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52 Free Things to Do
in New South Wales, Australia

05 March 2016 | Mri Grout - A Lifelong Vagabond

Australia is the backpacking country of the traveling world and for good reason. Magnificent beaches made of the softest sand, colorful coastlines that offer amazing shore snorkeling opportunities, an abundance of unique wildlife just on the horizon, and a laid-back culture that's impossible not to fall in love with. No wonder Australia is such a desirable location for a holiday or gap year. But then you factor in all of these free attractions in New South Wales and it's no longer even in competition with other countries it's so far ahead.

So let your adventures begin by checking out these fun and free things to do in New South Wales, Australia...and then let it continue as you explore these other
free things to do in Victoria and these free attractions in Queensland!

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map of free things to do in New South Wales, Australia free things to do in New Wouth Wales Outback free things to do in Sydney & surrounds free things to do in the Blue Mountains free things to do in Canberra free things to do in Sydney & surrounds free things to do in Murray free things to do in Newcastle free things to do on the North Coast of New South Wales free things to do in Northern Tablelands free things to do in Mudgee free things to do in the Snowy Mountains free things to do the southern coast of New South Wales

Free Things to do in the Blue Mountains

iconic view of the Three Sisters

Three Sisters

kangaroos in Newnes, New South Wales Australia

Newnes

hiking the Grand Canyon at Blackheath

Grand Canyon

Free things to do in Blackheath:

  • Evan's Lookout - A fantastic lookout over the range that barely even requires you to get out of the car. For those that are reasonably fit or just want a moderately challenging hike (steep downwards into the canyon and then a climb back out), there is a 6 kilometer loop called the Grand Canyon that starts and ends here.
  • Govett's Leap Lookout - Another lookout over the Blue Mountains that you can drive to and this one is definitely worth traveling to even in the rain. There are four hikes that start from here: Fairfax Heritage, Govett's Leap descent, Pulpit, and Cliff Top.

Free things to do in Katoomba:

  • Leura Cascades - A beautiful waterfall at the end of a short walk, though if you're up for a longer hike there are other paths branching off from here. There are also picnic and toilet facilities at the start of the trail.
  • Three Sisters - An iconic rock formation in Australia on par with Uluru. Another similiarity with the Outback's famous rock is that this is also an Aboriginal Dreamtime legend. Parking at the Three Sisters is not free from 9am-5pm Mon-Sun (1st hour: $3.80, then $4.40)
  • Valley of the Waters - It's a 3km return hike...full of waterfalls. Lots and lots of waterfalls. One can also easily extend this walk or make it into a loop via one of the many other nearby hiking trails in the Blue Mountains.

Free things to do in Newnes:

  • Newnes Plateu Cliffs - No idea how to pronounce this place, but it's definitely worth traveling to for a few nights. There's a glowworm tunnel a few kilometres back (see the notice board) as well as a number of secret hiking trails that lead to ruins. They're not broadcast due to the rough terrain causing a fair amount of hikers to get lost and in need of rescue. However, if you just follow the creek you'll be fine, especially if you're up for a swim to escape the hot Australian sun. Free camping in Newnes Canyon is allowed and multiple drop toilets are provided...just make sure to close the doors after use to keep the local kangaroos out.

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Free Things to do in Canberra

Free things to do in Canberra:

  • Australian National Botanical Gardens - A fantastic garden well worth a visit even if you've seen many others already. This one has a variety of walks through many different environments and is littered with lizards and birds. Parking is $3.00/hr capped at $12/day. We found free parking within a couple hundred metres of the entrance, but not sure if you're actually allowed to park there (there are other cars there though and we didn't get a ticket after being absent for about 3 hours).
  • Canberra Games Society - Thursday night is game night at Deakin Bridge Club, 6 Duff Place Deaki. Bring your own minitures and join the fun or just pop in to see what they're all about!
  • Canberra Glassworks - If you've ever wondered how glass ornaments are made, then this is the factory for you. I haven't been to this particular one, but I remember going to one on a school trip and finding it really interesting. Not sure if parking nearby is free.
  • National Museum of Australia - They don't have any dinosaurs or megafauna, but the Aboriginal section is definitely worth visiting. When we were there they had an exhibit about the Stolen Generation, which were Aboriginese children kidnapped by white people to 'raise them better' via slavery and forced Christianity - you can guess how well that worked... Parking is not free ($2.50/hr or $12 for the day Mon - Fri (can't pay with cash)). Free parking on weekends and holidays.
  • The Hundred Swords - Foam Swords! Medieval/Fantasy Fights! Need I say more other than I WISH I KNEW ABOUT THIS WHEN I WAS THERE!? I didn't think so!...Actually, I should probably tell you you need your own safety goggles (find them in any hardware store), but they have extra foam weapons you can use for the day.
  • Wee Jasper [Burrinjack Dam] - Devonian fossils are easily found here.
  • Woden Park - Disc Golf Course. Need your own frisbee though.

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Free Things to do in Mudgee

Free things to do in Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve:

  • Castle Rock - An easy 8km return walk with a fantastic view of sandstone pagoda formations at the end (ie: cool rock).

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Free Things to do in Murray

Free things to do in Mathoura:

  • Reed Beds Bird Hide Boardwalk - Walk this one kilometre loop that's home to hundreds if not thousands of birds. Don't forget your binoculars!

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Free Things to do in the Newcastle Area

koalas at Blackbutt Hill Nature Reserve in Newcastle

Blackbutt Hill NR

exotic 'bird' flowers at Mt. Penang Gardens

Mt. Penang Gardens

feeding wild pelicans at The Entrance

The Entrance

Free things to do in Newcastle:

  • Blackbutt Reserve - a 'zoo' full of some of the most active koalas I've ever seen (there was even a baby jumping from limb to limb!), emus, kangaroos, ducks, reptiles, birds, and more. Also home to a fair number of hikes. Pay for Parking at the Nature Reserve, but you can park for free 'around the back' at -32.935213, 151.692292 if you're willing to walk for about five minutes.
  • Fort Scratchley - It was originally built in the late 1800s to defend against the Russians, but they never fired a gun at an actual target until the Japanese came along in WWII. It was abandoned by the army almost 100 years after its creation and is now an 'outdoor museum.'
  • Mereweather Baths - HOT SHOWERS! However, the two pools themselves can get very crowded, but they're still really pleasant to swim in - especially when there's blue bottles on the beach.
  • Mt. Penang Gardens, Gosford - One of the best gardens I've seen in Australia. The range of exotic trees and flowers it has is just amazing (some even look and feel like balloons!) and the bamboo and cacti gardens are to die for - and we went out of season!
  • Terrigal - The perfect place to spend a day. There are free showers (hot via the sun so take during the day) in the changing rooms, beautiful sandstone cliffs to marvel at, and a gorgeous, sheltered beach to snorkel in.
  • The Entrance - Watch them feed wild pelicans every day at 15.00.

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Free Things to do on the NSW North Coast

crab hiding in sand balls at Moonee Beach

Moonee Beach

sick koala getting treatment at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie

Port Macquarie

snorkeling spot in Laurieton, New South Wales

Laurieton

Free things to do in Coff's Harbour:

  • Evan's Head - A beach with waters that run red. Okay, not the entire beach, but the occasional stream here and there due to the run-off of iron rich rocks that comb the edges of this little paradise. Also, it's a beach so swimming is available. lols.
  • Forest Sky Pier - Drive up and then walk out the 21m to the edge of this pier for panoramic views of Coff's Harbour just 5km away.
  • Moonee Beach - Yes, there are loads of beaches in Australia so why should you visit this one? Well, for starters the beach is littered with little balls of sand that feel really weird under your bare feet. But where do these come from you ask? Well, thousands of tiny crabs of course! So make sure you keep an eye to the ground to spot these artistic creatures. And when you're not scanning the beach, look out at the amazing views.

Free things to do in Port Macquarie:

  • Koala Hospital - Not only does this offer free admission, but there is also a free tour everyday at 15.00 when they feed all of the sick/injured koalas. But though it's free, it needs your support to keep on saving the koalas. Donation asked per person: a measly $2, though they also have a souvenir shop you can 'donate' through too.
  • Laurieton - A beautiful small town with frequent visiting dolphins down the river, a family friendly beach, fantastic hikes with amazing views, a colourful snorkelling site with multiple fish right off the main beach, a fantastic paragliding group (if it's even slightly possible, they'll be out waiting!), and many free van camping spots.

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Free Things to do in Northern Tablelands

Free things to do in Ebor:

  • Cathedral Rocks - a unique natural collection of round boulders one can climb on top of. The stack reaches only 200m, but the view from the top is supposed to be spectacular. Also, did I mention the really cool round rocks that you don't have to go all the way to the Outback to see (ie: Devil's Marbles in Northern Territory)?
  • Wollomombi Falls - One of the biggest waterfalls in Australia.

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Free Things to do in the NSW Outback

Organ pipes at Kaputar National Park

Kaputar NP


Arch Loop hike at Borenore Caves near Orange

Orange

big merino in Goulburn

Goulburn

Free things to do in Goulburn:

  • Big Merino - Not only is this one of the best big things in Australia that Rob and I have seen, but you can also look out of its eyeballs! Jep, the inside of it is hollow and even better? It's been converted into a mini museum!

Free things to do in Lightning Ridge:

  • Bore Baths - ie: hotsprings at a constant 40-50°C all year that don't smell too bad of butt - oh jeah, that's the one thing no one ever tells you about hot springs. They all smell like butt due to the sulphur.

Free things to do in Kaputar National Park:

  • The road is gravel and fairly steep so be careful if you decide to do this. If you do, however, you'll be met with amazing views at the top (definitely watch the sunset!), kangaroos, a quiet night, and unique 'organ pipe' rock formations.

Free things to do in Orange:

  • Borenore Caves - Two caves within easy walking distance (the closest being a few hundred metres from the car park; the other a 7km return) of a picnic area complete with long-drop toilets and barbecue facilities. The closest cave is more of an arch and can be best explored via the Arch Loop Track. Estimate approximately 1-2 hours to properly explore it despite its small size. And keep an eye out for basking black lizards! Verandah Cave is the name of the other one and I would estimate about 3 hours to walk, explore, and walk back. It's closed over winter due to hibernating bats.
  • Lake Canobolas - A free picnic spot with a lakeside view (though actually a reservoir). Also has barbecue facilities, a playground for the kids, a café that's only open on certain days, and a nice easy walk along the water's edge. Camping is prohibited and gates close at dusk.
  • Yuranighs Aboriginal Grave - It's an historic site due to Yuranigh being an Aboriginal guide to the white people and his grave being the only known one in Australia that has both Aboriginal (tree craving) and European (tombstone) burial customs. The carved wood is definitely worth looking at if you're in the area.

Free things to do in Wagga Wagga:

  • Botanic Gardens - not only do they have a pretty good cacti section, but they also have a free minature zoo! The birds are just gorgeous, but the highlight is this donkey who turns his head sideways every time he thinks he's going to be fed! Carrots and apples are good choices for feeding said donkey.

Free things to do in Wentworth:

  • Mungo National Park - A unique park that definitely looks like it'd be worth a visit to check out it's 'Wall of China' and dune crest formations. There's an $8 vehicle entry fee though so maybe try hitching for free.
  • Perry Sandhills - 'Experience the desert' without actually going to a desert. This is a 10 hectacre dune that's home to multiple fossil finds, is an Aboriginal site since the last Ice Age, and has been used as the backdrop of many Aussie films.

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Free Things to do in the Snowy Mountains

Free things to do in Seldom Seen:

  • Cathedral Rocks - a unique natural collection of round boulders one can climb on top of. The stack reaches only 200m, but the view from the top is supposed to be spectacular. Also, did I mention the really cool round rocks that you don't have to go all the way to the Outback to see (ie: Devil's Marbles in Northern Territory)?

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Free Things to do on the NSW Southern Coast

white sanded beach in Jervis Bay

Jeris Bay

lifelong vagabond petting kangaroo at Pebbly Beach

Pebbly Beach

Free things to do in Jervis Bay:

  • Jervis Bay - Get a free 'pedicure' in the rockpools of Jervis Bay. Simply find one full of shrimp, stick your feet in, and feel the weird sensation of them cleaning away! Just be wary of the occasional hair pull, but the way their little bodies jump back with full force is totally worth the second of discomfort.
  • Pebbly Beach - The kangaroos are so used to humans, you can actually reach out and pet them! Just don't feed them because that makes them super aggressive and though they're small, have you seen their claws!? Vehicle Park Entrance Fee is $8, but if you walk in from Kioloa or something it's free.

Free things to do in Kiama:

  • Bass Point - Man, I wish it was good to dive when we were here as it's supposed to be one of the better spots in Australia. Nevertheless, it was well worth a visit on a windy day just to see the sheer power of the sea!
  • Kiama Blowholes - There are two blowholes here: the Big and the Little (Gotta love Aussie naming). The Big Blowhole is in the middle of town by the lighthouse. Pay for parking here, so for free parking you'll have to walk a few kms. The Little Blowhole is in the suburbs a few kilometres outside of the center. Can drive there and find free residential parking. The Little Blowhole is definitely worth a visit as less crowds and it shoots higher. Best times to view are at low tide.

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Free Things to do in Sydney & Surrounds

Cuttlefish at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

Manly

paragliding at Cooks Terrace

Pebbly Beach

hiking up the trail to Palm Beach, New South Wales

Palm Beach

Free things to do in Sydney & Surrounds:

  • Birdlife Discovery Centre - Check out the native birds of Australia, as well as those that migrate here over the winter. From May to November, check out the Eagle cam. Open only on the weekends from 10.00-16.00. Free guided tours on the last Sunday of the month at 10.00.
  • Bondi Beach - Sand is nice and soft, water is cool and not that rough, but as you can see it's fairly overcrowded. However, if you go around the left-hand corner (when you face the sea), there's some gorgeous rocks and very few people. Obviously don't swim if it looks dangerous due to the rocks.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens - Not only is it in the middle of Sydney and so the perfect place to have a picnic. Not only is it home to a variety of trees and exotic flowers, but it also has amazing views of the Sydney Opera House across the waters.
For more free attractions in Sydney, check out this travel budget guest post by Olivia Jones:
Free Things to Do in Sydney.

Free things to do in Manly:

  • Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve - A beautiful, sheltered diving and snorkelling spot with curious blue gropers (they'll come right up to you! But please don't feed them bread as the yeast kills them), shy sharks and manta rays in the deeper waters (deepest being about 12m), pufferfish, cuttlefish, and many other interesting creatures of the sea. Just beware of blue bottle jellyfish!

    If you're a nervous driver, I wouldn't recommend driving here due to the narrow streets that should NOT be two ways but for some reason are. However, if you're a good driver then you can find free parking on the side of the road right before the pay-to-park sign. Arrive in the morning as it fills quickly.
    *The picture above is one taken at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary (NOT FREE!), but the cuttlefish shown can be found when snorkeling Cabbage Tree Bay.
  • Cooks Terrace - A paragliding site with views over the beach. It's classified as a novice flight and I've flown here no problem with less than ten hours under my belt. However, a guy with about thirty hours has lost his leg here so take that as you will.

Free things to do in Mona Vale:

  • Mona Vale Beach - Two beaches separated by two ocean pools. One is 25m long and the other is about half that for small children. However, the gem here is the fantastic rock pools surrounding said pools as they are teaming with crabs, starfish, and small fish at low tide. There is also a kid's playground right across the road and if you walk the short headland trail to the left of the beach you'll come across many lizards right on the trail! Other nearby walks can be found here. Free parking can be found down one of the residential streets near the playground.

Free things to do in Palm Beach:

  • A beautiful hike with a cute lighthouse at the top, amazing views, and a seat to watch whales over the winter. If you decide to walk this in the heat, bring LOTS of water.

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If you liked 52 Free Things to do in New South Wales, then you might also like these other lists of free things to do in Australia:

Free Things to do in Sydney, Australia
27 free things to do in Victoria, Australia
37 free things to do in Queensland, Australia

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