Best day trips from Sydney: Six top national parks to visit

Our world is suddenly opening up again, with travel in NSW unrestricted from Monday June 1. Residents of NSW can go anywhere in the state and stay overnight, and interstate visitors are also welcome to drop in although they must abide by any regulations imposed by their home state on return.

While this is great news for everyone, including the state's tourism industry, some people may feel like prisoners emerging from their cells for the first time in months, eyes squinting in the bright light of freedom and not quite ready for overnight travel.

If that's where you're at, relax and take it one gentle step at a time. Here are six glorious national parks close to Sydney where you can soak up the wonders of the natural environment, start working your travel muscles back into shape and be home in time for your evening meal.

Wherever you go, however, remember it's vital to maintain social distance - that's 1.5 metres, people - and use that hand sanitiser. We're not out of the metaphorical woods yet when it comes to COVID-19 even though we can now enjoy a bit more time in the actual woods.

THE ROYAL NATIONAL PARK

Royal National Park
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Photo: David Finnegan

Distance from Sydney CBD: 36 kilometres via the Princes Highway

Australia's oldest national park offers a variety of stunning vistas, from sandstone cliffs that look like toffee to bird-filled coastal heath, beaches to rainforests. If you're up for a challenge, you can walk the entire, glorious 26-kilometre Coastal Track from Bundeena to Otford or vice versa in a day, but there are plenty of shorter loop-walks, too. In June and July, the Royal is typically a great spot for whale watching.

See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

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DHARUG NATIONAL PARK

Hangman's Rock, Old Great North Road, Dharug National Park_credit Nick Cubbin_DPIE
Dharug NP: Great North Road Walk.
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Hangman's Rock, Old Great North Road, Dharug National Park. Photo: Nick Cubbin/DPIE

Distance from Sydney CBD: 82 kilometres via Old Northern Road

Rugged Dharug National Park is home to the oldest stone bridges on mainland Australia. The 43-kilometre stretch of the convict-built Old North Road inside the park makes for a hard-core day ride or there's the less arduous 28-kilometre Devines Hill Loop. The Old Great North Road World Heritage walk is a family-friendly highlight that passes convict stonework that continues to stand the test of time.

See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

DHARAWAL NATIONAL PARK

Jingga Pool
Wagun picnic area, Deriah Aboriginal Area
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The watering hole on the Jingga walking track, Dharawal National Park. Photo: Nick Cubbin/DPIE

Distance from Sydney CBD: 73 kilometres via the M5

The walk to Minerva Pool is short, sweet and picturesque, with the possibility of spotting yellow-tailed black cockatoos and swamp wallabies along the way. The pool is a significant Aboriginal cultural site for the Dharawal People and only women and children are permitted to swim in it. The Jingga walking track is a short but steep walk that ends at another watering hole and, if you don't mind cold water, anyone is welcome to take the plunge.

See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

BLUE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Mount Banks Summit walk near Mount Wilson, Blue Mountains National Park.

Mount Banks Summit walk near Mount Wilson. Photo: Craig Marshall/DPIE

Distance from Sydney CBD: 112 kilometres via Bells Line of Road

Save the Three Sisters for another time and head out to the wilder, windswept Mount Wilson area. The steep 2.4 kilometre hike to the summit of Mount Banks (which is unfenced) rewards all that thigh-work with panoramic views of the Grose Wilderness. Alternatively, you can cycle or walk the Mount Banks Road route, which is moderate with a few steep patches. Cycling and walking groups in this area are always limited to eight people.

See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

BEROWRA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

Barnetts lookout, Berowra
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Barnetts lookout, Berowra Valley National Park Photo: John Yurasek/DPIE

Distance from Sydney CBD: 29 kilometres via the M2

It's easy to take it easy in this park just north of Hornsby. The dog-friendly walk along the Bellamy Fire Trail is a relaxing sojourn that takes less an hour even if you dawdle. You can also gaze down over beautiful Berowra Creek from Barnett's Lookout or stroll through woodland and salt marsh along the Place of Winds interpretive trail.

See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

SEVEN MILE BEACH NATIONAL PARK

Seven Mile Beach National Park xxxNSWParks

Photo: David Finnegan/DPIE

Distance from Sydney CBD: 140 kilometres via the Princes Motorway

Spotting colourful parrots and lorikeets is just one of the pleasures of a stroll along the Sand track walk. Head north or south through blackbutt and bangalay forests and patches of littoral rainforest then kick off your shoes and walk back along the sand of Seven Mile Beach.

See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

See also: Six of the best great outdoors day trips from Melbourne

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