Escape the city for a day by pointing your compass in the direction of one of these nearby towns, regions and bush walks. Less than two hours' drive or a scenic train or bus ride away, you'll find the perfect spot for a sunset picnic by the sea, a ramble through eucalyptus trees in the mountains, or adrenaline fuelled fun on the sand dunes. Two things these places have in common is that they're close enough to get you there and back within a day – and they're well worth the trip. While you're on an adventure, seek out these waterfalls in New South Wales and check out our list of tourist attractions that don't suck.
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The best day trips from Sydney
Home to panoramic coastal views, sunny weather and an infamous surf, Palm Beach is the ideal Australian package. Located one hour away from Sydney’s CBD on the Northern Beaches, this hot spot is perfect for a relaxing day trip away from the commotion of the city. Cruise the crystal waters on a boat charter, tee off at the Palm Beach Golf Course, or grab a bite at the Boathouse for lunch after embarking on a Pittwater kayaking tour. The Barrenjoey Lighthouse delivers a bird’s-eye-view of the sandy dunes, 91 metres above sea level.
How far? 44 km
Get there by car. It’s about one hour away from Sydney CBD. Or catch the L90 bus from Wynyard Station for around $2.61 with an Opal card.
The Royal National Park has endless possibilities for sightseers and explorers eager to connect with nature. Trek the expansive coastal cliffs and walk through eucalyptus bushlands, swim under the waterfalls in Wattamolla, or paddle down Hacking River by hiring a canoe from the Audley Boatshed. You can even catch a glimpse of whales migrating north for the winter from May to November. Cyclists can brave the 10 km Loftus Loop Trail and unroll a picnic blanket for lunch at Ironbark Flat or Wattle Forest afterwards.
How far? 36 km
Get there by car. It’s about one hour away from Sydney CBD. Or take the train from Central to Otford, which takes around one hour and nine minutes and costs $4.62 with an Opal card.
If you’re looking to escape to the countryside, Kangaroo Valley, located two hours south of Sydney, has got you covered. Go wine tasting at the Yarrawa Estate Winery, where you can sample locally made jams. Entertain the kids by kayaking down Kangaroo River or go horse riding through rainforest and grazing lands with the Man from Kangaroo Valley Trail Ride. You can admire the Victorian architecture of the Hampden Bridge or the bushland views from Mannings lookout, too. The Flavours of the Valley Foodie Trail also offers a range of hands-on classes in gourmet cooking, gardening, soap-making and the art of high tea.
How far? 156 km
Get there by car. It’s about two hours and ten minutes away from Sydney CBD.
Despite being a two hour drive from Sydney CBD, Port Stephens offers adventure and scenic views that make it worth it. Embark on a camel ride at Oakfield Ranch or dive in for a snorkel with dolphins. Sandboard the largest dunes of Stockton Beach during the day, or do it by sunset for a more romantic picnic setting. For adventurers, the outdoor rock climbing at Port Stephens’ sea cliffs will have you reaching unimaginable heights overlooking the ocean slapping the rocky shore.
How far? 179 km
Get there by car, it’s about two hours away from Sydney CBD.
At Kiama, visit the Kiama Blowhole where waves spurt out through a hole in the cliff, forming a fountain. Play golf at the rural golf course or walk the Kiama Coast Walk for views of lush green cliffs overlooking rocky shores, rivers and private beaches. There are also plenty of surrounding coastal towns along with cycleways for fitness fanatics to conquer. You can book in trips with Dolphin Watch cruises, outdoor rock climbing and kayaking tours.
How far? 130 km
Get there by car, it’s about two hours away from Sydney CBD.
Take a train to the Blue Mountains and make a day of visiting lookout points such as Echo Point and wandering along tracks that boast rich Indigenous history. Trek the scenic loop of the Grand Canyon track near Blackheath to see world heritage listed waterfalls, sandstone walls and native plants. Or soak in the vibrant shades of flora in the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah. Take a peek into the Glow Worm Tunnel in Lithgow where the bioluminescent glow of the fungus gnat covers the walls and ceilings. Or relax in at the Echoes Day Spa for massages, facials, soak therapies and body wraps.
How far? 79 km
Get there by car, it’s about one hour away from Sydney CBD. Or catch the Blue Mountains line train from Central to Katoomba, then the bus from Katoomba to Echo Point for the lookout. It costs around $10.65 with an Opal Card.
Trek through the bush, swim in rivers and chase waterfalls around Mermaid Pools near Tahmoor Gorge. You’ll encounter steep steps and rocky platforms overlooking but the views are worth it. While the Mermaid Pools themselves are not the safest to swim in, the many swimming holes you’ll encounter on the trek are ideal for a splash. The See Through Pools are the perfect pit-stop for a swim, allowing you to view hidden rock formations underwater.
How far? 100 km
Get there by car, it’s about 1.5 hours from Sydney CBD.
Step into another time by visiting the historic village of Berrima, established in the 1830s. Widely recognised as the preserved example of a Georgian village on the Australian mainland, Berrima is surrounded by wineries, charming centuries-old architecture, and boutiques. Buy handmade country produce at Mrs Oldbucks Pantry and warm winter knits from the Australian Alpaca Centre. Stop by Eschalot for lunch for a hatted fine-dining experience at a heritage-listed building. Walk by the Berrima River for a platypus-sighting or book yourself a ghost tour at the local courthouse.
How far? 125 km
Get there by car. It’s about one hour, 50 minutes away from Sydney CBD.
You’ll discover deep-rooted history and picturesque landscapes at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, 50 minutes north of Sydney by car. Feast your eyes on views of Pittwater to the Central Coast from the sandstone viewing area at West Head Lookout. Take a short walk through the bush to find important Indigenous sites on the Aboriginal Heritage walk, which includes viewings of historic rock engravings and handprints made by the Guringai people. The park includes many waterways including Hawkesbury River, Pittwater and Cowan Water, plus numerous creeks and coves to explore. Want to see more? Hire a paddle boat from the Bobbin Inn.
How far? 43 km
Get there by car. It’s about 50 minutes’ drive from Sydney CBD.
Situated on the northern tip of Wollongong, Stanwell Park is where Australian aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave first flew in his box kite in 1894. Since then, Bald Hill lookout has been the spot for hang gliding and paragliding, as well as a good place to enjoy an alfresco lunch. You can also hike the 6.5-km walking track of Wodi Wodi or hand feed kangaroos at Symbio Zoo. If all else fails, slap on some sunscreen and head to the beach for a splash.
How far? 64 km
Get there by car. It’s about one hour, 15 minutes from Sydney CBD. Or take the train from Central to Otford, which takes around one hour, nine minutes and costs $4.62 with an Opal card. The walk from Otford Station to Stanwell Tops takes 22 minutes.