It’s no secret that living in Sydney is pricey. Rent isn’t cheap, inflation is setting in, and the prices of morning coffees are starting to take the biscuit. But for those in the know, there are bargains to be found in every nook and cranny of our beautiful city. It’s true: you can plan a night out, take a day trip, or even set off on an entire action-packed weekend with little more than the change in your pocket.
All year round, Sydney boasts world-famous natural beauty, a calendar of diverse cultural events, and a plethora of public pools, gyms, and cycle tracks that can be enjoyed completely free of charge. And this month there’s even more to get your hands on with the arrival of Vivid Sydney—the city’s annual festival of lights, arts, music, and food—spoiling us with a bounty of free and cheap events, no matter what your tastes or budget. Ignore the hater. There are endless affordable things to do in Sydney, and here’s our guide to the best of them this June.
Free Things To Do In Sydney
Immerse Yourself In Vivid Sydney
Sydney’s annual festival of lights, music, food, and ideas runs until Saturday 17 June, and its jam-packed schedule features a bunch of free events. Circular Quay is hosting the biggest drone show in the Southern Hemisphere, Taronga Zoo has set up an illuminated night trail with giant light sculptures of Australia’s native animals, and Sydney Opera House is lit up with the artworks of the late, great Australian painter, John Olsen.
There are also dozens of free live music at Tumbalong Park and public DJ sets every night of the week at The Goods Line. The likes of The Powerhouse Museum and the Australian Museum are collaborating with Vivid Sydney on a series of one-off events featuring a multitude of talks, art, and music exploring the festival’s overarching theme of nature. Vivid Sydney is also putting on its inaugural food program, with a one-night-only sustainability-themed Night Market at Carriageworks, and free open-fire demos from world-renowned chefs and pitmasters at the all-new Vivid Fire Kitchen.
Vivid Fire Kitchen is free to enter and open until 11pm every night. From there, the smokey meats and sweet treats are almost all under $30. Mulled wine will set you back $13, a plate with LP’s Quality Meats smoked Flinders Island wallaby sausage with special sauce is $15 from Pip's Plate, and Nutella S'Mores from S'Mores is $7.
Find out what else you can do for free at Vivid Sydney with our guide here.
Find Out What’s On At Sydney’s Galleries And Museums
There’s plenty to see and do for free this month at some of Australia’s best cultural institutions. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery Of NSW, and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre allow you to access its permanent collections and some exhibitions for zero dollars, plus many of Sydney's top independent and small-scale galleries such as Firstdraft and White Rabbit Gallery are also free to enter. For the more science- and history-inclined, the Australian Museum, Powerhouse Museum, and the Chau Chak Wing Museum all offer free entry seven days a week.
Our picks for free exhibitions this month include 100 Climate Conversations at the Powerhouse Museum, for Australia’s most ambitious climate-focused cultural project to date, and The National 4, the fourth edition of a biennial survey of contemporary Australian art staged across four different iconic cultural institutions around the city.
For more inspo, check out the best museums in and around Sydney over here.
Hit Up After-Dark Art Parties
If you can’t get enough of Sydney’s galleries and museums during the day, then you’re in luck: a heap of them keep their doors open until late into the night. Thanks to the citywide Up Late program, major institutions are keeping the lights on later, so you can get a dose of culture after work. On Wednesdays, you can wander through the Art Gallery Of NSW till 10pm thanks to its weekly Art After Hours sessions. This after-dark session includes Art Gallery Cinema, where you can catch screens rare 35mm and hard-to-find flicks, and, for June only, a series of talks with artists from this year’s Archibald, Wynne, and Sulman Prizes.
On Thursdays, there are Nights At The Museum at the Australian Museum and the National Arts School's NAS NEO program (until Friday 14 July). And on Fridays, you can wrap up the workweek with a party on the MCA's rooftop terrace thanks to MCA Late.
Seize The Day At Sunrise
There’s nothing like a super-stunning sunrise to kickstart your day the right way. Luckily, Sydney has plenty of idyllic vantage points for you to soak up those rays. From beachside gems to hilly Western Sydney lookouts, this list of stellar sunrise spots is helpful to have up your sleeve so you can get your dose of vitamin D before you start that nine-to-five hustle. Alternatively, you can power your morning with an early morning stroll to take it all in. We recommend the Cronulla Beach Walk—a 6km beachfront pathway that's less crowded than the Bondi to Bronte ( and has a heap of free parking near Wanda Beach).
Take A Hike
Whether you’re looking for a dog-friendly foreshore walk, an inner-city stroll, Sydney’s most iconic coastal track, or an 18.5-metre high loop to get your sky-high steps in, this list of Sydney's best walks has you covered. Those who are keen to get the blood pumping a little more than what you'd get on a neighbourhood strut, check out the most scenic hikes in Sydney and around NSW. You can challenge yourself by completing the 80km coastal track from Bondi to Manly, hike along a section of the historic Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains, or plan a trip up the coast to explore ancient rainforests in Dorrigo National Park (but, yes, petrol will tip this one to the more expensive side).
Pedal Along The Most Scenic Cycleways In Sydney
Maybe you’re keen to cruise around with a picnic in your backpack or you want to pump those quads with a spot of cardio. Here, we’ve found all the best bike rides to conquer no matter what level you’re at. It might be challenging in length, but the Sydney to Pittwater 61km route will take you over some of Sydney’s most iconic and showstopping roads. Strap in for the Harbour Bridge Cycleway, Booralie Road, the picturesque Wakehurst Parkway, Pacific Highway, and Condamine Street. Take in the gorgeous Narrabeen Lake before you hop off for a quick spot of (takeaway) brunch in Mona Vale.
Soak Up The Sun With A Picnic
Pack those finger sandwiches and get the cheeseboard ready, because we reckon it's time to throw it back to spring 2021 with a picnic. Yes, we may have overdone the picnic sessions when they were the only way we could catch up with mates amid last year's lockdown. But after months and months of rain, we reckon it's time to put on that overpriced puffer jacket and make the most of any sunny day Sydney throws at us—yes, even in winter. From beachside and riverside parks to urban escapes and lush headlands, Sydney's list of parks and nature reserves is reason enough to dust off the tartan rug. Check out the best picnic spots in Sydney here.
Go For Free On Your Birthday
Are you lucky enough to be a June baby? Then work some freebies into your birthday plans! A huge number of cafes, restaurants, and shops offer free stuff for customers on their birthday, usually in return for downloading their app.
Help yourself to a free doughnut at Krispy Kreme, a free tea at Chatime, a free scoop of ice cream at Gelatissimo, a free burrito at Mad Mex, or a free “special surprise” at McDonald’s. There are also masses of Sydney-only deals, including a free (plant-based) burger at Soul Burger, a free crepe or galette at Four Frogs, a free beer at James Squire, a free rib-eye steak at Steakholders, a free pizza or main meal at Bondi Pizza, and a $35 discount at Kazbah. You can also visit Taronga Zoo for just $1!
Cheap Things To Do In Sydney
Bring Your Popcorn To The Sydney Film Festival
Good news, film buffs! Sydney Film Festival is celebrating its 70th year this June, rattling through over 200 movie screenings in 10 days, together with a stack of free talks with industry insiders. Taking place in venues across the city between Wednesday 7 and Sunday 18 June, 12 films have been selected for the official competition, which celebrates “courageous, audacious and cutting-edge” cinema, with a $60,000 cash prize. While adult tickets for screenings are $24, the festival also has an exciting lineup of free events, including a Meet the Filmmaker series featuring conversations with acclaimed directors.
Picnic On The Harbour
Don't have a boat licence? No worries—you can still take a boat out on a sunny afternoon and live the high life even when on a budget. GoBoats are Euro-style, speed-limited picnic boats that seat up to eight mates that you can operate sans licence. Score! Sydney’s GoBoat adventures are starting at D’Albora Marina, 138 Cabarita Road, Cabarita. This means you’ll be able to sail along the Parramatta River from Cabarita Point all the way to Cockatoo Island. For a one-hour cruise with a full ship, you'll be paying about $16—but we reckon forking out a bit more for three hours ($35) is worth it. Book here.
Prefer a workout on the water? Then rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for an afternoon. Over in the Eastern Suburbs, you can hire watercraft from Point Piper Kayak Centre and Rose Bay Aquatic Hire, with one-hour SUP or kayak sessions costing between $20 and $25 depending on your paddle preference. Then make your way across the water all the way out to Shark Island ($7 landing fee). If you want to see what lurks beneath the surface, you can hire a "clearview" kayak from Manly Sailing for just $14 per hour. For more paddle-perfect places, check out the best kayaking spots in Sydney.
Fun, Games, And Big Kid Energy
Hijinx Hotel is the "world's first challenge room hotel" and it's in Sydney. Lucky us. If you like escape rooms and a big ol' dose of nostalgia, we reckon you'll love this place. Opening on 17 June, the concept comes by way of Funlab—AKA the team behind throwback entertainment go-to's Holey Moley, Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq, B. Lucky & Sons, and La Di Darts. Here, it's all about the challenge (not the panic). Think escape room vibes, but less stress-inducing and more like the nostalgic games of your childhood like Floor Is Lava, Pinball, Tetris, and Twister. Yep, expect Big Kid Energy here—and it costs $25 per person (or $20 for those under 18). Book here.
Get Shucked With Oysters For Pocket Change
Sydney is a heavy-hitter when it comes to super-fresh seafood and on the shucking front, well, we low-key serve up some of the best damn oysters around. Sure, they can set you back a pretty penny. But, if you know where to go, you can get them for pocket change. On Wednesdays from 6–7pm, head to The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room for $1.50 oysters. Or, save even more clams by hitting up Stanley's on Stanley Street on Thursdays till the end of July to score oysters for $1 a pop.
Score Cheap Theatre Tickets
We get it, showbiz doesn't come cheap. At least it doesn't very often. But we'll let you in on a little secret—you can score discounted last-minute tix to a swag of excellent shows through websites like Lasttix and TodayTix. Honestly, both are a godsend for theatregoers on a budget. Alternatively, many local theatre companies offer discounted prices on preview performances, including Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Ensemble Theatre. Or, use youth to your advantage and score concession prices if you're 30 or under at top theatres like Belvoir St Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company. Griffin Theatre even lets you in on the cheap tickets until you're 35. Result!
Camp Under The Stars At Cockatoo Island
Feel like a camping trip in the heart of the city? The historic Cockatoo Island offers a unique camping experience for $50 a night. Sure you could track down a free campground out of Sydney, but if you're short on time or just CBF to go anywhere but need a change of scenery this is a hot option. The cheapest way is to BYO a tent and pitch it by the water on a 4sqm site for a pineapple (Monday–Thursday) or $60 on weekends. You can upgrade to the Deluxe Waterfront Package, which gets you a plush pre-furbished tent with spectacular views, but it'll cost you $155. Better ask that mate for their tent then and save yourself a hundred bucks.
Explore The Chinese Garden Of Friendship
Sydney, we know you’re a fiend for the flowers so you probably saw this one coming. The Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour does not disappoint. If weeping willows, waterfalls, bamboo plants, and a teahouse serving Chinese tea and dim sum sound like your idea of an absolute oasis, then you’ll probably want to spend an entire day here. This secretive and lush sanctuary has hidden pathways and beautiful traditional Chinese pavilions, so bring a book and your camera and settle in for the entire day. Entry costs $8 per person or $58 for an annual membership. For more flower-filled parks, consider a trip to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney (free), The Australian Botanic Garden in Mount Annan (free), Blue Mountains Botanic Garden (donation) and Western Sydney Parklands (free).
Catch Up With The Crew Over A BYO Feast
While we’ll always leave the wine lists and the wine pairings to Sydney’s seasoned sommeliers, if you’re saving your pennies, BYO is a cheaper way to wine and dine. Plus, there’s something fun about hitting your favourite bottle-o before dinner and winding your way through decorated aisles to find the perfect convoy for your boozy feast. But the bottom line is that BYO is always a good time. This cost-effective dining hack is timeless—from cheap student dinners to big catch-ups with the crew for a wallet-friendly celebration. You can carb load at Darlinghurst mainstay Bar Reggio, tuck into next-level Thai at uni favourite Thai Pothong, or dip into a Middle Eastern feast at late-night go-to, Fatima's. Check out the best BYO restaurants in Sydney over here.
Nab Sweet Pre-Loved Threads At Sydney’s Best Thrift Stores
Sydney’s teeming with second-hand shops, which makes finding fashion bargains a breeze! Spend an afternoon rolling through racks of pre-loved pieces, with more than 50 Vinnies op shops dotted across the city, Sydney’s very own U-Turn providing a huge selection of recycled fashion across their 6 stores, and places like SWOP providing a clothing exchange service. Ditch the fast fashion this month and jump on the pre-loved garment bandwagon—it's better for the environment, and retro styles never really go out of style. For more ideas, check out our full list. For more places, check out this full list.
For more things to do in Sydney, jump over here.
Image credit: Destination NSW, Destination NSW, Destination NSW, Jacqui Manning, Destination NSW, Destination NSW, GoBoat, Hijinx Hotel, The Morrison, Daniel Boud, Destination NSW, Destination NSW, Bar Reggio, Destination NSW