Great day trips out of Sydney

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Looking for a short trip away from Sydney? From underwater diving to panoramic lookouts, NSW offers an array of fascinating retreats for the day-tripper. We look at four top destinations out of Sydney that can be reached within two hours by car.

Australia is rich in diverse landscapes and locations. Luckily for Sydneysiders, you don't have to travel very far to experience some of the world's most beautiful beaches, countryside and rare natural sites.

The Hunter Valley is a world-renowned wine region.

Hunter Valley

Just a short trip north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is a must-visit destination that lays claim to rolling hills and vineyards as far as the eye can see. The Hunter Valley offers some of Australia's best award-winning wines and a glorious range of food - it's bound to have you salivating for more. The area is the oldest wine-growing region in Australiai, with wineries such as McGuigan Wines or Tamberlaine catering to tourists and locals alike.

Complement your wine tasting with delectable cheeses on offer at the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, which specialises in manufacturing preservative-free traditional cheesesii. The Hunter Valley Cheese Company offers samples of their wide range of cheese, from brie to feta, along with other gourmet delights. If you're planning a picnic, ring up beforehand and they'll prepare a basket for pick-upii!

Perfect for a family excursion, and winner of the Best Significant Tourist Attraction in NSW three times in a rowiii, is the Hunter Valley Gardens. There are 10 stunning feature gardens across an expansive 25 acres of landiii. Stroll through the fragrant Rose Gardens to land in the Storybook Garden, which is sure to stir childhood memories!

Echo Point in Katoomba offers a panoramic view of the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters.

Blue Mountains

On the outskirts of Western Sydney are the awe-inspiring, and World Heritage-listediv, Blue Mountains. A retreat for couples, a haven for bushwalkers and an escape for any Sydneysider, the Blue Mountains are perfect for anyone looking for a nature getaway.

Choose any of the numerous bushwalk trails where you can enjoy the breathtaking views, waterfalls and natural surrounds of the Mountains. There are different routes for varying fitness levels, so anyone can enjoy the beauty of the bushland. Another way of exploring the natural beauty of the Jamison Valley, Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters is by cable car, sky car or railway carriage from Scenic World in Katoombav. From there you can take a leisurely stroll along Scenic World's 2.4km boardwalk or walk along the bush trails.

For action-packed adventure, you can go mountain biking on the Oaks Trail from Woodford to Glenbrook. It includes fire trail riding and long sections of single track. If you're up for it, try your hand at abseiling, canyoning, rock climbing and much more! If you'd like to go with an organised group, there are a number of companies that offer adventure experiences whether you're a beginner or a pro.

The Blue Mountains are home to many towns such as Blackheath, Leura, Katoomba, Wentworth Falls and Lawson. In those towns you'll find antique shops, gourmet restaurants and cafes, fresh produce markets and art galleries. For a taste of Australian art, visit the Norman Lindsay Gallery where you can see the artist and author's work seven days a week. Take a drive down to the Megalong Valley Tea Rooms when you're ready for a break to enjoy traditional tea and fresh scones.

Illawarra South Coast

South of Sydney, past Wollongong, is the Kiama region. The region has many beautiful beaches - Bombo, Kendalls, and Surf, to name a few - and natural sights. The blowhole, a rock formation where water can spout up to 60mvi into the air, is situated not far from the historic Kiama Lighthouse that was built in 1887vii. Here you can often see whales as they travel along the NSW coastline during their yearly migrationviii.

Jamberoo Theme Park, located west of Kiama, is a water adventure park that is open 226 days a year including several public holidays. More adrenalin-pumping action can be had parasailing or hang-gliding from Stanwell Park.

If bushwalking is your thing, then head to Minnamurra Rainforest in Budderoo National Park, which is only 15km west of Kiamaix. The rainforest is a remnant of the subtropical and warm temperate environment that used to cover large areas of the Illawarra regionx. Witness the Minnamurra Falls on the 'Falls Walk' or take the easier 'Loop Walk' to see the diverse ecosystems of the rainforestx.

For a scenic drive, cruise along Sea Cliff Bridge on Grand Pacific Drive, which is bordered by the Illawarra Escarpment and the Tasman Sea. You can also walk on the footpath that accompanies the bridge - you might even spot migrating whales.

Participate in an adventure sport and take in the views on a trip down to the South Coast.

Central Coast

North of Sydney, you can find the Entrance - one of the Central Coast's most loved locations people have been visiting for more than a century just to 'get away'xi. The beaches where Tuggerah Lake meets the Pacific Oceanxi offer a restful ambiance where you can unwind and take in the beauty of your surroundings. Bring your bike and cycle on the bike paths to appreciate Tuggerah Lake. Or take the Heritage Walk to learn the history of the site.

If you're seeking an unconventional adventure, plunge into the depths of the ocean to explore the HMAS Adelaide. This naval warship was deliberately sunk to create an artificial dive reef for divers of any level of experience in 2011xii. Observe the key features of the wreck underwater through the diver access holes and get an up-close look at the new marine residents of the ship - the giant eastern cuttlefish, eastern blue groper, kingfish, yellowtail, octopus, banner fish and many morexii!

i Wine Country, Australia’s oldest winemaking region, viewed 19 July 2013,

ii Hunter Valley Cheese Co., viewed 19 July 2013,

iii VisitNSW, Hunter Valley Gardens - Pokolbin, SW Government, viewed 8 October 2013,

iv Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Greater Blue Mountains, viewed 29 July 2013,

v Scenic World, 2013, viewed 19 July 2013,

vi Australian Geographic, 2011, Six of the best blowholes, viewed 19 July 2013,

vii, Kiama Lighthouse – Kiama, viewed 19 July 2013,

viii Kiama, Beaches, viewed 19 July 2013,

ix NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, Budderoo National Park, viewed 19 July 2013,

x, Minnamurra Rainforest Centre – Budderoo National Park - Jamberoo, viewed 19 July 2013,

xi The Entrance, Discover What’s at The Entrance, viewed 19 July 2013,

xii Ex-HMAS Adelaide, viewed 19 July 2013,