For some, the thought of needing a getaway from Sydney is unfathomable; the city is overflowing with sun, sea, amazing food and drink, and endless sights right on its doorstep. Nevertheless, the time will come when a day or a weekend away is exactly what you need, and like with most things, Sydney spoils you rotten with choice… From shorter local road-trips to a quick flight out of the extremely well connected airport, day trips and longer overnight options are plenty. Here are some of the beautiful places I was lucky enough to get out to and explore during my stay in the harbour city, perfect for when you crave that change of scenery, starting off with options a little closer to home!
1. The Blue Mountains:
In the simple words of my 17 year old brother “the Grand Canyon but with trees”. The Blue Mountains are exactly that, if only slightly smaller, but nevertheless equally as spectacular… A cavernous expanse that stretches endlessly into the horizon, fading in to a misty haze of blue. Spellbinding, this feat of nature is easily reached from central Sydney via car or train, with stops in all the large towns surrounding the national park.
A hiker’s paradise, the park is scattered with trails of varying length and difficulty. The famed Three Sisters are a must see; arrive earlier in the morning or visit later in the day to avoid the crazed midday tourist rush and parking frenzy. Easily reached from the Echo Point Lookout, follow the clearly marked path down to the imposing stone structures; be warned, a series of steep steps forms the last section of the 15 minute walk. If planning to embark on a longer hike through the park, come prepared as steep inclines as well as rugged terrain call for, most importantly, appropriate footwear.
There are various options- jump on the scenic railway or ride high on the scenic skyway all at Scenic World, however if you’re content sticking to the self guided route, drive along the scenic Cliff Drive, stopping at various look-out points (Eagle Hawk offers a different perspective of the Three Sisters) and viewing platforms perilously perched above the breathtaking expanse. Skip Katoomba and head to Leura for a snack stop, a quaint town dotted with quirky ‘home-cooking’ style cafes, and shops filled with artisanal curios.
2. The Central Coast:
A scenic drive from Sydney, the Central Coast’s laid-back tropical beach vibes instantly transport you from the city stress. Only 2 to 3 hours drive from the CBD (note that this figure is heavily dependent on traffic and fluctuates, for example on a Friday afternoon when rush-hour could see you stuck inching along for hours), it is the perfect detox escape. Closer than Byron Bay but with beaches and views to rival its northern New South Wales counterpart, the Central Coast is an obvious choice for a quick getaway.
If you’re looking for the trendy and happening spots to hit, Avoca and Terrigal should be the first stops on your list. Both offering an abundance of cool cafes, eclectic and fashion forward shops, and views to kill, think of them as the Manly and Bondi of the area. That’s not to say that a trip further up the coast isn’t worth your time; meander along to The Entrance, the epitome of a seaside holiday resort for a bit of touristy fun. Whilst on the Coast, catch the sunset from the end of the jetty in Long Jetty (neighboring town to The Entrance) as the vivd colors reflect off Tuggerah Lake.
3. Palm Beach:
With the added benefit of being easily accessible from Sydney via public transport (there is a frequent bus service running to and from Wynyard Station), Palm Beach is the last point on the stretch of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The isthmus is flanked by crystalline waters, a tranquil lagoon to the one side and the powerful Pacific Ocean to the other, all of which can be observed from the peak of the Barrenjoey Head, marked by the lighthouse. A moderate hike up, with the choice of a semi-steep track or stairs, ascending the incline takes no more than 30 minutes. You’re rewarded for your efforts at the top, with views that, on a clear day, stretch back towards Sydney’s CBD. As a side note, Barrenjoey is the perfect place to watch the fiery southern hemisphere sunset, so try to stay a little later and catch the spellbinding last light.
Treat yourself to a lunch at The Boathouse Palm Beach, a part of the hugely successful Boathouse brand (with Sydney city locations at Blackwattle Bay and both Balmoral and Shelly beaches), grabbing a table dockside overlooking the large lagoon views. If you still have the energy after the walk, kayaks and paddle boards are available to rent at reasonable prices right next door to the restaurant. Otherwise, head back across to the beach at Palm Beach, made all the more beautiful by the fact that it isn’t crowded and is largely undeveloped and backed by a nature park.
4. Camp Cove and Watson’s Bay:
I know that this isn’t technically a getaway, but there’s no denying that this serenely picturesque beach spot couldn’t feel further removed from the hustle and bustle of day to day life. With just the silhouette of Sydney fading in the distance to remind you that you have not, in fact, spent hours reaching your newfound happy place, there’s no where better to relax and unwind. Jump on the frequently running ferry from Circular Quay direction Watson’s Bay; from here, Camp Cove is just a small walk along the lusciously green-lined lanes.
Embark on the cliffside walk in the direction of the Hornby Lighthouse through Sydney Harbour National to see the point where the harbour and ocean converge at South Head… Although be warned, the beautiful and idyllic looking Lady Bay beach you pass along the way is a nudist beach. Blissfully undisturbed with tranquil and clear waters, Camp Cove is the city’s polar opposite answer to the hustle of hotspots like Bondi. Stop at the ever popular Watson’s Bay Hotel for a leisurely meal or afternoon cocktail, taking in the widespread vista of the city as the sun sets on a day well spent.
Still on My To-Do List:
The one place I didn’t quite get round to checking off my to-do list is Royal National Park; if you have the time, make sure to visit the coastal Figure 8 Pools and Wattamolla Beach for some adrenaline inducing cliff jumping, two adventures I’ll definitely be embarking on during my next trip to Sydney!