Last updated: September 23, 2022
No matter how beautiful Sydney is, sometimes we just want to escape the city for a nice day trip, discovering beautiful destinations we have never been to before.
With a beautiful and long coastline, and so many different national parks surrounding the city, there is certainly no shortage of fun and exciting day trips from Sydney.
We’ve gone ahead and had a closer look at some of these destinations, and have shortlisted 20 of the best Sydney day trip ideas.
20 Best Sydney Day Trips
In a somewhat geographical order, from north to west to south, here are 20 great one-day trips, all within driving distance from Sydney.
1. Visit Somersby Falls
Brisbane Water National Park is a relatively small protected national park in the Central Coast region, just north of the Hawkesbury River.
One of the highlights of this national park is Somersby Falls, a series of small waterfalls with a 500m walking path following Floods Creek to the bottom of the falls.
There is also a nice picnic ground at the start of the walk, right next to the parking area, with excellent facilities, such as barbeques, picnic tables, toilets, garbage bins, and information signs.
Conveniently located close to the freeway, the picnic ground at Somersby Falls is a popular rest stop along the NSW Central Coast route.
2. Beach Hopping on the Central Coast
Sydney’s popular beaches, such as Manly, Bondi, and Coogee, are great, but they also get busy during weekends. Very busy.
So why not escape these crowds and head north to visit Ettalong, Umina, and Pearl Beach on the Central Coast instead!
Overlooking Brisbane Water and Broken Bay, these three family-friendly strips of sand are perfect for swimming and other water-based activities. They are neighbouring beaches, all within easy driving distance, so it’s easy to visit all three in one nice day trip.
If you want to add a bit of hiking, it’s worth visiting Mount Ettalong Lookout, just north of Pearl Beach. A short walking track starting from the car park at a large water tank on Patonga Drive brings you to two lookout points offering sensational views of Broken Bay and surrounding areas.
3. Hike to Box Head Lookout
The Box Head Lookout in Bouddi National Park offers breathtaking views of Broken Bay, the Barrenjoey Headland and Lion Island.
Because the Box Head lookout isn’t very well known, chances are you will have the comfortable bench at the lookout all to yourself, soaking in the beautiful scenery of the surrounding area.
A short yet scenic walking track winds its way through bushland, heading towards this lookout point, with the option to extend the walk by doing a short detour to beautiful Lobster Beach via the Flannel Flower walking track.
For some great lunch options, head to nearby Hardys Bay, where you’ll find a couple of nice cafes with lovely water views.
4. Discover Dangar Island
Escape the city and spend a day discovering Dangar Island, a charming, traffic-free, natural hideaway on the Hawkesbury river, rich in European and Indigenous history.
The journey to get there is just as exciting. Catch a ferry from the Brooklyn marina and discover the natural beauty of this very unique and remote island.
Quietly tucked away on the Hawkesbury River between Little Wobby and Brooklyn, Dangar Island has a small and friendly population of around 300 lucky residents. The island covers an area of 29 hectares and has about 3 kilometres of shoreline.
Connected to electricity in 1948 and to water in 1971, the island now boasts a cafe and shop, a bowling club, and a community hall. Dangar island is also the only residential island on the Hawkesbury River.
5. Visit West Head Lookout
One of the most popular and most impressive lookouts in the greater Sydney region is the West Head lookout in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
West Head offers breathtaking views of Pittwater, Broken Bay, Barrenjoey Headland, Palm Beach and the Central Coast.
After visiting the lookout, why not go on a small adventure and do some of the bushwalking trails past beautiful secluded beaches and even more lookouts.
One popular track we recommend is the Resolute Loop Trail, a 6km circuit walk with Resolute Beach as the highlight, a small piece of paradise with incredible views of Pittwater and the Barrenjoey Headland.
6. Spend a Day in Bobbin Head
Bobbin Head is a family-friendly Sydney day trip destination situated along Cowan Creek in the western section of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Surrounded by beautiful scenery, the area provides excellent facilities such as playgrounds, picnic areas and gas barbecues. And with many hiking trails to choose from, Bobbin Head is also the perfect spot for bushwalking.
Bobbin Head is surrounded by water, making it an excellent spot for water activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Paddle boats and kayaks can be hired to explore Cowan Creek and Apple Tree Creek.
In addition to picnic areas, Bobbin Head is also home to a few great cafes where you can enjoy a bite and a coffee amidst beautiful scenery.
7. Swim in Jerusalem Bay
Hop on a train and head north to Cowan, from where you can commence an exciting one-hour bushwalk to Jerusalem Bay on Cowan Creek which flows into the Hawkesbury River.
Go for a refreshing swim in the bay if the weather is nice. Some flat, rocky surfaces surround the bay, where you can settle in and dry up afterwards.
The 2.4 km trail between Cowan train station and Jerusalem Bay is part of the Great North Walk, a 250 km long track between Sydney and Newcastle that consists of several shorter walking trails.
Feeling energetic? Once you’ve finished swimming in Jerusalem Bay, instead of returning to Cowan, you can continue northbound to Brooklyn, which is an extra 10km of intense bushwalking. Be mindful though that this is quite a challenging walk.
8. Spend a Day in Palm Beach
Just an hour’s drive from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Palm Beach feels like a tropical paradise far away from the city.
With several beautiful beaches to choose from, various restaurants to grab a bite, and lots of scenic picnic spots for an outdoor feast, it’s super easy to spend a whole day in Palm Beach.
One of the must-do highlights in Sydney’s northernmost suburb is the hike up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Broken Bay and the coastline north of Sydney.
At 113 metres above sea level, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands tall and proud on the highest point of the Barrenjoey Headland, the northernmost tip of the Palm Beach Peninsula. Built in 1881, the heritage-listed sandstone lighthouse has been an iconic Sydney attraction for many years.
9. Visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden
Situated in Mount Tomah, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden is a 28ha public botanic garden that features thousands of plants from the southern hemisphere and around the world.
Established in 1972, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden sits at 1,000 metres above sea level and specialises in cool-climate plants that would not grow well in Sydney’s warmer conditions. This is why you’ll be able to see a lot of unique plants in this park.
The garden is managed by Botanic Gardens Trust, which also looks after the Royal Botanic Garden in the Sydney CBD and the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan.
10. Explore the Mount Wilson Area
The Mount Wilson area in the Blue Mountains is much quieter than the Katoomba and Leura region, and makes for an enjoyable day trip.
This particular area is home to a couple of fantastic lookouts, in addition to a few excellent bush walking tracks.
But it’s not just sightseeing and hiking that makes this area such a nice day trip destination; it’s also the small towns along Bells Line of Road that are worth visiting.
Bilpin, for example, is home to several fruit orchards and beautiful gardens, and is also famous for its apple pies and cider tasting.
11. Hike to Hanging Rock
A great day trip from Sydney which involves a bit of hiking and exploring is the walking track to Hanging Rock near Blackheath, one of the most iconic landmarks in the Blue Mountains.
Hanging Rock is a large sandstone object hanging out from a cliff against the backdrop of the Grose Valley and surrounding escarpments.
The walking track to Hanging Rock and the Baltzer Lookout is a 4km management trail that meanders through bushland with a few viewing points along the way.
Popular with bushwalkers, runners and cyclists alike, the fire trail itself isn’t very exciting. It is all about the destination, and once you reach that rock formation, you will be in awe of the beauty of this place.
12. Visit Mount York
Have you ever been to Mount York in the Blue Mountains?
The summit of Mount York is home to various monuments and plaques related to the first crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813 and subsequent attempts to build roads to the plains west of the mountains.
A visit to Mount York is a day well spent, with so much to learn and discover about the history of the Blue Mountains and lots to see from the various scenic lookouts in the area.
13. Discover the Megalong Valley
The Megalong Valley, west of Katoomba, is not the most well-known destination in the Blue Mountains, but it has a lot to offer.
For an adventurous day trip, we suggest the following itinerary:
- Mermaids Cave:
This is a short walk, with a steep staircase with over 100 steps leading to a large sandstone rock with a small waterfall. The start of this walk is on Megalong Road, the road that feeds into the Megalong Valley.
- Coachwood Glen Nature Trail:
This is another short bushwalking trail, not too far away from the Mermaids Cave, through a scenic forest of Coachwood and Sassafras trees.
- Mount Blackheath:
Drive to the Shipley Plateau, where you will find two lookouts that offer panoramic views of the Megalong Valley; Mount Blackheath and Hargraves Lookout.
14. Visit Warragamba Dam
With construction completed in 1960, Warragamba Dam is now Australia’s largest concrete dam that is responsible for the creation of Lake Burragorang, Sydney’s largest water reservoir.
A visit to this fantastic piece of engineering is well worth your time, as you discover the dam’s fascinating history and significance. The dam has created a reservoir capacity of more than 2K gigalitres of water, with the lake’s surface area covering 75 square kilometres.
Located around 40 km south of the dam, Lake Burragorang Lookout is an absolute must, offering incredible views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Check out our list of Sydney dams for more great dams you can visit.
15. Discover Maddens Falls
Maddens Falls is a stunning cascade waterfall in the rural locality of Darkes Forest in Dharawal National Park, located 50 km south of Sydney.
A short and easy 1 km bushwalk through upland swamp communities brings visitors to a scenic viewing platform with beautiful views of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape.
Dharawal National Park is a relatively unknown protected national park in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. The park is home to an extensive network of swamp areas, creeks, and heath vegetation.
Keen to discover more waterfalls? Check out our list of the best waterfalls in and around Sydney.
16. Hike to Eagle Head Rock
The 8km return hike to Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls starts at Wattamolla Beach, and is part of the 26km long Coast Track between Bundeena in the north and Otford in the south.
Next to Eagle Rock is Curracurrong Falls, one of the very few waterfalls in the world that flows directly into the ocean. Two beautiful and unique natural sights, and one picturesque walking track, make for a fantastic day trip to Sydney’s oldest national park.
Once you’ve completed the walk, why not go for a refreshing swim at Wattamolla, one of the many scenic beaches in the Royal National Park.
17. Hike to Minnamurra Falls
Deeply tucked away in the thriving rainforest of Budderoo National Park is Minnamurra Falls, a stunning two-tiered waterfall on the Minnamurra River.
A scenic 4.2 km paved walking track, starting at the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, leads to this waterfall, with a large viewing platform right in front of it to enjoy magnificent views.
Be mindful that this is a rather steep walk, so be sure to bring some water and good hiking shoes. The waterfall at the end of the walk makes it all worthwhile, as it’s beautiful.
18. Waterfalls in Morton National Park
Planning a day trip to Morton National Park means you will get to enjoy two stunning waterfalls that are located close to one another.
The largest of the two, Belmore Falls, is a stunning plunge waterfall with two drops on the Barrengarry Creek. A short walking track passes several lookouts, including the Hindmarsh Lookout, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of Kangaroo Valley.
The second waterfall, Fitzroy Falls, carries the same name as the village in the Southern Highlands where it is located. A boardwalk at the visitor centre leads to a lookout that offers spectacular views of the 81-metre waterfall.
Around Fitzroy Falls are a couple of exciting bushwalking tracks through thriving rainforests inhabited by various bird species.
19. Spend a Day in Kiama
One of our favourite day trips from Sydney is the road trip down south to Kiama, a scenic coastal town just south of Wollongong. Kiama is mostly known for the famous Blowhole, which you can see in the photo below.
But don’t worry, there is so much more to see and do in Kiama than just looking at ocean water being pushed into the air through a hole in the rocks.
With beautiful coastal cliffs, scenic beaches, and panoramic vantage points, there is so much to see and do in Kiama that it makes for a great day trip destination.
Read our guide with the top things to do in Kiama and surrounds for a complete list of the most popular attractions and activities.
20. Spend a Day in Canberra
While some would prefer to stay overnight to visit all the highlights, Canberra is small enough to turn it into an exciting day trip from Sydney.
Our nation’s capital is a different kind of city, some hate it, and others love it. One thing is for sure, Canberra is a unique city that has turned a bit trendy in recent years.
Not only is Canberra home to some excellent cafés and great dining venues, but you will also find some of the country’s best museums and galleries in Australia’s largest inland city. Some of the highlights in Canberra include the Australian War Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin, the old and new Parliament Houses, and the National Art Gallery.
Check out our guide to things to do in Canberra, so you know exactly where you need to go when you have one or two days to spend in this city.
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Best weekend getaway destinations from Sydney.