Weekend Getaways - Our top day trips from Sydney
Pagoda Lookout, Wollemi National Park, NSW. Image Courtesy: Tourism Australia / Rob Mullaly
Australia's most populous state ranks #1 in the country for both domestic and international visitation with Sydney coming out as the most-visited destination in Australia. Spectacular harbour and iconic architecture aside, Sydney's surrounds reflect its temperate climate and locals' love for getting outdoors, much of which is only a stone's throw from the city.
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Fairy Bower Ocean Pool, Manly
The triangular man-made rockpool juts out of the spectacular New South Wales coastline along the walking path about midway between Shelly Beach and Manly Beach, a little over a half hour drive from the Sydney CBD.
It's a tiny 20 metre pool perfect for some relaxation and family swimming. Be sure to pack the camera as you'll want to capture some shots of the sweeping ocean views afforded by the flawless location.
The Fairy Bower Ocean Pool is perhaps best suited for a fleeting visit on your stroll between beaches as there is no shade at all, it's certainly a pitstop you'll want to make though.
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Only a short drive from the city centre, Gordon's Bay is a unique spot just north of Coogee Beach and south of Clovelly Beach.
It's only accessible via the Coastal Walkway so you'll need to leave the car at either of the designated parking spots at Coogee or Clovelly. This isolated and compact coastal retreat is filled with a plethora of marine life entrenched in the crawling coral of the New South Wales coastline.
As there are much larger and more popular beaches in and around Gordon's Bay (we're looking at you Bondi), you can take advantage of the lower crowd numbers and take in some leisurely swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, paddle boarding or fishing.
Don't forget: Rapeedo Adult's Snorkel Set
Watson's Bay is another idyllic coastal location north-east of Sydney on the southern head of the entrance to the harbour. It's easily accessible by car in around 25 minutes from the city, or you can even enjoy a stunning ferry ride from Circular Quay.
There's not much to dislike about this oceanside oasis as there's a multitude of things to do and see. The South Head Heritage Trail is a charming bushwalk that leads you through to the red and white barred Hornby Lighthouse providing a sweeping seascape and deluxe harbour views. The still waters of the bay provide the perfect setting for an afternoon of paddle boarding or kayaking. Lady Bay Beach is a beautifully secluded swimming spot, eyes up though as is it a designated nude beach. Robertson Park is an ideal picnic location to enjoy some fish n' chips from one of the local eateries in this historic fishing village.
Don't forget: Aqua Maria Monster SUP with Paddle
Backing onto the Royal National Park, Bundeena is a quiet community about an hour south of Sydney's centre.
The jewel of the village is the Bundeena-Maianbar Heritage Walk. For a scenic stroll a little under 5km in length, take the looping Forest Path for a captivating look at the local flora and fauna along the way. For those wanting to take on a little more of a demanding hike, don't worry the park's walking trails sprawl for over 100km so there's a hiking experience for everyone.
Plan ahead and you can attend the Bundeena Saltwater Markets held on the first Sunday of each month. The market not only sells an array of beautiful local produce, it also showcases some stunning creations from local artists.
After you've enjoyed a bushwalk and perused the market be sure to take a dip in the pristine waters of the bay or jump on a kayak and paddle down the beach.
Don't forget: Seaflo Swift Kayak
Whilst Port Stephens is a small town in its own right, the region itself is what is most spectacular. It is home to one of the most pristine harbours you are ever likely to come across. The area is made up of a number of municipalities stretching from Tahlee in the north, out toward Glen Oak and Seaham in the west and right up to Shoal Bay on its eastern point.
Sitting just above Newcastle, it's a leisurely drive just a tick over two hours from the Sydney CBD.
With a collection of townships nestling the water including Nelson Bay, Salamander Bay and Fingal Bay, it's an ideal spot for kayaking, snorkelling, paddle boarding and virtually any water sport. On the east coast, as the name suggests, Fishermans Bay is a great spot for avid anglers who can cast a line from either shore or boat.
Take advantage of the multitude of trail walks throughout the region including the stunning greenery of the Tomaree National Park. Make your way to the Tomaree Head Summit for an unmatched panorama of the surrounding valleys and ocean. Stroll the beautiful coastal walkway from Nelson Bay to Little Beach, it's popular with the locals for good reason.
You can't miss the Stockton Beach Sand Dunes. They are the largest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere and stretch for over 30 kilometres from Newcastle to Anna Bay. Slip and slide your way down the dunes for an afternoon full of sandy thrills and spills.
Don't forget: CamelBak Chute Magnetic Water Bottle
Royal Botanic Gardens
Bordering the Sydney CBD is the sprawling greenery of the Royal Botanic Gardens. The 30-hectare estate is home to a wide range of lush themed gardens including an Oriental Garden, Succulent Garden and Rose Garden to name a few.
Positioned on the edge of the harbour, the walking path on the perimeter of the gardens snakes its way along the water, giving you breathtaking views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House from an array of angles.
Set aside a full day for this inner-city beauty and discover the many hidden treasures it has to offer. Entry is free so find your perfect spot, setup the picnic blanket and get exploring.
Don't forget: Spinifex Picnic Blanket
Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
Located roughly 30kms north of Sydney is the picturesque Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. Spread out over almost 15,000 hectares, it's a scenic masterpiece full of walking tracks, rainforest, waterfalls, spectacular lookouts, twisting waterways, mountain bike trails and historic indigenous sites.
At the northern end of the park is West Head where you can take in unparalleled views over the Hawkesbury River and out to Palm Beach as well as trek along a number of hiking paths which vary in difficulty.
The Bobbin Head area to the south-west of the park straddles the meeting points of Cockle Creek and Cowan Creek and offers up the perfect location for a variety of family activities including a waterside picnic, fishing, cycling and hiking.
Don't forget: Fluid Mountain Bike
Blue Mountains National Park
The Blue Mountains National Park is a protected national park covering almost 270,000 hectares of land comprised of some of the most awe-inspiring natural scenery. Only about an hour and a half's drive west of Sydney, it makes for a fantastic day out in the wilderness.
As you can imagine, the vast parklands provide a seemingly never-ending list of outdoor experiences. There's the famous Three Sisters rock formation overlooking the Jamison Valley, numerous caves and caverns to explore, waterfalls to watch crash into the streams below, countless walking trails and hikes leading to breathtaking views, spectacular picnic areas gazing out into the valleys as well as bike paths for those who prefer to pedal their way through the stunning eucalypt-dense rainforest.
There are also several campgrounds sprawled throughout the World Heritage-listed area for anyone wanting to extend their stay just a little longer.
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