You certainly won’t find yourself at a loss for things to do during your stay in Sydney — it’s the most populous metropolis in Australia, after all. But wanderlust is a fickle companion. Even on our most exciting adventures, if we stay in one place for too long, that familiar urge to get out and explore can become overwhelming. So, if you’re looking to get outside the continent’s largest city for a mini-adventure (or two), choose from our list of the best day-trip destinations from Sydney.
Note: One of Sydney’s ultimate day trips is to the Blue Mountains, a locale that isn’t featured in this guide. But worry not — we’ve created a separate guide with everything you need to know about visiting this spectacular region!
Hunter Valley wine country
Californians have Sonoma and Napa valleys. The French have Bordeaux. South Africans have Stellenbosch. And Australians? Well, Australians have Hunter Valley. With over 150 wineries, most of which offer drop-in tastings, this area located two hours north of Sydney is the country’s ultimate wine region. Known for its shiraz and sémillon, Hunter Valley offers ample opportunities for guided tours and tastings. You can even stay overnight at the gorgeous Kirkton Park if you’re so inclined — or, if you’re not planning on making this an overnight trip, be sure to designate a sober driver! That said, if everyone in your group wants to join the party, you can book a round-trip wine-tasting tour from Sydney with Here To There Coaches. Cheers!
It may be on the other side of the world (literally), but it’s hard not to compare Berry to the charming small towns of New England. It has all the hallmarks — proximity to both sweeping mountain vistas and gentle coastlines; locally owned shops and restaurants lining its main street (though there, it’s called “Queen Street”); a generous selection of cottages, farmstays, and bed and breakfasts to stay at; and an undeniable sense of community marked by its welcoming atmosphere and its full schedule of markets, concerts, and festivals. You really should carve out a few days to explore this vintage village two hours south of Sydney, but if you can only make it for a day, don’t miss the Famous Berry Donut Van, which serves up mouth-watering donuts and rich milkshakes daily!
Royal National Park
Located just under an hour’s drive from Sydney, Royal National Park is a can’t-miss day-trip destination. It’s also one of the oldest national parks in the world — second to America’s Yellowstone. The park occupies a 20-mile stretch of coastline just south of the city, and from there, it stretches inland, covering a variety of landscapes from lush rainforests to freshwater wetlands and secluded beaches. There, you’ll even find a series of low-tide rock pools shaped like figure eights! The park’s ecological diversity provides a healthy assortment of activities as well. So whether you’re a hiker, a swimmer, a fisher, a cyclist, a canoer, a surfer, or even a nudist (yes, they have a beach for that), this is the park for you.
A three-and-a-half-hour’s drive from Sydney, Canberra is a bit of a stretch for a day trip. That said, if you’re eager to make the trek but don’t want to cover the miles yourself, you can hop on a Greyhound or Murrays bus and use the travel time to catch up on your reading or your favorite TV show. Canberra is a unique city — though it’s the country’s capital city, it’s the only metropolis on the continent that was settled after the Federation of Australia. In other words, it’s the only city that was founded after Australia was formally established. This intriguing background is, in part, responsible for the city’s unique aesthetic. As you explore its bounds, you’ll encounter tree-lined boulevards, wide-open green spaces, a curious blend of natural and manmade structures, and brilliant works of modern architecture. History buffs will delight in its Parliament House, Australian War Memorial, and National Archives, while museum junkies can explore its National Gallery, National Film and Sound Archive, and National Museum of Australia, which traces the island’s 50,000-year history of indigenous cultures.
Port Stephens Bay
Port Stephens Bay is actually a 46-square-mile (119-square-kilometer) region encompassing a multitude of quaint seaside towns, including Shoal Bay, Corlette, and the hub of Port Stephens, Nelson Bay. This sea-sprayed area is perfect for any marine activity, whether that’s snorkeling, scuba diving, whale-watching, or surfing. If you’d prefer to stay dry, opt for a stroll along Nelson Bay’s beachfront promenade, where you’ll find a variety of eccentric shopping and gourmet dining options. Or, hop on the Port Stephens Ferry and tour the scenic waterfront for just $26 AUD. Since Port Stephens is just under three hours away from Sydney, you can hop on an express bus right from Central Station.
Collins Flat Beach
Located deep within Sydney Harbour National Park and just a short walk from the bustle of Little Manly Point, Collins Flat Beach is truly a slice of hidden paradise. Comparable in both looks and charm to the titular locale in Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” Collins offers a quiet, sheltered coastline and scenic views of the harbor. If you’re lucky, you might even be stumble upon an ephemeral waterfall, which appears at the head of the beach after heavy rainfall. Adrenaline junkies can wade out to the appropriately named “Jump Rock,” while more reserved visitors can relax on the beach and enjoy a picnic. For more information on reaching this idyllic inlet, visit the Australian National Parks Service site.
Cover Photo by Matthew Kane