Free Things to Do


Built in 1815, this cottage is the oldest residential building in Australia. Made of sandstone, it was the home of ex-convict and government coxswain John Cadman and is now an information center for the National Parks and Wildlife offices. The building's original site was along the Harbour. Short walk from Circular Quay.

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The most photographed beach in the country, crescent-shaped Bondi is more than a half-mile long and a must for any visitor to Sydney. It's a great place for swimming, but also a wild ocean - wise swimmers stay between the flags. Bondi has historical significance as the home of Olympic beach volleyball in 2000, and the site of the first life-saving club in the world, founded in 1906. The beach also marks the beginning of the spectacular Bondi to Coogee cliff-top walk (Home to the inspiring annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in October/November, You'll find plenty of cafes and restaurants along the beach, as well as the lively Sunday markets. BUS: 380 or 382 or L82 (limited stops) from Circular Quay.

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Originally a NSW's first racecourse and named after London's own Hyde Park, this stretch of greenspace spans three city blocks. It was once used to mark the outskirts of the city. Among the many interesting sites you'll find are the ANZAC War Memorial (an Art Deco building located at the southern end of the park) and the Archibald Fountain (which commemorates Australia and France's alliance in WWI and is located at the northern end of the park). The Avenue of Figs, a shady, quiet place to escape the summer heat, runs between these two sites. Hyde Park is a favourite spot for the native, prehistoric looking white ibis. St. James and Museum stations both have exits at the park.

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Originally a fishing and hunting campsite for local aboriginal communities, this island now provides an intimate outdoor experience covering the area's history (both aboriginal and European). The island features aboriginal rock carvings, the Gadyan Track (a free, self-guided walk), a children's playground, and a grassy picnic area. TRAIN: to Wollstonecraft Station and then a five minute downhill walk.

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Sydney Harbour

Home to the Governor of NSW until 1996 (when it became part of the historic houses trust), this building offers an excellent collection of 19th and 20th century furniture and grants magnificent views over the Harbour and Botanic Gardens. In fact, the gardens of the Government House are now officially part of the Botanic Gardens. At times the house is still used for official occasions. TRAIN: to Circular Quay or Martin Place.

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Circular Quay
Customs House

Built in 1845, this structure was one of the most important buildings in the colony for many years. Currently, the French Neoclassical building houses exhibition spaces, a craft gallery, bars, the main Sydney library and restaurants. Be sure to check out the 1:500 scale model of the Sydney CBD, and note the aboriginal flag, which flies here permanently as a reminder of the negative effect White settlers had on the Eora People. A free movie about the Harbour is shown every 30 minutes. Located across from Circular Quay station.

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This Gothic Revival cathedral, modeled after Notre Dame, is a must-see. It boasts a beautiful terrazzo-tiled floor in the crypt, and stained glass windows depict the early days of Catholicism. Although Sydney was settled in 1788, it wasn't until 1821 that the Catholic mass was allowed to be held in the colony. In that year, the first chapel was also built, although the spires were not completed until the year 2000. Try to visit on a Sunday around 10:30am, when the famous choir sings. TRAIN: to St James Station.

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Museum of Contemporary Art
Photo courtesy of Renate Ruge

Contemporary art aficionados give plaudits to this museum, not only for its extensive collection of 7000-plus pieces of art but for the beautiful Art Deco building that houses the collection. The building dates to 1952, although the museum itself opened in 1991. Four levels of temporary exhibits include sculpture, post-modern art, and contemporary Aboriginal art. The permanent collection includes works by Warhol, Hockney and Christo. Located in a prime spot next to Circular Quay, on the harbour. Free tours offered twice a day and there's a lovely cafe for breakfast or lunch. BUS, TRAIN, FERRY: to Circular Quay.

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