Sydney is no doubt one of our planet’s most iconic travel destinations. And why wouldn’t it be? World-famous attractions, a truly cosmopolitan and vibrant city, pristine golden beaches, breathtaking mountains and lush untamed bushland rich in wildlife. Sydney is a city that’s brimming with all manner of things to do, attracting over 4 million overseas travellers each year and more than 10million locals from around Australia.
While you might live and work in Sydney, sometimes with the daily grind you can often forget how good you’ve got it. Every once in a while you need to stop what you're doing and get out amongst it in your own backyard.
But, with thousands of things to do and places to go, where do you begin? From just around the corner to a few hours away, here’s a few suggestions to get you thinking.
2 hrs by car, closest to Moss Vale train station
Just a few hours drive south of Sydney, and part of the wildlife-rich Southern Highlands, is the lush green Kangaroo Valley. Known for its gastronomic culture, the area’s fertile soils are home to the freshest produce, artisanal fare and the Yarra Estate Winery. Opt in for the Flavours of the Valley Foodie Trail, taking in the winery, sampling local produce, hands-on gourmet cooking classes, and even the art of high tea. Don’t forget to grab some fudge from Kangaroo Valley Fudge.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can kayak down Kangaroo River, horse ride through the rainforest or hit one of many bush walks.
2 hrs by car, closest to Kiama train station
One of the many laid-back gems that pepper our majestic coastline is Kiama. Just a few hours south of Sydney by car, Kiama, famous for its crowd-pleasing Blowhole, sits amongst lush green cliffs, rocky shores and pristine beaches. The Kiama Coast walk lets you breathe it all in, with spectacular views for miles. You’re spoilt for choice with dolphin watching cruises, outdoor rock climbing and kayaking tours. Or, for something a little more leisurely, get in a few holes at the rural golf course or head to the famous Kiama Scoops Ice Creamery & Cafe, put your feet up and soak up the sunshine.
1.5 hrs by car, closest to Tahmoor train station
Deep in the rugged Australian bush, near Tahmoor Gorge, is the spectacular oasis of Mermaid Pools. Just an hour and a half drive south west of Sydney lies this majestic spot. Trek through bushland and navigate steep rocky platforms surrounded by gorgeous waterfalls. It’s all worth it once you reach the famous See Through Pools. Jump into crystal-clear waters for a well-earned swim. Pop into Vaby’s Mediterranean Grill in Picton for a tasty bite on your way home.
1 hr by car, closest to Hawkesbury River train station
Quite literally on Sydney’s doorstep, about an hour’s drive northwest of the city, is one of Australia’s most picturesque rivers. Hawkesbury River played a key role in shaping our history when the first settlers arrived in 1794, establishing farms to feed the colony. The main towns of Windsor and Richmond offer heritage buildings, galleries, gardens, museums and markets.
On the water there’s plenty of play with fishing spots, water skiing, secluded places to swim and kayak. Rent a boat and explore the waterways or hop aboard the Riverboat Postman Cruise for a guided tour. Check out The Estuary Restaurant at Kangaroo Point for a tasty lunch.
QUITE LITERALLY ON SYDNEY’S DOORSTEP, ABOUT AN HOUR’S DRIVE NORTHWEST OF THE CITY, IS ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST PICTURESQUE RIVERS
45 minutes by car, closest to Mount Kuringai train station
Famed for its heritage listed indigenous site with ancient rock paintings and engravings, is Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The second oldest national park in Australia, named for the Guringai people, the area’s original inhabitants.
Only a 45-minute drive north from Sydney’s CBD, it offers some of the most spectacular scenery you can lay your eyes upon. Azure blue bays, winding creeks, and eucalyptus forests all the way to West Head, which offers majestic views along the coast. Take the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, rent a boat from Akuna Bay, or grab a spot of lunch at Cottage Point Kiosk and Boat Hire.
1.5 hrs by car, closest to Bowral & Moss Vale train stations
Just 90-minutes south of Sydney is the wilderness wonderland of the Southern Highlands. From the 81m high waterfalls of Fitzroy Falls, to the rainforest-cloaked gorges and scenic trails of Morton National Park, you’ll find all manner of flora and fauna, along with breathtaking lookouts.
The Highlands are home to some of the most fertile soils growing an abundance of fresh produce. Local specialties and artisan foods can be sampled throughout the small towns and heritage villages.
Make your way through the quaint towns of Berrima, Bowral, Bundanoon, Mittagong and Moss Vale, with their historic buildings, local crafts, boutiques, spas, and antique shops. We recommend a stop at Bowral’s Royal Hotel for a tasty pub lunch, or sample local wines at Centennial Vineyards.
1hr by car, closest to Stanwell Park train station
Located at the southern tip of the Royal National Park, Stanwell Park overlooks the winding coastal stretch to Wollongong. Drive the one-hour scenic route through the national park to Stanwell Tops - the go-to spot for hang gliders and paragliders. If you’re feeling adventurous try a tandem glide with HanglidingOz or Sydney Hang Gliding Centre, or just relax and observe from Stanwell Park Beach.
Hand feed the kangaroos at Symbio Wildlife Park, or go Horse riding with a number of local options to choose from like Otfarm or Darkes Forest Riding Ranch.
And no trip is complete without a stop at The Scarborough Hotel for a sneaky craft beer and a tasty lunch. The view alone is worth it.
2hrs 40 minutes by car, 4.25 hrs train to Newcastle then bus to Port Stephens
Around 200kms from Sydney, and part of the Great Lakes Marine Park, is the stunning coastline of Port Stephens. A playground for water lovers, there are over 20 pristine beaches for swimming, surfing, sailing, kayaking, boating and surfcraft. Fly Point boasts a great diving spot with an abundance of marine life, and one of Australia's top fishing destinations.
Swim with wild dolphins or hop on a cruise and marvel at migrating humpback whales during November to May. And at the end of the day you can sample some incredible seafood at Rick Stein Port Stephens, located on the waterfront, with enviable views.
AND TO THINK, THESE ARE ONLY EIGHT OF THE MANY PLACES WE ARE FAVOURED WITH TO TEMPT A DAY AWAY, JUST HOURS FROM SYDNEY