SYDNEY isn’t just a great city, the surrounding coastline and countryside are packed with great beaches, charming towns, beautiful scenery and more outdoor activities than you could possibly find time for. Here are four of our favourite Sydney excursions.
Grand Pacific Drive
This scenic daytrip option south of Sydney consists of a drive through the Royal National Park and along the coastal Grand Pacific Drive. The national park is beautiful, and there are several scenic spots to break up the drive. Garie Beach is a picturesque surfing beach within the national park and a gorgeous spot to picnic.
Continuing south, the road leads to the seaside village Stanwell Tops. From the town’s popular lookout Bald Hill, admire breathtaking ocean views and try and spot hang gliders in action. From the lookout you can see the Sea Cliff Bridge – a long curve of the road ahead hugging the cliffs on one side with the sea on the other. The ocean views as you travel along the bridge are simply stunning.
Stop at atmospheric villages like Austinmer and Thirroul with their weatherboard holiday homes, boutiques and cafes, and if you have time, continue on to Wollongong or to Kiama to see the blowhole, a natural phenomenon where a jet of water is forced up through the rocks, with a geyser-like effect.
The Southern Highlands is a picturesque farmland area with rolling green hills and a network of charming villages and towns full of excellent food, shopping and things to see and do. The area has long been a favourite weekend or daytrip destination for Sydneysiders, and the towns are close enough together that you can explore several in one day.
Historic Berrima has sandstone buildings, antique shops, art galleries and cafes, and is known as Australia’s best preserved Georgian village. Bowral is another charming option with its thriving main street full of boutiques and cafes, or you can go bushwalking at Fitzroy Falls – a 1.6km trek along an escarpment takes you to a lookout with fantastic views of the waterfall.
Further on is Berry, another Southern Highlands drawcard with its excellent pubs, bakeries and country-style homewares stores. At Sutton Forrest, enjoy beautiful river and forest scenery and visit some of the surrounding wineries. Suburban trains from Sydney extend to key towns in the Southern Highlands, though driving your own vehicle makes it easier to get off the beaten track, explore the countryside and visit sites outside the towns like wineries and waterfalls.
The Blue Mountains
There are so many options for daytrips to the Blue Mountains, from visiting scenic lookouts to see the famous rock formation The Three Sisters, to more intrepid activities like hiking, canyoning, rock climbing, caving and abseiling. The charming town of Katoomba is a jumping off point for many of these activities. The town itself has several Art Deco style cafes, and some excellent vintage and antique stores.
Leura is another main village area to explore and is packed with gourmet food options, art galleries and interesting shops, though it can get crowded on weekends. There are lots of great bushwalks to do and mountain views to be had at Blackheath, and another option is to explore the beautiful Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens at Mount Tomah. To reach the Blue Mountains from Sydney, head west on the Great Western Highway, or alternatively take the train.
On the farflung northwestern outsirkts of Sydney in the Hawkesbury River region is the charming village of St Alban’s, set in a picturesque valley and home to an atmospheric pub that is a daytrip destination in its own right.
The historic Settlers Arms Inn is one of Australia’s oldest pubs, built in 1836 from convict-hewn sandstone. It has accommodation available, or you can just settle in for an afternoon by the fireplace for a meal, drinks and some live jazz. Wholesome and hearty pub fare is on offer, including seafood, and sweet baked treats are made on the premises.
To reach St Albans, take the M2 motorway out past Pennant Hills to Dural, then on to Wiseman’s Ferry. Take a car ferry across the Hawkesbury River and drive for a further 20 kilometres until you reach the town.