As Australia’s most popular tourist destination, Sydney has quite a lot to offer visitors. Even with five days in Sydney you won’t have to worry about running short of places and activities to keep you busy. That’s because Sydney is just the start of what there is to see in New South Wales. With all sorts of destinations within a few hours of the city, the best places to visit from Sydney cover everything from national parks to seaside towns. The best way to decide where to go is to look through these best day trips from Sydney and see which interests you the most.
1. Blue Mountains
One of the best places to visit in New South Wales, and an incredibly popular day trip destination, is the Blue Mountains. This stunning national park west of Sydney is adored for the rocky gorges and ridges found within its thick mountainous forests. Begin at the Echo Point Lookout to see three towering pillars of rock known as the Three Sisters, the region’s most iconic attraction. You won’t have to travel far to find other fantastic panoramic view points like Elysian Rock Lookout and Bridal Veil Lookout. The Blue Mountains are also home to many gorgeous waterfalls. Katoomba Falls and Wentworth Falls are two that are well worth seeking out. Then there are the ancient Jenolan Caves where you can see remarkable rock formations. Last but not least there’s the precarious National Pass and its cliffside trail which is sure to test any fear of heights.
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Getting there: It’s possible to take one of the regular trains from Sydney to the Blue Mountains’ main town of Katoomba, with the trip taking about two hours. But to get between the different attractions in the region it’s much easier to go on a guided tour so as not to risk missing out on anything.
2. Hunter Valley
For a day out among wineries, the Hunter Valley is one of the best day tours from Sydney. The Hunter Valley is a celebrated wine region and the oldest in the country, offering over 100 wineries to choose from. Spend your day sampling wines from different wineries, wandering through vineyards, and filling up on other regional produce like cheeses, olives, and chocolate. Some wineries offer special tours that take you through their winemaking process and share the winery’s history. You also have plenty of choice for how to round out your day in the region, whether it’s exploring the captivating Hunter Valley Gardens in Pokolbin or going for bushwalks in Wollemi National Park or Yengo National Park.
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Getting there: Wine regions are never easy to reach or explore by public transport, which is why you’re best to visit with a guided winery tour.
3. Royal National Park
To escape the city for a bit and catch your breath, few Sydney day trips beat Royal National Park. This national park south of Sydney has a welcoming combination of coastal cliffs, eucalyptus bushlands, and hidden beaches that give it a very broad appeal. Throughout Royal National Park you’ll find walking trails that lead all over the place, with the Jibbon Loop Track perhaps the easiest to explore. Besides roaming on foot, it’s possible to cycle along the Loftus Loop Trail or hire a canoe to paddle along the Hacking River. A spot that combines many of Royal National Park’s features is Wattamolla Beach, where you’ll find a sandy beach surrounded by forest, hiking tracks, and the beautiful Wattamolla Falls. Lastly, it may be a long way to the south, but the Figure 8 Pools are quite a sight and are great for a gentle soak, though a trip to them needs to be planned precisely, taking the tides into account.
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Getting there: The only way to fully experience Royal National Park and its remote attractions is to have your own wheels and drive yourself there.
4. Manly Beach
Just a short trip from Sydney in the city’s northern suburbs lies Manly. If you’re after a laid-back day, Manly is the place to be. Naturally, the main focus of your visit is going to be Manly Beach, a perfect golden beach spanning two kilometers. Manly Beach also has a pretty good swell so it’s great whether you want to surf or sunbathe. As big as it is, Manly can get busy during summer, Freshwater Beach is one of many quieter alternatives in the area. For food and shopping head to the Corso pedestrian mall which is home to cafes, restaurants, and all manner of stores. Heading out to North Head at the end of the peninsula is another good idea. It has fantastic views to the mouth of Sydney Harbour and towards the city skyline in the distance.
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Getting there: The only way to fully experience Royal National Park and its remote attractions is to have your own wheels and drive yourself there.
5. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Perhaps one of the lesser-known things to see in New South Wales outside of Sydney, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park offers visitors sublime nature and monumental Aboriginal heritage. Although it’s the deepest point in the national park, West Head is the best place to start your visit. Not only can you marvel at the views of Broken Bay from West Head Lookout and walk down to secluded beaches, but it’s also home to the Red Hands Cave that features indigenous rock art made by the Guringai people. Both the Basin Trail and the Resolute Track take you for a bush walk to other coastal spots, but the former also passes Guringai Land Aboriginal Engraving Site, another important indigenous landmark.
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Getting there: To reach the major sites deep within Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park from Sydney you’ll want to take a guided tour or drive yourself there.
6. Hawkesbury River
A nice way to spend a day in the vicinity of Sydney is to head for the Hawkesbury River and the villages and towns that surround it. With its many twists and turns, the Hawkesbury River has no end of scenery to discover, which is best done from out on the water. One way to do it is to take a leisurely river cruise, or you can rent a boat at one of the many towns and villages that line the Hawkesbury. Many of these villages and towns are also worth exploring in their own right, such as the town of Windsor. Not only will you find the Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler here, but also many incredibly old heritage buildings from the earliest days of European settlement. Just downstream from Windsor lies the Australiana Pioneer Village, an open-air museum which shows what life was like in the 1800s.
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Getting there: While you can reach towns along the Hawkesbury River like Richmomd and Windsor by train in just over an hour from Sydney, to see more of the river you’ll want to drive yourself there.
If you’d like to visit one of the many towns that dot the South Coast of New South Wales, then you can’t go wrong with Kiama. Places like Kiama showcase the relaxed atmosphere you often find on the Australian seaside, so begin by taking a walk through town down to Kiama Surf Beach. From there you can follow the coast up to the famous Kiama Blowhole, where the waves crash into the rocky coast, blasting the water up to 20 meters into the air. Less well known is Kiama’s Little Blowhole which you can reach by taking the Kiama Coast Walk down to the south. As you walk, keep your eyes peeled for any whales who happen to be swimming off shore. To fill your day, why not visit one of the neighboring towns like Bombo, home to the picturesque Cathedral Rocks along its coast.
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Getting there: Hourly trains run from Sydney to Kiama, with the journey taking roughly 2 ½ hours.
8. Kangaroo Valley
When it comes to delightfully authentic towns surrounded by breathtaking nature, it’s hard to pass up the fantastic Kangaroo Valley. Resting on the edge of the Southern Highlands, the town of Kangaroo Valley is full of country charm and provides quick access to both local heritage and nature. One of the town’s proudest landmarks is Hampden Bridge, a wooden suspension bridge which was built in 1898. Right nearby you’ll find the open-air Pioneer Village Museum which details what life was like for settlers in the 19th century. In the heart of town you’ll find a typical old-fashioned pub – the Friendly Inn Hotel which is a perfect stop for lunch. To discover the region’s natural attractions, you can spend your time kayaking down the Kangaroo River or venturing over to Morton National Park to see the dizzying drop of Fitzroy Falls. There are also plenty of hiking trails through the rainforest up by Fitzroy Falls and you might even spy some local wildlife on the way.
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Getting there: Kangaroo Valley is too far to reach easily with public transport so you’re better off renting a car and driving yourself there.
Although it may seem quite a distance from Sydney, the capital city of Canberra is well worth the trip and is actually one of the best side trips from Sydney. To get a feel for the city, head up Mt. Ainslie from where you can see all of Canberra laid out before you. Just down the hill lies the Australian War Memorial, a monument and museum to the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and their history. Down ANZAC Parade you’ll find Lake Burley Griffin which is lined with peaceful parkland, hosts the elegant National Carillon bell tower, and boasts a great view across to Parliament House. You can take a guided tour of Parliament House if you’d like to delve into the heart of Australia’s Government. Otherwise, head for one of the city’s excellent museums and galleries, like the National Gallery of Australia, Questacon, or the National Museum of Australia.
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Getting there: Hourly buses make the 3 ½ hour journey from Sydney to Canberra. However, if you want to fit in everything in one day, you’re better off having a guided tour show you around.
10. Palm Beach
Across the water from Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Palm Beach is another great seaside getaway from Sydney. Sitting out on a narrow peninsula in the South Pacific Ocean, a visit to Palm Beach is all about beaches, surf, and coastal views. Because it’s on a peninsula there are actually beaches on both coasts, but Palm Beach is the main one. You won’t be disappointed when you see the golden sand and the size of the waves just off its northern end. For views of the picturesque peninsula, head up to the heritage Barrenjoey Lighthouse from where you can see back to Palm Beach. If kayaking is more your speed, there are places where you can rent one and paddle around the relatively sheltered waters of Pittwater Bay.
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Getting there: Hourly buses travel from Sydney to Palm Beach, with the trip taking 1 ½ hours.
11. Port Stephens
Nature takes center stage on a visit to the region of Port Stephens, north of Sydney. Focused around a natural harbor with lots of little bays, Port Stephens is great for those wanting to spend their day on the water or for those fond of sealife. Discover one or more of the 26 golden beaches, such as Fingal Beach or One Mile Beach. The beaches are ideal for a swim or a quiet day of relaxation. In certain parts of the harbor it’s common to see wild dolphins, a dolphin-watching cruise is the best way to find them. Whales are also known to migrate out past Shoal Bay. Over on Stockton Beach the high sand dunes have become a popular spot for sand boarding, which can be a lot of fun.
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Getting there: There aren’t any regular public transport connections that go from Sydney to Port Stephens, so an organized tour is the best way to get there.
A ways up the coast from Sydney you’ll find Newcastle, the second largest city in New South Wales. The cosmopolitan city of Newcastle is considerably smaller than Sydney, which means you’re able to much more quickly get a feel for it. And yet, in terms of restaurants, cafes, and markets, it provides the kind of variety you’d expect from a much larger city. Newcastle features some seriously pretty coastline and loads of beaches, many of which are joined together by the 6km-long Bathers Way coastal trail. Following the Bathers Way you’ll get to see sights like Nobbys Beach, Bogey Hole, and Fort Scratchley, the last of those being a great place for whale-watching.
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Getting there: Regular trains go up from Sydney to Newcastle, with the trip taking just under 3 hours.
13. Mermaid Pools
There are many smaller spots worth visiting from Sydney, one of which is Mermaid Pools along the Bargo River. Found just outside the small town of Tahmoor, the Mermaid Pools are a natural water hole located in the Tahmoor Gorge. To reach them requires taking walking trails indicated by small blue and yellow markets for around one hour each way. There is also a longer and much more difficult loop track which takes around six hours to complete. It’s not just Mermaid Pools that makes this trip worthwhile though, the gorge scenery and other smaller pools you’ll see along the way are also spectacular. Swimming at the Mermaid Pools is quite dangerous as the only way to get down is by cliff jumping into the water. Therefore, do so at your own risk and remember you are in a remote place where you’re unlikely to get help quickly.
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Getting there: Trains do go from Sydney to Tahmoor via Campbelltown, but take around 2 hours to get there, plus it will take another 45 minutes just to reach the start of the walking track from the station. As such, you’re much better off driving.
14. Lake Macquarie
Just in from the coast, south of Newcastle, you’ll find Lake Macquarie, another laid-back destination in New South Wales. Lake Macquarie is home to countless beaches, walking and cycling trails, and suburbs right around its shores. Blacksmiths Beach is great if you’re looking to swim, while Caves Beach has rock pools and sea caves to discover. To get out on the lake you have plenty of options, from kayaks and stand-up paddle boards to yachts, fishing boats, and cruises. Heading further inland from Lake Macquarie you come to Watagans National Park, home to lush rainforest and waterfalls that can be traversed by foot or on mountain bike.
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Getting there: There are hourly trains that go to some of the suburbs on the western side of Lake Macquarie, such as Booragul. The trip takes 2 ½ hours. However, you won’t be able to get around very easily, which is why driving is the far better option.
15. Stanwell Park
For a little bit of adventure consider a trip down to Stanwell Park just outside of Wollongong. This small coastal village may seem like a strange pick for that, but Stanwell Park is actually one of the country’s premier hang-gliding and paragliding destinations. Whenever the conditions are right you’ll see adventurous souls taking flight from Bald Hill at the northern end of town. Even if you’re not taking to the skies, the views from the lookout are worth the trip up. Another way to entertain yourself while in Stanwell Park is to head down to Stanwell Park Beach and unwind on the broad sand. Up behind town there’s the Wodi Wodi Walking Track which takes you into the forest and hills.
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Getting there: Regular buses run from Sydney to Stanwell Park, with the journey lasting 1 ½ hours.
There you have some of the best places you can visit from Sydney on a day trip. You should see now that you won’t have any problem filling a few extra days in Sydney and may even want to allow longer so you can go on more day trips.