Free Things to do on the Northern Beaches
- Mums & Bubs
There’s nothing quite like venturing into unchartered waters, especially if you don’t have to leave the state. Venturing to Sydney’s Northern Beaches is a great day out for the whole family and – despite what they say – you don’t need your passport to cross over the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
If you’re trying to think of something new and adventurous to do with the kids, there are loads of free things to do on the Northern Beaches. Get ready to start ticking off the list!
Free Things to do on the Northern Beaches
1. Visit the Markets
You might be surprised to discover that the Northern Beaches host some of the best markets in Sydney. From weekly farmers' markets to monthly boutique markets and special events, there’s always a market popping up on the Northern Beaches.
Manly Markets are held every Saturday and Sunday right in the heart of the Corso and boast a smorgasbord of emerging designers, quality artisan products, eco-friendly items, handcrafted jewellery, original art, and vintage apparel. The vibrant precinct comes alive with the bustling atmosphere of the stalls, surrounding boutique shops, and cool cafes, making it a great day out in the seaside village.
Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled on the Northern Beaches Council What's On page for the annual Taste Of The Beaches Food And Wine Festival coming back to the Corso in 2023.
The Beaches Markets are held in Palm Beach on the 4th Sunday of the month, Lane Cove on the 3rd Sunday of the month and Dee Why on the 1st Sunday of the month.
The drive out to the iconic Palm Beach Market is well worth it for the fun atmosphere and seaside location, with a vast range of foods, fresh coffee, homewares, clothing, and, of course, stunning views.
The Lane Cove Makers Market offers a broad array of unique, Australian products and hand-crafted items, produced and sold by local makers. The Dee Why Markets at Meriton Square allows visitors to discover goods from 20 contemporary craft and handmade stalls offering original and locally made wares.
Find more of the best markets on the Northern Beaches.
2. Hit the Beach
Heading to the sandy shore is a given when you’re visiting the Northern Beaches. From expansive hotspots to secluded coves, the area is loaded with fantastic beaches to suit all tastes, and it's one of the best free things to do on the Northern Beaches.
For a kid-friendly day out, check out the shallow waters at Little Manly Beach, Clareville Beach, Clontarf Beach, and the Pittwater side of Palm Beach. For somewhere a little more off the beaten path, Paradise Beach in Avalon is very secluded and great fun for all ages.
Kid-friendly Beaches in Sydney
3. Go for a Bike Ride
Bike riding is one of our favourite free things to do on the Northern Beaches. The 8.4-kilometre Narrabeen Lagoon Trail winds around the tranquil waters of Narrabeen Lakes and makes for a great bike ride.
The track is relatively flat making it ideal for families and all fitness levels. Besides, you’ll be too busy taking in stunning water views to worry about keeping speed. Aside from views of the lake, the Lagoon Trail will take you through lush rainforest, rugged bushlands, and beautiful ecosystems full of wildlife, cultural heritage, and historical icons.
The Trail allows visitors to walk or ride around the entire Narrabeen Lagoon circuit with extensive boardwalks and plenty of park benches along the way to take a breather and soak up the stunning water views, plus, picnic areas are also dotted along the trail with shaded tables and benches.
If you don’t own your own bike, you can hire one for the day from Northern Beaches Cycles.
4. Critique Some Art
Visiting Manly Art Gallery & Museum is a must-do on your list of free things to do on the Northern Beaches.
Located in the heart of Manly Cove, the exciting art gallery and museum is run by volunteers so it's 100 per cent free to visit! Bring the kids along to see some amazing local artists and beach ephemera. Make sure you check out their calendar of events to see what's on next.
Location: 1a West Esplanade, Manly
5. Feed the Ducks
Another highlight of the Narrabeen Lagoon Trail is the friendly ducks and ducklings that waddle around the area, which makes it an ultra-cute, ultra-engaging free thing to do on the Northern Beaches. Feeding the much-loved feathered friends is a long-held tradition in the area, but make sure you read our tips on what to feed ducks before you go!
If you’re planning on visiting the popular Narrabeen Tramshed Café and Park, stopping off to feed the ducks is a must. The kids will love how responsive the ducks and their oh-so-cute ducklings are when they spot some carrots or lettuce in hand.
6. Visit the Gnome Gardens
Possibly the cutest adventure we’ve ever heard of, Collaroy Plateau’s Garden of Gnomes is a magical outing for the kids. No one really knows how this little treasure trove of statues started, but hey, we don’t hear anyone complaining.
Located along the famous Long Reef Headland Walk, the aptly named 'Long Reef Gnomesville' is a whimsical display of donated gnomes that just appeared out of nowhere and is slowly getting built up by visitors leaving their own gnomes behind. So cute (and so free!).
7. Go Deep Into a Rainforest
You wouldn't think it possible for a magical rainforest gully to exist in the bustling suburb of Dee Why but it does!
Stony Range Botanic Garden is a hidden oasis of 3.3 hectares that houses several microclimates and a whole lot of nature to discover. Kids just love going for nature outings in this lush ecosystem to hunt for native flora and fauna, visit the Sandstone Heath, stop off for picnics, and explore the rainforest gully.
Location: 810 Pittwater Rd, Dee Why
8. Explore the Rock Pools
The Northern Beaches has an impressive range of 15 famous rock pools dotted along the coast, so you’re bound to find a little pocket of the coast that you will love. Aside from being pretty cool to explore for curious kids who love hunting for fascinating creatures, rock pools are excellent swimming spots for beginners or little ones afraid of the waves. We really do love the range of gorgeous rock pools on offer as one of the best free things to do on the Northern Beaches.
If you’re visiting for the day, the kids will love exploring the hundreds of nooks and crannies in the rocks and unearthing hidden sea urchins and mysterious shells. A lot of the rock pools also have smaller paddling pools to one side so you can avoid the crowds and lapping waves. The surrounding rocks can get quite slippery, so make sure you and the kids are wearing aqua shoes.
9. Discover the Playgrounds
Consistently lauded as one of the best playgrounds on the Northern Beaches, Flying Fox Park in Mona Vale has a fantastic fenced playground, set among expansive parkland in a gorgeous waterfront location. There’s also an onsite café. Its neighbour, Winnererremy Bay, is an equally coveted location with sprawling green spaces, outdoor tables and barbecues, large shady trees, and even a small beach.
A popular train-themed playground in Narrabeen, Berry Reserve is a huge Northern Beaches drawcard for hundreds of families who love a tooting good time in the great outdoors. A stone's throw from the aforementioned Narrabeen Tramshed Café, complete with a restored 60-year-old tram, the adjacent playground is a must for rail-loving imaginative play.
Not technically part of the Northern Beaches, but totally worth a detour, the impressive St Ives Playground offers an inclusive outdoor wonderland bursting with state-of-the-art equipment for kids to explore. With a Skywalker elevated walkway, cubby houses, mini and mega slides, a double flying fox, a merry-go-round and play ride-on tractors, plus imaginative and nature play experiences, this playground in St Ives Showground has fast become a favourite among Sydney kids.
Plus, every Saturday you can drop into the new St Ives Showground Market for delicious food. Enjoy a coffee and brunch and stock up on fresh produce while the kids play!
For more playgrounds on the Northern Beaches, check these out:
Clifton Gardens at Morella Rd, Mosman
Bobbin Head Playground at 1002 Bobbin Head Rd, North Turramurra
Rocketship Park at Casuarina Drive, Warriewood
Collaroy Beach Playground at 10 Birdwood Avenue, Collaroy
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