While Sydney, Australia offers plenty of delights of its own to keep any traveler busy for days, weeks or even months, no trip to this country would be complete without taking at least one day trip outside of the city center. Within two or three hours you’ll find everything from fabulous wine country to spectacular mountains and pristine white sand beaches. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s sure to be a day trip from Sydney you’ll just have to experience.
**Update: This article was originally written before the devastating fires in Australia. For more information and how you can help, go here.
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The Blue Mountains
Just 90 minutes west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are famous for the iconic Three Sisters. But you’ll find a lot more to do here in this verdant region of tree-covered mountains and steep gorges that are often enveloped in a blue haze that results from the mist of evaporating oil emanating from the many eucalyptus trees. The underground may bring even more spectacular views – take a trip to Jenolan Caves, with its stunning crystal clear underground rivers, stalactites and stalagmites, and crystal limestone formations. For more breathtaking vistas above ground, hike the miles of scenic trails and hop on a glass-bottomed cable car to enjoy 360-degree views of Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters rock formation.
Australia’s capital city of Canberra, makes for an interesting day trip for political junkies as well as lovers of culture, city planning and design. Here you can experience a unique urban design, with the city structure made up of geometric circles and axes of streets and gardens, and explore some outstanding museums. The National Museum of Australia is focused on over 50,000 years of indigenous culture, while the world’s largest collection of indigenous art can be found at the National Gallery of Australia. Learn more about the government by visiting the capital, home to the country’s National Archives, the collection of all government records.
Port Stephens is known as Australia’s dolphin capital, and it makes an ideal day trip, with the 70-mile-long shoreline of Port Stephens Bay jaw-droppingly scenic. Over 140 bottlenose dolphins call this area home, so you’re practically guaranteed a sighting, especially if you join a boat tour. Wild dolphin encounters are possible too, swimming nearby at a safe distance (for both you and the animals). Snorkeling and diving is fantastic, right off the beautiful beaches, and you’re likely to spot koalas as well, who are frequently seen in front of the holiday homes and cabin, as well as along Taylors and One Mile Beach.
Hunter Valley is the oldest commercial wine-producing region in Australia, established in the 19th-century. The nearly 200 years of rich heritage can be tasted in the wine, making it a must day trip from Sydney for wine enthusiasts, just a two-hour drive north. Here you can tour many of some 160 vineyards, learning about the important factors that go into making this fabulous wine, and of course, tasting those locally-made wines, including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Of course, if you want to indulge, you don’t want to drive, but you’ll find a number of organized day trip tours that will allow you to sip to your heart’s delight.
Kangaroo Valley is just two hours south of Sydney, a picturesque valley that forms part of the Southern Highlands. As the name suggests, there are lots of kangaroos here, along with other Australian wildlife, and you can also visit the oldest surviving suspension bridge in the nation, constructed in 1898. Enjoy a swim in the river, or a picnic along the banks. Afterwards drive the scenic Nowra Road to Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park. The magnificent falls spill nearly 270 feet over the edge of the sandstone escapement, creating a breathtaking sight.
The White Sand Beaches of Jervis Bay
If you’re hoping to see those stunning, unspoiled white sand beaches the Whitsundays are famous for but don’t have time to fly, taking a day trip to Jervis Bay offers a similar experience. In fact, perhaps even better, as according to the Guinness Book of World Records, this is where the world’s whitest sands can be found. The strikingly clear, azure waters of the bay offer outstanding snorkeling and diving, and the surrounding land is rich in native flora and fauna, yet it’s all just an easy day trip from Sydney.
Grand Pacific Drive
One of the best, if not the best, scenic drives from Sydney begins at the city’s southern edge in Royal National Park. While the park itself offers beautiful beaches and forested paths, you’ll want to move on as the best is still to come. At Sea Cliff Bridge you can take the Bridgewalk to peer deep into those clear turquoise waters to the bottom where you can watch all sorts of sea creatures, including massive manta rays. Enjoy some of the best coastline views in Australia, beach-hopping your way to Wollongong and Kiama, which is surrounded by beauty, from the coast to the cool Minnamurra Rainforest and its cascading falls and tranquil streams.
The Entrance is the popular place for locals to enjoy a fun getaway nearby, just a little under a two-hour drive from Sydney. It sits on the central coast of New South Wales where the Pacific Ocean meets Tuggerah Lake, bordered by water on three sides. It’s a place for both relaxation and action, including fishing, sailing, fishing, canoeing and water skiing, as well as hosting a large colony of friendly resident pelicans. Visitors can enjoy close encounters with the birds every afternoon during their daily feeding on the waterfront.
Manly Beach is just a 30-minute ride away via the Manly Ferry through Sydney Harbor, where you’ll pass scenic waterfront, including the iconic Sydney Opera House, making it worth the experience for the trip to get there on its own. Once there you’ll find kind of an Aussie “Baywatch,” complete with an endless sea of beautiful people soaking up the sun, riding the waves or wading in the water. the pedestrian-only walkway called The Corso is lined with shops, bars and restaurants when you need a break from the sand.