Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Bondi Beach, Luna Park: it’s no surprise Sydney is hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And with year-round mild temperatures – not to mention postcard-perfect landscapes in which to enjoy the weather – thousands of tourists flock to this eclectic metropolis rain, hail or shine.
But it’s not the city that holds the secret to this sumptuous slice of the Land Down Under. The key is to avoid the crowds and head on a road trip outside of Sydney. All you need is good company, four wheels, a map (or sat-nav) and some great driving music.
Sydney to Berry
Berry is located around two hours (90 miles) south of Sydney. As soon as you’ve passed the seaside town of Woollongong you’re nearby – and you’ll know it: think lush grassy hills filled with grazing cows on one side, and the rugged waves of the Tasman Sea crashing on the other.
When you arrive, look for a park in Prince Alfred Street for breakfast (or lunch if you spoilt yourself with a lie-in) at The Sourdough Café. This artisan bakery serves up a mouth-watering array of breads and sweet or savoury pastries – I dare you not to leave without a loaf or two under your arm. After refuelling, a walk through the centre of town is a must. A bustling street bursting with organic cafés, pubs and sweet shops, you can easily while away the day here.
Spare some time to go ‘off piste’ though – aka the main street. Here you’ll find gorgeous open paddocks, flanked by emerald hills ripe for picnicking. Before jumping back in the car and heading back to Sydney, make sure you grab a doughnut or two from the aptly-named Famous Berry Donut Van. These sweet treats are hot, fluffy, crispy and covered in sugar, you’d be mad to miss it.
Sydney to the Blue Mountains
Just 46 miles from Sydney, it won’t take more than 90 minutes to reach the township of Katoomba and the UNESCO-listed The Blue Mountains. When you arrive, bypass the main street of Katoomba and head straight to the iconic Three Sisters. This curious rock formation – otherwise known by the Sisters’ Aboriginal names: Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo – is the park highlight. Budding photographers will get the best views from the Observation Deck, while the more energetic will get a kick out of some seriously cool hiking tracks in and around the site.
For the less active, head to Scenic World on the corner of Violet Street and Cliff Drive in Katoomba, just a five-minute drive from the Three Sisters. For AU$35 per adult, you can enjoy all of the attractions of this quirky amusement park including Skyway, Walkway, Cableway and Railway. Catch the Railway down to the bottom of the Blue Mountains first. From here you can hike the two-mile loop around the Walkway before catching the Cableway back up the top. Finally, if you have time, do the return trip on the Skyway.
A trip to the Blue Mountains isn’t complete until you’ve walked up and down the main street of Katoomba. Small and charming, Katoomba is your typical Australian country town. Relish in avenues that aren’t packed with people and, instead, make the most of some super-cute vegan cafés and vintage stores. It’s the perfect way to recharge your batteries after a big hike around the Blue Mountains.
Sydney to Hyams Beach
Australia has some of the best beaches in the world. Having grown up here though, and by the coast no less, it takes a lot to impress me. And yet at Hyams Beach, just three hours south of Sydney, you will find the world’s whitest sand. Literally: even the Guinness World Records team reckons so. Somewhat of a Sydneysider secret, locals regularly head to the pillow-soft sands of this uninhabited, pristine coastline, where the ocean looks like it’s been been dip-dyed with several shades of blues, from ice to duck-egg, from turquoise to navy.
This bright inlet is undoubtedly enchanting. Sandwiched between Murrays Beach and Green Patch, it backs onto the lush emerald foliage of the Booderee National Park, with headlands offering clifftop hiking trails through the native forest.
For day-trippers desperately seeking water sports, the options are endless. Take your pick: swimming, fishing, diving, snorkelling, surfing, sailing, windsurfing and sea kayaking are all the order of the day here. To escape the tourist grind, walk barefoot halfway down the beach and escape into a private, sparsely-populated paradise. If you can, I highly recommend camping a night or two at Green Patch. Do book in advance though, as the site can get very busy during summer.
Sydney to Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley is a romantic and picturesque hidden gem that connects the foothills of the undulating Pokolbin Mountain Range with the historic vineyards. Located 155 miles north-west of Sydney, it takes less than three hours by car to reach this world-renowned grape-growing region. If you’re looking to indulge in wine tasting, eating, exploring, more eating and more wine tasting, then you’ve found the perfect day trip from Sydney – just remember to choose a designated driver as Australia has a zero tolerance to drink driving.
There are many vineyards to choose from, however my personal favourites include Krinklewood Biodynamic Vineyard, Brokenwood Wines and Keith Tulloch Wines. Whichever one you choose, you’ll find yourself enjoying the wine straight from the cellar doors, while sampling a scrumptious selection of local cheeses as you overlook the intricate patchwork vistas of the Hunter Valley. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll witness an afternoon storm roll in – Mother Nature at its very best. Remember to bring an umbrella and good footwear for the quick dash to your car.
Take off on your own road trip with our tailor-made New South Wales Journeys