Sydney is a bustling metropolis with iconic monuments and an energy unlike any other. But venture beyond the harbour to discover breathtaking beaches, historic towns, and natural wonders in our guide to the best day trips from Sydney.

By: Paul | Last Updated: 15 Dec 2023 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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Sydney, the vibrant and bustling city on Australia’s east coast, is world-renowned for its stunning harbor, iconic landmarks, and lively atmosphere.

But if you venture beyond the city limits, you’ll discover incredible destinations where you can cool off, unwind, get active, feast on local produce, or simply laze on the idyllic paradise of the region’s most breathtaking beaches.

Whether you’re a local or a tourist, taking a day trip from Sydney is an excellent way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and discover the natural beauty, outdoor activities, and rich culture of the surrounding areas.

From the scenic rural countryside to Australia’s most iconic beaches, and from picnics in remote bush settings to superb riverside fine dining, a day trip from Sydney is an unforgettable experience waiting to be untapped.

1 – BLUE MOUNTAINS

To the west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains is a vast wilderness area with a towering sandstone ridge that drops into a valley blanketed by native bushland. The area has long been an escape when the temperatures soar in the city and it’s the most popular day trip from Sydney.

Nestled amongst the wilderness are waterfall walks, Aboriginal rock art, and grand viewpoints over craggy cliffs and sweeping valleys.

Leura and Katoomba, two towns in the Blue Mountains National Park, have coffee shops ranging from old-school to artisanal, some cool street art, and the jumping-off point for the scenic cableway.

echo point lookout blue mountains, sydney day trip
ECHO POINT LOOKOUT

HIGHLIGHTS OF A DAY TRIP TO THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

  • Take in the grand views of the Three Sisters from Echo Point Lookout.
  • Hike to Wentworth Falls via Princes Rock Lookout (1-hour round trip).
  • Have a delicious bagel followed by excellent coffee at Frankly My Dear Coffee in Katoomba.
  • Stroll the interesting street art on Beverly Place in Katoomba.
  • Enjoy the forest activities at Scenic World, including the world’s steepest railway, an aerial cable car, and elevated forest walks.
  • Overlook the sandstone cliffs of the Grose River Valley, then hike the Grand Canyon Walk (3–4-hour loop)

GETTING TO THE BLUE MOUNTAINS FROM SYDNEY

The main sights in the Blue Mountains are centered around Katoomba, a 90-minute drive or 2-hour journey on the Blue Mountains Train Line from Sydney Central Station.

Having a car makes it easier to get around, but it’s not impossible by train. Echo Point Lookout & Scenic World are a thirty-minute walk or a short taxi ride from the train station.

TOURS TO THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

One of the easiest ways to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney is via an organised tour. Each of these tours are well-rated and offer a different experience.

Blue Mountains Nature & Wildlife Tour – Take a guided bushwalk to remote lookouts and waterfalls, then see the koalas and feed a kangaroo at Featherdale Wildlife Park

Blue Mountains, Scenic World Rides & Zoo – Take the 3 rides at Scenic World (the skyway, railway and cableway), before visiting Echo Point Lookout and Katoomba, then finishing at Sydney Zoo.

Blue Mountains, Scenic World Rides & Ferry Tour  – Take the 3 rides at Scenic World (the skyway, railway and cableway), before visiting Echo Point Lookout and Leura. See the animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park and finish with a ferry cruise to Circular Quay.

2 – TAKE THE SEAPLANE TO LUNCH

There aren’t many cities where you can hop on a seaplane, take a twenty-minute flight over iconic landmarks, and then land on a river for a magnificent dining experience in a remote wilderness. But there aren’t many cities like Sydney.

Sydney Seaplanes flights depart from Rose Bay, head over the harbour and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park before landing at one of ten locations in the Hawkesbury River region.

It’s an unforgettable experience (one of our top things to do in Sydney) that allows you to take in iconic views of Sydney before enjoying one of the finest restaurants in the country. The price includes an à la carte or degustation menu as well as the return flight.

It’s not cheap, but if you’re celebrating a special occasion, this day trip from Sydney won’t disappoint.

3 – MANLY

One of the best day trips from Sydney is to take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly.

This lovely city suburb sits on a promontory separating Sydney Harbour from the Pacific Ocean. The ferry from Circular Quay runs every 20 minutes and takes 30 minutes. It’s a glorious way to get there with wonderful views of the city, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House.

There are some great things to do on a day trip to Many. Here are our suggestions –

Manly Beaches // Manly has some of the best beaches in Sydney which are suitable for everyone. Manly Main Beach is great for surfers and playing in the waves, and deck chairs and umbrellas can be rented from Manly Beach Hire. Shelly Beach is protected and great for snorkeling. Manly Cove, on the harbour side, is great for very young kids and paddle-boarders.

Brunch & Lunch // Our favourite brunch spot was Fika with its Scandinavian-inspired food. Grab one of the many outdoor tables, join the regular hubbub, and watch the world go by.  

Market Days // On weekends, the pedestrianised streets come to life with a local market. Stalls range from artisan products to handcrafted jewellery, vintage apparel, and fruit and veg.

Kayak to Store Beach // Store Beach is a slice of tropical paradise that can only be reached from the water. Hire a kayak from the Manly Kayak Centre (right next to the ferry terminal) and paddle for 30 to 40 minutes to the beach. Single or double kayaks are rented by the hour. Two hours is enough to kayak there and back with a half-hour stop on the beach.

Hike the North Head // The 3 to 4-hour walk from Shelly Beach to Little Manly Beach is a great way to see all the sights of the North Head promontory. It passes Hanging Swamp plus a couple of hidden beaches before ending at Little Manly Beach.

Sunset Drinks & Dinner // Manly has a couple of great spots for sunset drinks. Right next to the ferry terminal, the Manly Wharf Bar looks over the harbour and on a weekend evening it is packed with day trippers grabbing a pint before heading home. Just across the narrow strip of land The Bower Manly has tables on the pavement that peer out over the Pacific Ocean.

4 – KU-RING-GAI CHASE NATIONAL PARK

The Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park is a wilderness area to the north of Sydney. Rocky sandstone and native bushland is cut by picturesque rivers and ocean inlets. It’s a great destination for outdoor adventures and an excellent day trip from Sydney.  

The area is split into three distinct sections –

BOBBIN HEAD

Bobbin Head is a picturesque location in the southern section of the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, perfect for family picnics. Take a stroll along one of the many well-signed, easy-to-walk tails, have a meal at the waterside bistro, or hire a boat on the serene waters of Cowan Creek.

Robbin Head is a 45-minute drive from Sydney City Centre. There is no convenient public transport.

WEST HEAD

West Head is the eastern section of Ku-ring-gai and a more remote and dramatic landscape.

At its furthest point, West Head Lookout has wonderful views over Broken Bay, Pittwater, and Palm Beach with some excellent hiking trails that wind along the coast and dip down to secret beaches.

Cottage Point is an idyllic location on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. Kayaks and boats can be hired from the kiosk at Cottage Point to explore the area. The café on the deck beside the marina is a great place to stop for a more relaxed lunch.

Cottage Point is a 45-minute drive from Sydney City Centre and West Head Lookout is a further 30 minutes. There is no convenient public transport.

BARRENJOEY HEADLAND

The final section of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is Barrenjoey headland. A rocky promontory with a dramatically positioned lighthouse and wonderful views over Palm Beach. Separated from the rest of the park by Pittwater inlet, it is more easily accessed from the Northern Beaches which we cover below.

OUR RECOMMENDED DAY TRIP ITINERARY TO KU-RING-GAI

By Car

  • Start at Cottage Point and hire a boat or kayak and take to the water.
  • Grab lunch at either the high-end Cottage Point Inn, the kiosk at Cottage Point or the Shed that sits beside Coal and Candle Creek.
  • In the afternoon drive to West Head Lookout and hike to West Head Beach (30 minutes round trip) and Resolute Beach (75 minutes round trip) for a swim.

For a longer walk complete the Resolute Beach Loop walk which continues passed Resolute Beach to the Aboriginal Engravings on the Resolute Track and Red Hands Track before returning to the car (3 to 4 hours).

Entrance to the park costs $12 per vehicle per day.

By Tour

This highly-rated day trip from Sydney combines visiting Manly and the Northern Beaches (see below) with the West Head and Barrenjoey sections of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

5 – PALM BEACH & NORTHERN BEACHES

Stretching north along the Pacific Coast, a string of beaches provides one of the most iconic day trips from Sydney. The most famous is Palm Beach (Summer Bay for Home and Away fans), a narrow strip of land with a curve of golden sand separating the Pacific Ocean from the sheltered waters of Pittwater.

Here are the highlights at Palm Beach –

Barrenjoey Lighthouse // Hike up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse for wonderful views of the Palm beach peninsula. Between May and August (peak time is June & July) you could also spot one of the 30,000 humpback whales making the journey north towards warmer waters to mate and give birth. From Governor Phillip Car Park, the lighthouse is a steepish 20-minute hike each way.

Palm Beach // Spend a few hours on the beach. The southern end, called ‘Kiddies Corner,’ is the safest spot to surf and swim in the sea. If it’s too rough, try the 50-metre ocean pool.

Lunch by the water // There are a couple of great spots to eat by the water. Checkout upmarket Barrenjoey House or the Boathouse Palm Beach café both of which have wonderful views over Pittwater.

Take to the water // Boats leave from Palm Beach Wharf for all sorts of activities. During winter join a whale-watching tour, or in summer take a ferry onto the Pittwater. A popular trip is to Mackerel Beach, a beach and small community that can only be reached by the water or by hiking in. You can also hire a kayak or your own motorboat.

OTHER NORTHERN BEACHES

On the drive up or back to Palm Beach, make a stop at one or two of the other northern beaches. Head to the Long Reef Headland viewpoint and watch the surfers at Narrabeen Beach or hike along the boardwalk between Curl-Curl & Freshwater Beach.

palm beach day trip from sydney
STATION BEACH, PALM BEACH

OUR RECOMMENDED DAY TRIP TO PALM BEACH

By Car

  • Take the 1-hour drive from Sydney city centre to Palm Beach.
  • Start by hiking up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse, then cool down with a dip at Palm Beach.
  • Grab some lunch overlooking the Pittwater.
  • In the afternoon take a boat or ferry on the water.
  • On the drive home stop to watch the surfers at Narrabeen or hike between Curl Curl and Freshwater Beaches.

By Tour

Parking at the Northern Beaches can sometimes be awkward, so it is often better to join a tour.

This highly-rated day trip from Sydney combines visiting Manly, Palm Beach, Narrabeen Beach & Curl Curl Beach with the West Head and Barrenjoey sections of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Home and Away fans can join a dedicated Summer Bay tour.

palm beach pool sydney day trip
PALM BEACH

6 – WATSONS BAY

One of the best day trips from Sydney City Centre is to take a ferry to Watsons Bay, grab lunch on the harbour front and explore the area. The ferry from Circular Quay runs every 30 minutes and takes 30 minutes.

Watsons Bay itself is a thin stretch of sand backed by beautiful houses and three good eating options.

For great fish in a wonderful setting head to Doyles on the Beach. You’ll need to make a reservation in advance. The best approach is to call them so you can ask for a table on the front or outdoors on the upstairs balcony.

Next door is the buzzy Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel which serves pub food in the large front terrace, or for an even more casual option, grab fish and chips from the takeaway stand on the wharf.

doyles watson bay
WATSONS BAY

CAMP COVE

Tucked into Watsons Bay, Camp Cove is one of the best harbour beaches in Sydney. Backed by a mix of smart houses and forest, a thin stretch of sand has excellent views across the water to the Sydney skyline. There’s a kiosk for lunch and snacks on the beach.

HORNBY LIGHTHOUSE

Walk north past Camp Cove and you’ll pass Lady Bay Nudist Beach before reaching Hornby Lighthouse (25 minutes from Watsons Bay Wharf), with its grand views over the Pacific Ocean.

SYDNEY HARBOUR NATIONAL PARK

Head south from Watsons Bay to Rose Bay (2 to 3 hours walk) past the white wooden bridge at Parsley Bay Beach, the stunning houses of Vaucluse and the golden sands of Shark Beach and you’ll have explored one of the best sections of the Sydney Harbour National Park.

Regular ferries run from Rose Bay Wharf back to the city centre making it a great day out in Sydney.

7 – ROYAL NATIONAL PARK & GRAND PACIFIC HIGHWAY

Australia’s first national park, the Royal National Park, is a eucalyptus-rich bushland and rainforest that ends at coastal cliffs and secluded beaches.

Through the park and further south, the 140-kilometre Great Pacific Drive cuts through lush rainforests and then along the dramatic coastline crossing over the photogenic Sea Cliff Bridge.

Combining the two is an excellent day trip from Sydney, but with no convenient public transport, you’ll need a car.

OUR RECOMMENDED DAY TRIP TO ROYAL NATIONAL PARK

Drive into the Royal National Park, popping into the Audley Visitors Centre to get your day pass and check the latest information.

WATTAMOLLA BEACH

Head to Wattamolla Beach where a lovely waterfall drops into a lagoon that’s great for sheltered swimming.

Next, take a hike. From Wattamolla Car Park it’s a 2-hour round trip along the coastal track to Eagle Rock lookout where a twin waterfall drops over the cliffs and into the ocean. Another option is the 75-minute 4.4km Forest Path Track that completes a circular loop through majestic rainforest.

FIGURE 8 POOLS

For a bigger challenge, head to Garawarra Farm Car Park and hike via Burning Palms Beach to Insta-famous Figure Eight Pools (3 to 4 hours round trip). You can only complete the hike at low tide and there is no shade, so time your visit accordingly and take advice at the visitors’ centre first.

It’s also worth taking the drive down to Garie Beach, a lovely sweep of sand great for swimming, surfing, and a picnic. (Note – The road down to Garie Beach is temporarily closed).

GRAND PACIFIC DRIVE

In the afternoon head south along the Grand Pacific Drive. The drive ends at Shoalhaven and takes about 2 hours. Fortunately, there is no need to go that far as the best viewpoints are at the beginning. Stop at Otford Lookout, the Bald Hill Observatory at Stanwell Tops Lookout, and the Sea Cliff Bridge.

SEA CLIFF BRIDGE | HIDDEN LOOKOUT

Don’t miss the hidden lookout for the best views of the Sea Cliff Bridge. Just past the bridge, (as you head south) turn right and park in the public car park next to the school. From the car park, follow the yellow signs through the bush to a lookout in the trees.

Royal National Park — Entrance to the Royal National Park costs $12 per vehicle per day. Total driving time is about 3-4 hours. There are not many convenient places to stop for food, so it’s a good idea to bring a picnic and plenty of water.

8 – TARONGA ZOO

This is probably more of a half-day trip than a full-day trip from Sydney, but there are three great reasons to go to Taronga Zoo.

Firstly, the journey by ferry from Circular Quay is a great way to arrive.

Secondly, they have some great animals. Don’t miss the cute red pandas, the koalas perched on a grove of trees, and the critically endangered Sumatran tigers that the zoo is helping to preserve.

Thirdly, the views from the zoo across to the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and city are second to none.

Book tickets online in advance.

9 – HUNTER VALLEY

Australia is renowned for its wines and the Hunter Valley is home to some of the country’s most prestigious vineyards.

You can easily cobble together your own day trip of tastings including places like premium wine producer Ernest Hill Wines, family-owned Harkham Wine (Friday to Monday), or the beautifully set Ivanhoe Wines.

It’s a 2-hour drive from Sydney city centre and if you plan on driving yourself then drinking is off the table. Unless you have a designated driver this is one day trip from Sydney for which you will want to join a tour

10 – COOGEE TO BONDI WALK

Most visitors to Sydney gravitate to Bondi Beach at some point in their stay. One of the best city beaches in the world, the water quality, sand, and setting make it, rightly, one of the best things to do in Sydney.  

Bondi Beach is part of a beautiful section of coast and hiking the clifftops past a series of beaches and ocean pools is one of our favourite things to do in Sydney.

The walk begins at family-friendly Coogee Beach and heads past Gordon’s Bay where divers and snorkellers search the waters for marine life. Next up is Clovelly Beach with swimmers plowing the waters of a large inlet.

Bronte Beach is another magnificent slice of sand, with grassy banks and an inviting ocean pool. Next, Tamarama Beach is a personal favourite with a well-positioned kiosk overlooking the action.

Last but not least is Bondi Beach with the iconic Icebergs Ocean Pool.

End the day lazing on the sand, leaping into the surf, or join a surfing lesson on Bondi and make it a truly memorable day out in Sydney.

HOW TO DO THE COOGEE TO BONDI WALK

Take the 333 bus or T4 train to Bondi Junction and then the 350 bus to Coogee Beach (40 to 50 minutes). The walk from Coogee to Bondi along the coastal path takes about 90 minutes but allow 2 to 4 hours depending on how often you stop. From Bondi Beach take the 333 bus all the way back to the city centre (30 to 40 minutes) or change onto the T4 train at Bondi Junction.

MAP | DAY TRIPS FROM SYDNEY

Located on the east coast of Australia and stretching towards the Blue Mountains in the west, the Hawkesbury River in the north, and the Royal National Park in the south, Sydney is surrounded by excellent day trip opportunities. All the points of interest in this guide are on the below map.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


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