Are you desperate to escape the city but can’t spare more than a day?
We all love the buzz of Sydney city, yet once in a while we also yearn for some peace and quiet. If you have always wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the city but are apprehensive about long drives you are not alone!
The beauty of Sydney is that you do not need to travel far at all in order to escape into another world. Some are only a short drive or train ride away, so you can be back to your pad by nightfall!
Sydney siders and visitors may not even have realised so many scenic spots are within a leisurely driving distance from Sydney. While the big smoke of this atmospheric city has plenty to offer, you will be missing out if you do not travel a bit. Just travelling less than 2 hours from Sydney you can find an abundance of scenery, beautiful beaches and world famous national parks.
So venture out onto Sydney’s doorstep and of course take some amazing photos!
1. Avoca Beach- where river meets sea
How Far? 100km
Get there by car a 90 minute drive from Sydney CBD
Summer options do not end at Bondi! An hour and a half north of Sydney are the wooded hills and white sandy beaches of Avoca. This charming destination stretches across one of NSW’s picturesque strips of sand, stretching between two dominating rocky headlands. Avoca Beach also features an ocean rock pool which is perfect for young children.
The surf varies from one end to the other so it is a popular surfing destination for a novice or the more experienced surfer. With major sporting events such as the Pro Surf Series taking place across six days at the end of February and the beginning of March there is plenty of spectacle to be had with the rolling waves.
Avoca Beachside Markets is held every fourth Sunday of the month at Heazlett Park by the pretty Avoca lake. The tranquil lagoon, situated behind the beach, can also be a relaxation retreat with pleasant walks and picnic areas. The market is a bustling affair with more than 100 stalls, food and live music. Coffee too is worth a mention as there are a number of cafes serving some of the best coffee in the region.
Just a few kilometres south of Avoca is Cococabana Beach (an Aboriginal word meaning ‘where the waves pound like a beating heart’) a small town away from traffic and noise. Macmasters Beach also is only a short distance away with rock pools suitable for children. All beaches are perfect starting off points to bushwalks in the nearby Budawang National Park.
2. Sea Cliff Bridge – take a road trip!
How Far? 63km
Get there in 75min
The Grand Pacific Drive running from the Royal National Park at Loftus, in South Sydney, to Kiama is one of the most picturesque roads and along the way you can also take in the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge. Linking Coalcliff and Clifton in NSW’S Illawarra region, the 665m bridge runs over the water and is held up by concrete pylons that are buried deep in the sea bed below. The $49 million Bridge was built after frequent rock falls posed a danger to motorists on the old road and was notorious for often being closed for months at a time.
This balanced cantilever bridge is iconic for its sweeping curved shape and height of 41m above the crashing waves of the ocean below. The walkway along the jaw dropping bridge twists and turns around the cliff faces, giving incredible views looking up towards Bald Hill and out over the sea. The footpath runs along the ocean side of the road and is guarded by a 1.5m barrier protecting you from being hurtled into the turbulent sea below. Along the walkway is an information board telling you the history of the area and the building of the bridge.
3. Barrenjoey Lighthouse- young kangaroo
How Far? 46km
Get there in 1 hour
Barrenjoey Lighthouse is on Barrenjoey Head in the northern part of the beautiful Palm Beach. The lighthouse is one of the most iconic sights of Sydney’s northern beaches. Situated 91m above sea level the lighthouse is approximately 29.5m high. Accessed by either an easy walk or the more challenging ‘smugglers’ route, either of the two picturesque walking tracks will reward you with outstanding views of the north and south coastlines. You will see views including Broken Bay, the Hawkesbury River, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the mighty Pacific Ocean!
In the early colonial period, ships travelling to Sydney could be pirated and their goods smuggled. To prevent smuggling and to control the port of Broken Bay a customs house was established at the base of Barrenjoey Head on the western shore. For safety of shipping, Barrenjoey Lighthouse was built, from quarried sandstone, in 1881. The lighthouse, its oil room and the keeper’s cottages remain unpainted and still have the original stone finish.
4. Kangaroo Valley – old world charm
How Far? 156km
Get there in 2 hours
As one of only 7 enclosed valleys in the world, the charm of this small village and its beautiful surroundings is extraordinary. There are places in Kangaroo Valley that you can turn 360° and see the hills on every side. Gorgeous rainforests span the slopes of the valley as well as in the gorges and beautiful creeks. Visitors can walk the Hampden Suspension Bridge- the oldest surviving suspension bridge in the country.
Kangaroo River is a popular place for picnics, fishing, canoeing and swimming. Confusingly the town is called Kangaroo Valley as well as the area. The whole town is classified by the National Trust and when you visit you can see why with the old world charm of the buildings, craft shops, tea rooms, and coffee lounges.
Kangaroo Valley as the name implies was named because it was alive with kangaroos.
5. Hawkesbury River – wide deep water
How Far? 56km
Get there in 1 hour
The Hawkesbury River is one of Sydney’s unsung gems! Rarely can instant bliss and peaceful coastal charm be so close to a major city. The Hawkesbury River and its many tributaries are just under 1 hours’ drive north of Sydney. The tranquillity available with such ease is appreciated by anyone who visits this magnificent river and its rich bushland attractions. With a backdrop of the picturesque haze of the Blue Mountains, many rock formations including forms which look like a fish and a whale can stretch the imagination. Lion Island too is, as you would imagine, in the shape a Lion. Indeed both the indigenous and European communities have got a lot of history to discover in days gone by.
In the colonial days the area became a major farming area and the river was used as a transport route for produce being taken to Sydney. The river town of Brooklyn is famous for its fresh Hawkesbury oysters and an oyster cruise is offered to experience the art of growing oysters. Other ways to take in the natural wonderland is to catch a ferry to Danger Island which is one of the many islands along the river. Starship Cruises offers a guided trip telling you the history of the Hawkesbury. The cruise is approximately six and a half hours in which time you can relax gazing at the natural attractions. On the cruise, morning tea, buffet, lunch, desert and afternoon tea are offered as well as having a licenced bar. House boating on the Hawkesbury is a great way to experience the river, and can be hired easily. Any trip to the Hawksbury River offers a chance to indulge the senses and get back in touch with yourself.
6. Three Sisters – three ‘maidens’ in stone
How Far? 103 km
Get there in 1 hour 45 minutes
You can find one of the most famous views in Sydney in just under a two hour drive from the city. The iconic rock formation is located in a town called Katoomba at a place called Echo Point. While there are different versions of the Aboriginal story, one is about three beautiful sisters who were in love with three brothers from a neighbouring tribe. The marriages were forbidden, so the brothers took the maidens by force. The tribal war that broke out caused a powerful tribal elder, to turn the maidens into stone until the danger passed. Tragically in the tribal war, the tribal elder was killed and no one else could break the spell to turn the three sisters back into their human form!
The Three Sisters are best seen from Echo Point lookout on the edge of the above plateau. Formed thousands of years ago through erosion these weathered, sandstone peaks are set in the beautiful Jamison Valley. These unusual formations watch over the land of the traditional country of the Dharwal, Darug, Wiradjuri and Gundungurra Aboriginal people. From the lookout you can see Mount Solitary and the Ruined Castle. Echo Point is also a gateway to taking adventures such as abseiling, rock climbing and carving. The many beautiful nature walks, allow you to soak up the scenery, forests, streams, waterfalls, sheer cliffs and ravines.
You can test yourself to a challenging descent a trail of more than 800 steps leading you to the base of the Three Sisters. Once descended to the valley floor a winding 2.4km boardwalk will take you through an ancient rainforest which dates back to dinosaur times!
7. Kiama Blowhole – where the sea makes a noise
How Far? 115 km
Get there 2 hours
As the largest in the world, the Kiama Blowhole is a stunning experience! It was formed by basalt lava flows, 260 million years ago, 100 million years before dinosaurs. Formed from a long sea cave, big waves force their way into the cave, compressing the air in the rear chamber. The compressed air powers the incoming wave vertically forcing water up through the hole with a booming sound.
Most active in a South East ocean swell, this sea cave can spout seawater 20 metres or more into the air, and has been recorded at heights of more than 30 metres. A viewing platform gives good views of the famous Blowhole but if you get too close you might be sprayed with sea water! At night the area is floodlit which makes the experience thrilling with the water shooting skywards and sea resonating with the ocean’s power.
The Kiama Lighthouse is next to the blowhole, as well as the heritage- listed Pilots Cottage Museum on the headland.
At 2km south is the Little Blowhole, which is a more consistent regular display. Both of these places are located on one of the best walking trails in Australia called the Kiama Coast Walk. There are plenty of things to do and see in the charming town of Kiama itself as well as relaxing on beautiful beaches.
8. Symbio Wildlife Park- A wildlife experience like no other
How Far? 52 km
Get there in 1 hour
Under an hour drive, south of Sydney, this family owned business has developed an encounter experience like no other. On the fringe of the World Heritage listed Royal National Park and set in 16 acres of bushland the wildlife park is home to hundreds of animals.
If it is a wildlife experience you are after, whether from seeing a Sumatran tiger feeding to cuddling a koala, the zoo gives you a chance to get up close and personal to Symbio’s wildlife. Home to animals from Australia and around the world, you can see Cheetahs, Lemurs, Meerkats, Monkeys, Red Pandas, Emus, Dingoes, Kangaroos, Wombats as well as being home to a variety of critically endangered wildlife species. There is a very modern Reptile house which homes many of the world’s most amazing reptiles and a Farm Yard exhibit which is home to some cuddly furry friends.
This award winning zoo also has many shows and demonstrations given throughout the day as well as souvenirs and a food kiosk. There is a newly opened Splash Park complete with a large dump bucket, water squirters, water fountains and a snake tunnel as well as a brand new playground.
Open hours: 9:30am – 5pm daily (excluding Christmas Day).
|Children (3-15 years)||$22.00|
|Family (2 adults 2 children 3-15 years)||$96.00|
A Symbio Wildlife Park Season Pass gets you unlimited entry 364 days of the year. That’s 364 opportunities to get up close to their wildlife family, 364 opportunities to create new memories!
Season Pass Adult – $99.00 each
Season Pass Child – $52.00 each
9. Royal National Park – A big Sydney secret!
How Far? 30km
Get there in 1 hour – Park entry costs $12 per vehicle per day
Originally known as the National Park; the park gained its Royal nickname when Queen Elizabeth II passed through the area the previous year. Less than an hour’s drive away yet so many people living in Sydney have never stepped foot into the unspoilt 15,000 hectares of bushland that lines the coast, south of Sydney. The Royal National Park is the world’s second oldest National Park.
The Royal National Park is filled with a range of forests, hills, cliffs, waterfalls, streams and beautiful beaches. Sydneysiders and visitors can trek along the many bushwalking tracks or cliff walks or even venture along them on a bike ride. Some of the most secluded pristine beaches can be discovered, where you can surf or swim in the coastal water. Marley Beach, Jibbon Beach, Garie are to name just a few.
At Wattamolla beach there is a jump rock – if you are brave enough! Named Wedding Cake Rock, this spot is eye catching because of its white colouring and its angled edge. Wattamolla also has waterfalls you can swim under. Figure Eight Rock Pools are beautifully formed rock pools but be aware of tides and swell, it’s best to access them at low tide when the swell is small.
Whilst driving is the easiest way to access the Park, a 30 minute ferry ride from Cronulla will take you to Bundeena on the park itself. After a picturesque and endearing ferry ride you will arrive at a small settlement in the north of the Royal National Park. Here there are small craft shops, cafes, pubs and a small beach. Make sure you have cash to buy your ticket!
10. Mermaid Pool – what kind of pools do mermaids live in?
How Far? 100km
Get there 75 minutes south west of Sydney
What kind of pools would mermaids live in? As you walk south along Berrara Beach to the rocky headland then across flat rocks you will find the awesome Mermaid Pools. While Mermaid Pool itself is not the safest to swim, it is safe for a splash and at high tide you can safely watch the water pour into the pool like a Mermaid waterfall.
This beautiful natural water hole on the Bargo River is a part of the world where you can chase even more waterfalls around Tahmoor Gorge. See Thru Pools is another pool you can swim. There you can view hidden rock formations or jump off rocks after checking how deep the pool is! You can trek through the bush, swim in rivers and encounter steep steps and rocky platforms overlooking views of the nature around you. On Berrara beach itself you can surf, swim or fish. As you are surrounded by Conjola National Park, plenty of bushwalking tracks can be found. For Cyclists a scenic cycling route from Cudmirrah, The Walter Hood Ride, takes you through Conjola National Park to Monument Beach.