls that sell almost everything from fashion and accessories, sporting goods, fresh fruit and vegetables, pets supplies, clothing, electrical goods to arts and crafts and souvenirs. If you want it, they most likely will have a stall that sells it. Even if you don't want to buy, a wander around the stalls taking in the sights, sounds and smells is really worth the experience.
Paddy's Market at Haymarket. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Where: Cnr Hay & Thomas Streets Sydney.
Time: Thurs to Sun 9am to 5pm.
When: Year round

Click here for more information.

6. The Brewery Yard Markets their handpicked stallholders offer the best produce, fashion, flora, services, wares and products you can find. You will find incredible entertainment, live art demonstrations and exciting performances.

Where: Central Park Sydney. 28 Broadway Chippendale
Time: 10am to 4pm
When: 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.

Click here for more information.

7. Bondi Markets are held in the beachfront grounds of Bondi Beach Public School. Not only will you find arts, crafts, jewellery, homewards, furniture and clothes galore, but this is the place to discover Australia's hottest new designers. Come and enjoy the friendly seaside atmosphere all while enjoying a delicious sausage sizzle at one of Sydney's most beautiful locations.

Where: Bondi Beach Public School.
Time: 1st Sunday of every month.
When: 10am to 4pm

Click here for more information.

8. The Coogee Family Fun Day is one of Coogee Beach big events and is held on the first Saturday in December each year at Coogee Beach Sydney. 2014 was their 20th year.

Where: Coogee Beach
Time: December 2015
When: Check web site for details.

Click here for more information.

9. If you visit the Art Gallery of NSW you will be able to explore five levels of art at one of Australia's most popular art museums, located within beautiful parklands overlooking Sydney Harbour just 10 minutes walk from the city.

See an extensive collection of Australian art, including one of the largest galleries of Aboriginal art in the country, alongside European masters, Asian treasures and leading local and international contemporary art. Enjoy refreshments in the award-winning restaurant or cafe, and pick up a unique gift from the Gallery Shop.

Don't miss one of the free daily guided tours. Regular guided tours are offered in Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean. Tours are also available for vision and hearing impaired visitors.
NSW Art Gallery. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Where: Art Gallery Road The Domain.
Time: 10am to 5pm.
When: Year round. Except Christmas Day & Good Friday.

Click here for more information.

10. Sydney Observatory occupies a beautiful heritage-listed sandstone building in the heart of The Rocks. Free General admission to exhibitions. Daytime admission for a self-guided visit to the gardens and Sydney Observatory exhibitions is free, but does not include visits to the telescope domes, telescope viewings and 3D theatre and planetarium sessions.

Beginning with Aboriginal astronomy, take a close look at the amazing exhibitions before climbing up into our famous telescope domes and exploring the sky with experienced guides. At night, you could see stars, planets in the solar system, the Moon or even nebulae that are light years away. By day you can observe our active Sun with special lenses. Don't miss the time ball dropping at 1pm everyday.

Where: Watson Road Millers Point.
Time: 10am to 5pm
When: Daily. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day holidays.

Click here for more information.

11. The Rose Bay Street Fair is a great opportunity for locals and visitors to enjoy a great day out in the village atmosphere of this premier Sydney harbour foreshore suburb. Rosebay Street Fair is an annual event that sees the streets of this premier Sydney harbour suburb, full of locals and visitors attending to enjoy the food, stalls, and activities on offer for the whole family. With jumping castles, animal farm and rides. Opportunity for dual location with provision of giveaway item for the Rotary Wheel on the day. All stall proceeds from the fair are distributed to The Randwick Children's Hospital, local and other Rotary charities.
Rose Bay Fair. Courtesy of Rose Bay Fair.

Where: Rose Bay
Time: 9am to 4pm
When: October 2015

Click here for more information & updates for 2015.

12. Rockdale Around the Christmas Tree is a free family-friendly Christmas event of a fun filled evening with the official lighting of the Christmas tree by the Mayor, free Santa photos, face painting, kids petting zoo, live entertainment, Christmas Crafts, Living Laneways Christmas markets followed by a screening of Snow Dogs in the open air cinema!

Where: King Street Place Rockdale.
Time: Check for times.
When: December 2015

Click here for more information.

13. Manly's Food, Wine & Sustainability Festival is one of Sydney's largest regular community based food and wine festivals. Falling on the first weekend in June and consistently attracting an estimated 30,000 patrons each year, people are drawn by the scenic beach setting where Manly's landmark restaurants showcase their fine range of international cuisines and wineries from popular wine producing areas in New South Wales also offer exclusive ranges of wines.

Originally devised as an early wintertime promotion to throw a spotlight on Manly's busy restaurant sector, the festival has grown in size and stature to include non-stop outdoor entertainment including concert bands, jazz and world music groups. A number of family interactive games are also available during the festival for children's entertainment.

Where: Manly Beach
Time: Various
When: June 2015

Click here for more information.

14. Northside Produce Market is one of Sydney's favourite markets, with a loyal following of foodies. Local producers, artisan products, fresh food, delicious breakfast, and a warm and welcoming produce market. Known for its relaxed park setting, Farmers and producers bring to you - artisan cheeses, seasonal fruit and vegetables - including the best potatoes! Flowers and herbs, fresh country butter and milk, organic meat, vegetables and eggs, sourdough and spelt breads, honey, olive oil, fresh pasta, venison, lamb, pork and poultry, fresh and smoked seafood, organic cereals and nuts, continental and fresh sausages, hand crafted smallgoods, fine pastries, sweets and chocolates, gluten free products, delicious breakfast, Sydney's best coffee, wine and cider, and much more.

Where: Miller Street North Sydney
Time: 8am to 12 noon
When: 3rd Saturday of every month.

Click here for more information.

15. The world's largest annual free-to-the-public outdoor sculpture exhibition, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, is back again for a 18th year! One of Sydney's most loved events, the outdoor sculpture exhibition returns to the stunning Bondi to Tamarama coast walk from 23 October - 9 November 2014.

See the spectacular Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk transformed into a two kilometre long temporary sculpture park featuring over 100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world.
Sculptures by the Sea. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Where: Bondi to Tamarama Coastal Walk
Time: Various.
When: 22nd of October to 8th of November 2015

Click here for more information.

16. Located in Abbotsbury (via Cowpasture Road and The Horsley Drive) Western Sydney Parklands is renowned for encouraging creative play and greater interaction amongst visitors and the natural bushland setting, it is an ideal place to visit with friends and family.

Picnic shelters are located throughout the park and there is also a fantastic children's nature playground, featuring double and single flying foxes, giant swings, a slide with climbing wall, recycled timber balancing beams and sand diggers. A walking and cycling track loop is also available for scooters and bikes that goes from Lizard Log to The Dairy. Some shelters are available to hire for private use.

There are over 450 car spaces including disabled spaces and six barbecue stations including 24 electric barbecues and a large heat bead cooking area with heat bead disposal bins.

Where: Abbotsbury
Time: Pedestrian access is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Open to vehicles, Jan 1st to 30th of April 8am to 7pm, 1st of May to 31st of July 8am to 5pm and 1st of August to 31st of December 8am to 7pm.
When: Year round

Click here for more information.

17. The Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden is one of Sydney's best kept secrets! Situated in St Ives, the 123 hectares of urban bushland is a great spot for bush walking, picnicking and special events.

Within the Wildflower Garden visitors can choose from a range of public access walking tracks, including the accessible Senses Track or the more challenging Mueller Track. The Garden features heath land, tall forest, sandstone outcrops, ponds, gullies and waterfalls. There are picnic areas with barbecues, some of which are available for hire. There is on-site parking, toilet facilities and a children's playground.

There are a variety of interpretation programs available - guided tours, school excursions, holiday programs, volunteering. The focus is to activate and encourage a visitor's natural desire to investigate the bush. They are passionate about experiential learning - touching, smelling, collecting and playing - and that's what makes a trip to the Wildflower Garden different.
Wild flowers. courtesy of The Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens.

Where: 420 Mona Vale Road St Ives.
Time: 8am to 5pm.
When: Year Round. Except for Good Friday, Christmas, Boxing and New Year Days

Click here for more information.

18. Norton Street Festa 2015 is Sydney's favourite Italian festival. There is plenty to do for the whole family. There will be great entertainment, over 150 market stalls, music and dancing, cooking demonstrations and plenty of activities for the kids. Carnival rides, jumping castles, rock climbing, animal farms, face painting and puppet shows for the kids, organic markets, entertainment, concerts, dancing competitions, fashion parades and free cooking demonstrations by the best Italian professional chefs PLUS the best local Italian Nonnas!

All mixed in with hundreds of stall holders showcasing and selling the latest, the unusual and the best in products, and food, coffee and gelato to die for.

Where: Norton Street Leichhardt
Time: Various
When: October 2015

Click here for 2015 updates.

19. Northern Beaches Music Festival is a family friendly event held at Berry Reserve and the Tramshed Community Arts Centre. The event is organised by local four venues; The Shack (Narrabeen), Humph Hall (Allambie), Fairlight Folk and Manly Fig, and supports new venues, spaces and gives an opportunity for new musicians and performing artists within the Northern Beaches region of NSW. The event is held over three days, with live music, many international food and retail stores. Everyone is invited to make the most of the friendly atmosphere and stunning locations by dressing up and getting involved.

Where: Berry Reserve and the Tramshed Community Arts Centre
Time: Held over three days
When: May 2015

Click here for more information.

20. The Rocks Discovery Museum is a free, family friendly museum which tells the story of The Rocks area of Sydney from pre-European days to the present.

Housed in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse, the museum is home to a unique collection of images and archaeological artefacts found in The Rocks – some of which you can even hold. The exhibits are filled with interactive fun, using touch screens, audio and visual elements to bring the history of the area alive.

Four permanent exhibitions have been developed in close consultation with the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council which share the history and stories of the area and the impact of European settlement.

Where: The Rocks
Time: 10am to 5pm
When: Daily. Except closed Christmas Day & Good Friday.

Click here for more information

21. The Holy Family Primary School at Lindfield is holding their 39th Lindfield Art Show and Fair from Friday the 13th of March to Sunday the 15th of March 2015. It will be a celebration of community and art, the Lindfield Art Show and Fair offers a fun-filled weekend for the whole family.

The Lindfield Art Show and Fair is centred around the Lindfield Art Show which showcases an extensive range of affordable, quality and collectible art, from contemporary to traditional, and award-winning established artists to emerging artists. With more than 300 artworks on display, you will find featured paintings, screen-prints, indigenous works, etchings, sculptures, paper art, and more. The Show offers collectors and art lovers the chance to admire and purchase high quality artwork from a broad range of artists at every price point.
Lindfield Art Show & Fair. Photo courtesy of Holy Family Primary School.

Where: The Holy Family Primary School at Lindfield.
Time: 14th of March, 9am to 5pm and 15th of March, 9am to 2pm.
When:14th and 15th of March

Click here for more information.

22. Window shop in the Queen Victoria Building or have a look on the top floor of The Queen Victoria Building discover two incredible mechanical clocks. The Royal Clock displays scenes of English royalty on the hour, while The Great Australian Clock features 33 scenes from Australian history.

The building consists of four main shopping floors. The top three levels have large openings (protected by decorative cast-iron railings) that allow natural light from the ceiling to illuminate the lower floors. Much of the tilework, especially under the central dome, is original, and the remainder is in keeping with the original style. Underground arcades lead south to Town Hall railway station and north to the Myer building.

Where: 455 George Street Sydney.
Time:Lower ground & ground. Mon to Sat 9am to 6pm, Thurs 9am to 9pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
Time: Level 1 & 2. Mon to Sat 10am to 6pm, Thurs 10am to 9pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
When: Year round.

Click here for more information.

23. Exhibition – Other Chinese Landscapes. The four traditional Chinese arts are Qín, Music; Qí, Go or 'Chess' (the game); Shū, Chinese calligraphy; and Huà, Chinese painting. Over millennia those art forms have identified the four accomplishments anticipated of a Chinese scholar and gentleman. Photography is far too recent and modern a form to be considered a part of such illustrious company. However, what you may witness throughout these Other Chinese Landscapes is a certain interiorized Chinese aesthetic, reminiscent of calligraphic swoops and dashes.
Chinese Art. Courtesy of

Where: Female Orphan School. Parramatta South campus of the University of Western Sydney, on the corner of James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road in Rydalmere
Time: Thursday and Friday 10am to 4pm, and selected Saturdays.
When: 20 February – 24 April 2015

Click here for more information.

24. Manly to The Spit walk has plenty of fantastic coastal walks around Sydney, but the hike from Manly to Mosman's Spit Bridge is hard to beat. Taking you alongside the glistening harbour and through native bushland, the 10km walk takes three to four hours one way, but why not pack a picnic lunch in your backpack, take your time and stop at one of the harbour beaches along the way.

Where: Manly to the Spit Bridge
Time:Any time of the day.
When: Year Round.

Click here for more information.

25. Play giant chess in Hyde Park. Hyde Park was named after Hyde Park in London, this oasis in the middle of Sydney's bustling CBD is home to a giant chess set, which you'll find near Market and Elizabeth Streets. Test you skill against other visiting masters to see who'll be the first to call checkmate. Once you're done with the pawns and knights, make sure to wander through the park, and visit the beautiful Archibald Fountain and the touching Anzac War Memorial.

Where: Hyde Park between Elizabeth and College Streets Sydney.
Time: Anytime
When: Year round

Click here for more information.

Well, there you have it 25 activities that are free at various places in Sydney and its Surrounds. Places where you will enjoy Walks, Gardens, History, Art, Markets, Fairs, Events, Exhibitions, Museums and Festivals.
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Why? Free
When: Year round
Where: Sydney and Surrounds
Cost: Free and open to the public
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Your Comment
a list of events that might happen at various times of the year - great - except - not useful for today - thanks anyway

as a Sydney resident I'm happy with the current events announcements - an annual list might be useful for visitors - don't know if they read these
by ultim (score: 2|416) 1206 days ago
Agree the list with free events throughout the year is really useful but the other free activities at Botanic Gardens etc are good information! Qí does not mean Go. It means Chess.
by tlc988 (score: 1|21) 1204 days ago
a very informative list so thanks for the ideas. So much to do yet so little time unfortunately.
by RC (score: 3|1221) 530 days ago
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