The Local’s List: Things to do in Sydney
Free things to do in Sydney that only the locals know about
Want to get off-the-beaten-path in Sydney? Sick of being just another person in a busy crowd taking photos of the Opera House? Well, I have the blog post for you! Here’s a collation of all my favourite local hotspots and underground things to do in Sydney that are a little bit “different”, but still give a great taste of awesome Sydney culture. And the best bit, they’re all either free or cheap!
Check out an old jail and boat workshop on Cockatoo Island
This is easily one of my favourite places to bring tourists to in Sydney. A huge chunk of harbour history packed into one small island. It’s a beautiful but short ferry ride from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island, and once there it isn’t what you’d expect. The UNESCO heritage island is very industrialised with huge rusting sheds and giant pieces of machinery sitting around. You can check out the old jail and submarine docks and walk amongst the old war ship repair machinery.
The easiest way to get to Cockatoo Island is by public ferry and is accessible during ferry times (FREE).
Reggae and chill in Sydney Park
I don’t know why the Sunday Dub Club in Sydney Park isn’t more of a thing, because it’s such a cool free event. On the first Sunday of every month some DJ’s bring their sets and speakers and just pump the tunes for the day. You can BYO alcohol, a picnic blanket and chill hard.
Sunday Dub Club happens on the first Sunday of every month (FREE).
Feed the cockatoos at the Royal Botanical Gardens
This is about as Aussie as you can get – feeding wild cockatoos with hot chips! As you walk over to the Botanical Gardens drop onto the McDonalds or Circular Quay and grab a small pack of hot chips – they love them! Alternatively they’ll eat nuts and crisps as well. Now comes the hard part… Finding them… Listen for the loud screeching and flurry of white colour. Then head towards them holding out a chip and moving slowly. They’ll even land on your arm for easier chip-grabbing. Have fun!
Chinese Garden of Friendship
For a little sanctuary inside the city head to the Chinese Gardens for some tea and scenery. The pretty garden is located on Darling Harbour, sectioned off behind big walls creating the feeling of being somewhere else completely. Mosey around the gardens and then sit by the pond for Chinese tea and dumplings.
The Chinese Gardens are open 9.30am – 5pm everyday ($6 adults, $3 children/concession).
Locally made goods and recycled fashion at Glebe Markets
I absolutely love Glebe Markets. I go there when I need a new piece of clothing (being cheap AF I don’t like buying new clothes that can’t come travel with me anyway) or a thoughtful present for someone. The main area is locally made goods and art, towards the back is really good market food (think beetroot-flour Arepas and paleo desserts) and then off to the side are all the local hipsters selling off their cool clothes for seriously cheap prices!
Glebe Markets happens every Saturday 10am – 4pm (FREE).
Locally famous ‘Pasticceria Papa’ in Haberfield for the BEST bread and cakes
Haberfield is the quintessential Italian nonna-ry, complete with the smell of bread of coffee wafting through the air. Talk to anyone and they will tell you the best place to get bread in in Haberfield, and if you’re keen on cakes Papa’s is damn good.
Papa’s is open 7 days a week 7:30am til late.
Yoga at Lentil as Anything
If you haven’t heard about Lentils yet, you need to get on that! The restaurant is “pay as you feel”, meaning pay what you can afford and feel the food is worth. The food is vegan and delicious. However, a lot of people don’t know that upstairs they run several activities during the week. My favourite is the yoga! Teachers who are either gaining more experience or ones that just love the Lentil community vibes donate their time here.
2 Yoga Classes per week on Saturday Mornings 8:30-10am and Tuesdays 6-7pm (DONATION).
Bondi to Coogee walk for coastal views
This is possibly the most famous coastal walk in Sydney, and well worth the effort. The 6km paved track covers beaches, rock pools, parks, a cemetery and seriously spectacular views. Just walk past Icebergs on Bondi Beach and along to Marks Point, which is also a great whale watching spot. The walk will take around 2 hours with minimal stops, or you could make a day of it stopping in at each beach for a leisurely swim.
The coastal walk can also be done from Coogee to Bondi, or for a shorter walk; Bondi to Tamarama. During summer there is a bus between Coogee and Bondi (if you don’t want to walk back!)
Glebe Foreshore walk for ‘easy’ harbour views
This fantastic little harbour walk covers some gorgeous harbour secret spots, historical infrastructure, parks and cute cafes and finishes in Sydney Fish Markets (Lunch anyone?) Being fully paved and flat – it’s a good one to take a scooter or skateboard on.
The Glebe Foreshore walk starts at Jubilee Park in Rozelle (near Glebe) and is a short 2km walk taking only 1 hour.
Manly to Spit Bridge walk for ‘harder’ harbour views
This lush walk weaves through beautiful bush, cute coastal inlets and over spectacular view points (whales, omg!). If you have the time, be sure to veer off-track to find secret vantage points and swim in the calm bays.
The well signposted 10 km Manly to Spit walk can be accessed from the Manly Ferry Port and once completed, catch a bus from the bridge back to the city.
AFTERNOON / EVENING
Watch the bat exodus at Centennial Park
Only a few locals actually know about this one, but it’s one of my favourite things to do. Head to Centennial Park in the afternoon with a picnic to enjoy by the lake and as the sun starts to set, look for the thick patch of paperbark trees in a swamp in the middle of the park. This is where the flying fox colony live. If you’re game, there are some trails through the swamp with signposts and information about the bats that can be found there. If not, just lie back, look skyward and watch the bats twist and play as they leave their home for the night.
Spectacular sunset at Watson’s Bay
Want to know the absolute BEST place to see the sunset over Sydney Harbour? Camp Cove in Watson’s Bay is it. With little grassy knolls to sit on and some seriously sexy views, it’s easy to see why you should make the effort to get here for sunset.
I recommend catching the 20 min ferry from Circular Quay to Watson’s Bay and then catching the cheaper bus back.
Art After Hours at the Art Gallery of NSW
Want to feel like an art enthusiast but don’t have the money to go to talks and exhibitions? Well Art After hours has your back! Occasionally big named artists will do free 30 minute talks, plus there are free exhibitions and bands as well.
Art Gallery of NSW opens its doors for these free events from 5:30 – 10pm each Wednesday. Check out the Art After Hours guide for more info (FREE).
Chinatown Night Market
Oodles of noodles and other strange Asian delights can be found in this bustling night market. Watch the Japanese make Takoyaki (octopus balls) from scratch and peruse over the always-entertaining array of quirky Chinese toys. Some of the food is deliciously cheap and a definite one to try out.
Chinatown Night Market runs every Friday during warmer months from 4 – 11pm (FREE)
Check out a film set and a drag show at the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville
The Imperial Hotel is an important cultural place for the LGBTIQ community, as it supports inclusion and is one of the birthplaces of performance of all kinds. Watch drag performances or test your queer knowledge weekly.
The Imperial Hotel is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 3pm, check out what’s on for more info (FREE).
Laugh Mob comedy at World Bar
Start the Sunday arvo session with free dance lesson and some good grub. Then for a door charge of $15 you can see some awesome comedy acts; big and small named comedians striving for acceptance in a world without laughs. Afterwards dance the night away with tropical beats and dance tunes.
World Bar hosts the Laugh Mob and Tropical Sundae every Sunday from 5pm ($15 tickets, $20 door).
Crab Racing at the Friend in Hand
A lot of places do crab racing, but not a lot do it quite like the Friend in Hand. Prepare to be sprayed with a hose, embark on a hula-hoop competition or partake in a speedy Sayo eating competition. It’s the dirtiest kind of fun, and there’s a good chance you’ll win a jug of beer for your efforts.
Crab racing happens every Wednesday night from 8pm (FREE)
Warehouse parties and underground raves around Sydney
When Sydney implemented the lockouts in the centre, warehouse parties and underground raves started popping up all over Sydney. They aren’t always legal and are sometimes shut down. But you’re always guaranteed a good time and a sense of exclusivity. The best way to find out about the next party is to join the Facebook group Underground Warehouse Parties in Sydney/Wollongong.
Watch me doing the walk from Coogee to Bondi and catching a ferry on Sydney Harbour…
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$1 USD = $1.30
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