Australians are travelers. Around the world they’re known as people who “take holiday” for months on end, aimlessly wandering the globe.
And the need to get away is a part of the fabric of Australia’s most populous city, Sydney. It’s reflected in the city’s extensive train and ferry network, which offer departures to Australia’s wine country, the Blue Mountains, national parks, and even points in the rugged outback countryside.
If you are headed halfway across the globe, perhaps for the Olympic games hosted by Sydney this September, it makes sense to take a day, an afternoon, a weekend or even a month to see parts of Australia that will fulfill a human need, as philosopher George Santayan says, “To escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life.”
The Day Trip
To get your feet wet in Australia’s outback try The Royal National Park, a coastal park just 22 miles south of Sydney and the second oldest national park in the world. You may see wallaroos, kangaroos and double-wattled cassowaries (the second largest bird in the world), not to mention amazing sunrises, sunsets and breezes.
To get to Royal National Park you can take a train from Sydney to a suburb called Cronulla, where you then take a scenic ferry ride to Brundeena, a town surrounded by the park. There are also ferries that depart from Sydney center to points in Royal National Park.
The Hacking River dissects the park, with riverside picnic spots and boats for hire. For those that like to hike, there’s a 15-mile coastal track stretching the length of the park. A lagoon beach at Wattamolla is a popular swimming spot. For surfers there’s Garie, Era, South Era and Burning Palms beaches.
Another easy day trip is to Ku-Ring-Gai-Chase National Park, about 15 miles north of Sydney and reachable by ferry. Ku-Ring-Gai covers about 90 square miles of sandstone bushland, Australia’s unique environment of desert and lush vegetation.
The park has over 62 miles of shoreline, forest and wildlife, a number of hiking trails and some magnificent Aboriginal art carved in rock. Stick-like figures and more detailed versions of Tasmanian Tigers and Platypus dot the area. Elevated parts of the park offer excellent views of the northernmost suburbs of Sydney.
Grapes of Sydney
Australia is the newest global hotspot for wine, and Hunter Valley is known for its lighter white wines and particularly its spicy Shiraz, considered among the world’s best. Only a two-hour drive north of Sydney (or a three-hour train ride), Hunter Valley has been described as a combination of French countryside sophistication and Northern California chic.
Some of the country’s best wineries are in this region, most located at Pokolbin Village, about 93 miles north of Sydney, and many have free cellar-door tastings. Free guides are available at the Sydney Visitor Center, and there are organized tours available through Hunter Vineyard Tours and Grapemobile of Pokolbin.
Kangaroos bounce about the rolling hills in the area, one reason why biking is a popular way to tour the wineries. Area bed and breakfasts offer bike rentals; you can also rent bikes at Grapemobile.
Get Way Out of Town
To the west of Sydney lies the spectacular Blue Mountains. A blue haze from oil exuded by eucalyptus trees cloak the rugged slopes and valleys that cover the area.