Sydney covered - Where Else?
December 16, 2018 6:31 PM   Subscribe

I am traveling alone for 11 days from US East Coast to Sydney in early February The first five days will be a very stressful visit with a family member. I will then have four days to decompress before the long flight home. Can you suggest what I should do that would be relatively stress free and provide a taste of Australia?

I am male, in my 50's, never been to Australia and I am in relatively good shape. I will have had enough of Sydney proper during the first half of the trip and am not generally a fan of big cities. I am expecting this to be my one and only visit to Australia. I am thinking that the Blue Mountains might be what I am looking for. In my mind I would like to find one place to use as base from where I can take day hikes and easily find places to eat.

I don't camp anymore but love to hike. I can afford someplace nice (but not outrageous). Renting a car is fine. I can easily be convinced to go somewhere else, so long as is it is not too far from Sydney.

The more specific the suggestions the better (usually my wife makes travel arrangements and I am just floundering around solving this on my own). Thanks!
posted by gingerjules to Travel & Transportation around Sydney, Australia (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would fly to Tassie and drive around it. Cooler weather, gorgeous beaches, and great hiking, starting with Cradletop Mountain. Start at Hobart, enjoy the waterfront, then Port Arthur, Wineglass Bay, Tassie Devil sanctuary. If you have enough time, nip over to Strachan via Queenstown. Tasmania has only 550,000 residents, so even the capital is quiet and countrylike. Even more fun, hire a campervan - there's a lot of free or cheap places to stay.
posted by b33j at 6:43 PM on December 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Or! Go to Melbourne, see the fairy penguins at St Kilda and then drive south past Geelong and along the Great Ocean Road. There's delightful little towns along the way, like Port Fairy, and the scenery is spectacular! Do not head north (i.e, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns) it's too bloody humid and hot, and you can't swim in the ocean north of Rocky this time of year because the stingers will kill you. It's too hot for Uluru and the Alice as well, with tempretures rising into the 40s (celcius).
posted by b33j at 6:48 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here is a Pinterest link for places I want to go (again) Check out the Tassie sunlink
posted by b33j at 6:50 PM on December 16, 2018

Kangaroo Valley - 2 hours' drive south-west of Sydney. Beautiful.
posted by Tawita at 7:21 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

As others have suggested Tasmania, and I have to agree would be a lovely get away it is over 800 miles from Sydney so might not fit your requirements.

Your idea of the Blue Mountains honestly was my first suggestion, they are stunning, close to Sydney, but not too close, easy to get to & set up for tourists with lots of lovely hikes, B&B's & delightful places to eat. Though to be honest most of Australia has great places to eat even if it's just the local pub. It also is, for the want of a better phrase, very Australian looking. Lots of wildlife to see plenty to do or not do as you feel up for.

Now if are up for flying my go to recommendation for visitors to Australia is Kangaroo Island in South Australia, but that's a long haul trip so not really what I Imagine you're after.
posted by wwax at 7:40 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I did a day trip to the Blue Mountains while I was staying in Sydney and loved it. Hiked down to the bottom and rode the (ridiculously priced) scenic railway back up. Give yourself time to explore the nearby town, Katoomba, and have a swanky cocktail at The Carrington Hotel, while feels like the setting of a murder mystery.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:57 PM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd agree with most of the above comments: after a week in Sydney -- but be sure to take as many ferries as you can! -- it's a choice between the bush and human-scale lived-in Australia and given the time constraints and that you won't be back, I'd probably get out of the city and go with the bush. But I wouldn't rule out Tassie, especially in February.
posted by holgate at 7:58 PM on December 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

+1 that you should get a hire car and head to the Blue Mountains (if you want to not go too far, if you're up for an adventure, Tasmania is where you should be) - great for day hikes and lots of good food, it also shouldn't get too hot. My favourite place to set up a base is Blackheath (great short hikes including Evans Lookout and Grand Canyon), but there are so many long day hikes to do too. The Megalong Valley Tea Rooms are an excellent pit stop on your way to or from a day of hiking (I love their Devonshire Tea). Leura is a great town to walk through for food and drink. The Bakehouse pie shops make IMO the best pies in the area, great for lunch after a hike!

Since you don't camp, if you want two days of longer hiking on a weekend, there's a lodge that you can walk to (16km or 8km option) on the beautiful Six Foot Track in the Megalong Valley, and do the walk back the next day. Doable with a day pack, leave the rest of your stuff in the trunk of your car.

For a place to read a book on a rainy day, The Carrington Hotel at Katoomba hasbeautiful historical decor and a great room where you can order food and drink and hang on a comfy couch all day.
posted by cholly at 7:58 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the Blue Mountains. It's an easy drive from Sydney and you can find lots of great places to eat and stay. Of course tons of hikes within an easy driving distance of Katoomba, which is a great little town. Some specific suggestions:

The Charles Darwin Walk out of Wentworth Falls. Great for science nerds.

Scenic World. Fun for our kid but quite touristy. Might be worth spending an hour or two if only just for the unique views you get from the various rides. Same goes for the Jenolan Caves. You can do the inside cave hike which is great in itself (and the main tourist draw), but there are also hikes outside around the mountains, and the drive to the caves is great.

Speaking of which, when you drive back to Sydney, don't take the A32 but instead take the "Bells Line of Road" B59 which winds through the mountains to the north. It's a fantastic scenic drive and you can stop for hikes along the way and visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens.

We spent a month in Sydney and the surrounding area and could easily have spent many more.
posted by Poldo at 8:02 PM on December 16, 2018

Tasmania. It's not far - less than a 2 hour flight (and air travel is still quite civilised in Australia). I have family there and it's an easy weekend trip so four days is plenty.
posted by kitten magic at 9:02 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Tasmania is over 1000km away, and you'd have to fly back to Melbourne when it's time to leave the country. It's a lovely place to be sure but that's a lot of faffing around for four days.

The blue mountains is dead easy to get to from Sydney , there's loads of accommodation ranging from airbnb, to hostel, to five star retreat.

There's a wide range of excellent restaurants and cafes, shops and galleries, a wonderful array of walks in a world heritage area (my tip, do the valley walks during the day, do escarpment walks at sunrise or sunset, there's tonnes of guides online try the wildwalks website).

There are essentially 4 towns you could base yourself from, all equally delightful in different ways. I personally like katoomba for the proximity to walks, but they are all great.
posted by smoke at 9:34 PM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Take the train from Sydney
posted by hortense at 12:02 AM on December 17, 2018

The Blue Mountains are great - there are lots of different types of walks, you just need to get off the tourist trail. But also, south of Sydney is the Royal National Park which has fantastic (and mostly quiet) beaches and lots of walks as well. It’s about an hour’s drive.
posted by summerinwinter at 12:08 AM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

As everyone has said, the Blue Mountains are really nice. I wanted to add that the South Coast of New South Wales is also really nice, with incredible beaches, and littered with national parks that will have lovely hikes. Because I grew up far from the ocean and near mountains, these days I generally go to coastal locations for getaways.
posted by indecision at 2:09 AM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Take the train to the Hawkesbury River.
posted by dhruva at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2018

The blue mountains are lovely, though do be aware that they're often very hot, and sometimes on fire at that time of year -- early feb is right in the middle of bushfire season, and they get their name from the haze of eucalyptus oil in the air -- which is particularly flammable.

That said, most years they're totally fine and not on fire at all, and well worth a visit - the Jenolan Caves, as mentioned up thread, are well worth a visit, and they're usually pretty cool in temperature, too.
posted by bagheist at 9:22 PM on December 17, 2018

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