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The Best Day Trips From Sydney

Sydney has an abundance of beauty on its doorstep just waiting for you to discover it. Surrounding the city are beautiful national parks, picturesque country towns, and hundreds of pristine beaches. So how do you decide which ones to visit? Well, that’s where we come in. We have listed the best day trips from Sydney can be reached in under 2 (and a half) hours. Places we think are perfect for a day out of the city.

Day trips from Sydney you can make in under two hours

While it was tempting to include some great places an hour further down the road, we feel driving any longer than two and a half hours each way requires an overnight stop or a day tour where someone else is doing the driving.

If you are happy to drive 3 hours each way, then check out our full list of places to visit from Sydney in our Getaways Section. We have lots more ideas for weekend trips from the harbour city.

Hard at work at Pearl Beach 75 minutes from Sydney

Many of these places are best visited by car but when there are public transport options or guided tours available we will point them out in case you don’t have a car or prefer not to drive in Australia.

Let’s start with the obvious and work our way through this list of Sydney day trips to discover some hidden gems.

Whether you are a local looking for a day out or a visitor on a mission to see more than the city sights, I am sure one of these ideas will appeal.

Day trips or day tours?

In this article we focus on day trips, what’s the difference you ask? Well, we are going with day trips being trips you can do by car or public transport. Day tours we define as run by tour operators.

We have written about the best day tours from Sydney here and here. We have added a couple of day tours below where they are a good fit and to give you a choice if public transport is not straightforward.

This post contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation, at no extra cost to you, when you click on or make a purchase using these links. Our full disclosure policy is here.

The two most popular Sydney day trips

The Blue Mountains

If you have spent any time on this site, you probably already know we are huge fans of the Blue Mountains. Only 90 minutes west of the city the area is full of lovely small towns and lookouts over some of Australia’s most stunning landscape.

Why visit: It’s World Heritage status puts it on the top of many visitors lists, but it’s also a must-do for hikers and photographers who will be spoilt for choice with the lookouts, waterfalls and Blue Mountains National Park walking tracks.

Katoomba Falls from the Scenic Skyway
Katoomba Falls

Key spots to see:

  • Three Sisters
  • Wentworth Falls
  • Scenic World
  • Leura Village
  • Govert’s Leap and Blackheath
  • Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens
  • The art deco gem – the Hydro Majestic Hotel complex

Check out our guide of the top 50 things to do in the Blue Mountains for more ideas.

How to get there

  • Train from Central to any of the Blue Mountain towns, Katoomba or Leura are the easiest. Public buses service the mountains main villages.
  • Take the train and then the Blue Mountains HOHO bus
  • Drive from Sydney along the M4 and the Great Western Highway. We have written some easy to follow itineraries here.
  • Take one of the excellent Blue Mountains Day tours we have written about.

Read more: Our Blue Mountains by train itinerary might be helpful.

 

The Hunter Valley wine region

The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine-producing region and the perfect spot for food lovers to visit for a day out of Sydney. The towns of Pokolbin, Rothbury, and Broke all offer pretty vineyards and cellar doors and good restaurants.

Why visit: The Hunter is a wine region that produces a lot of Australia’s high-quality Shiraz and Semillon. Add to this lots of fantastic dining choices and interesting landscapes and you have the makings of a great day out.

View of Hunter Valley vineyards, NSW, Australia
The Hunter Valley is home to 150 vineyards

Key spots to see:

  • Pokolbin
  • Rothbury
  • Brokenwood
  • Hunter Valley Gardens – if you are a garden lover
  • Binorie Dairy – because it has THE best cheese

How to get there

  • Drive – Take the M1 Pacific Motorway from Sydney to Cessnock then follow signs to the Visitors Centre which should be your first stop!
  • Public transport to the vineyards is not a good idea, the services to this area won’t get you to the vineyards easily and will take more time than it’s worth for a day trip
  • Join a tour from Sydney let someone else drive.

Read more: Check out our review of iHop Hunter Valley

 

Day tours South of Sydney

If you have more than a few days spare you could easily string these next few day tours together for a fantastic weekend out of Sydney. To make the easier for you we have listed them in order from north to south along the coast and then heading back to Sydney via the Southern Highlands.

The Royal National Park

The second oldest national park in the world and right on Sydney’s doorstep at less than an hour’s drive away from the centre of town. The Royal, as locals know it, has plenty to offer day-trippers. Being less well known than the Blue Mountains another bonus is that you are not surrounded by hoards of visitors.

Why visit: Great hiking trails and fantastic coastal scenery make this a perfect stop for outdoor types.

Bundeena Cliff tops at Royal National Park

Key spots to see:

  • Wattamolla
  • Bundeena Rock art
  • Figure 8 Pools and Wedding Cake Rock
  • Audley rowboats

How to get there:

  • Drive south from the city along the Princes Highway to Loftus and the park entry signs.
  • Take the train to Cronulla and then the ferry to Bundeena
  • Take the train to Loftus and the tram from the Tram Museum into the park.
  • Walk into the park from Otford or Heathcote stations. Several walking trails begin from these points.

If you want to see the Instagram famous Figure 8 Pools, we really do recommend you join a tour. This spot can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. There is only one operator licensed for tours, and they do a fantastic job.

The lagoon at Wattamolla Beach
 

Stanwell Tops and Sea Cliff Bridge

Just the other side of the Royal National Park, Stanwell Point is a popular hang gliding spot and offers fantastic views down the coast to Wollongong. It’s an easy drive through the Royal National Park and a lovely day away from the city.

The view over Stanwell beach from Bald Hill Lookout

Why visit: Along with the stunning views, Stanwell Tops has a place in Australian aviation history was the place that Laurence Hargrave, who invented the box kite, flew his creation. There is a memorial here to his achievements.

Key spots to see:

  • Bald Hill lookout to watch the hang gliders
  • Symbio Wildlife Park
  • Seacliff Bridge
  • Austinmer Hotel beer garden
  • Thirroul Village – DH Lawrence spent a few months here in 1922 writing the novel Kangaroo.
Seacliff Bridge Grand Pacific Drive
Seacliff Bridge on the Grand Pacific Drive

How to get there

  • Drive through the national park for the scenic route
  • Drive via the M1/A1 for a quicker more direct journey – turn off at Sublime Point and head back north for Stanwell Tops.
  • One hour train to Otford and 30 minutes walk to Stanwell Tops. There are also buses to Symbio Wildlife Park. You can also continue by train to Thirroul.

If you prefer someone else worries about the logistics we like this tour that includes Symbio Wildlife Park, Sea Cliff Bridge, and a local winery.

Read more: Check out our guide to exploring the Grand Pacific Tourist Drive.

 

Wollongong and Nan Tien Temple

New South Wales third biggest city and home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Buddhist Temple. Once people thought of Wollongong as “steel city” home to a large steelworks and not much else, but in recent years locals have discovered it has much to offer.

Why visit: Beaches, street art, lunch by the ocean.

Sydney Expert and Contented Traveller at Wonderwalls
Charle and Gordon ( aka The Contented Traveller) at Wonderwalls Mural Festival in Wollongong

Key spots to see:

  • Wollongong Botanic Gardens – lovely indigenous plant collection
  • North Wollongong Beach
  • Wollongong Harbour and twin lighthouses
  • Wollongong street art
  • The Nan Tien Temple complex
  • Popular sky diving spot
Wollongong Beach South Coast NSW
Wollongong has 17 Patrolled beaches to swim at

How to get there

  • Drive down the Southern Freeway from Sydney, about 90 minutes
  • Take the train from Central – it’s a scenic 1.5 hour trip along the coast for much of the way. You can reach the temple via bus from Unanderra Station.
 

Kiama and Berry

Less than 40km down the road from Wollongong finds you firmly in dairy country with lush green hills running down to the ocean. Cattle farming, which began here in 1803, is still a vital industry in these parts.

These two south coast towns provide the perfect contrast for a day trip. Kiama is a typical seaside village, nearby Jamberoo is also worth a stop for its amusement park, particularly if you are travelling with kids. Berry a pretty village full of historic buildings, cafes and gift and homeware shops.

Why visit: Rolling green hills and classic golden sand beaches are reason enough but the area also boasts vineyards, great seafood and is just so darn pretty.

Cathedral Rocks Kiama NSW South Coast
Cathedral Rocks is a favourite photography spot, especially at sunrise.

Key spots to see:

  • Cathedral Rocks – a photographers delight
  • The famous Kiama Blowhole
  • Minamurra Rainforest
  • Gerroa and Seven Mile Beach lookout
  • Gerringong Beach
  • Berry main street shops
Berry NSW local attraction donut van
Sydneysiders always make a stop at the Berry Donut Van on their way south

How to get there

  • An easy 2 hr drive along the M1 and onto the Princes Hway to Kiama.
  • Train from Central to Kiama will allow you to see many of the sights on the list, but you will need a car to reach Gerringong, Gerroa and Berry.
 

Southern Highlands – Berrima and Bowral

Bowral is the largest town in the Southern Highlands region of NSW. Berrima is a small village just 10km to the south-west. Together they provide a lovely glimpse of an area that was a popular summer retreat for the upper classes in the 1930s and 1940s.

Why visit: Cute country villages and several waterfalls make this a lovely day trip. It is particularly pretty in spring when Sydneysiders flock down for the Tulip Festival held from late September and to early October.

Cricket Bradman museum Bowral
Don Bradman Museum Bowral

Many people mistakenly think Australian cricket great Don Bradman was born in Bowral, however, Cootamundra holds that honour. Bradman did live here as a child, and this is where he learned to play cricket. Drop into the visitor’s centre and they can fill you in.

Key spots to see:

Fitzroy Falls NSW Southern Highlands
Fitzroy waterfalls in Kangaroo Valley looks very similar to the terrain in the Blue Mountains.

How to get there

  • 2 hrs north of Sydney by car along the M31.
  • Buses and trains run from Sydney to Bowral, but beyond Bowral township, this area is best toured by car.
  • Want a tour? This Walking with the Wombats tour includes wildlife and the Southern Highlands waterfalls in one day. Alternatively, food lovers will enjoy this Taste of the Highlands experience.

Day Tours North of Sydney

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

It’s hard to beat this National Park only 40km north of the CBD for a day immersed in nature. In less than 50 minutes you can be exploring this bushland and its water views.

Why visit? So many reasons! Aboriginal heritage, wildflowers, beaches, stunning lookouts, and fantastic hiking tracks.

West Head Lookout Kur-ring-gai National park
Views over Broken Bay from West Head in Kuringai Chase National Park.

Key spots to see:

How to get there

  • 50 minutes north of Sydney by car along the Pacific Highway
  • The only way in via public transport is via Palm Beach ferry to Mackeral.

Fancy someone else does the hard work? There are a couple of tours to this area one of our favourites is the Ku-ring-gai National Park Aboriginal Explorer tour. We highly recommend this tour for anyone wanting to get a bit off the beaten track and learn more about Aboriginal Australians.

You can also book a tour inside the park with Guringai Aboriginal Tours, but you will need a car to get there.

 

Palm Beach and Pittwater

Palm Beach is the setting of Australia’s longest-running soap opera Home and Away.  It is also a spot wealthy Sydneysiders head for summer breaks. It’s pretty easy to see why from the image below. The Pacific Ocean on one side and the pristine Pittwater Basin on the other make it hard to resist.

Palm Beach Pittwater NSW
Palm Beach is a great day trip.

Sitting on the tip of the Barrenjoey Headland and technically still part of Sydney, Palm Beach is the northernmost suburb of the city.

Key spots to see:

  • Barrenjoey Lighthouse and the walking track
  • Eat fish and chips on the beach
  • Splurge on lunch at the Boathouse
  • Visit the Bible Garden – for the views – no need to be a bible reader 😉
  • Take one of the local Palm Beach ferry rides

How to get there

  • Drive from Sydney along the M1 and then Barrenjoey Road. Traffic can be a challenge and parking is $20 per car.
  • The bus from Wynyard Station is an easy and leisurely way to arrive.
  • You can also take a special Home and Away focused tour which may appeal to fans!

Related: Our guide to visiting and walking in Palm Beach

Hawkesbury River and Dangar Island

The Hawkesbury River region is extensive, but today we are focused on the riverside town of Brooklyn. The big drawcards to the area are its easy access to the waterway and the very lovely Dangar Island.

Why visit: Four national parks surround the Hawkesbury River making it a hot stop for fishing and boating.

Dangar Island public wharf north of Sydney
The public ferry will drop you at this wharf and shop in the distance has lovely local products.

Key spots to see:

  • Brooklyn – rent your own boat for the day
  • The Riverboat Postman
  • Dangar Island Ferry and Island walk
  • Berowra Waters

How to get there

  • One hour drive up the M1 Freeway from Sydney.
  • 75 minutes on the train from Central and then a ferry ride to Dangar Island.

Related: Get an insider’s view of Dangar Island with the article from island local Joanne.

 

Woy Woy and the Central Coast

Just 90 minutes drive from Sydney the suburbs of the lower central coast are almost an extension of the Sydney suburbs. We like this area so much we have purchased a property here to move to one day.

Why visit? Fresh seafood, quiet bushwalks, and uncrowded beaches make this a perfect day out of Sydney.

Mount Ettalong and Pearl Beach lookout
Pearl Beach Lookout on the Central Coast

Key spots to see:

How to get there

  • A 70-minute drive up the M1 from Sydney to the Reptile Park. Then continue on 10 mins or so to the Woy Woy or Gosford exits for other attractions.
  • You can take the train to Woy Woy and use local transport to Ettalong Beach, Umina Beach or Pearl Beach

Related: Our weekend in Ettalgong might give you more ideas

Newcastle

The second-largest city in New South Wales has a lot to offer visitors but often gets overlooked due to its history as a coal-mining town but times have changed, and so has Newcastle.

Why visit: Newcastle’s gem is its beaches, but it also has a thriving art scene and a free wildlife park!

Nobby LIghthouse Newcaslte
Nobby’s Lighthouse is still operational and can be visited on Sundays

Key spots to see:

  • Explore Hunter Street cafes and shops
  • Fort Scratchley
  • Newcastle Memorial walk
  • Blackbutt Reserve – free entry and native Australian animals
  • Caves Beach
  • Nobbys Lighthouse
ocean cliff Walk at Newcastle
Anzac Memorial Walk at Newcastle

How to get there

  • 2.5 hours north of Sydney on the M1
  • 2.5 hour train ride from Central – choose an express train or it will take longer

Related: An Anzac Memorial Walk Guide by Newcastle locals La Vida Global

 

Port Stephens

We are pushing the time limit a little here but if you are up for it a visit to Port Stephens is well worth your effort. Know upfront though this is a big day of driving and best with 2 of you sharing the load.

A water wonderland with its own dolphin pod living in the surrounding waters. Port Stephens is off most international visitors radars and that’s a shame because its beaches are stunning and it offers a fantastic range of adventure activities.

Why visit: Port Stephens is twice the size of Sydney Habour and every bit as beautiful with more than 25 beaches to keep you busy it’s a top pick for water lovers.

Shoal Bay Beach Port Stephens
crystal clear water and white sand await at Shoal Bay

Key spots to see:

  • Tomaree Headland Lookout
  • Gan Gan Lookout (less strenuous than Tomaree)
  • Stockton Sand Dunes
  • Dolphin Watching from Nelson Bay
  • Zenith and Wreck Beaches
  • Shoal Bay

How to get there

  • 2 hours 20 minutes along the M1 Motorway
  • Port Stephens Express Bus from Central Station suitable for an overnight trip only
  • Without a car, we highly recommend you take a day trip like this one that includes the sand dunes and Port Stephens waterways and dolphins.

Related: See how The Boy Eats World team spend their day getting adventurous in Port Stephens

So how do you choose the right day trip

Too many choices and not enough time? Let us help you decide…

Best day trip from Sydney by car?

A day at Kur-Ring-Gai National Park swimming, walking, discovering wildflowers and aboriginal rock engravings and taking in all the lookouts is a perfect day out of Sydney. At less than 50km from the centre of town it’s not too long in the car either.

The best day trip from without a car?

The day trip to Palm Beach is a great public transport trip. Ride the bus along the beautiful northern beaches is lovely and once you get there, an easy bushwalk to the lighthouse and a ride on the ferry across Pittwater make a great day out any time of the year.

Best day trip from Sydney by train?

One of the easiest is the Hawkesbury River/Dangar Island combination. It’s an easy train ride, short walk to the ferry terminal and then a pleasant ride over to Dangar Island. Once there you can do a circular walk around the island, visit the local club or have some lunch a the general store.

My friend Joanne lives on the island and has a great article about exploring Dangar Island. Every time I visit, I feel like I have travelled a million miles from Sydney in just over an hour.

Which best day trip is best made with a tour operator?

Visits to Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley are both great options for letting the professionals organise your day for you if you don’t have a car. In the Hunter you will be free to drink all the wine and the Port Stephens day is a long one with a bit of work required to synchronise the sites and attractions into a one day visit.

Best day trip from Sydney for families?

Heading south to Stanwell Tops and the Grand Pacific Drive is a great day out for families. Symbio Wildlife Park is fantastic, and kids will love spending time here. Follow this with a swim at one of the nearby beaches or a stop at the Loftus Tram Museum for a full day out.

Map of Sydney Day Trips

Well, I hope you have found something you like among these places to go 2 hours from Sydney but if you need more ideas, check out more things to do here

Want more ideas for exploring Sydney? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group, where you can ask questions to help you plan your visit to Sydney.

 
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Featured image: Zenith Beach Port Stephens

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4 thoughts on “The Best Day Trips From Sydney”

  1. Hey ! where the photo at the very top was taken? Looks amazing and exactly where I want to head today !
    Thank you for all your info!

    Reply
    • The photo at the very top was taken at Zenith Beach in Port Stephens. The first photo in the article itself is from Mount Ettalong Lookout between Umina and Pearl Beach on the Central Coast.
      Hope you have a great day!

      Reply
  2. Great post. Super informative. I was just in Australia for the first time in November. I didn’t get to Sydney but was in Adelaide, Brisbane, and Melbourne. If I go back I am putting Nobby’s Lighthouse on my list. WOW.

    Reply

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