6 Free Historic Self-Guided Walking Tours in Sydney
Sydney Moving Guide’s Very Own Free Walking Tour of Sydney’s CBD
That’s right, I’ve write my very own walking tour of Sydney’s CBD. I’ve included a free downloadable PDF.
The walk starts off at the David Jones food hall then loops around to Circular Quay then on to the Royal Botanic Gardens. After the gardens, the tour wanders over to Woolloomooloo wharf then back to the NSW Art Gallery. The walking tour then ends at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park.
It’s a very easy walk and, as I already said, it’s FREE.
Powerhouse Museum Walking Tours App For iPhone and Android
There are five free self guided walking tours included in the Powerhouse Museum app with the option to purchase the Sydney Heritage Pub Crawl walk for $1.99 but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
Each of the walks includes a narration by museum curators Anni Turnbull or Geoff Barker.
The three walks that cover old Sydney (The Rocks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and George Street) are well worth it. Just be sure to download them before you hit the street.
Installing the app on your phone does not also download the individual walks, at least not for the iPhone. I haven’t checked the Android version. You have to download each walk individually within the app. Don’t worry, the walks are still free.
Each of the old Sydney walks takes between 1 – 2 hours depending on how fast you walk. If you’re up for it, I would suggest doing The Rocks tour then moving on to the Sydney Harbour Bridge walking tour. I know that sounds like a lot but you’re in the same area and there are plenty of places to stop and take a break with a nice cold pint or get a bite to eat.
City of Sydney Historic Walking Tours
The City of Sydney has a list of walking tours that you can download for free in the form of PDFs so load up your tablet or Kindle and hit the road.
If you haven’t done the Powerhouse Museum historic walking tours then I would start with the city’s Colony Walking Tour. This walk starts at Customs House and ends at Millers Point. There are over 30 point of interest in this tour. You’ll visit pubs, churches and the archaeological digs in The Rocks.
If you plan your time right, a stop at Lord Nelson pub for a pint and a pie is a must. The lamb burger is also very good if you’re not in the mood for a pie.
The PDF is full of historic photos from years past adding a nice contrast to the city you’ll be walking through. The whole tour will take about 2 hours give or take a half hour.
Besides the Colony Walking Tour I would suggest downloading the Hidden Tour that takes you through Sydney’s little lane ways and the Water Tour that actually feels more like a scavenger hunt than a tour as you explore the city’s different water features, not just fountains but pools and old fashion toilets.
Razorhurst Walking Tour
The Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst and Surry Hills are now best known for their trendy restaurants and bars but that wasn’t always the case. This area and the nearby suburbs (Kings Cross, Woolloomooloo, Potts Point) are historically known as Razorhurst because it was once over run by razor gangs, called such because the gangs carried straight edged razors instead of guns. This time in Sydney’s history has been glamorised by the Australian TV series “Underbelly: Razorhurst” and, I completely admit, is the first time I had ever heard about Tilly Devine or Kate Leigh, the two women that ruled over the razor gangs.
If you are a fan of Boardwalk Empire and mobster history in general, be it US or UK, then this is right up your alley. It certainly has all the trimmings of a good gritty crime drama including: brothels, pimps, pickpockets, con men, sly-grogs (aka speakeasies), six o’clock swill, and the roaring ’20s and ‘30s in Sydney.
You can download the map PDF from the Razorhurst website but it does not include a description of each point so hopefully you have a tablet or smart phone and are set up with an Australian mobile network to access the website tour points of interest.
Do not download the mobile app!!
1. It’s $5.49, kind of pricey for an app.
2. It’s not a walking tour but a game that, judging from the reviews, it’s not very good.
But other than that the info on the website is interesting and the mapped route will take you through an interesting part of Sydney well worth further exploration.
Here’s some more info on Razorhurst on CNN Travel.
If you’re keen to learn more then book an actual guided tour. The Razor Wars Tour is $40 per person and takes about 2 hours.
Balmain Walking Tour
Leichhardt Council has free historic walks of Balmain that you can download. There are mp3 files that the site says can be downloaded but it doesn’t appear so. Or at least I couldn’t figure it out. But the PDF is full of historic info about Balmain.
Balmain is a quick ferry ride from Circular Quay or you can walk from Circular Quay along the harbour then take the ferry back. There a heaps of shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes in Balmain. It’s definitely worth taking a day to explore the suburb plus there are some beautiful views of the harbour.
Explore Sydney Suburb by Suburb
Urban Walkabout is an interesting site for exploring Sydney’s different suburbs. It has a directory of several different suburbs in Sydney with PDFs that lists shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes plus locates each on a map of the suburb, also part of the PDF. The only drawback is, the information on each suburb is in no way complete. For example, I checked out my suburb of Woollahra and there were only two restaurants listed. I know for a fact that there are more than just two restaurants in all of Woollahra. But Urban Walkabout is updating and adding to the site all the time which is why I’m mentioning it here.
The Urban Walkabout walks are curated by different Sydney-siders but aren’t that fabulous or well thought out. I would stick to the suburb PDFs for now.
Urban Walkabout also has a free app for both iPhone and Android that has all the information you’ll find on the site. The user interface is a bit slow, and, as I mentioned above, the information is not as complete as it could be. The app seems to be constantly trying to access the phone’s GPS which tends to slow it down and, if a connection cannot be made, the app just stops working. You’ll need access to wifi or a mobile network to use the app fully.
Two “Free” Guided Walking Tours Of Sydney
I used quotes above because only the Royal Botanic Garden Tour is really free. I’m Free operates on a tip basis so technically they’re not totally free as most people end up tipping something. But hey, it’s up to you how much you feel it’s worth. I’ve done the I’m Free Sydney Sights Tour and ended up tipping $20 without hesitation. Ross did a fantastic job.
I’m Free Guide Tours
I’m Free is probably the most popular walking tour in Sydney. You may have read about it in Trip Advisor where it has over 500 glowing reviews.
There are two different tours: the Sydney Sights Tour and The Rocks Tour. The Sydney Sights Tours meets at Town Hall twice a day (10:30am and 2:30pm) EVERYDAY, rain, shine or snow (ha ha just kidding). To see all the sights will take about 3 hours.
The Rocks Tour meets everyday at 6pm in front of Cadman’s Cottage. That’s the small cottage next to the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you stand in front of the MCA with you back to Sydney Cove, Cadman’s Cottage is located in the park to the right of the museum. The Rocks Tour is 1 1/2 hours long.
Like I already said, I’ve done the Sydney Sights Tour and whole heartedly recommend it! Have yet to do The Rocks Tour. If you’ve done The Rocks Tour let me know what you think in the comments below.
Royal Botanic Garden Tour
If you’ve got a green thumb then this free guided tour of the Royal Botanic Garden is for you.
Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry as this tours isn’t not all about plants. The tour also includes information about the history of the gardens and Sydney.
The Royal Botanic Garden Tour meets daily at 10:30 just outside the Garden Shop at the Palm Grove Centre and takes about 1 1/2 hours. The is an addition tour at 1 pm Monday to Friday, March-November only.