Travels

Best Getaways Around Sydney to Recharge Your Mind And Body

Port Stephens, Australia

If you are reading my articles from the travel section, you must know that I usually don’t provide detailed information about a particular place, but rather share my impressions and feelings about the places visited, hoping to ‘infect’ you with the energy of these places and inspire you to go there.

However, I provide useful links for those who are looking not only for inspiration for their next trip but also need tools to organise it. This article is no exception.

First of all, a few words about getting to these places that I am mentioning here. If you have a car, good for you, go there by car. Otherwise, you can go to these places by public transport, as I did.

I reached all the places from the list by public transport, except for Port Stephens. I rented a car to get to Port Stephens. Basically, you can get there by public transport too, but it will take 4 and a half hours, two hours longer than by car. It’s up to you…

So, let’s get started.

#1 Royal National Park

Royal National Park is located 29 km south of Sydney. Officially established in April 1879, it is the second oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone in the United States. It was also the first to use the term ‘national park’. I was surprised by this fact, to be honest.

Initially, this specially protected natural area was called simply ‘National Park, but in 1955 the word ‘Royal’ was added to the name in honour of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, who travelled through the area a year earlier during her visit to Australia.

As with any national park, this park has a variety of hiking trails, barbecue and picnic areas. One of the most exciting routes is the two-day track along the seashore from Buddina, a village in the Royal National Park, to North Era with overnight camping at North Era Beach.

However, the general public prefers short routes, such as the two-hour walk from Bundeena to Wedding Cake Rock. Walking back and forth under the scorching sun is pretty gruelling, but the unusual views make up for it.

The uniqueness of the Rock wedding cake is the complete absence of iron particles in the sand, which means no rust. In other words, no colour at all, completely white. This snowy colour and surprisingly flat shape of this rock really resemble a wedding cake, hence the name.

I’m still wondering how Nature was able to create a rock in such an incredibly perfect shape. I have no idea, but this is really impressive.

Wedding Cake Rock in the Royal National Park
Wedding Cake Rock in the Royal National Park

In general, the landscape of the Royal National Park is very diverse – from coastal cliffs washed out by sea waves, and small cozy coves to ancient high plateaus and deep river valleys. For those who enjoy sitting at the foot of the river and contemplating, the park has one river that flows from south to north and empties into the wide but shallow bay of Port Hacking.

The sandy beaches open to the ocean are a great place for swimming and surfing. Some beaches can be reached by road, while others can only be reached after a few hours of walking. One of the most easily accessible and therefore popular beaches here is Bundeena.

Bundeena beach in the Royal National Park
Bundeena beach in the Royal National Park

To be honest, my relationship with the Royal National Park didn’t work out for a long time. Despite the transport accessibility, I somehow couldn’t get to it. But as soon as I ‘became friends’ with this park, I couldn’t stop. Some unknown force drew me there to relax on the beach (the beaches are deserted here, unlike the city beaches of Sydney), wander around the neighbourhood and enjoy bushwalking.

If you feel you want to explore more tracks and beaches in the Royal National Park, take a look here.

By the way, I didn’t mention how you can get there. It takes 40 minutes by train to Cronulla from Central Station. Then the best way to reach Bundeena from Cronulla is a ferry. It’s just a 20-minute way with great views around, you will love it. Ferries leave every half hour.

 #2 Blue Mountains

As you probably know, the Blue Mountains is the main attraction in Sydney after the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. This natural area is located 50 km west of Sydney. It takes two hours by train from Central Station to Katoomba station.

Then, just a 20-minute walk following the signs and you will find yourself at the Echo Point Lookout for the best views of the Three Sisters, the most popular cliffs in the Blue Mountains.

What is so remarkable about the Blue Mountains, besides the proximity to Sydney? Well, it is believed that its name came about for a reason. This effect is achieved because of the eucalyptus forests, namely due to the essential oil secreted by their leaves, which, as it were, floats in the air, creating such a blue haze.

I couldn’t agree more. As you can see in the photo below, even the phone’s camera can pick up this mystical colour, not to mention the eucalyptus scent that literally penetrates the nose. A kind of natural ventilation of your respiratory system.

The Blue Mountains landscape
Panoramic view of the Blue Mountains

One of the most beautiful and most visited attractions in the park is the Three Sisters rock formation. What’s especially interesting about them is that have their own names: Meehni (922 meters), Wimlah (918 meters) and Gunnedoo (906 meters).

In fact, there is a legend, or rather even two slightly different stories behind it. According to the first legend, the Katoomba tribe lived in the Jamison Valley, and there were three sisters. Once they fell in love with three brothers from the neighbouring tribe of Nepean, but the laws of the tribes didn’t allow them to get married.

Then the young men kidnapped the sisters. As a result, a bloody battle began between the tribes, and the shaman of Katoomba turned the girls into rocks so that no one could harm them. But the shaman died in that battle. The battle ended, and no one was able to disenchant the sisters back.

Three Sisters from the Echo Point Lookout
Three Sisters from the Echo Point Lookout

Another version of this story says that the sisters were bewitched by their shaman father to protect them from the monster. After that, the beast began to pursue the shaman. He, fleeing, turned into a bird-lyre. However, at the same time, he lost his magic bone, without which he could not return his daughters to human form.

I like the first story more because it’s more romantic but anyway, let’s continue our journey…

Although the legends are claimed to be authentic Aboriginal folklore, Dr Martin Thomas, in his book The artificial horizon: imagining the Blue Mountains, claims that it was written in the late 1920s by Katoomba resident Mel Ward to attract tourists to his area.

There are twenty or more trails in the Blue Mountains. However, I would like to share with you my excitement about one of my favourite routes, which is quite challenging but at the same time the most rewarding. This is a spectacular hiking trail through Leura Forest and along the cliff edge overlooking the Jamison Valley.

Leura Forest trail
Leura Forest trail

I’m talking about Echo Point to Scenic World via Giant Stairway trail. What I love the most about this track is that it’s so adventure and offers many activities, including lush rainforest, waterfalls, panoramic valley views, and some steep climbing. This means there will be many photo opportunities along the way.

Before you hit the road, it is significant to decide in which direction to go: clockwise or anticlockwise. This is because this track consists of the famous Giant Staircase with no less than 900 steps that are very, very steep.

A Giant Staircase on the route
A Giant Staircase on the route

So, if you are an experienced hiker, you can go in a clockwise manner. Otherwise, it is probably best to do it in an anticlockwise way, so you can walk down the Giant Staircase into the valley rather than climb it.

More detailed information about this track and other amazing tracks in the Blue Mountains you can find here.

There are actually many things you can do in the Blue Mountainsб such as visiting the Scenic World where you can ride a cable car in a cabin with the electro-glass floor, take a train that rises on the railroad at an inclination of 52 degrees, or explores the Scenic cableway.

a train that rises on the railroad at an inclination of 52 degrees
a train that rises on the railroad at an inclination of 52 degrees

For more information about the Blue Mountains and nearby cities, which are also very charming, by the way, and worth visiting, take a look here.

Before moving on to the next place, just a few words about my personal relationship with the Blue Mountains. For me, this is a place like my personal recharging station. When I felt exhausted, I immediately go here. Mountains, wind, giant trees, incredible atmosphere and kind people around (wonderful people live in Katoomba and Leura, different from the population of Sydney), all this gives me a huge boost of energy and strength! After visiting this place, I feel much more alive, rejuvenated and energised.

Finally, the Blue Mountains left an extraordinary impression on my memory thanks to one event. I had a “carpe diem” situation here when suddenly it snowed out of nowhere. This was my first snow in Australia. I didn’t even realise that literally 50km from Sydney you can get into a snowfall, even if for a short time. Unforgettably!

Catching snow in the Blue Mountains
Catching snow in the Blue Mountains
 #3 Kiama

Kiama is a small oceanfront town 120 km south of Sydney. It takes 2 hours by train from Sydney city centre to Kiama Rail Station. I can’t say that it is fun, but in principle, it is not so tiring.

The name of the city comes from the Aboriginal word ‘Kiaram-a’, which means ‘the place where the sea makes a noise.’ In addition, ‘Kiama’ itself translates as ‘the place where the mountain meets the sea’, and it is true – along the coast, there are basalt rocks. The combination of a raging ocean and some relief cliffs really makes an impression.

The coastline along the Kiama area
The coastline along the Kiama area

Just in case, there are a lot of pleasant shops here with unusual assortments of goods that you will not find in Sydney. If you like the vibes of small cities with niche shops, small cafes, independent restaurants, noisy bars and cozy streets filled with gapers fascinated by vivid shop windows, you won’t be disappointed here.

However, the main attraction of Kiama, thanks to which this place has become quite famous and attracts many tourists, is Blowhole. Through a natural hole in the rock overhanging the water, a large column of water rushes out at irregular intervals, the height of which sometimes reaches 25 meters.

Blowhole in Kiama
Blowhole in Kiama

Walking along the ocean is an extraordinary beauty. Nowhere in Australia, I have seen such views! An amazing combination of green hills, huge Norfolk fir trees, black volcanic rocks, gorgeous beaches, and azure ocean!

Panoramic view of the Kiama coastline
Panoramic view of the Kiama coastline

Finally, what surprised me most was that 90 per cent of the people I met along the way there greeted and smiled very welcomingly. So, Kiama is such a bright and kind city, filled with amazing people and some kind of extraordinary calmness and harmony. It is definitely worth a visit.

Kiama City Center
Kiama City Center

More information on particular events in Kiama and other useful details can be found here.

 #4 Port Stephens

Last but not least, the place I want to tell you about is Port Stephens. As I said at the beginning, getting there by public transport is quite difficult due to the long travel time (more than 4 and a half hours). Therefore, I recommend renting a car for this trip and maybe even spending a couple of days there. It’s definitely worth it.

The very name Port Stephens was given in May 1770 by Captain James Cook in honour of Sir Philip Stephens, who was the secretary of the Admiralty. By the way, Cook and Stevens were close friends, and it was Stevens who recommended James Cook as the commander of the voyage to the shores of the then New Holland, now Australia.

The most popular destination in the area is Nelson Bay. It is a quiet and very beautiful place for a family vacation. This place is famous for the fact that you can often see dolphins here, which means that there is excellent fishing here.

View of Nelson Bay
View of Nelson Bay

However, I stayed at Shoal Bay, which is smaller than Nelson but more charming and atmospheric in my opinion. In addition, according to some travel brochures, Shoal Bay is the future gem of the tourism industry. So, before the crowds flooded in, I decided to seize the moment.

There is an amusement park on the shore where you can ride a catamaran, ride a steamer, canoe, water ski, scooter, and windsurf. What’s more, every February it hosts the largest sportfishing event in the Southern Hemisphere.

Shoal Bay, Port Stephens
Shoal Bay, Port Stephens

For 4 days Shoal Bay was my paradise, consisting of various pleasant little things, such as – dawn in silence; swimming in the wild ocean, then sitting, wrapped in a blanket, and whale watching; a walk in the park, where there are no strangers and noisy people; admiration for the violent power of the waves; contemplation of the rays of the setting sun playing with the clouds, and much more.

I highly recommend visiting the Tomaree National Park for the breathtaking views of the surrounding area. I can’t say that this is a huge area with many trails. It is rather a cozy place with truly incredible views of the ocean and surroundings, which I have never seen before.

View from the top of Tomaree National Park
View from the top of Tomaree National Park

I also recommend visiting Box and Fingal beaches. They are filled with the spirit of freedom, such endless, wild freedom, once breathed in, you will not be the same. As soon as this spirit enters your lungs, you will definitely feel a different level of vibration, an incredible surge of vitality and the desire to move forward, because there are no more fears.

Another place that amazed me, even more, was Worimi National Park, where I saw dunes, Australia’s largest dunes and the largest dunes in the Southern Hemisphere! Can you imagine?

I came to the sandy park from Anna Bay and rode a camel there. Basically, dunes stretch for 32 kilometres from Anna Bay to Williamtown (more precisely, from a suburb of Newcastle called Stockton). There is also an entrance to the dunes from the town of Salt Ash and a couple of inconspicuous turns in Nelson Bay.

Camel ride in Anna Bay
Camel ride in Anna Bay

If you are into sandboarding or quad bikes, or you are a ‘Mad Max’ lover and would like to visit a city where this movie was produced, you are not going to be disappointed here. There is no shortage of awesome activities to try at the main launch points in Stockton Beach, Anna Bay, and Birubi Beach.

The more ideas for what to do in Port Stephens you can find, for instance, here.

Finally, as I mentioned at the beginning, I am not a guide or travel blogger. Travelling is what makes me ‘light up.’ Here I rather share my impressions of the places that I have been able to visit and which have left in me an aftertaste of expensive wine or cognac.

So, I will certainly remember the stories that happened to me at these places, and which I will certainly tell my grandchildren about. I hope that after reading this far, you have already decided to visit at least one of the places on this list.

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