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4 December 2023

Six of our favourite free (or free-ish) summer holiday ideas

If you’re anything like us, you’re counting down every second until you can kick off your shoes for some serious summertime R and R. It’s natural if the purse strings feel a bit tighter this year, but getting the most out of your break doesn’t need to mean blowing a stack of money. Here, we’ve got six easy ideas for budget-friendly holiday activities, if you’re after some inspiration.


Get outdoors

If you’re looking to keep costs low but still create stunning summer memories, immersing yourself in the great outdoors might just be the thing for you. We’re so lucky in Australia, because we have thousands of state and national parks you can explore, and there are so many hikes that are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. To get going, all you’ll need is a pair of comfy walking shoes, sun protection, and a daypack for snacks and water. Trail Hiking Australia is a fantastic resource for finding hikes close by to you, and it lets you easily filter by length and intensity.


Pitch a tent

While we’re on the subject of the great outdoors, camping is great for holidaying on a budget. Wikicamps Australia will help you find free campgrounds – and even plot routes between them, if you want to head off on a road trip.

All that said, free campgrounds tend to fill up quickly over summer, so for peace of mind you might want to consider booking a paid site. There are beautiful spots available all over Australia, and many are available for just a few dollars per night. To find them, refer to your state’s parks department website.

If you’re looking to stay close to popular tourist destinations – like beach towns – most caravan parks offer basic, unpowered campsites at a fraction of the cost of regular accommodation. But again, they book out quickly in peak times, so get in fast or plan your camp when things are a bit quieter. Finally, remember that summer in Australia can mean dangerous weather, so check the relevant State Emergency Services website for any warnings before you start adventuring.


Get a culture fix

Another reason we Australians are lucky: we have a whole stack of cultural institutions scattered all over, in every city, and a lot of them won’t cost you a cent to explore. In Victoria, explore Melbourne’s Ian Potter Centre or browse the archives at the State Library of Victoria. In Sydney, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Australian Museum and White Rabbit Gallery, free of charge. In WA, wander the spaces of the AGWA and the new WA Museum Boola Bardip.

Brisbane boasts the Gallery of Modern Art (which also boasts free film screenings). And if you’re in the city of churches, peruse the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum. Finally, Hobart’s MONA is free for Tasmanian residents, while the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is open to all.


Support your local farmers

Here’s a thrifty way to shop for the freshest produce and local artisan crafts: head to your local farmers’ market. The Australian Farmers’ Market Association is dedicated to representing sustainable produce markets across the country, and their website will help you find one close to you. Not only will you be able to get your cooking hands on some of the freshest produce your dollars and cents can buy (at low, low prices), you’ll also be directly helping Australian farmers at a time when this type of support has never been more important. Win-win.


Try house-swapping    

A change is as good as a holiday, as the saying goes, but after this year, we’ll take a holiday however we can get it. Enter: house-swapping. The brains behind housing exchange platforms have created spaces where you can register your home sweet home for a free temporary swap with someone else’s. And while this might sound like a modern internet phenomenon, one of the largest global platforms – Home Exchange – was founded in the early ’90s as a printed guidebook.

Locally, try Aussie House Swap to find something that fits what you want from a holiday-by-house-swap. (Although, be warned, there’s a small registration fee to pay before you can use the service.) They ask each swap member to follow thorough cleaning protocols at both ends of the swap to ensure everyone stays safe and well. But if swapping with strangers doesn’t feel quite right now, what about an informal swap within your own network? Friends and family might be just as keen as you are to mix things up over summer.


Get some vitamin sea

Beaches are always a great place to have some fun in the sun. Before you pack your bag for the perfect beach day, read on to ensure everyone’s in beach bliss.

  1. Australia boasts some of the world’s most stunning beaches. Let’s keep them that way. So, take your litter home or dispose of it in a nearby bin. Remember, only rubbish people litter.
  2. Snags on a beach barbie = pure perfection. Just make sure to respect the grill and clean up for the next person. No one likes a grotty BBQ.
  3. Throwing shade? Make sure your Cool Cabana isn’t getting too friendly with the other Cool Cabanas’ and try not to encroach on fellow beachgoer’s sun.


However you decide to spend your lazy summer days, it’s so easy to have a whole lot of fun without spending a whole lot. So get out there and make the most of it.

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