Almost on the edge of Sydney, and visible on a clear day from the city's observation towers, the beautiful World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains are the perfect destination for an idyllic day trip from the hustle-bustle of downtown Sydney. The Blue Mountains offer the stunning scenery of rugged sandstone outcrops, cavernous valleys and towering eucalyptus forests.
Take advantage of Scenic World's cable cars and tramways to see the best of the Blue Mountains, including the Three Sisters rock formation. Glide between cliff tops and over the rainforest on the Scenic Skyway tram; descend into the Jamison Valley on the Scenic Railway; explore the rainforest along the Scenic Walkway and climb back to the top with unbeatable views on the Scenic Cableway.
The area offers scenic drives, manicured gardens, shopping and pampering at spas and luxurious accommodations. Other attractions include the Zig Zag Railway, Norman Lindsay Gallery at Springwood and the Jenolan Caves.
Locals know this beautiful beach as the backdrop for the Aussie soap opera "Home and Away," but travelers love the quiet cove on the Pacific Ocean near the Tasman Sea for its white sandy shores, bright blue waters and relaxing vibe.
The scenic beach stretches some three kilometers. Its wavy rips are perfect for boarding, but locals also head to the calm waters of the unique 50-meter ocean swimming pool for early morning laps. Some of Australia’s most exclusive real estate, including homes of famous celebrities and top-notch entrepreneurs, dot the well-forested hillsides surrounding Palm Beach.
Situated in the gorgeous Hunter Valley wine region of NSW, the Hunter Valley Gardens boast more than 60 acres of displays designed to showcase various vibrant colors and fragrances. There are 10 feature gardens, each individually planned and planted to create a stunning view and experience for visitors. The garden names lend themselves to the imagination: Sunken Garden, Storybook Garden, Rose Garden, Oriental Garden, The Lakes Walk, Italian Grotto, The Indian Mosaic, and the Formal, Chinese and Border gardens.Each is superbly landscaped to represent its chosen theme, with water features and other attractions included to present the most immersive experience. Hunter Valley Gardens is such a large site that the area includes its own village, complete with shops, restaurants and cafes full of local delicacies. Aside from the lush greens, Aqua Golf, the Hunter Valley Train and more than five miles of walking tracks within the gardens keep even the fussiest visitors entertained.
Often referred to as one of the world’s most scenic coastal walkways, the trail between Coogee and Bondi Beach is the best day hike in Sydney. Starting at famous Bondi Beach—the iconic hangout of lifesavers, surfers and international travelers—the trail begins by the oceanfront pool on the southern end of the beach. Only a few minutes into the walk, an ancient Aboriginal rock carving is visible on the left side of the trail. In ten more minutes the trail emerges onto Tamarama Beach, which is cheekily referred to as “Glamarama” for the exceptionally attractive crowds. More family-friendly is Bronte Beach, which is the next stop in the trail’s procession of world-class white sand beaches. In addition to the playgrounds, BBQ pits, and large grassy park area, Bronte has two different natural pools that are perfect for a dip in the ocean. Past Bronte Beach and the bathing locals and surfers bobbing offshore.
Bondi. Coogee. Bronte. Manly—the list of famous Sydney beaches is as long as the coastline itself. The Balmoral beaches in Mosman, however, are often overlooked by Sydney visitors who instead head out to the coast. Unlike the larger, more popular beaches, Balmoral is located inside Sydney Harbor—only 15 minutes from downtown sights like the Opera House and The Rocks. Since the Balmoral beaches are protected from waves, surfers are swapped for picnickers and families all lounging out on the grass, and there are even swim zones with calm water surrounded by protective shark nets. The two beaches—Balmoral and Edwards—are separated by a wide, rocky point but linked by the shop-lined Esplanade, and kayaks, paddleboards, and even snorkel gear can be hired along the sand. Looking east out over the beach, visitors are met with sweeping views of the entrance to Sydney Harbor, where two opposing coastal headlands frame the rising sun.
A small bay that is part of the larger Darling Harbour, Cockle Bay is home to the Cockle Bay Wharf and its many waterfront restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, and cafes. It was one of the first parts of the now iconic Darling Harbour to be developed, and remains a favorite with many. Walking on the wooden path along the bay offers close views of the Sydney skyline, and many of the restaurants offer fine dining al fresco to further enjoy the views and fresh air. Cuisine options vary — from Asian inspired to European, to seafood and modern Australian food. The Cockle Bay area is a great place to enjoy some of what Sydney does best: an evening of entertainment or a simple stroll by the water. Don’t miss the whimsical seaside sculptures, or catch the renowned Sydney Aquarium only a few steps away.
Not to be confused with the Sydney SEA LIFE Aquarium in Darling Harbour, the Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary on Sydney’s North Shore has recently undergone a name change (from Oceanworld Manly) and has gained a number of new attractions.
A new breeding habitat called Penguin Cove was opened in late June 2012 and now houses a small population of cute Little Penguins. As an endangered population that live and breed on Sydney’s busy natural coastline, the penguins in Penguin Cove are provided a safe place to raise their young and be observed by visitors. Another big attraction that sets Manly SEA LIFE apart from its Darling Harbour cousin is its ‘Shark Dive Xtreme.’ Thanks to a large colony of non-aggressive but fearsome looking Grey Nurse Sharks, this dive is an opportunity to swim amongst the marine life cage-free! If that doesn’t whet your appetite, Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary has an underwater viewing tunnel for close up but dry views of sharks, sting rays and other marine life.
This iconic park has been entertaining locals and travelers with a lively midway, carnival games, giant Ferris wheels and contemporary Big Top concerts since 1935. With more than 20 rides, including the dizzying Spider, hilarious Tumble Bug and the classic carousel, visitors to this Sydney standard are sure to have a fun-filled day at the harbour. Travelers agree the best time to visit is during hot summer nights, when city views from atop the Ferris wheel are most impressive and the glow of neon lights lends the park a true sense of nostalgia.
It takes a particularly exceptional plate of food to draw your attention away from this view, but the chefs at 360 Bar and Dining have mastered the culinary challenge. Set 88 stories above the business district streets, this rotating restaurant ensures that every corner of Sydney is visible right from your table. Begin with an appetizer of kangaroo carpaccio while watching the sun set over the Blue Mountains, and by the time you finish lapping up the jus from a heaping plate of duck confit, the twinkling lights of Sydney Harbor will seem to write in cursive along the shoreline.
If the expansive view still has you in its grasp even once the meal is complete, grab a drink at the golden shell bar to literally drink in the urban elegance of one of the most magnificent sites in Sydney.
If you’re visiting Sydney and watching the sunset while standing out on the sand, then you must be standing on Shelly Beach—the only westward facing beach on Australia’s eastern coast. Located south of popular Manly, Shelly Beach is a smaller and quieter place to soak up some sun. The waters here in Cabbage Tree Bay are part of a protected reserve, where a small reef creates calm conditions for snorkeling, swimming, and diving. Over 150 species of marine life inhabit Cabbage Tree Bay—and the shallow waters of 30 feet or less means there’s actually a good chance of finding them. On Shelley’s western end, out towards the reef, watch as surfers rip apart waves at the surf spot known as “Bower’s,” and even when the waves are overhead, Shelley Beach is still protected when compared to east-facing Manly. On the short stroll from Manly to Shelly, stop to admire the Fairy Bower pool that juts out into the sea, or grab a bite at Le Kiosk restaurant across the street from the sand.
Located in the suburb of Vaucluse in eastern Sydney, Nielson Park is a popular attraction in the larger Sydney Harbour National Park. Its tree-lined shores are perfect for spending an afternoon soaking up sun and dipping toes into the surf or picnicking with friends. The netted swimming pool and food kiosk add to this beach’s appeal, but travelers should note that Nielson Park is popular among the family set, which means the sandy shores are rarely quiet and always filled with energetic kids.
Vaucluse has always been a neighborhood for the wealthy. Wonderful yet outrageously expensive villas, lovingly restored from the colonial era, stand together and increase in cost as the beauty of the view and location increases too. To gain insight into the life of Sydney's former high society, visit the Vaucluse House, a villa surrounded by a landscaped garden and wooded grounds. It was built in 1803 in the Gothic Revival style, with small turrets and battlements that make it look more like a castle than a house.
The Vaucluse House once belonged to ex-convict Sir Thomas Henry Browne Hayes, who got shipped off to Australia for abducting a banker’s daughter and built this estate. It also once served as the residence of writer, explorer and politician William Charles Wentworth, who is known as the first person to climb the Blue Mountains and who restored this former cottage to the mansion it is today.
Australia’s Royal National Park is one of the oldest in the world, second only to Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Established in 1879, it is heritage-listed and contains landscape ranging from rainforest to beach and is home to many unique species of plants, animals, and wildlife. Bats, birds, possums, sugar gliders and wallabies all call the park home. There are also various historic Aboriginal sites scattered throughout.
Known to locals as just “the Royal” or “the Nasho,” the park has a wide variety of terrain types. Sandstone cliffs cascade to blue waters, with rivers flowing and Eucalyptus forests, rainforests, grasslands, and wetlands providing varied greenery. Hiking, surfing, cycling, boating, and picnicking are just a few of the ways to enjoy the park. The most popular walk is the Coast Track, on the eastern side. Whales visit the waters off the coast from June to November.
The Australian ski resorts of Perisher and Thredbo are within Kosciusko National Park in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains. Both resorts offer world-class skiing facilities and accommodations, along with several hundred kilometers of groomed trails suitable for beginners, advanced skiers and cross country skiing adventures.
Perisher is the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere, amalgamating four villages and their surrounding ski fields. Accessible by road and Australia’s only underground rack railway, Skitube, the resort caters well to intermediate skiers but also has plenty of tracks suitable for beginners and advanced skiers. Thredbo has the longest ski runs in Australia, including the famous ‘Funnelweb,’ which is over 3km long, and some of the country’s steepest trails. Several terrain parks cater to everyone from beginners to the more advanced.
The Australian snow season runs from mid June until early October.
Double Bay is the meeting point of Sydney’s prominence–an exclusive shopping district with a European flair full of designer boutiques, jewelers, waterfront properties and world-class restaurants surrounded by Sydney Harbour itself. Here, you will find open parks, stately mansions, tree-lined boulevards and plenty of spots to relax.
Within the beautiful surroundings of Guilfoyle Park, Double Bay also hosts Sydney’s most popular organic food market, which is open every Thursday. If you are in the mood for a little bit of glitzy dining, be sure to check out Bay Street with its plethora of fancy bars, including the ever famous Mrs. Sippy. Of course, you can’t leave Double Bay without spending a couple hours soaking in the sun at the idyllic Redleaf Beach and enjoying a swim in Redleaf Pool. Though people see Double Bay primarily as a shopping and café district, it is also home to the Double Bay Street Festival, which regularly draws well over 60,000 people.
Crowned by the country’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, for which the park is named, Mount Kosciuszko National Park spans nearly 2,700 square miles (6,900 square km) in the southeastern corner of New South Wales, 220 miles (354 km) southwest of Sydney.
The park contains Australia's most extensive alpine region, characterized by its Snow Gum forests, glacial lakes, meadows and rivers. This incredible natural beauty is a major draw for bushwalkers, kayakers and mountain-bike enthusiasts from around the region. Camping, fishing, rafting, caving and kayaking are also popular activities during the warmer months, while in winter it's all about the snow — a great time to visit the ski resorts of Thredbo, Selwyn snowfields, Perisher and Charlotte Pass.