New South Wales Wonders: The Best Day Trips from Sydney

Boats at Port Stephens against an orange sky.

3.05min read

Published 28 April 2017


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.

Hunter Valley

Rolling hills covered in vineyards and morning mist in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales.
Have a fine time among the vines in the Hunter Valley. Image: Getty

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.  

Blue Mountains

A hiker takes a photo on a trail that skirts sandstone bluffs in New South Wales' Blue Mountains.
Strap on the hiking boots for some spectacular Blue Mountains bushwalks. Image: Getty

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.

Jervis Bay

Sunrise over sand, sea and rocks at Jervis Bay, New South Wales.
Early morning is a magical time in Jervis Bay. Image: Getty

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.

The Entrance

A flock of pelicans swim up to the jetty for their daily feed at The Entrance in New South Wales.
Pelicans come in for their daily feed at The Entrance. Image: Getty

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

Simmers enjoy the beach at beautiful Wattamolla in Sydney's Royal National Park.
Take a break at Wattamolla in the Royal National Park. Image: Getty

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.


A low-angle view from the corner of Newcastle's Merewether Ocean Baths, as the sun rises over the sea in the background.
Take a dip at the Merewether Ocean Baths in Newcastle. Image: Getty

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. 

Kangaroo Valley

Hampden Bridge in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales.
Hampden Bridge in Kangaroo Valley is Australia's last surviving wooden suspension bridge. Image: Getty

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.

Port Stephens

Plant-covered dunes reach down to the sea with forested hills in the background at Port Stephens, New South Wales.
Scenic beaches abound in Port Stephens. Image: Getty

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.

Palm Beach

Boats moored in the sheltered waters of Palm Beach, New South Wales.
Palm Beach wharf makes for a great fishing spot. Image: Getty

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.

Southern Highlands

Fitzroy Falls tumble and trickle through forest in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. Image: Getty
Stunning Fitzroy Falls in the Southern Highlands. Image: Getty

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

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