Venture an hour or two from the centre of Sydney and a world of pristine forests, charming villages, national parks and panoramic beaches awaits. World-famous regions such as the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley reside near hidden gems including Kangaroo Valley and The Entrance, with adventures, serenity, fine dining and luxury all on offer. Here are some of the best day trips from Sydney.
Less than three hours’ drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley region is renowned for its wineries and vineyards, attracting wine enthusiasts from Australia and abroad. There are plenty of winery tours and tastings, fabulous restaurants at Lovedale and Rothbury, and a scattering of basic and luxury accommodation encompassing spas, resorts and romantic cabins.
Venture about two hours by car or train from Sydney and discover serenity in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. Featuring quaint mountain villages such as Leura, and an abundance of outdoor activities, including bushwalking, horse-riding and cave exploring, the region also boasts stunning panoramas of wilderness, waterfalls, valleys and rugged sandstone tablelands. For those seeking relaxation, there are luxury spas, restaurants and cafes, and the opportunity to experience a true icy winter in the colder months of the year with roaring fires, mulled wine and festive dinners.
Get up nice and early for this spectacular location, just over three hours’ drive from the CBD. Jervis Bay is as picturesque as a postcard, with its white-sand beaches and clear turquoise waters as well as coastal, marine and hinterland national parks. This is an ideal spot for whale watching from June until November, while the area teems with wildlife on any given day, including dolphins, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and many bird species.
Surrounded by lakes, lagoons and beaches, The Entrance features a cosmopolitan ambience and a scenic town centre. The area sits between the Pacific Ocean and Tuggerah Lake and is renowned for its huge pelican population, which assembles for feeding at 3.30pm every day at Memorial Park’s pavilion. Head to Tuggerah Lake for canoeing, water-skiing, sailing, rowing and sailboarding.
Royal National Park
Just outside Cronulla, about an hour’s drive from Sydney’s CBD, sits the Royal National Park. This expanse of bush, beaches and waterfalls is great for walking, swimming, mountain biking, snorkelling or fishing. There’s a popular picnic spot at Wattamolla for lunch or a rest, while the nearby lagoon offers glimpses of sea eagles for eager bird watchers.
NSW’s second-largest city resides about three hours from Sydney. Take a dip at the Merewether Ocean Baths or one of the stunning beaches, indulge in sophisticated dining on The Boardwalk along Honeysuckle wharf, or immerse yourself in the thriving arts and culture scene at Newcastle Art Gallery.
Newcastle is also a haven for surfers, with Merewether Beach declared a National Surfing Reserve in 2009. Also on offer are kite-surfing, kayak tours, seasonal whale watching and hang-gliding.
This unspoilt gem offers an idyllic escape from the lively activity of Sydney city. Featuring lush green fields, rainforests and the serene Kangaroo River, the secluded valley includes a small community and plenty to see and do.
Take a self-guided tour of the Hampden Bridge – Australia’s last surviving wooden suspension bridge, ascend to spectacular views from Cambewarra Mountain Lookout, relax at Crystal Creek Meadows Day Spa or kayak down the Kangaroo River through areas of untouched wilderness.
Well known for its scenic beaches, stunning sheltered bays and national parklands, Port Stephens is a popular getaway. It’s home to a prominent fine dining scene, where you’ll find freshly caught seafood, hand-shucked oysters, and locally sourced avocados, figs and macadamia nuts, along with several local breweries and wineries. The region is also home to a swarm of bottlenose dolphins, with regular tours departing from Nelson Bay offering dolphin watching opportunities and kayak trips.
Just over an hour’s drive from Sydney’s centre lies Palm Beach, home to the city’s most northerly stretch of sand. This is the site of Home and Away (there are tours available), as well as popular eateries including Jonah’s, Dunes Restaurant and The Boathouse, Palm Beach. There are plenty of beach-related activities to indulge in, Palm Beach wharf for fishing, a golf course, and a scenic trail to the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse for something a little different.
Take a trip to the rolling hills of the Southern Highlands. This scenic spot surrounded by national parks and nature reserves offers challenging outdoor adventures or serenity amid the ancient forests and waterfalls. The area is known for its quaint heritage villages, cool climate and fertile soil, which produces a range of award-winning wines. There are also restaurants, cellar doors, rustic local eateries and spas to discover.
* Featured image: Port Stephens. Image: Getty