Top 8 Free Things to do in Sydney - Coastal Area
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21st Jun | 8 min read

If you read our other free things to do posts, you know that at GAFFL we look to make touring in Australia as affordable as possible. As Sydney takes up an area of over 12,000 square kilometers, it would be pretty difficult to crowd all of our 'Must See' and ' Free Things To Do' in Sydney in one article. So, we decided to break down Sydney into a two-part series, with this first being about the top things to do in Sydney's coastal area and the following post will be about the top things to do in Sydney's Central Business District.

For the most part, this itinerary will guide you through the beaches of Sydney. You can use google maps to guide yourself as well. A straight drive through all the checkpoints will take you about 3 and a half hours.

We have selected the places in order to explore the coastal area of Sydney according to the map. You can also find the itinerary in a picture format at the bottom of the page.

1. Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Photo credit: sv1ambo on Visual Hunt / CC BY  

In our attempt to visit all the top free things to do in Sydney, we chose to start from Barrenjoey. Barrenjoey Lighthouse is located at the most northern point of Sydney, the Barrenjoey Headland. To reach the lighthouse we advise that you take the picturesque walk along the Barrenjoey Track. It's a small 1 km track which will take you approximately 30 minutes from the Governor car park. Before you start your walk, use a toilet because you won't find any along the track or at the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is usually closed but if you do want to look inside and explore you can do it through the guided tour, every Sunday.

You can find more about the tour here.

2. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Photo credit: Wheerd on / CC BY-SA

If you take a swim west from Barrenjoey, you'll reach Ku-ring-Gai sooner than driving to it. The drive will take around 45 mins via Barrenjoey Road and Mona Vale from Barrenjoey to the Ku-ring-gai council.

If you're looking for things to do in Sydney, you should know that Ku-ring- Gai Chase national park is huge. The park in itself is a separate entity to be explored. It's approximately 15,000 hectares big. This park, in truth, needs a separate itinerary. However, we do believe that there are some experiences that are essential to every Ku-ring experience.

We suggest that you take the Aboriginal walk, highlighting the rock art and engravings of the Guringai people of West Head. See the basin aboriginal art site, to remind yourself of the rich Aboriginal heritage of the region. Walk on the America Bay Walking track and ultimately take a cycle ride on the center trail to experience Ku-ring-gai to its fullest.

You can find more about Ku-ring-gai Chase National park here.

3. Manly and Shelly beach

Photo credit: nigelhowe on / CC BY

A drive from Ku-ring-gai to Manly can be done within 40 minutes via the Mccarrs Creek Road. A 27 km drive with the usual traffic.

If watching the sunset is your cup of tea, Manly is regarded as one of the best places to do so. The sunsets are so beautiful it makes you want to wax poetic. We found ourselves saying things like "the white sand shines like pearls with the dying light of the sun here, it leaves a hue to be cherished in the memories". Like honestly, that's how it feels. To truly cherish it, we propose you take the Manly ferry. While not free, the ferry only costs $15 and it can be taken from Circular Quay to and from Manly. There are two speeds that the Manly ferry goes at. fast and regular. Take the regular one and enjoy the 30 minutes of quaint scenery. Some articles have even coined this Ferry as a quintessential Sydney experience. The boat ride will include a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and Mrs. Macquire's Chair.

Some travelers would suggest you take the Manly to Spit walk as well. Contrarily, we want you to sit this one out if walking 10 km is not your thing.

Look out for the wormhole next to Manly, to pass through to the Queenscliff. Especially if you are looking for a secluded beach, away from the chaos.

In addition to the beaches of Shelly and Manly, we also suggest that you climb up to the Grotto point lighthouse. The structure is centuries old and the best spot for watching birds as well as migratory whales during the winter.

4. Sydney Harbour National Park

Photo credit: Sidneiensis on VisualHunt / CC BY

Discovering the Harbour Park comes naturally when you're in Sydney. The park shelters secluded beaches and picturesque islands. You can either take a walk along the shoreline from Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay. You can learn more about this walk here. Or take a cruise on one of the boats on the Sydney waters and enjoy watching the shore from a different perspective.

At this point you're halfway through the post, if we've inspired some travel plans then we've done our job. If you need more inspiration or if you're solo in Australia and want to find a travel partner, you can view the trip itineraries of GAFFL users in Australia and connect with travelers that are going on trips that you like.

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5. Cockatoo Island

Photo credit: Melanie Lazarow on VisualHunt / CC BY

The Cockatoo Island, located at the junction of Parramatta and Lane Cove river, has its own beauty. To reach the island you would first have to take a drive from Bradleys Head road to Woolwich. It's a short 25 minute drive through the M1 highway. Be advised that this route has tolls. In fact, any route towards Woolwich has tolls.

From Woolwich Wharf you can take a ferry to Cockatoo Wharf. You can park your vehicle at Valentia Street wharf at Woolwich. it has unmetered parking so you can stay all day. From there it is a 5-minute ferry ride to the Cockatoo Wharf. You can take the public ferries or hop on the water taxies to reach there.

The rustic island of Cockatoo is now the remains of what once used to be a shipbuilding complex and dockyard. Local indigenous people once identified this area as Wa-ra-mah. UNESCO has also recognized this site as a part of the world heritage list. While discovering Sydney, there is an opportunity to camp on this biggest island of Sydney Harbour.

Know more about Cockatoo Island here.

6. Hyde Park

Photo credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D. - Global Photo Archive on / CC BY-SA

You can drive from Woolwich again to Hyde Park through the Victoria Road south east and reach Hyde Park within 15 minutes.

To explain Hyde park, as just another addition to the natural attractions portion of the free things to do in Sydney would be a mistake. The Park along with its surroundings comprise of equal parts nature and monuments of art. The site is a change from the busy central business district of Sydney. A site of green in the midst of a concrete jungle. You can walk along the numerous well-kept gardens and walk along the tree-lined avenues.

The monuments that are a must visit are Archibald Fountain. It is perhaps the most prolific, having been donated as a gift by JF Archibald. It’s easy to spot, thanks to its ancient mythological statue of Apollo surrounded by horses, tortoises, and dolphins.

Other than that, there are the Sandringham and Nagoya Gardens, which are filled with public art works, impressive monuments, and water features.

7. Darling Harbour

Photo on Visual hunt

Darling Harbour sits near to Hyde Park. Just head west through the Bank Street. There are tolls on this route and it cannot be avoided.

There is a reason that they call this Harbour, Darling. The view of the city from this harbour can make blind cynics fall in love. The harbour is adjacent to the Sydney's city centre. If its just nature you're looking for, check out the Chinese Garden of Friendship in china town as well as the Tumbalong Park. You should also check out the Sydney Wildlife World. However, do not just stop there. Visit the Museum ships along with the HMAS Vampire at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

8. Bondi Beach

Photo on Visual Hunt

From Darling Harbour you can drive east through the Cross City Tunnel on Oceans Street. You'll reach Boondi within 15 minutes.

Bondi is a surfers paradise. It's recognized as one of the most famous beaches of Australia. So, if you're up to catch some waves, Bondi is a must.

In addition to that, we strongly recommend chilling by the Icebergs which are ocean pools which jut out. Besides the obvious lounging by the pool, you can visit the Bondi Pavilion Gallery, which houses an art gallery, a theatre, and cafes. If you're willing, you can also watch the outdoor cinema that is held every summer.

We recommend you also take the Bondi to Coogee walk. This walk incorporates remote beaches and aesthetic beauty for your Instagram feed. Along the walk, you can also enjoy the sculptures that artists from different parts of the world come to make. Make sure you stop by Bronte to observe its waves crash into the land as well.

If you're looking to explore Sydney with an added local taste, you can connect with our Australian locals below.

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