Daytripping: 4 more great Sydney excursions
THERE are many options for daytrips from Sydney, from beautiful beaches to historic towns and even a world-class wine region. Here are some options for getting out of the city for a day (and for more ideas, see Part 1).
The Hunter Valley
One of Australia’s premier wine growing regions, the Hunter Valley, can be reached by car from Sydney in around two hours. It’s a playground for connoisseurs of wine and food, with many wineries open for tastings, cheese and chocolate purveyors, gourmet food stores and great restaurants and cafes. There are also picturesque towns to explore with charming historic architecture, and lots of gorgeous countryside. Hot-air ballooning is another drawcard – a great way to take in the area’s natural beauty. If not using your own transportation, there are lots of day tours by bus and minibus departing Sydney each day, which do the rounds of the wineries and eateries.
While technically still part of Sydney, a drive north to idyllic Palm Beach is still considered a daytrip for most suburban or inner-city dwelling Sydney-siders. This is the beach where the Australian soap opera series Home & Away is filmed, and where visiting celebrities holiday over summer. Mostly though, it’s home to laidback surfers, families and beachy fashionistas, and has a relaxing, holiday-like vibe. You can drive up to the northern beaches (roughly one hour from the city), or for a splurge take a 20 minute seaplane ride from Sydney Harbour to Palm Beach, from AUS$350 (US$360) per person. Once there, enjoy a swim in the warmer months, take a walk to Barrenjoey Lighthouse or venture out on the water on a scenic ferry ride.
Surprisingly for some Sydney-siders, the Australian city of Newcastle was named one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2011 by Lonely Planet (along with New York City, Delhi and Chiang Mai). A blend of cosmopolitan cafes, shopping, nightlife and excellent outdoor activities are what make Newcastle special. There are lots of surf beaches to enjoy in Newcastle and even sandboarding. You can take a scenic three-hour coastal walk from Nobby’s Beach to Merewether Beach. There are historical sites and buildings harking back to the convict era, and cool cafes on par with those in Australia’s larger cities – try Darby Street for its eclectic mix of boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Newcastle is an approximate two-hour journey north from Sydney by road, or you can catch a CountryLink train to get there.
The Central Coast
If you’ve done Sydney’s beaches to death and would like to experience something new, there are plenty of options at the nearby Central Coast, a cluster of towns lining the coastline to the immediate north of Sydney. Avoca and Terrigal are picturesque spots for a swim or a picnic, while other beaches offer a more off the beaten track experience, like beautiful Putty Beach at Killcare. In winter, you can try and spot a Humpback Whale from Copacabana’s whale viewing platform, and if travelling with kids can head to a wildlife or reptile park. A unique spot on the Central Coast is the former mining village of Catherine Hill Bay. There are old mining cottages and abandoned, rusty machinery and mining equipment on view revealing the town’s history. Catherine Hill Bay retains an old-fashioned charm, and is one of the least developed towns in the area. The Central Coast is a one- to one-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney, and is also serviced by trains.