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What is the best place to take a day trip/weekend trip to, in and around Sydney?

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Sydney’s a beautiful place to live and a glorious city to visit. We’ve picked out 50 things to do in Sydney at least once, from kayaking on the harbour to cocktails with a view and where to get your culture fix. Take a read and get cracking on that ultimate to do list.

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Sheryl Hill

Blue Mountains

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Mountain Range, 50km west of Sydney

Sydney Tours: Sydney was a dream destination for us. It is a destination our youngest son dreamed of since he wrote a report on Aus as a second grader and learned how to play a didgeridoo.

We booked a private tour of the Blue Mountains in a luxury Jeep, complete with a roadside tea and biscuit stop amongst the kangaroos and wallabies.

The majestic, breathtaking views on a trail cascaded by a waterfall that filled the air with its melody as it framed the blue eucalyptus ‘gum’ trees upon the mountains took our breath. “Katoomba! - means shiny falling waters.” The aborigine named it well.

We bushwalked a trail over to Echo point to view the sandstone formation of the famous Three Sisters - Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo. The myth around why they were turned to stone makes Jamieson valley even more mystic.

Unlike most guides, ours let us discover magic experiences versus staging the scenes that we would happen upon. There was an element of surprise when we found ancient aboriginal drawings carved into rocks. The guide poured water over the stones bringing the carvings to life. Our footprints were left where ancient aborigines walked. It felt surreal.

We stopped for local food at a winery and were treated to a taste fair of the pungent but favored dark, pasty, salty brewers’ yeast spread of Vegemite on our bread with a main course of meats and prawns prepared on a barbie served after rocket salads. We learned to love arugula in Aus and ostrich jerky.

We returned to Sydney in time for sunset cocktails. It wasn’t until months later that I learned we had missed out on spectacular views of dark skies and constellations through Australia’s largest astro-tourism telescopes. Who knew that New South Wales harbored such a magnificent secret. I want a do-over to Warrumbungle National Park.

Alec Hill - jokering. He was standing on the other side of the rock making drama

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Shaun Swartz

Blue Mountains

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Mountain Range, 50km west of Sydney

I have spent a significant amount of time living and working in Australia with our community service organization, GoBeyond Student Travel, and without a doubt, the Blue Mountains are one of my favorite city escapes. The Blue Mountains, named for the hazy, blue aura created by the abundance of local eucalyptus trees, are an easy, less-than-two-hour drive from Sydney and offer stunning views of one of Australia’s longest mountain ranges. As towering sandstone cliffs erupt from the forest floor below, waterfalls feed a vibrant, healthy ecosystem teeming with cockatoos and koalas. Be sure to schedule a stop for espresso at the “2773 Cafe” in the town of Glenbrook. 2773 Cafe has great coffee, delicious breakfast and lunch options, and just so happens to house a petting zoo in the backyard.

Individual travelers and groups alike will absolutely love the experience offered by the Coast Warriors organization. We have traveled with Coast Warriors for a number of years and are consistently impressed by their local knowledge, welcoming spirit, and overall hilarity when it comes to conveying the true spirit of the Aussies. Exploring the outskirts of Sydney and other hidden, locals-only spots aboard Trudy, the Coast Warriors’ faithful adventure bus, is the perfect way to spend a day getting outside the city.

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Sarah Sloboda

Blue Mountains

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Mountain Range, 50km west of Sydney

I did a wonderful day road trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains. I was able to do one short hike and then drive to see a few of the vista points, including the Three Sisters. As you enter the park, there is an information center where the staff are extremely kind and helpful. The views were amazing, and as a photographer, I highly recommend it.

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Karina Nicolau

Hunter Valley

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North of Sydney

In regards to a weekend trip to, in and around Sydney, I can not stress enough taking a trip up north to Hunter Valley. Give your taste buds a serious treat in Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest wine region. Just 400 kilometers from Sydney, jump in your car and leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind to spend a weekend tasting your way through some of Hunter Valley's beautiful 120 wineries. The region is also home to gourmet restaurants, gorgeous hotels, and world-class wellness spas!

A weekend trip to Hunter Valley isn't complete without:

  • Experiencing a wine tasting tour with a local expert
  • Relax at a luxurious spa retreat
  • Book a gourmet cooking class
  • Catch the vineyards from the sky while floating away in a hot air balloon
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Corey Determan

Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House

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Sydney CBD

Within the city, a visit to the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are must and there are plenty of tours to grab in the area. However, most people who are not from Australia probably don't realize that Sydney has great beaches too. Bondi Beach is by far the most famous and is great for surfing. Downtown Sydney is also great for food and bars. Whenever we visited, we would explore different establishments and were never disappointed - especially with the Asian fare (for them it's like Mexican is for us). The Irish bars were among the best I've been too by far as well, some even featuring traditional dancers.

One of my favorite destination, however, are the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney (accessible by public transportation). A great place to spend the day hiking and it won't disappoint amateur photogs, especially at the Three Sisters rock formation but there a plenty of waterfalls and other scenic points as well. You can also ride the steepest passenger train in the world at 52 degrees on the an old mining cart track.

Another great day or weekend trip is Newcastle, NSW. Again, the beaches are excellent for surfing, even for beginners. Hunter Street, the main drag, is very walkable and lined with eateries, bars and shopping. One of our favorite activities, though, was to visit the Hunter Valley wineries for tours and a picnic. Even the cheap wine down there seemed to taste great - though I will concede that my college-student taste buds may not have been as refined as they are now.

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Priya Darshini

Blue Mountains National Park

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Katoomba, West of Sydney

Out of all the spots in and around Sydney, I think that Blue Mountains National Park in Katoomba is the best day trip out of the city. It can easily be extended to be a weekend trip as there is plenty to see and do around here.

My husband and I booked a guided tour with a company to take us on a trip to Katoomba and back. This trip covered Featherdale Wildlife Park on the way to the Blue Mountains National Park where we enjoyed scenic train and gondola rides, checked out cool rain forests, an old coal mine, aboriginal dance show, ziplining at Dragon Rock and saw the legendary Three Sisters Rock formation. On the way back in the tour bus, we stopped at the beautiful Leura village. At the end of the day, we were thoroughly exhausted, but full of colorful memories.

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Alanna Smith

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

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The Rocks

Sydney is a huge city, so it’s easy to plan a weekend trip with fantastic things to do and see. I spent a weekend there in August. I filled up my first evening with a bucket list event: going to a performance at the Sydney Opera House. While I expected the night to break the bank, the Opera House actually offers a number of opportunities for discounted tickets: a $20 lottery, partial view seats, standing room tickets, student rush, and more.

I also visited one of Sydney’s secret bars: an immersive, cowboy-themed spot called Shady Pines Saloon hidden behind an unmarked door in an alley. Their specialty drink? A whiskey apple made with house cinnamon whiskey and freshly-pressed cider.

The next day was bright and beautiful: perfect for the cliff walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach. I took my time walking with a local friend. It’s definitely the place to break out your best camera, with turquoise waters and wind-carved rock formations. For the perfect Aussie oceanside lunch, I’d recommend fish and chips, served up in a newspaper, topped with chicken salt.

That night, I checked out Mjolner, a viking-themed bar in the Strawberry Hills. Besides the bearded waiters and Scandinavian knotwork decor, the bar featured mead in authentic drinking horns and "choose your own dagger" for carving Thor-approved slabs of meat.

The following morning, I explored the waterfront area of Circular Quay—a popular tourist destination with tons of shopping, restaurants, and views of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I visited the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art of Australia. Not only does it have free entry, but it’s a great place to learn about and experience Aboriginal art. After that, I hopped on the Manly Ferry to meet friends. The ride back from Manly to Circular Quay is a must, with unparalleled views of the Opera House and Bridge.

Sydney may be massive, but it’s surprisingly easy to navigate with the public transportation system. Just make sure to pick up an Opal Card for discounted fares. There’s even an express train from Circular Quay to the airport, which is a much cheaper option for solo travelers than taking an Uber or taxi.

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Kerry Mooneyham

Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and National Park

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Katoomba, West of Sydney

Sydney Weekend Escapes: Much like LA, Sydney is sandwiched between the ocean and a ring of mountains with breathtaking vistas a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a short train ride, or about an hour drive to the gateway to the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and National Park. So named for the blue horizon of eucalyptus trees that appear to stretch amid the peaks and valleys in an endless vision of blue and green dappling in the sun and iced with early morning fog. Here you can set out on foot to explore some almost 90 miles of hiking trails or walking tracks as the locals call them. Kanangra-Boyd National Park lying to the south Wollemi National Park and Yengo hovering to the north make this entire area encompasses over 175,000 square miles.

Jump on the hop on hop off Blue Mountains explore bus that stops at 29 points of interest, or choose to explore by trolley, spend the afternoon at Scenic World located close to Katoomba. There you can ride the Scenic Skyway gondola across Jamison Valley, taking in views of the Three Sisters, Mount Solitary and Katoomba Falls, or take a railway up the world's steepest incline railway.

While suitable for a day trip, to make the most of your experience spend the night at one of the many lodges located in the park. For an unforgettable experience check-in to a Heritage Suite King where you can enjoy the views from your private terrace and swimming pool at Emirates One & Only located at the southern end of Wolgan Valley. The Wolgan River runs through the valley cutting through sandstone in narrow gorges, running by groves of trees and widening out on the valley floor giving stunning views all around. You can experience the area by bicycle, horseback or on foot.

Looking to escape the masses fighting for a piece of sand at Sydney's beaches during a hot summer day? Head two and half hours south to Jervis Bay Marine Park and enjoy a quiet stroll on the white sand beach without the crowds, snorkel the crystal-blue waters or just marvel at the local dolphins that spend their time in the bay year-round or spot a migrating whale from May through November. With two national parks bordering the Jervis Bay you will have plenty to explore. Take in the views from Point Perpendicular lighthouse, see kangaroos lounging on the beach, stop in The Quarters in Huskisson, a local favorite with a bright modern interior set in 100 year old cottage located just off main for a two-hour bottomless lunch. With overnight options ranging from under $100 to over $400 a night you will find something for every budget.

Hunter Valley home to world renowned wineries - famous for varietals such as Semillon and Shiraz, most offer cellar door wine tastings and vineyard tours. With many options from Sydney that include transportation you will find plenty options that leave the driving to someone else while you enjoy all the wine you wish. For a unique experience you can explore the vineyards in a horse-drawn carriage which at the Small Winemakers. In addition to wine tasting amid the beautiful countryside you can sample olives, cheeses and even chocolate. This tour including a lunch stop at Baxter's Inn costs about 100 US per person. http://www.huntervalleycarriages.com.au/home.html

For a romantic overnight stay, Château Élan offers four and half star accommodations with exceptional service, plus a spa to delight the senses. You can choose traditional rooms, spa suites to two-bedroom apartments artfully decorated to soothe the senses and blend seamlessly with the tranquil surroundings. Thoughtful touches include a fully stocked mini bar complete with local Hunter Valley wines, duck down pillows and plush robes.

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Carlita

Hunter Valley

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North of Sydney

My favourite weekend road trip from Sydney is the Hunter Valley. I spent one of my favourite weekends there with a group of friends visiting the various wineries of the locality. and tasting the delicious produce and locally made wine from the region. The natural scenery is also amazing, a great way to escape the concrete enclaves of Sydney.

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Anthony

Hunter Valley

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North of Sydney

Hunter Valley - about an hours drive, great wine region plus there are numerous concerts held at wineries during summer.

Blue Mountains - great to escape the city and you can get there easily by train.

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Brittany

Hunter Valley

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North of Sydney

I believe the best place to visit on a weekend trip from Sydney is the Hunter Valley. It’s rich in vinoculture and beauty and less than a three and a half hour drive away. I recommend breaking up the drive with a stop by Featherdale Wildlife Park to pat a koala and feed a kangaroo. Once you arrive in the Hunter Valley, check out a Two Fat Blokes food and wine tour and take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the vineyards and kangaroos. (I even saw my first kangaroo fight from above!)

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Caroline Eubanks

Newcastle, NSW

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Hunter Region, North of Sydney

I lived in Sydney for a while and my favorite day trip was to Newcastle, just up the coast. There’s an incredible rock pool called the Bogey Hole that was carved by convicts in the town’s early days. There’s also a pretty lighthouse and some old pubs where you can play trivia and enjoy a pint.

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Katherine Fenech

Hunter Valley

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North of Sydney

The Hunter Valley is a beautiful wine region, about 3.5 hours drive north of the city and affords gorgeous views, as well as wineries where you don't have to book or pay for a tasting. It also has a range of restaurants, including farm-to-table. It's a peaceful weekend away.

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Destination New South Wales

NSW

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Australia

Hunter Valley Wine Region
Go wine tasting in The Hunter Valley, one of Australia's best known wine regions. Located in the state of New South Wales, the region has played a pivotal role in the history of Australian wine as one of the first wine regions planted in the early 19th century.
Stay: Spicers Guest House

The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is a rugged region west of Sydney in Australia’s New South Wales. Known for dramatic scenery, it encompasses steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls and villages dotted with guesthouses, galleries and gardens. Katoomba, a major town in the area, borders Blue Mountains National Park and its bushwalking trails. Echo Point affords views of the storied Three Sisters sandstone rock formation.
Stay: The O&O Wolgan Valley

Byron Bay
Byron Bay is a coastal town in the southeastern Australian state of New South Wales. It’s a popular holiday destination, known for its beaches, surfing and scuba diving sites. Cape Byron State Conservation Park is on a headland with a lighthouse. Between June and November, humpback whales can be spotted from headland viewpoints such as the Captain Cook Lookout. Byron Bay is home to Chris Hemsworth and rumored community inspiring the novel and show Big Little Lies, in this so called Montauk of NSW.
Stay: The Byron at Byron Bay

Up and Coming Regions


Dubbo & Country NSW
Made world famous by the royals recently visiting for the Invictus Games, The inland city, located on the Central Western Slopes, about 400 km by road from Sydney, is best known for its Taronga Western Plains Zoo, and for its historic gaol. The burgeoning wine and food culture is another attraction that appeals to Shields. Twice a month there’s a farmers’ market selling everything from local salt-bush lamb and pork, to olive oil and honey. The city offers a range of activities from bird watching to canoeing or kayaking down the scenic Macquarie River. Also be sure to check out the Wellington Cave Complex, Dubbo Observatory, and Dubbo Regional Botanic Gardens.
https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/dubbo-area/dubbo

Orange, NSW
Orange, northwest of Sydney in country NSW, enjoys a reputation for producing delicious fresh produce thanks to the cool climate and rich volcanic soils. The produce ranges from stone fruits and sheep's cheeses to fungi and grapes.With more than 80 vineyards and 13 working wineries, the Orange wine region is a splendid destination for wine tasting at the many cellar doors. Award-winning restaurants in the area, including in Millthorpe, complement the cool-climate wines. Follow the Orange Heritage Trail, a self-guided walk past more than 40 places of historical interest. Art lovers will enjoy the Orange Regional Gallery. For a delicious coffee, try Bills Beans. Other things to do include walking along one of Mount Canobolas' well-marked tracks or spend some time exploring the Sensory Garden and the Biblical Garden in the Orange Botanic Gardens.
https://us.sydney.com/destinations/country-nsw/orange-area

Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park
Located in New South Wales and recognized by the International Dark Sky Association, the Warrumbungle Dar Sky Park possesses an “exceptional quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” Australia’s largest optical telescope is within the park boundary and shares the title of the Astronomy capital of Australia with several privately owned public observatories. This and the National Heritage listing makes the Warrumbungle National Park the perfect destination for stargazers, bushwalkers, nature lovers and those looking for a unique experience.

L’Étape Australia by Le Tour de France, Snowy Mountains, NSW Australia 30 Nov – 1 Dec 2018 (Flo, do you know if there will be a 2019 event?) *

L’Étape Australia by Le Tour de France is a unique road cycle event that provides an experience as close to riding in the Tour de France as it is possible for an amateur to get.

Staged in the Australian NSW Snowy Mountains on 105 miles of fully closed roads and run under professional Tour de France Race conditions, the route includes two challenging King of the Mountain sections.

For more information: http://letapeaustralia.com

L'Étape Australia by Le Tour de France is a cycling event run under professional conditions for amateurs. Featuring closed roads, a challenging route, a Sprint and a King of the Mountain section with riders competing for the famous Yellow, Green, Polka Dot and White Jerseys, L'Étape Australia by Le Tour de France will be held in the NSW Snowy Mountains each year from December 2016.

Royal National Park, Sydney
The Figure Eight Pools which are natural rock pools and one is formed in the shape of an 8. It's a truly unique and special area and the hike to get here is breathtaking ( BareFoot DownUnder is the tour provider that leads trips here). ! Their trips are categorized as adventure, nature and outdoors as the only way to visit this unique area is hiking into the Royal National Park (worlds 2nd oldest National Park) which takes over an hour 1-way. The overall experience includes a few other stops and visits around the park.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edYEtIcZWqA

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Casey Bressan

Hunter Valley

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North of Sydney

The Hunter Valley, just a 2.5 hour drive north west of Sydney, is one of Australia’s largest wine regions, with large and small wineries for you to choose from. The area is known for Shiraz and Semillion due to a very warm climate, though most cellar doors offer a wide range pulling from other wine regions in the country. The road is scenic, so consider the drive a part of the fun, especially as you get closer to the vineyards. Great expanses of fields have cows, horses, sheep, and kangaroos leisurely enjoying afternoons in shade or sun - their life seems calm and natural. Rows of vines fill many, but not all fields, giving a feeling of structure within a vast openness and igniting a desire to get out and be amongst it. I recommend staying in a hotel that is within proximity to walking trails, as morning strolls are a must.

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Kristina Kinson

Blue Mountains

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West of Sydney

The best place for a day trip around Sydney: the Blue Mountains

If you want to experience the natural beauty of the Australian wilderness,set out on foot to explore the Blue Mountains, a World Heritage area with breathtaking landscapes that will blow your mind.

Two hours west of Sydney you will find a luxury retreat surrounded by dense rainforests that appear to stretch on forever, valleys obscured by mist and mysterious routes that will surprise even the most experienced hikers. Expect to be enchanted by the impressive waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and the sounds of the native lyrebirds.

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia. Photo: Anne Dirkse.

The name of the Blue Mountains originated from its distinctive colour, produced by the combination of vast eucalypt forest and sunlight. This natural blue haze is created when tiny particles released from the trees mix with water vapour and sun’s rays, providing a unique and incredible sight.

If you are passionate for outdoor adventure travel, gear up for the experience of a lifetime. This area has a wide range of awesome activities to offer, from rappelling and climbing to petting koalas in parks and selected sanctuaries.

The easiest way to get there is to take a train or a bus from central Sydney to the mountain village Katoomba, where you can find a vibrant cafe culture and many fine restaurants in the main street. The town also features Australia’s best art deco buildings and many galleries where history, arts, and nature merge.

After a few minutes drive from Katoomba, you leave the houses behind, and you can start your journey boarding the world’s steepest passenger railway, the Scenic Railway. Discover the thrill of a 52º incline trip in glass-roofed carriages that descend through a tunnel 300 meters down into the valley.

Along the way, explore elements of local history such as the Katoomba coal mine, enjoy the walk to the Cascades or taste pure water straight from Marangaroo Spring.

A good option to ascend back to the top of the mountains is via the Skyway, taking a trip across the Jamison Valley on the largest aerial cable car built in the Southern Hemisphere. The sensation of being suspended up in the air at 200 meters high is one you will never forget!

A visit to the Blue Mountains would not be complete without viewing the famous Three Sisters rock formation from Echo Point Lookout. You can also get amazing views and see them change their look as the sun goes down.

Another must-see destination in the Blue Mountains is the Jenolan Caves, one of the world’s oldest and most outstanding cave formations. It has more than 40 kilometres of multi-level passages and over 300 entrances. Scientists believe the age of the clay to be approximately 340 million years old.

Jenolan Caves. Photo: Matthew Perkins.

River Cave is said to be the most beautiful and strenuous. There you will find a magical underworld: the “Pool of Reflections” - illuminated, calm pools of blue water and, the “Minaret” - a spectacular stalagmite. The oldest caves are at the top and the youngest near the Jenolan river, where, if you are lucky, you get to see interesting aquatic animals.

In this wild rich area, you can also immerse yourself in the amazing history of the Darug and Gundungarra tribal groups that lived in those lands over 22.000 years ago. The Blue Mountains hold a strong Aboriginal legacy which can be found on ancient paintings, spectacular sandstone caves and ceremonial sites that inspired many legends which have been passed down across thousands of generations.

For those spiritual travellers who wish to dig deeper into the connections between the people of this land, the Aboriginal stories are worth a read.

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Caroline Makepeace

Central Coast

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North of Sydney

For a weekend trip, I recommend the Central Coast.

Only just over an hour north you'll find the beautiful Central Coast region of NSW. IT's tucked away off the highway so is still quite the undiscovered gem. You'll find many beautiful beaches and national parks.

Our favorite things to do are:

  • The Bouddi National Park Coastal walk, which rivals the Bondi to Coogee walk for its pristine beauty. You'll possibly have the trail to yourself.
  • For families and animal lovers there is the popular Australian Reptile Park.
  • For surf lovers, you'll find the best waves at North Avoca and Norah Head.
  • Fisherman's Wharf in Woy Woy is a great spot for lunch.
  • Don't miss having a few sunset beers overlooking the ocean at the Crowne Plaza Beer Garden at Terrigal.

For a memorable journey there, either take the train as it winds around the picturesque Hawkesbury River region, or take a ferry from Palm Beach in Sydney over to Ettalong Beach.

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