If you’re on the hunt for the best Sydney day trips by car, you’re truly spoiled for choice. There are so many magical locations to explore outside the city. Not to mention the scenic drives around Sydney’s surroundings are some of the best in the country.
Here, you’ll find a comprehensive list of places to visit near Sydney by car, including some lesser-known secret spots. For those flying in, you can still enjoy these fantastic spots by booking a hire car from Sydney airport or if you’re starting in the city, you can hire a car in Sydney’s CBD and leave from there, too!
1. Find Hidden Spots In The Royal National Park
The Royal National Park makes for a great Sydney day trip by car at any time of year. It can be particularly majestic in spring when the waterfalls are flowing after rainfall but the sun is starting to shine. Just under an hour from the city, the 40km drive largely takes place down the M1 before reaching the edge of the park just off the Princes Highway.
- Anice Falls – Follow Audley Road and be surrounded by a lush canopy of greenery as you wind around each bend. The seven-metre falls are one of the most remotely located in the park, with the walking track passing above for a picturesque view.
- Little Marley & Marley Beach – If you left Sydney early, fuel up on coffee and a brekkie roll at Driftwood Cafe before heading back up the road to the start of the Bundeena Drive to Marley Beach walk. Join up with the Little Marley Trail and take a snap as you spot the first signs of golden sand from above. Once you reach the beaches, it’s a great place to stop and have a picnic.
- National Falls – Follow the sweeping views of Sir Bertram Stevens Drive before reaching the small car park near the National Falls. We highly recommend taking the lesser-known walking route to the lower falls, where you’ll be rewarded with the sight of a stunning overhang – and with any luck, you’ll be the only one there.
2. Explore The Blue Mountains National Park
The Blue Mountains is well known as one of the best places to visit near Sydney by car. But its vast landscapes and multiple viewpoints make it easy to avoid a crowd if you know where to go. It’s always best to tackle the one and half hour drive early, as many commuters head back towards the Blue Mountains in the afternoon.
- Red hand cave – This hidden Blue Mountains attraction showcases one of the best examples of Aboriginal rock art in the region. Just a 10-minute drive from Glenbrook, start from the Jellybean Pool and walk until you find the cave, filled with red, yellow, and white coloured handprints.
- Newnes plateau – Drive deeper into the mountains, and you’ll lose traffic as you head towards the Wolgan Valley and into the ‘lost world’.
- The Campbell Rhododendron Garden – These not-so-secret gardens are too good to skip if you’re a lover of vibrant colour. If you’re looking at day trips from Sydney by car during spring, it’s a must.
3. Find Peace And Good Food In Kangaroo Valley
The wildlife-rich rainforests of the Kangaroo Valley have a stellar reputation. But the scenic drive from Sydney (approximately two and half hours) and the incredible pit stops you can make along the way make it one of the best Sydney day trips by car. Take the coastal route via Wollongong rather than inland, so you can sneak peeks of the ocean and pass through the charming town of Berry.
- Foodie heaven in Berry – For a late brunch when you arrive, you can’t beat The Hungry Monkey. Good coffee, even better chilli relish and the prettiest hotcakes in the region. For those considering spending the night or coming home after dinner, make a reservation at South on Albany. The 3-course set menu is a culinary show of regional ingredients that’ll leave your tastebuds singing.
- Bowral – Located 40 minutes’ drive from the heart of the Kangaroo Valley, a stop at Bowral on your way back to Sydney won’t disappoint. The charming town has plenty of boutiques, gardens and cafes to explore. It would also be a crime not to pick up an eclair or custard tart from the Gumnut Patisserie for the journey home.
4. Get To Know Newcastle
Newcastle manages to blend the best of laidback coastal life with a bustling heart full of cafes and good food. If you’re keen to add it to your list of Sydney day trips by car, opt for the old road and take a more scenic route along the winding Pacific Highway.
- Old biker pit stops – Stop in at Pie In The Sky for (you guessed it) some damn good pies or The Old Road cafe for a toastie made with love.
- The scenic road – For those happy to detour for some breathtaking views, The Scenic Road (yes, it’s actually called that) can be found if you head past Woy Woy. With sweeping mountains on one side and stunning glimpses of the ocean on the other, it’ll certainly make the drive to Newcastle extra special.
5. Put The Roof Down in Port Stephens
Continue along the old road, heading North past Newcastle and towards Port Stephens. This is the kind of trip that cruising along in a luxury car is made for. Put the roof down and feel miles away from the city as you breathe in the salty sea air from your Mercedes or BMW.
- Zenith Beach – Drive along Nelson Bay Road until you reach the end, where you’ll be met with rocky, rugged headlands and the perfect spot for a swim.
- Tomaree National Park – A nature lover’s dream. Come armed with binoculars for spotting whales from the headland outlooks, and keep an eye out for koalas in the trees.
6. Head Out Cave Hunting
For some Sydney day trips by car with a difference, New South Wales is home to some of the most majestic natural caves in the country. These are a great day trip if it’s a little drizzly outside, but you want to enjoy nature. The drives are a little longer, but you’ll get consistent peaks of the mountains, and stunning, dramatic views. There are a lot of popular caves in New South Wales, we’ve got some recommendations for the best ones. It can get a little muddy on the way up to these caves, so take a change of shoes and a jacket if you’re not travelling in summer.
- Jenolan – Tucked away in a remote valley in the southern Blue Mountains National Park, turn left onto Edith Road just before Oberon and enjoy the picturesque drive that’ll lead you to the natural spectacle.
- Wombeyan – From Sydney, take the Hume Motorway towards Mittagong, where you can stop for a break before heading towards the beautiful limestone caves.
7. Cast Your Eyes Over The Crystal Waters of Jervis Bay
With a journey that’s spent cruising along the Grand Pacific Drive, Jervis Bay is a fast favourite when it comes to places to visit near Sydney by car. You can spend all day – or weekend – looking at the crystal clear waters and exploring around the bay. If you’re heading down for just the day, relax after the drive on the sand, but definitely go on the hunt for fantastic fish and chips a little later. If laying on the beach isn’t for you, you can always go on a dolphin watching cruise, too.
- Sea Cliff Bridge – The 665-metre-long bridge is a real road trip highlight, located just before Wollongong and approximately one hour and 20 minutes from Sydney.
- Chinamans Beach – With Hyams Beach always bustling, head here for your white sand and crystal blue water fix, minus the crowds.
8. Discover The Wonder Of The Northern Beaches
Ever wanted to drive over the Sydney Harbour Bridge? A day trip to the Northern Beaches will tick this off your bucket list and more. Once you’re over the water, follow signs to Mosman/Manly and take in the magnificent mansions as you continue north to your destination.
- Manly Wormhole – A passage dug in 1908 offers some of the best uninterrupted views of the blue sea.
- Little Box Coffee Co – Tiny but mighty, this Newport gem has a delicious lunch and breakfast menu. Plus, the coffee beans are from a boutique roaster that’s also local to the Northern Beaches.
9. Be Charmed By The Hunter Valley
It may have a reputation for its wine country, but there are so many other reasons the Hunter Valley is one of the bestplaces to visit near Sydney by car. Ditch the motorway at the Calga Interchange and take the back road to Cessnock, where you can stop in charming towns along the way.
- Hand Made in the Hunter Markets – Held every Saturday in Pokolbin with an array of goodies crafted by Hunter Valley artisans.
- Hunter Valley Shopping Village – Find bespoke stores for antiques, wool items and take-home treats.
10. Score The Best Spot At Hidden Swimming Holes
For an unforgettable road trip with friends in the summer, hire a minivan and head to some hidden swimming spots outside the city.
- Mermaid Pools – Drive an hour and a half down the Hume Motorway to Tahmoor. The Mermaid Pool is located in the Bargo River under a small waterfall.
- Nellies Glen – This is a beautiful bushland swimming hole found in the Budderoo National Park, about two and a half hours from Sydney.
11. Pack A Picnic For Bouddi National Park
Located just off The Scenic Drive near Killcare Heights, the Bouddi National Park is an hour and a half drive from the city and one of the lesser-known day trips from Sydney by car. This is a great option if you’re feeling active. Chuck a bike in the back of one of our SUV rentals, or pack up a picnic with the whole family and head over this way.
- Bouddi Walking Track – An easy hike with spectacular views that can be finished as fast as 45 minutes and ends back at the Dingeldei picnic area.
- Lobster Beach – Pack your swimmers and head 10 minutes towards Lobster Beach for a post-hike swim and snorkel.
12. Spend Your Day Chasing Waterfalls
For a truly scenic drive near Sydney, chart yourself a route between waterfalls. Start south by driving two hours towards Bundanoon and then make your way back up with as little as 20 minutes drive between each breathtaking cascade.
- Fairy Bower Falls – Located in a mossy glen that looks like something out of a fairytale, this is one of the best falls in the Southern Highlands.
- Fitzroy Falls – Watch in awe as the water plunges over 80 metres into the valley below. The West Rim walking track will take you past multiple lookout points throughout the dramatically untouched valley.
We can’t deny it. Sydney’s best bits, most hidden beaches and awe-inspiring scenery are all spread out! Hire a car in Sydney with SIXT and tell us which one of these driving trips is your favourite.