Best Family Day Trips and Drives in Sydney
By: Serina Hajje & Phoebe Ackland, ellaslist
Pack your bags, get the kids into the car and head to one of these amazing places over the weekend for an unforgettable road trip! We’ve handpicked six of the best family drives that will take you less than 2 hours, and at each location we’ve selected family-friendly activities that will ensure everyone has a fantastic time.
1. Bradleys Head, Mosman
The Drive: About 30 mins drive from the CBD
Google Maps Link
If you’re into beautiful scenery and a day of walking, then head to Bradley’s Head!
Taronga Zoo: Definitely the main attraction of Bradley’s Head. A whole day can be made up of a trip to the zoo, with child-friendly areas including KidZoo and Backyard to Bush. The daily schedule is jam-packed with educational and entertaining fun including a squirrel monkey jungle walk, Australian walkabout tour, Elephant stilt-house experience, a seal show and more. Make sure you hop in the cable car for a birds-eye view zoo experience like no other.
Bradleys Head To Chowder Bay Walk: You’ll see the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and sparkling harbour along this gently weaving bush track. You’ll walk past ancient trees and plenty of wildlife with views that are guaranteed to impress. Start on Athol Wharf Road.
Secret Beach: Just a few minutes walk from Taronga Zoo and accessible via the Bradleys Head Trail, you’ll find a secluded little beach free of tourists and crowds. It’s small and rocky, but if will feel like your family’s own private little oasis.
The Journey: 2 hours from Sydney by train (our recommended mode of transport) - a journey that will take you through Mittagong, the gateway to the Southern Highlands, before you arrive at Bowral Railway Station. If you're going by car, Bowral is about a 90 minute drive from central Sydney via the Hume Motorway/M31. Once you hit Mount Annan (between Campbelltown and Camden), you could make a pit stop at The Australian Botanical Gardens on Narellan Rd.
Google Maps Link
There really is so much to see and do in Bowral - the largest town in the Southern Highlands. We even recommend a weekender here to fit it all in.
Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame: Young cricket fans will be in heaven! Cricket springs to life with interactive touch screens, displays showcasing originally used equipment, free tours, art gallery, and gift store with some of the most impressive gear on the market.
Empire Cinema: The oldest commercial cinema in the country, Empire opened in 1915! This is worth a visit at the very least, and a great place to catch an afternoon flick at best!
Bowral Lookout: Lookout over Bowral, the Wingecarribee River Valley and Moss Vale with Mount Gingenbullen and the Cuckbundoon Ranges in the distance! It’s a great spot for a picnic as it is equipped with shelters, tables, toilets and BBQs.
Illawarra Tourism Route: This one is an incentive to take the car rather than the train! In the comfort of your vehicle, you will roll past beautiful greenery, stop at Fitzroy Falls to check out the beauty, drive through lush rainforest and grab a bite to eat in Robertson. There really is so much to explore.
Source: Southern Highland News
The Drive: About 1 hour and 40 minutes
Google Maps Link
A historic little village in the Southern Highlands- a great place to visit in Winter. Remember to bring your appetite.
Bendooley Estate: When you get hungry, make Bendooley Estate your first port of call, where books and dining collide. Cosy yourself amongst the shelves of antique books, cathedral ceilings and exposed timber beams at Berkelouw Books, where children can cuddle up with a book in front of the warm stone fireplace. Inside the Book Barn, experience the freshest produce available in the Southern Highlands including great coffee and maybe even a delicious wine.
Lolly Swagman: Parents and children alike will adore this old school lolly shop where you can find the gummy delights no longer housed on common grocery aisle shelves.
Berrima District Museum: Inside an old weatherboard cottage, get a dose of what life was like in the early days of the district. Highlights include a German-built canoe and the work of prisoners of war when they were housed at Berrima Gaol during the first World War.
Source: Museums & Galleries Of NSW
The Drive: About 1.5 hours south of Sydney
Google Maps Link
Trainworks: The Trainworks Railway Museum will be enjoyed by the young and old. During the Summer, you can board a historic railmotor along the Thirlmere Heritage Railway which will take you on a 45-minute journey to Buxton and back. Lovers of Thomas and Friends simply must visit this train haven.
Thirlmere Lakes National Park: Home to Five freshwater lakes. This is a great spot for bird watching, BBQ’s and picnics with the range of facilities available, and the Thirlmere Lakes walking track which will take you all around the park, past the picnic areas and the adored Heritage Pump Station- which used to replenish the steam railway locomotives on the old southern railway.
Festival of Steam: The best time to head to Thirlmere in 2017 is this March due to the annual Festival of Steam at Trainworks! This is a weekend of train-loving fun including the chance to climb aboard large steam trains, shovel coal, and check out some magnificent engines that you just can’t see anywhere else in this day and age. An event for little ones, their parents, AND their grandparents!
The Gong may not strike some people as an interesting family day out, but it’ll surprise you. With a constantly changing schedule of family activities and hidden gems everywhere, Wollongong is definitely an underrated Aussie city.
Early Start Discovery Space: this is Australia’s first kids-dedicated museum! This interactive fun house makes education fun and encourages children and adults to learn together. Visit The Pod – a 270 degree, double-storey high video projection that responds to your movements, or how about taking the Tummy Tour – a fully interactive trip through one of the body’s most important organs. The family is going to be spending the entire day here, we promise!
Sea Cliff Bridge: Hug the coast on Grand Pacific Drive for the most magnificent scenic route from Sydney. Just after the Royal National Park, you will find the miracle of modern engineering – Sea Cliff Bridge – built away from the cliff face in the water. It’s a great spot to stretch the legs and enjoy the spectacular views.
Coalcliff Beach: sitting just north of the Wollongong city centre, this is a small, family friendly beach in the northern suburbs, surrounded by rocks and cliffs. There is a salt water rock pool at the southern end of the beach, perfect for little explorers who want to learn more about the ocean life. For parents that love fishing, cast your lines into the water and see if you can catch anything!
Lake Illawarra: another Instagram-worthy spot that offers a range of water activities for the family. There is a boat and catamaran hire close by as well as several caravan parks, so try your hand a canoeing along its gorgeous waters. Reddall Reserve on the foreshore of Lake Illawarra is a popular spot for picnics with a children’s playground that’ll keep them playing for a long while.
Thirlmere, Trainworks: step into Australia’s largest rail experience that houses a significant rail heritage collection, including over 100 rolling stock items, associated with the history of the railways in NSW. Come around on Sunday when you can take a heritage train ride from beautiful Thirlmere Station to Buxton.
Source: Visit NSW
6. Upper Blue Mountains
Destination: Upper Blue Mountains region
The Drive: 1 hour 40 minutes, one way
Google Maps Link
More Info Here.
With such an expanse to cover, we highlight the Upper Blue Mountains region from Wentworth Falls to Mount Victoria to give you our favourites for a great family drive worth going back time and time again.
The Three Sisters: It goes without saying that the Three Sisters are the pride of the Blue Mountains. Their colour changes with the rise and fall of the sun and are floodlit until 11 pm at night, creating a striking image against the night sky. Head to Echo Point for a perfect picture with the Three Sisters.
Scenic World: Get the family pass if you’ve got two or more children and spend a few hours exploring the beautiful paths. Hop onto the Cableway, Skyway or Railway rides (or all of them!) and discover the Blue Mountains from the air and ground. We love the thrilling 52-degree descent Railway, which is a quick and dirty “roller coaster” for those who don’t always enjoy the heart-thumping rides.
There are various options for easy 10-minutes to moderate 1-hour walks all clearly signposted. Being a boardwalk, this means that it’s a pram and wheelchair-friendly experience, accessible between the Cableway and Railway stations.
Hidden Gems: Wentworth Falls Lake is a spot that sits along Sinclair Crescent, just 12 mins walk from Wentworth Falls train station. Filled with beautiful wildlife and a children’s play area this is a great way to spend a few hours of your day. If you have younger kids who love trains then head to Leuralla Toy & Railway Museum, which is filled with relics amongst the gardens of Leura.
Source: AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER
7. Palm Beach
Destination: Palm Beach
The Drive: 1 hour 10 mins, one way
Google Maps Link.
More Info Here.
Aside from being 100% Instagram-worthy, Palm Beach makes you feel like you’ve flown far away from the bustling, fast-paced feel of the city and into a haven of serenity.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse: the walk up the lighthouse is tough for little ones so bring something that you can carry them in, but once you’ve made it up there, you’ll be rewarded with expansive panoramic views of the Tasman Sea and Pittwater Bay. Then feel free to explore the lighthouse, one of the Sydney Northern Beaches’ most iconic sights.
Governor Philip Park, Playground & Beach: kids and parents will love this one: a big park, playground and beach rolled into one. With plenty of BBQs, picnics spots and a fully equipped playground, this is a fantastic spot for an afternoon meal!
Hidden Gems: Fishing at Snapperman Beach has a long history that reaches back to early European and Chinese settlers. Or explore by ferry through Pittwater and choose to take the 36 minute Ettalong Beach Ferry Ride which leaves Palm Beach Wharf every 90 mins. The Basin is a great picnic spot with a sheltered beach and an inland lagoon where the littlies could have a bit of water play, have a bike ride or spot the local swamp wallabies or kookaburras. The Basin campground in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is one of Sydney's most popular beach camping spots if you decide to stay overnight. And if you need help deciding on a tent, we recommend you take a look at Sports Fitness Advisor's guide to buying your first tent.
8. Kangaroo Valley
The drive to Kangaroo Valley will feel like a holiday in itself with views that will carry you into a world of villages and rolling hills.
Kangaroo Valley Canoes: a 5km canoe tour through Kangaroo River will set any stressful soul at ease. Watch out for kangaroos, wallabies, harmless water dragons, wombats, abundant bird life, and if luck is on your side, you may even spot a platypus.
Pioneer Park Museum’s: the eight-hectare open air museum grounds shows off colonial buildings and natural bushland. A leisure walk through the grounds will take you through a dairy, forge, timber cutters hut, bush school, settler’s cottage, Archie Chittick Museum and a war remembrance room. You can even take our your picnic basket and have a good meal on the grounds.
Hidden Gems: at All Aboard Braemar Model Railways, Mittagong train lovers will be awed and delighted by the huge indoor/outdoor operating railway which is just 45 mins north of Kangaroo Valley. Head to Fitzroy Falls which is an easy 16 mins north of Kangaroo Valley, and has several easy walks which the kids can do that leads up to a spectacular 81-meter tall waterfall that plunges into the lush eucalyptus forests.
9. Minnamurra Rainforest
It’s a magical enchanted forest that’s been nurtured and conserved for over a century – witness first hand the fauna of the area such as the normally elusive Lyrebird, the Eastern Water Dragons, Swamp Wallabies and a host of bird species like bowerbirds and king parrots which make Minnamurra their home.
Loop Walk: if you’re not afraid of heights take the elevated walkways and paved tracks which link to suspension bridges across the Minnamurra Rivulet. The first 500m of this walk provides for assisted wheelchair access – so it would also be suitable for a buggy. Otherwise if you have a bub, a carrier would be perfect. It would take between 45mins to 1 hour to complete this walk.
Kelly’s Cottage: Head downstream from the Minnamurra Rainforest to see the 1853 Kelly’s Cottage and its camellia tree, believed to be one of the southern hemisphere’s oldest. The land’s rich soil and water supply make it ideal for dairy farming – and you can still see the monument to Australia’s first butter factory in nearby Jamberoo Valley.
Hidden Gems: take an exhilarating walk at the Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk which takes you through the canopy of the “rainforest” along the Illawarra escarpment.
10. Royal National Park
The Royal National Park gives visitors something different each season with open grassland to ocean-fronting clifftops. Each location has different activities that kids and parents can enjoy.
Garie Beach: nestled in the southern end of Royal National Park, the beach is the perfect spot for whale watching in the winter or for a day of surfing and swimming in the warmer months. Cast your lines into the water for beach fishing, or go birdwatching and see the albatross, sea eagle, and the rarer peregrine falcon as they cruise on the updraft from coastal breezes. You can explore the rainforest gullies around the beach and admire the view from Governor Game lookout.
Wattamolla picnic area: it’s the perfect spot for families hoping to do several activities. The calm waters of the lagoon make it great for little ones to go snorkelling and swimming. And the shady cabbage tree palms provide good picnic areas. Take a walk through one of the beach tracks and see if you can spot a sea eagle or oystercatcher!
Hidden Gems: if your family can handle a good walk then go through the Forest Path, an easy but long path that is great for the kids. It’ll take you across the lower slopes of Forest Island, a hill isolated by the valleys of Hacking River and Bola Creek which almost surround it.
Mar 05 2016
Thanks for your kind words! We are so glad you enjoyed the article and that you find ellaslist helpful.
Mar 04 2016
Thank you Ellaslist team for the list. Perfect timing for things to do for the upcoming long weekend. I always go to Ellaslist for things to do and other tips for kids and have recommended them to friends and families. Thanks for making life "easier" for us. Have a great one x