Best day trips from Sydney: Five underrated places to visit

Now that Sydneysiders can escape their urban confines once more, many have been grasping their newfound freedom to explore the state. But what if you want to get away and find accommodation bookings at capacity? What if you simply don't have time off work, or the ready budget for a week's holiday?

Revive the good old-fashioned day trip and you'll be surprised at the variety and distractions close to home. These five destinations are designed for Sydneysiders, though some are within striking range of Wollongong, the Central Coast or Newcastle too.

Camden

WEEKEND TRAVELLER: Five underrated day trips from Sydney - Belgenny Farm, Camden. 30th November 2021, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Belgenny Farm. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Thinking about colonial-era towns in rolling countryside, but don't want to tackle the long haul to the Central West? Camden (sydney.com) is an hour southwest of the CBD, yet feels like a world away, and has an entire heritage trail around its well-preserved Georgian- and Victorian-era buildings.

This was a critical agricultural area for early European settlers, and Belgenny Farm (belgennyfarm.com.au) preserves one of the nation's oldest collection of farm buildings, while Glenalvon House (cahs.com.au) in nearby Campbelltown is a classic Georgian mansion.

WEEKEND TRAVELLER: Five underrated day trips from Sydney - Glenalvon House, Campbelltown. 30th November 2021, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Glenalvon House. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Set aside time for the vast Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan (australianbotanicgarden.com.au), which features superb grevilleas and wattles. Adrenalin seekers can take to the skies by hot-air balloon (balloonaloft.com), glider (sydneygliderflights.com.au) or fighter jet (aircombat.com.au).

Pearl Beach

Scenic aerials overlooking Pearl Beach on the Central Coast. Supplied PR image for Traveller. Check for re-use. Pearl Beach
Destination NSW image

Pearl Beach. Photo: Stuart McAndrew/Destination NSW

Hankering after the Central Coast as it was 30 years ago? Its most peaceful enclave is Pearl Beach (lovecentralcoast.com), a 90-minute drive north of Sydney. Kick back on the glorious sweep of sand, meditate for an hour or two over a fishing line, and swim in the fine rock pool at the beach's southern end.

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Treat yourself to lunch at chic Pearls on the Beach (pearlsonthebeach.com.au) and visit Crommelin Native Arboretum (pearlbeacharboretum.org.au), which has easy looped trails with interpretive signs.

Pearl Beach is backed by Brisbane Waters National Park (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au). Don't miss the short drive to Mt Ettalong Lookout. If you want exercise, hike to Warrah Lookout and down the far side to Patonga.

Mt Tomah

WEEKEND TRAVELLER: Five underrated day trips from Sydney - Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, Mount Tomah. 3rd December 2021, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Fancy the Blue Mountains without going quite that far? Head up Bells Line of Road, whose chief attraction is Blue Mountains Botanic Garden (bluemountainsbotanicgarden.com.au), 105 kilometres from the CBD. The cool-climate site showcases the magnificent foliage of the Blue Mountains' distinct seasons.

On the way, pick up picnic provisions at Pie in the Sky Roadhouse (pieintheskybilpin.com.au), which does a great range of pies and pastries, and stop at Bilpin Fruit Bowl (bilpinfruitbowl.com.au) for pick-your-own apples and strawberries.

Wildwood Garden (wildwoodgarden.com.au) has sweeping views and magnificent flowers. Kurrajong Heights has a variety of antiques and bric-a-brac stores selling Australian-made furniture, colonial-era glassware and household goods.

Top spots for lunch are historic Lochiel House (lochielhouse.com.au) and diner High Hopes Roadhouse (seansbondi.com) for hearty classic dishes.

Wisemans Ferry

WEEKEND TRAVELLER: Five underrated day trips from Sydney - Wisemans Ferry. 30th November 2021, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Photo: Wolter Peeters

Wisemans Ferry (wisemans.org.au) 70 minutes north of Sydney is best known for its ferry across the Hawkesbury River on the slow road to the Hunter Valley. Linger, though, and you can enjoy bush tranquillity and superb escarpment outlooks as far as the Blue Mountains.

Walk the Convict Trail (convicttrail.com.au), part of the much longer Old Great North Road, carved out of the bush in 1828. It will take you into Dharug National Park (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au), where there are also mountain-biking trails.

Riverside Wisemans Ferry Park is well set up for picnics and barbecues and has a playground. Otherwise, have lunch at Wisemans Inn (wisemansinnhotel.com.au) or at one of the many small eateries. In season, pick stone fruit at Canoelands Orchard (canoelandsorchard.com). You can also kayak, water ski and play golf.

Tahmoor Gorge

Pic shows police overlooking the Mermaid Pools near Tahmoor in the Southern Highlands as the search continues for a murder weapon after the murder of 17-year-old David Auchterlonie in the Belanglo State Forest. 24th November 2010
SMH NEWS/David Auchterlonie/Belanglo State Forest
Photograph by Dallas Kilponen/dak

Mermaid Pools. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

You don't need to drive to outback NSW or New England to enjoy choice gorges, waterfalls and swimming holes. Head to Tahmoor Gorge (visitwollondilly.com.au), 80 minutes from the CBD, where the Bargo River carves through bushland and sandstone to particularly scenic effect at Mermaids Pool.

This is better for Insta-outlooks than for swimming, which isn't safe – it requires a long drop into the water and a difficult scramble out afterwards – but several other safe swimming holes punctuate the walking track.

There's more walking and a great scenic drive through nearby Bargo State Conservation Area (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au). Animal lovers should visit the Dingo Sanctuary (dingosanctuarybargo.com.au) to learn about its dingo-breeding program from volunteers.