It’s not easy to leave the sights and sounds of Sydney, we know. But the state of New South Wales has so much more to offer, even if you have just a day or two to explore the state beyond their crown jewel of a city. From gorgeous beaches to panoramic views, wine tasting to zip lining, there’s certainly something for you on this list. So rent a car or hop on a train to the best day trips from Sydney.
For an Adrenaline Rush: Grand Pacific Drive – Wollongong
Starting 45 minutes south of Sydney at the entrance of the Royal National Park, the Grand Pacific Drive (2.5 hours to Wollongong) takes you through a variety of scenic landscapes – coastal rainforests, seaside villages, and the not-to-be-missed Sea Cliff Bridge. Do stop at Bald Hill Lookout at Stanwell Tops for photos; the view is spec-ta-cu-lar. If you’re up for it, the lookout is also a major hang gliding destination.
For a bigger adrenaline rush, though, we suggest going to Skydive the Beach and Beyond. Rolling out of the plane at an altitude of 14, 000 feet strapped to naught but your tandem dive master and free falling for up to 40 heart-stopping seconds sound like fun to you? Hell, yeah! If you behave, your dive master might even let you control the parachute for a bit.
Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
If you’re interested in something at a slower pace that’ll still get the heart thumping, Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures is a family-friendly eco-adventure worth checking out. Located less than an hour from Wollongong, their Zipline Tour includes a self-guided Treetop Walk over steel walkways raised about 50 metres from the forest floor before or after a series of guided ziplines suspended up to 35 metres above the forest floor.
For The Heritage Buffs: The Southern Highlands
The Southern Highlands is where the local folks go to experience Australia’s English heritage with the many quaint towns and villages in the region – one of the larger towns is Bowral, Famous for its annual Tulip Time festival during springtime (running for 55 years, it’s one of Australia’s oldest floral festivals), other things to do in Bowral include sampling award winning wines at Centennial Vineyards‘s Cellar Door and having a meal at Biota Dining.
Inspired by the bio-diversity of the Southern Highlands, the menu changes with the seasons and the accessibility of local produce. Priced at A$110 for five courses and A$175 for eight courses (wine pairing available), Biota’s creative food and excellent service is well worth a try.
Another village we visited in the area is Berrima, which is widely recognized to be the best-preserved example of a Georgian village in continental Australia today. Just outside of Berrima is the almost 200-year-old Bendooley Estate; the jewel in the crown is the Book Barn, which houses thousands of new, secondhand, rare and antiquarian books. If you love books like we do, you’ll appreciate be able to have lunch in the historic Book Barn.
For Art and Political Aficionados: Canberra
Many Sydney-siders claim that Australia’s capital, a 3.5-hour drive south of Sydney, is boring. Well, it might not be for everyone, architecture and art lovers will definitely find a trip here worth their while. Influenced by the garden city movement, the city is designed by two American architects, featuring geometric shapes and axes aligned with topographical landmarks.
Amongst Canberra’s many vibrant museums and important institutions is the National Museum of Australia, which covers more than 50, 000 years of the country’s social history, the National Gallery of Australia (encompassing the largest collection of indigenous art in the world), and the Royal Australian Mint. Whether you’re into politics or not, do check out The Parliament House atop Capital Hill, where you get the chance to see Australia’s policy makers in action!
Oh, one great thing about Canberra? Even if you don’t drive, getting there from Sydney is easy peasy via Greyhound buses or Countrylink trains.
For Nature Enthusiasts: Blue Mountains
About an hour’s drive away, the Blue Mountains is probably the most popular day trip destination from Sydney by far. Named after the blue hue that blankets the region, due to the mixing sunlight with drops of oil released by eucalyptus trees.
There are heaps of things to do at the Blue Mountains, but generally, the must-dos include admiring historic rock formation The Three Sisters at Echo Point Lookout, exploring the magical Jenolan Caves, and ride the world’s steepest incline railway that descends 310 metres through a cliff-side tunnel at Scenic World. If you prefer activities where you have your feet firmly on the ground, check out the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, or go on a guided bushwalking tour.
Planning to stay overnight? Eagle View Escape is perfect for couples on a romantic getaway.
For the Vino Lovers: Hunter Valley
Home to more than 150 wineries and some of Australia’s best vineyards; Hunter Valley is the country’s oldest commercial wine-producing region and a 2-hour drive north from Sydney. The majority of visitor activity happens in the Lower Hunter, around Cessnock and Pokolbin, where top-notch wineries like the old (since 1858) Tyrell’s Vineyard and the charming Audrey Wilkinson Winery are located.
Do remember that a day of wine tastings means no driving, so it’s great that the ever-helpful visitor centre is a wealth of information on vehicle hire, organized tours within Hunter Valley, or even from Sydney itself.
Top Image: Skydive the Beach and Beyond