This week we give you five funky things you can get up to within two hours of Sydney.
This week our "Two Hours From" segment is in Sydney. Last week we chose five things to do within two hours of Adelaide, and as it was so popular, we are going to do all the capital cities.
A great place to start is the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. Most people who have been there have ridden the classic scenic railway, which was opened in 1878 to carry coal from the valley. When the giant stairway was built in the 1930s it was very popular with bushwalkers. On weekends miners used to take walkers back to the top and eventually charged sixpence a ride, which came in handy in those times.
In 1945 Mr Harry Hammon and his sister Isabelle leased the mine and some American soldiers came up with the idea of opening the mine and train for tourism. That was followed by Skyway, Australia's first cable car, which is the only horizontal passenger-carrying cable car in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sceniscender is the newest member of the Scenicworld family. It took eight months to build and cost $8 million. The gondola carries 84 people on the steep trip into the Jamieson Valley. It averages an angle of 39 degrees. As you would imagine, the views of the valley, falls and particularly the Three Sisters are breathtaking. Audio presentation throughout the journey gives interesting bits and pieces about the history and meaning of names.
There is so much to see, the three-minute ride goes too quickly, and soon you are in the World Heritage-listed rainforest, where you can walk the 2.2 kilometre elevated boardwalk and ramps which are wheelchair-friendly.
Kangaroo Valley is 200kms south-west of Sydney. There is plenty to see and do and Kangaroo Valley Escapes offers a variety of tours. You can do half or full-day mountain biking, bushwalking, overnight canoeing expeditions and hike and bike, which is suited to just about everyone.
They guarantee fun, scenery and information. Groups never contain more than 10 people and anyone over 12 who has ridden a bicycle at least once can join in. There's plenty of wildlife: water dragon lizards, echidnas and rock wallabies are creatures you don't see very often.
The Robinsen family runs The Man from Kangaroo Valley Trail Ride. Menzee Robinsen is from the Snowy Mountains where his father was a drover, and the whole family shares a passion for horse-riding and nature. Beginners and experts and everyone in between are catered for and trails meander through lush, sub-tropical rainforest where you see kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, platypus and possums. There are birds galore and some marvellous flora.
Accommodation is loft-style and features Australian timberwork. There is a bunkhouse with log fire, a fully equipped breakfast room and an undercover barbecue.
Head 1½ hours north of Sydney and you will arrive at the beachside hamlet of Patonga. It's hard to believe that such a beautiful place, so close to the metropolis of Sydney, has a population of just 200 and is a relatively untouched family destination.
The triangular spit has the Hawkesbury River system's highest concentration of sea grass, making fishing very rewarding! Sometimes dolphins and whales come into the bay, which is surrounded by Ku-ring-gai National Park. Does it get any better?
When hunger strikes, Patonga Beach Seafoods has been satisfying appetites for more than 20 years. Robert Osborne's secret to his success is simple: everything is fresh. He makes his own prawn cutlets, calamari rings, special batter with added herbs from his garden and he chips his own potatoes.
Not far away is Pearl Beach, which has some of the Central Coast's most expensive real estate. It also has Pearls on the Beach Restaurant and a cafe. Not a surfing beach, it is more like a lake and with its National Trust village, has preserved charm and friendliness. It is surrounded by Brisbane Waters National Park which has a verdant canopy sweeping down to the ocean and one of New South Wales's prettiest beaches.
If you don't feel like going to the coast, why not crack a few waves at Blacktown? The Blacktown Leisure Centre Stanhope cost $20 million and has raised the standard of leisure facilities in Sydney's western suburbs. It has five aquatic areas, spa, sauna, steam room, wave pool, full gym and fitness studio, a two court stadium, function centre, retail store and cafe.
It's somewhere to enjoy a day at the beach any day of the year. Swim and surf and ride on pneumatically-produced waves which come in five different ways: diamond, parallel, break left and right and half-parallel.
There's tons to do for all the family and it cuts out the long hot drive to the coast, the sunburn and sand!
The Hunter Valley is a must for a trip from Sydney, even for those who are not wine buffs. It's an easy drive and the area has plenty on offer in addition to vineyards. Restaurants are excellent, local produce, galleries and craft shops are tempting and it is the perfect place for cycling, canoeing and hiking.
McGuigan Wines in Hermitage Road, Pokolbin is the Hunter's most popular cellar door. There you can try before you buy and they produce some award-winning reds, whites and dessert wines.
Next door is Bella!@McGuigans where you can buy the most delicious creamy fudge in butterscotch schnapps, latte, caramel and other wicked flavours.
Hunter Valley Cheese Factory sells around 25 types of cheese, 12 of which they make on-site. Each day they have tastings and tutorials.