Where to find the best free fun in Sydney
Fly free of gravity’s grip or feel like a kid again admiring a Lego masterpiece. Whatever your jam, Sydney delivers when it comes to big fun that costs nothing at all.
They say the best things in life are free. Those things become even better if they happen to put a big smile on your dial. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most joy-inducing things to do in Sydney that won’t cost you a cent and will leave you far richer for the experience.
Read on to find out where to admire a Lego version of Pompeii or how to take your skateboarding skills to a whole new airborne level. You can track down shipwrecks and sea dragons (if you know where to look), picnic in front of a multimillion-dollar view or perhaps discover Australian music’s next big thing.
See a Lego Pompeii
Yes, you read that right. At the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum, which opened in late 2020, there’s an installation guaranteed to inject joy into your day. A miniature re-creation of Pompeii has been built out of Lego. Press your nose against the glass case and feel like a kid again spotting all the fun ancient and modern inclusions cleverly constructed with plastic blocks. See if you can track down the rock band Pink Floyd (who staged a concert there in 1972), a visit from the cult TV show Dr Who, a swimmer splashing in a pool and even cute flowers sprouting from bushes.
Stroll across Sydney Harbour Bridge
Pack a picnic, pop it in a backpack – and get ready to devour it in front of one of the world’s most spectacular views. While climbing the bridge’s arch is a big-ticket item, it costs nothing to wander along the bridge’s eastern pedestrian side (the western side is reserved for cyclists) and peek across to Sydney Opera House while crossing the bridge’s 1.1km length. Once you arrive in Kirribilli, wander down to the lawn of Bradfield Park to enjoy one of the world’s most scenic picnic spots. Watch the ferries chug across the harbour while taking in this different angle on Sydney Opera House and the city skyline, which now includes Barangaroo’s sky-scraping Crown Sydney, the city’s tallest building.
Get gnarly at Sydney Park Skate Park
Make like Australian Olympic skateboarders Keegan Palmer and Poppy Starr Olsen at this epic $6 million park that opened in late 2020 in Sydney Park. The centrepiece is a flow bowl measuring 3.3m deep – built for fearless skaters, scooters and BMX bandits keen to challenge themselves and perhaps join the country’s next Olympic squad. There’s a beginners bowl, too, and a plaza incorporating rails, ledges and banks on which to perfect your tricks. Onlookers can catch the thrills and spills – and perhaps experience a few goosebumps – from shaded areas. The skate park neighbours an award-winning bike track where new riders can gain confidence on two wheels by conquering twists, turns, hills, bridges and tunnels.
This former expanse of industrial wasteland, now part of Sydney Olympic Park, was transformed in 1988 into a showcase for birds and boats (among other things). Wander Bicentennial Park’s trails to see shipwrecks poking out of Homebush Bay (the site was once home to ship-breaking yards). Twitchers should BYO binoculars and settle into the bird hide to see who flies in to visit or admire new feathered friends – such as royal spoonbills, black-winged stilts and red-rumped parrots – while walking past the Waterbird Refuge. You can also stroll right through the heart of Parramatta River’s largest mangrove forest thanks to the zig-zagging Badu Mangrove Boardwalk.
Snorkel Manly’s Shelly Beach
Pull on the snorkel and flippers, shuffle backwards into the sea and splash down to see what lies beneath the aquamarine waters of pretty Shelly Beach at Manly. As part of the protected Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, the water here teems with all kinds of amazing sea creatures. As you lazily float around the bay, keep watch for fascinating aquatic species such as giant cuttlefish, weedy sea dragons, turtles, wobbegongs and dusky flatheads. Manly is also sometimes home to the natural phenomenon known as bioluminescence, when algae are activated by movement, giving the waves an electric-blue sparkle.
Discover the next big thing on King Street
Newtown’s funky King Street is a popular night-time destination – and with the bohemian inner-west suburb being home to many musicians and other creatives, it’s the place to go in Sydney to hear free live music and feel a new rhythm. Many pubs and bars offer open-mic nights where both established and up-and-coming musicians take to the stage to belt out a song or three. Check out the uplifting open-mic action at MoshPit Bar, the Townie (Town Hall Hotel), the Botany View Hotel and The Vanguard.