A major stop on the way for many people travelling ‘down under’, Sydney falls under what can be considered ‘world cities’. Here you will find culture, modern art, an amazing food scene, great shopping and of course some of the world’s most recognisable landmarks.
But one can only oohh and ahhh over Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House for so long and after a few days most people will probably be ready to see something else. Luckily there are great attractions on Sydney’s doorstep and after just a couple of hours by car – or as little as 20 minutes – you will find yourself feet buried in the sand of Bondi beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the vineyards of Hunter Valley or in the scenic Blue Mountains.
Located just some 50 kilometres west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains make up the perfect destination for a day trip out of the city. Listed as a UNECSO World Heritage site in 2000 for its high concentration of eucalypt habitats amongst other things, the Blue Mountains is one of the most popular day trip destinations for locals and tourists alike and for good reason; there are several places of interest and good infrastructure makes it easy to visit even for people unfamiliar with the area.
Blue Mountains are made up of sandstone and limestone with tall ridge lines, which are divided by deep gorges. This makes for some particularly dramatic scenery in some places. A good place to take it all in is Echo Point. This is where that iconic shot that you will most likely have seen on postcards is taken and the view point gives you a great panorama over the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley. Echo Point is a good place to start your day at Blue Mountains in general; there is a visitor centre where you can find information and maps of the best walks and the region in general.
Other places of interest in Blue Mountain are the Jenolan Caves, a series of limestone caves and the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, the former home and studio of Norman Lindsay, which is today operated by the National Trust of Australia.
Hunter Region, as it is officially called, starts some 120 kilometres north of Sydney. It is one of the largest river valleys in New South Wales and contains the Hunter River, but most people know and visit the valley for its excellent wineries. Due to the region’s proximity to Sydney it has become a popular gastronomic tourism destination with restaurants and pubs, and several of the wineries conduct tours for visitors to learn more about the region’s wines.
Pokolbin is the centre of wine production in Hunter Valley. The area is home to a large number of wineries ranging from large multinational corporations to small family run operations. The main varieties of grape grown here are Shiraz, Semillon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Some of the main names are Drayton, Lindeman and McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant.
Many tour operators arrange trips around Hunter Valley with tours of selected wineries part of the program but it is easy to explore the region on your own, and most wineries will invite you in even if you’re not with an arranged tour. Whether going it alone or with an organised tour, make sure to visit Wollombi, a quaint village with 19th century sandstone cottages that is popular for its many restaurants and shops.
Located less than a half hour’s drive from Sydney CDB, Bondi Beach is probably one of the world’s most famous beaches and a top attraction in New South Wales. This is a happening hub; the beach is visited throughout the year and there is no shortage of bars, kiosks, restaurants, shops and other entertainment on offer. Recreational activities such as surf schools, competitions, beach volley and more are also part of the attraction. Locals and visitors alike also use the beach as a spot for exercising in the mornings before it gets too busy, and if you’re a really early riser (in summer that means before 5am) head to the beach to see the sun rise out at sea.
Getting to Bondi Beach from Sydney is easy. Forget about driving out there as parking is limited and public transport is efficient and quick. From the Central Station, take a suburban train on the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line bound for Bondi Junction. From Bondi Junction buses to the beach run every few minutes.
- Echo Point in Blue Mountains tends to get busy late morning but come before 9am and it is not unusual to have the place all to yourself.
- Hunter Valley Visitor Centre is a great resource for information about the valley such as places of interest, happenings and where to dine and wine. http://www.huntervalleyvisitorcentre.com.au/
- Bondi Beach faces the Pacific Ocean and large waves are not uncommon, which is also why a number of international surfing competitions take place here. But a word of caution: the beach is popular and well guarded but sometimes waves do surprise and there have been deaths in the past. Use common sense and follow the instructions of the life guards on duty.