The summer school holidays are right around the corner – but with COVID still lurking, far-flung destinations are off the table for most of us. Don’t despair: if you’re planning a Sydney staycation over the festive season, keep things interesting with these five great day trips that are fun for the whole family.
Sick of fighting for space on the sand at Bondi? Hop in the car and head for a splash at Seven Mile Beach instead. Less than two hours from Sydney, Gerroa a tiny coastal enclave known for its long, golden stretch of beach.
Once you’ve lugged a day’s worth of beach gear down to the water, you’ll be delighted to find that it’s usually calm, flat and shallow, perfect for wading and digging for hermit crabs. All that playing and swimming helped you work up an appetite? Head over to the sweet little Blue Swimmer café for coffee and a bite to eat.
You’ve probably heard of Palm Beach, but if you’ve never explored the Pittwater side of this slice of coastal paradise, you’re well overdue. The stunning Pittwater basin – just an hour or so out of Sydney – is home to many coastal communities that can only be accessed by boat or ferry.
The good news? You don’t need your own boat to make this day trip work: get yourself to the Palm Beach jetty and jump on the old wooden ferry for the kind of day that memories (and Insta posts) are made of. Pack a picnic lunch and spend your day swimming off the largely untouched beaches of Great Mackerel, the Basin, Currawong and more. Ferry tickets are $17.20 return or $8.60 for kids and concessions.
Symbio Wildlife Park is the draw card for Helensburgh, which is perched on the top of the Illawarra escarpment. This family-run zoo is probably best known for its native animals, but it’s also home to everything from cheetahs to red pandas to monkeys and more. While the daily animal shows (meerkats! Reptiles! Dingos! Echidnas!) have been suspended due to COVID, they could be up and running again soon (fingers crossed!).
Don’t forget to pack your swimmers – the Symbio Splash Park, complete with water toys, games and equipment, will help you stay cool in between visits to see the animals. Had your fill of furry creatures? Head for Stanwell Park Beach or the Royal National Park, both just a short drive away.
Thirlmere is just over an hour from Sydney, but there’s a surprising amount to do when you have a day to fill. Take advantage of year-round berry picking at Berrylicious Strawberries (the berries are under cover, so even rain won’t spoil your plans).
Once you’ve eaten your fill, head to the NSW Rail Museum for a slice of Australia’s transport history. With weekend steam train rides, interactive activities for the kids and a big outdoor picnic and play area, the museum can be a day trip in and of itself.
If you’re local to Sydney, chances are you’ve been to the Blue Mountains more than once in your life – but the best part about these idyllic mountain towns is that there are so many to explore.
In Katoomba, check out the Three Sisters rock formation or pre-book a ticket to Scenic World – when was the last time you rode the Scenic Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world? Browse craft and homewares shops in Leura, head out for a bushwalk in Lawson, or check out the view from the Kings Tableland in Wentworth Falls.