No visit to Sydney would be complete without taking a day trip or two. Of course, there is so much to do in Sydney that you may wonder why you would bother leaving the city. The answer is, if the Sydney-siders are doing it, so should you! Fortunately, transportation is easy to navigate and widely available so taking any of these day trips is a breeze. Pick one (or all) based on your interests and I promise you will thank me later!
If you’re into hotspots for locals and tourists alike and enjoy being part of the historically happening places, Bondi Beach is the place for you. An easy 35-40 minute bus ride from Circular Quay, Bondi Beach is arguably Australia’s and certainly Sydney’s most famous beach and is well-known worldwide as the home of surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers alike. It was a little too chilly to swim when we visited Bondi Beach, but we grabbed sandwiches and a brownie at Jo and Willy’s Depot and ate lunch while we watched the surfers (who are incredibly talented, in case you didn’t know).
Jo and Willys’s is a charming spot for lunch with a friendly and laidback surfer vibe complete with staff with bleach blonde hair and that surfer Aussie accent that I was hoping to hear. Jo and Willy’s has delicious food and beer/wine that is served at tables with old church pews.
After lunch, we walked along the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk for a spectacular 3 miles from Bondi Beach to Coogee. It was a gorgeous walk with beautiful views the entire time and was a great way to see both the impressive geological features and secluded beaches. As we passed through the coastal towns, we saw a lawn bowling facility, cliffside pool, and the beautiful Waverley Cemetery. I highly recommend this walk as a way to see some of the coastal neighborhoods and historic Surf Life Saving Clubs in Sydney! It is not a difficult walk, but does feature a few staircases. There are also several picnic areas and restrooms along the way.
If you’re into low-key local hangouts and enjoy eclectic shops and up-and-coming areas, Manly Beach is the place for you. Take the 38 min fast ferry to Manly from Circular Quay. Once you arrive, walk straight down to the beach down a promenade full of fun beach shops and boutiques. You can take a foot and cycle trail along the beach and past spectacular homes, private pools, and panoramic lookouts. Throughout the trail, there are several signs depicting what the area looked like 100 years ago. It was fascinating to read about the history and see how the area has changed over time. This coastal walk may be better than the Bondi walk for those with limitations as it is a flat and easy path. In Manly, we saw so many locals playing with their kids at the park and enjoying the sunny day. We didn’t have a meal in Manly, but if we would have planned better, we would have stopped at either Hemingway’s or The Hot Dog Man. Both looked delicious and were busy with customers. After wandering around and people watching for a couple of hours, we stopped for a pint of local beer at 4 Pines Brewing Company before taking the fast ferry back into Sydney. We easily could have spent more time in Manly, so to avoid feeling rushed, I would recommend devoting a half a day to the trip if it fits in your itinerary.
If you love nature and want to really get out of town and see the countryside, the Blue Mountains are for you. From Circular Quay, you can take the train to Central and then switch to a train that runs a little over 2 hours to either the Katoomba or Leura stop. Fortunately, the train wasn’t very crowded and we had plenty of room to stretch out and relax. Both towns are adorable and quaint mountain towns with easy access to nature hikes and cute boutiques and restaurants in town. If you have more time, you may want to spend a night or two in the mountains. If not, we made the trip a long day and felt like we had plenty of time to see everything.
Once you are in town, you can walk to most of the major sights or catch a free local bus which will take you to the same sights. Alternatively, there is a hop-on, hop-off Blue Mountains Explorer bus for $31 for adults. When we arrived in Katoomba, we walked through the town to the Three Sisters lookout. The Three Sisters is a large rock formation which represents a local Aboriginal legend. The legend says that three sisters, who were members of the Katoomba tribe, had fallen in love with three sisters from the competing Nepean tribe. The tribes went to war over the sisters so a local witch doctor turned the sisters to stone to protect them. In a tragic turn of events, the witch doctor was killed in the war and the sisters remained forever memorialized in stone.
From the 3 Sisters, we hiked to the Katoomba Cascades and then on to Scenic World, where we ate lunch in the cafeteria. Scenic World offers a 360 degree view of the region through the Scenic Skyway rail car, a ride down into the valley on the Scenic Cableway (the steepest rail car in the Southern hemisphere), and a hike through the rainforest along the Scenic Walkway. All of this is $35 and they appear to pack people into the cars so we opted to skip Scenic World and continue with our (free) hike.
We took the local bus back to Katoomba and continued our hike to Leura and Gordon Falls. At this point, the day was nearly over, so we hiked back into the town of Leura where we treated ourselves to wine and “crunchies” (spicy pork crackling) at Bon Ton. Bon Ton has a charming garden courtyard and a nice selection of appetizers. A chilled glass of white wine was the perfect reward to the end of a long day of hiking!
Before catching the train back to Sydney, we stopped into a few of the great shops in Leura. My favorite was Inner Space furniture, which featured gorgeous hand-crafted furniture and decor. I am not exaggerating when I say that I wanted to buy everything. The facebook page features photos of some of the beautiful things they have.
Ideally, you will get to take all of these day trips, but I sincerely hope you make time to take at least one day trip from Sydney. Up next, we will be moving on to Victoria with Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. As always, thank you for reading!
Jo and Willy’s Depot, 286 Campbell Parade, North Bondi NSW 2026
4 Pines Brewing Co., 29/43-45 East Esplanade, Manly NSW 2095
Bon Ton, 192 Leura Mall, Leura NSW 2780, Australia