Sydney is a fabulous city with lots to do, but if you’re visiting for more than a few days, it’s worthwhile heading out on some day trips from Sydney. From exploring the nearby beaches to visiting World Heritage-listed rainforest to going hiking or wine tasting, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Shandos Cleaver from Travelnuity.com has selected five of the most popular Sydney day trip options and, best of all, nearly all of these trips are do-able using public transport.
- 5 Best Day Trips From Sydney
- 1- Manly Day Trip
- 2- Blue Mountains Day Trip
- 3- Royal National Park Day Trip
- 4- Hunter Valley Day Trip
- 5- Palm Beach Day Trip
5 Best Day Trips From Sydney
Sydney has a reputation for being expensive but by putting together your own day trips using public transport, you can make your Australian dollars stretch further.
Bonus Tip: In Sydney over the weekend? Take public transport using an Opal card on a Sunday and your fares are capped at $2.70, all day long, excluding the airport station access fees. This includes the ferries and the trains all the way to the Blue Mountains. On other days of the week, the daily cap is $15.80 for adults.
Also read: Where To Stay In Sydney
1- Manly Day Trip
Travel time from Sydney CBD: 30 minutes on the ferry
Heading across Sydney Harbour to Manly on the ferry is one of the most popular day trips to do in Sydney.
That’s not surprising, given the laidback charm and excellent beaches in Manly, not to mention the scenic ferry ride itself.
Manly Day Trip Itinerary
Manly has long been a day trip destination for Sydney-siders, as entertainment options once are plentiful in Manly.
Stroll along the Corso, the main shopping street in Manly, home to many restaurants cafes and surf-wear shops.
If you’re visiting on a Saturday or Sunday, don’t miss the Manly Market, held in Manly Market Place, just off the Corso.
There’s also a weekly farmers market held one more block away every Sunday morning.
At the other end of the Corso in Manly is the main Manly Beach, which is a great option for enjoying a swim, going surfing when the conditions are right or just lazing on the sand.
However, my preferred beach in Manly is Shelley Beach, which you get to from a 1 km coastal pathway at the end of the Corso.
Shelley Beach is sheltered and the bay is an aquatic reserve offering excellent snorkelling and diving. Try to spot one of the resident blue gropers.
There’re also a few local cafes to relax at, right on the water’s edge.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to try your hand at kayaking or SUPing, head back to the ferry wharf on the harbourside of Manly.
The wharf is home to Manly Kayak Centre, which has both kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for hire by the hour or day. SUP lessons and kayak tours are also available.
I recommend booking in advance on the weekends and during holiday periods.
How to Get From Sydney to Manly
The easiest and best way to get from the centre of Sydney to Manly is on the ferry, with the beautiful trip across Sydney Harbour being one of the highlights of the day trip.
Ferries to depart from the ferry wharves at Circular Quay at least every half an hour during the day.
The older, larger ferries take 30 minutes, while there’s also a fast ferry option that takes just 20 minutes.
I recommend taking one of the traditional ferries as part of the experience but be quick during busy days to snaffle one of the outside seats on the sunny side.
2- Blue Mountains Day Trip
Travel time from Sydney CBD: 90 minutes by car/2 hours by train
At the western fringe of Sydney are the foothills of the magnificent Blue Mountains.
Part of the World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains Area, the region is home to the lush, seldom-visited rainforest with stunning lookouts and well-marked hiking trails, making for a great day trip.
The Blue Mountains is also a fantastic destination to plan a luxurious escape, as there are many fabulous resorts and hotels.
Blue Mountains Day Trip Itinerary
Echo Point Lookout
A popular starting point to any Blue Mountains visit is the Echo Point Lookout.
The must-see photo opportunity here is of the distinctive Three Sisters rock formation, which is an iconic Australian landmark.
There are also glorious vistas of the Jamison Valley below and the sandstone plateaus in the distant.
Echo Point lookout is the starting point of multiple hiking trails, including a popular section of the Federal Pass down below in the valley.
Head down the Giant’s Staircase next to the Three Sisters, hike along the valley floor, then climb back up to the cliff edge at Furber Steps.
Complete the loop with an easy hike back along the clifftop, passing further lookouts.
It’s also possible to take the Scenic Railway or the Scenic Cableway back up to the top of the cliffs and skip the climb.
Alternatively, drive or walk along the cliff-tops to Scenic World to make a loop of taking the Scenic Railway down to the valley and the Scenic Cableway back up to the top, no steep steps required.
At Scenic World there is also the Skyway with its glass floor.
Two other beautiful locations to visit in the Blue Mountains are Wentworth Falls and Govetts Leap Lookout.
Wentworth Falls are not far from Katoomba, back towards the city. Hike out past the falls for the best views, or hike the full National Pass track.
Govetts Leap Lookout
Govetts Leap Lookout is more remote and less-visited spots near Blackheath, overlooking the Grose Valley.
The pretty town of Leura is also worth a visit.
How to Get From Sydney to the Blue Mountains
Sydney to the Blue Mountains by car
The quickest and easiest way to get to the Blue Mountains is by car.
Driving from the centre of Sydney to Katoomba takes about 90 minutes and is the easiest way to visit multiple spots in the one day.
It’s also the only option if you want to visit Wentworth Falls and Govetts Leap Lookout.
Sydney to the Blue Mountains by train
Alternatively, there are regular train services to Katoomba, with the journey taking about two hours.
Note however that the main sights such as Echo Point aren’t that close to Katoomba train station – it’s about a 2.5km walk.
The easiest way to see the sights around Katoomba is on the Blue Mountains Explorer hop-on-hop-off bus, which costs $55 per adult and can also be purchased in combination with a Scenic World ticket.
There are also limited local buses.
The Blue Mountains has some of the best luxury escapes in NSW so if you’re keen to stay longer it’s a great place to splurge.
3- Royal National Park Day Trip
Travel time from Sydney CBD: 1 hour by car/2 hours by train and ferry
The Royal National Park on the southern edge of Sydney is the second oldest national park in the world.
Over 150 square kilometres in size, it contains a diverse range of landscapes, from towering sea cliffs to coastal lagoons, rainforested gullies to eucalypt bushland.
Royal National Park Day Trip Itinerary
The highlight of any visit to the Royal National Park is a bushwalk on its many hiking trails.
The most impressive trail is the 26km-long Coast Track, which stretches from the park’s northern boundary to its southern edge, hugging close to the coast.
The hike is best done as an overnight hike, camping one night at North Era Beach.
If you’re just visiting the National Park as a day trip, it’s also possible to hike part of the Coast Track, then return to your starting point. Options for Royal National Park day trip hiking are:
- Start at Bundeena in the north and hike to Marley Beach (an 8km return walk) or
- Start at Otford in the south and complete the Palm Jungle and Burning Palms Beach hike, looping back up to Garrawarra Farm for an easy amble most of the way back along a fire trail.
One popular attraction these days in the park is the Figure Eight Pools, not far from Burning Palms Beach.
However, be warned that this is a dangerous spot to visit.
Look out for warnings about the current tides and wave conditions – never visit at high tide or during rough seas, and never turn your back on the ocean.
If you’re looking for somewhere to swim in summer, Burning Palms Beach is sometimes patrolled, while Marley Beach is rough and not suitable for swimming.
Two other popular safe spots to swim are Wattamolla and Garie Beach, which are patrolled in summer, and Wattamolla also has a lagoon with calm waters.
If you love beaches, try a trip to the NSW South Coast but you’ll need more than just a day to explore.
How to Get From Sydney to the Royal National Park
Sydney to Royal National Park by car
There are multiple ways to access the Royal National Park, which is less than an hour’s drive south of Sydney.
The main entrance is at Audley and an entry fee is charged per vehicle.
Sydney to Royal National Park by train and ferry
To access the Royal National Park on public transport, one option is to take the train to Cronulla, then a small, local ferry across to Bundeena.
Sydney to Royal National Park by train
Otherwise, take the South Coast line train to Otford, and hike up the hill to the edge of the national park. (Be aware that trains stop only every two hours at Otford on Sundays and public holidays.)
4- Hunter Valley Day Trip
Travel time from Sydney CBD: 2 hours by road
Australia is home to a wide variety of wine regions, in nearly every part of the country.
The top wine region close enough to visit from Sydney on a day trip is the beautiful Hunter Valley region north of the city.
Hunter Valley Day Trip Itinerary
The plan for a day trip to the Hunter Valley is simple: visit one winery, then another, maybe a few more?
There are dozens of wineries with cellar doors open to the public in the Hunter Valley, and it can be difficult to choose which ones to visit.
The wineries vary from some of the most prestigious names in Australian wine to small boutique operations.
Don’t miss out on trying some of the renowned Hunter Valley Semillon, both the younger style and cellared examples.
Wine is not the only option on the menu in the Hunter Valley.
The region is also home to many fine-dining restaurants, cheese and chocolate factories, and a boutique brewery or two.
The Hunter Valley Gardens are beautiful to stroll through, particularly when decorated with snow in the winter and over the Christmas season.
Hot air ballooning is also a popular option if you arrive early in the morning.
How to Get From Sydney to the Hunter Valley
Sydney to Hunter Balley by car
The Hunter Valley is just over a two-hour drive north of Sydney, centred on the village of Pokolbin.
Take the M1 freeway that starts on the northern outskirts of Sydney most of the way, then the turn-off for Cessnock.
Sydney to Hunter Valley tour
Alternatively, there are plenty of bus tours that leave Sydney daily for the Hunter Valley.
Taking a bus tour means no one has to volunteer to be the designated driver.
Ideally book a smaller mini-bus tour, so that you are still able to visit some of the smaller, friendlier cellar doors.
5- Palm Beach Day Trip
Travel time from Sydney CBD: 1 hour by car/90 minutes by bus
If Manly isn’t far enough removed from the busy streets of Sydney for your liking, another great beach destination to visit for the day is Palm Beach, the northernmost of the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Palm Beach Day Trip Itinerary
Palm Beach is famous for two things: its many holiday homes of the rich and famous, plus being the setting for the popular TV soap Home and Away, where it’s known as “Summer Bay”.
If filming is taking place, you may be able to spot some action, but otherwise, it’s a place to relax.
Palm Beach and the beach immediately to the south, Whale Beach, are long stretches of golden sand, perfect for swimming.
Make sure you stay in between the red and yellow flags, where lifesavers patrol.
During cooler months pack your sneakers and hike through the bush to historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse, standing tall on the headland and offering superb views over Broken Bay.
Afterwards, enjoy lunch at the popular Boathouse at Palm Beach.
It’s also possible to take a number of ferries from Palm Beach to explore further. Take the ferry across Pittwater to the golden and isolated sands of Great Mackerel Beach.
This beach is only accessible from the water or via a hiking trail. Alternatively, take a ferry to the Central Coast townships of Ettalong or Wagstaffe.
How to Get From Sydney to Palm Beach
Sydney to Palm Beach by car
Palm Beach is about a one-hour drive north of Sydney, with the drive passing by many other beautiful Sydney beaches.
The drive can be slower on summer weekends or public holidays.
Sydney to Palm Beach by bus
Alternatively, the L90 bus is a limited stops bus that runs all the way from Wynyard in the city to Palm Beach, a long 90-minute plus trip.
It only runs during off-peak hours; during peak hours take a combination of express bus services.
A long-time resident of Sydney, Shandos Cleaver loves the city’s beaches and sunshine, not to mention being fond of hiking and a glass or two of local wine. Recently returned from travelling around Europe and the USA with her Miniature Dachshund, she runs the blog Travelnuity, providing information and inspiration to others to travel with their dogs.