Image Source: Nicki Mannix Many people plan a vacation to a big-name city at least once in their lifetime. And when that city is on the coast—it makes the trip even better.
Sydney, Australia is a major destination for tourists around the globe. The city itself has so much to offer as it is surrounded by one of the world’s largest natural harbors and is home to the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Tower, museums, and city parks—you could spend your entire trip in the Land Down Under.
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But the great secret of Sydney lies just outside of the city, experiencing the striking scenery. A short drive away, you have your choice of mountains, vineyards, or beaches. Hop in the car (on the right side if you’re driving for all you Americans) and savor your experience of these fun and scenic day trips outside of your Sydney hotel room.
A favorite drive from Sydney is to the Blue Mountains, named for the hue the mountains take on when looking at them from a distance. An hour and a half drive on mostly freeways brings you into a mountain range that covers an area roughly the size of Belgium. The Blue Mountains also house a variety of features, such as a rainforest, waterfalls, canyons, wildlife, and flora like the Wollemi Pine. Wollemi Pine is one of the oldest and most rare trees in the world. Although the history of the tree dates back 200 million years, it was only discovered in 1994.
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The most spectacular landmark of the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters. It’s not a rock band, but rather a formation created by erosion from wind, rain, and rivers. Towering over the Jamison Valley at 3,000 feet above sea level, Three Sisters is a stop that will change your perspective on nature and life.
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Just two hours from Sydney, you’ll discover Australia’s oldest and largest wine growing region.Hunter Valley will provide you with a day of beautiful scenery and exceptional cuisine. The vineyards are so picturesque that you’ll want to spend every minute you can checking them out.
There are many boutique wineries for touring and sampling.
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Besides wine, you will find handmade chocolates, cheeses, breads, dairy goods, and other delicacies for you to taste that will leave you happy and satisfied. Add some charm and romance to your day with a hot air balloon ride, or enjoy the outdoors with a round of golf. If you’re lucky, you might even spy a kangaroo or two on the course. Fore!
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One of the best drives in all of Australia starts just south of Sydney and runs along the coast.The Grand Pacific Drive takes you through coastal towns and seaside villages, like Wollongong and Shellharbour. These towns have plenty of things to do and places to visit if you want to pit stop and take a little break from the car. Wollongong Botanical Gardens is a favorite place to stop. Head out to the Kiama Blowhole and plan according to high tide to see the power of the rock formation and the ocean. Be aware that depending on where you stand on the platforms, you may get wet.
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Shellharbour Beach is a favorite place to relax, and Warilla Beach has great surfing. The Grand Pacific Drive also traverses along the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge. You may recognize the bridge from its appearances in various advertisements for cars. If you only drive through this portion, it will be well worth your trip. As one of seven offshore parallel to coast bridges in the world,Sea Cliff Bridge offers a unique view of the cliff side and the ocean. Make sure to take along your camera and stop at the south end of the bridge for some amazing shots. Your phone’s panoramic setting might come in handy to capture the scenic views. You can even walk on the bridge if you want to spend more time admiring.
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Heading north of Sydney on the Pacific Motorway takes you inland through nature reserves and a national park as you take a different scenic route. Take B74 to The Entrance, a popular holiday and beach destination. Its name comes from the position at the entrance to Tuggerah Lake. Living up to the nickname of “The Pelican Capital of Australia,” The Entrance is a great place to learn more about these birds as you observe a pelican feeding. There are plenty of opportunities to fish in Tuggerah Lake, or the beaches are accessible to enjoy. For you shopaholics, The Waterfront on the Boardwalk has stores, restaurants, and fountains to enjoy.
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Last up is a local’s secret of the Northern Peninsula Beaches. Just 35 minutes north of the city, these beach towns are surrounded on all sides by water or forest areas to the west of the towns. While Manly Beach is the most popular destination for visitors, there are beaches all along the coast perfect for surfing, body surfing, swimming, fishing, or sunbathing. You can stop in to Australia’s second oldest national park, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase, and see bush land that has been untouched. Animals such as wallabies and kangaroos may cross your path while you walk through the forested areas.
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Whether you have time to explore these places outside of Sydney or just drive by, you will not regret taking the time to enjoy Australia’s picturesque nature.
BIO: This post was written and provided by IHG Hotels. IHG offers hotels for every type of occasion and has 4,700 properties in nearly 100 countries.