If you have an extra day in the city, these short trips from Sydney (on a budget!) feature some of the best beaches, mountains, and lookouts in the area. Most will take you less than an hour to reach from the CBD (Central Business District, it’s what Aussies call downtown) and never more than two hours.
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Short Trips from Sydney that Won’t Break the Bank
I will say that *I* consider these day trips because they get you away from the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, giving you the chance to see more of the Sydney area than just the cruise terminal.
However, I am well aware that as you can still SEE the Harbour Bridge from two of the places I’m recommending that my Sydneysider friends are likely to laugh at this list. Whatevs.
Hot tip: If you take these short trips from Sydney on a Sunday, you’ll save on transportation! On Sundays, the maximum amount you’ll spend on OpalCard transport (unless you visit the airport) is $2.60.
Manly got its name from the behavior of its original inhabitants, the Kay-ye-my clan (of the Guringai people). During the original invasion / colonization of the area, British Captain Arthur Phillip wrote that “[the indigenous people’s] confidence and manly behavior made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place.”
Today, the manliest thing you’ll see there is likely an old man in a budgie smuggler. If lounging on the beach with those guys isn’t your style, you can take a tour of the Quarantine Station (artfully rebranded as the “Q” station), where Sydney’s sick were once held for months on end waiting for the all clear.
But be sure to catch one of the actual tours though because the signage isn’t very good at the Q Station, so if you’re not with someone actually knows the history, it’ll be very boring to just wander around on your own.
After your tour, exit the Q Station and turn right to keep walking up the hill towards the North Head Sanctuary, a place with great hikes, views of the CBD, and whale watching opportunities.
Watson’s Bay via Taronga Zoo
You can take the ferry from the CBD’s Circular Quay to Manly’s southern sister, Watson’s Bay for great views and great chips. While you can make a return trip to Sydney and still have your fill of exploring in about three hours, if you’re looking for a longer day, you can make a stopover at Sydney’s famous Taronga Zoo. Or you can choose to do either / or.
I call Watson’s Bay Manly’s “southern sister” because it sits on / IS a small peninsula that juts out, reaching up towards Manly. Both places form the entrance to the body of water that becomes Sydney Harbour.
There’s lots of fun things to do in Watson’s Bay.
It’s quite a beachy town, so if the day is nice, grab some fish and chips and take a stroll up to the Gap Lookout. From there, you’ll want to follow the signs to continue your walk to Lady Bay Beach (just cover the kiddos eyes…as it’s a nude beach) and the South Head Heritage Trail.
If you stay long enough, make sure to watch the sunset over the Harbour Bridge in the distance before catching a ferry back into town.
Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park is short trip from Sydney in that you can (and should, if you’re time crunched!) do it in a day, but it’ll take ALL DAY.
Hop on the Blue Mountain’s Line from Sydney’s Central Station and take it to the town of Leura. Once there, grab some breakfast and stroll up and down the main street looking into all the fun shops.
From there, you can either take a 30 minute stroll up to Katoomba, or go back to the station and take the hourly train ride…which lasts all of 4-ish minutes.
From the station in Katoomba, it’s very easy to hop on a bus down to Echo Point, which is where the famous Three Sisters and stunning views of the Blue Mountains will be waiting for you.
Wollongong is one of my favorite short trips from Sydney that I’ve taken. A quick ride down from Central Station on the South Coast Line will get you there. Wollongong’s got lots of fun shops on its main promenade and plenty of good places to eat as well.
The beach is lovely (save for the industrial sludge in the background, but just ignore that) and the two local lighthouses make for great photo ops.
If you have time and like history, there’s also a heritage trail that winds throughout the city center.
If you have access to a car, don’t miss the Grand Pacific Drive which takes you right through Wollongong.