As we approach the long weekend, you may be thinking of spending a day or two away from home. If you’re hard pressed to come up with ideas on where to go, or if you’re planning an impromptu trip, and if you’re strapped for cash here are some ideas for day trips that cost next to nothing to visit.
Art Gallery of NSW & The Royal Botanical Gardens
(Photo by Nick-D, via WikiMedia Commons)
Located adjacent to the Sydney CBD and just a 5-minute walk from St. James station, these two iconic Sydney landmarks, in close proximity to each other, are both free of charge to enter. The Art Gallery houses one of Australia’s finest collections of art on over 5 levels. After perusing your way through the gallery, you can make your way outside and after crossing the road and heading towards the Domain, you will find the entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens – a diverse mix of flora and an opportunity for a relaxing walk at your own pace, topped off with some breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour.
Visitors typically spend around 2.5 hours in the Art Gallery and 1.5 in the Botanical Gardens. The Art Gallery of NSW is open from 10am to 5pm. The Royal Botanical Gardens are open from 7am to 6pm (from April to September).
Note: While entrance to the Art Gallery is free, any special exhibitions will require an entrance fee. The Art Gallery is closed on Good Friday. Pets are not allowed in the Botanical Gardens.
Royal National Park & Wedding Cake Rock
(Photo by Chapman Brownlow, via WikiMedia Commons)
South of Sydney, and just an hour drive away is the small town of Bundeena and the Royal National Park. While the national park has some great bushwalks, it is most famous for its cliffside rock formation: Wedding Cake Rock. From Bundeena to the rock takes about 50 minutes of waking along the Coast Track. Along the way, you will encounter stunning views of the ocean and coastal cliffs.
Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Cronulla to get to Bundeena. Campgrounds are also available however bookings are essential. The total length of the Coast Track walk is 26 km, so if you are only visiting the National Park for Wedding Cake Rock, return to Bundeena by backtracking. The Royal National Park is open from 7 am to 8:30 pm.
Note: Wedding Cake Rock is currently fenced off due to structural concerns and because the cliffside poses a safety hazard. The National Park is also closed during total fire bans and pets are not allowed in.
(Photo by Alex Proimos, via WikiMedia Commons)
While summer may have passed (at the time of writing), beaches are still dotted with visitors basking in the final days of warmth and sunshine. Palm beach is located about an hour’s drive north of Sydney – two kilometres of pristine sandy coastline that offers something for everyone, with the Northern end offering some excellent surfing, while the southern end provides some protected areas for swimming.
While there’s plenty of opportunity for beach and water activities, Palm Beach is also home to the heritage-listed Barrenjoey Lighthouse, placed right at the tip of the peninsula. Once you’re done swimming, and still have some energy left for a walk, follow the trail through the bush and make your way to the lighthouse and cottage for a spectacular view of the coast and Ku-ring-gai National Park. This trail takes around 30 minutes, one way.
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
(Photo by Maksym Kozlenko, via WikiMedia Commons)
Adjacent to Palm beach is Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, , renowned for its Aboriginal heritage. This heritage-listed national park features over 800 Aboriginal sites, such as cave paintings, rock engravings, stone grinding groves and middens. Ku-ring-gai-chase national park is also home to the Sphinx war memorial, located on the edge of the park, in North Turramurra.
While there are several entrances to the park and many different hiking trails, its main attraction is the West Head lookout, at the end of the peninsula. Getting to the park is approximately an hour drive from Sydney. Simply drive to the end of West Head road (Terry Hills) to and follow the signs to the lookout. When you arrive, you will be faced with a stunning view of the nearby Palm Beach and Barrenjoey lighthouse.
Note: The park gates close at 6pm, so make sure you are out by then.