UPDATED DEC 2, 2019
Do you plan your next trip based off how many likes you'll get on the ’gram? Or is it in the spirit of adventure and reconnecting with nature? Well, nothing's more epic than questing into the bush and through the mists in search of crashing water, and we have you covered with the best waterfalls adventures near Sydney.
Editor’s note: Due to 2019 fires throughout New South Wales, please consult the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website for closures and advisories.
These are some of the most iconic cascades out of Sydney... but also some of the most heavily trafficked by tourists. Jump on a train to Katoomba or hop in your car for the 90-minute commute for a visit to the world-famous Blue Mountains. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and head out for a short yet challenging walk from the Echo Point Lookout to soak up every angle of these falls in the heart of the mountains. While you won’t be able to swim here, you will want to stop and relax by the falls with a spot of lunch as lyrebirds and rainbow lorikeets serenade you. Afterwards, why not head to the cute town of Leura for a coffee or a sweet treat?
A destination for the beach-lovers rather than mountain goats, the Wattamolla Falls are a short drive from Sydney in the heart of the Royal National Park. Leave your car at the Wattamolla Picnic Area and trace the tree-lined trail down to the sandy shores, where you’ll encounter beach on one side and lagoon on the other. Rising above the lagoon, you’ll find the Wattamolla Falls pouring over the cliff, and possibly also some brazen and reckless tourists ignoring warning signs to jump from the falls into the waters below. Stay for a swim, snorkel, or laze about below the shade of the cabbage tree palms while sea eagles soar in the skies above.
Budderoo National Park in the Southern Highlands is home to not one but two incredible waterfalls. This city escape is about an hour and a half’s drive from Sydney, but with opportunities for swimming, hiking and camping, it’s well worth the commute. You’ll arrive at Nellies Glen to find towering eucalypts and curling green ferns surrounding a swimming hole where you can explore under the falls themselves (natural massage, anyone?). Stop for a picnic or head further afield to one of the walking trails, including a chance to bushbash and scramble across the rocks to the nearby and equally stunning Carrington Falls nearby. Or you could simply drive there, but where is the adventure in that?
Accessible by car or train, The Blue Mountains offer countless hiking trails, campsites, and picnic spots for every kind of adventurer. The first stop on the list for waterfall-chasers in the region is Wentworth Falls — a three-tiered waterfall accessible by a number of walking trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Stop and take in the views from the Jamison Lookout before lacing up your hiking boots and choosing one of the three hiking trails that will trace the wooded landscape and iconic sandstone cliffs. You can get right up close and personal to the falls, too — follow the marked trails to a shallow pool for a dip or continue further afield, where you can get right beneath the falls and feel the weight of the water overhead.
Have you ever been to a beach with a waterfall before? Prepare to have your mind blown. The waterfall is more of a trickle than some of the spectacular cascades you’ll be used to, but its idyllic location tucked away on North Head between the iconic Manly Beach and the Manly ferry wharf is only a stone’s throw from the Sydney CBD. You can take the ferry across to Manly exploring by foot, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, or set out on the Spit to Manly walk. And once you’re there, make a day out of it and take a picnic, explore the North Head hiking trails, have a swim, and, for the intrepid, take a leap of faith off the “jump rock” nearby. Maybe you’ll even spot some of the resident little penguins!
The furthest from Sydney but arguably the most beautiful on this list, Fitzroy Falls boasts an 80-metre drop to the valley below, where water flows freely after heavy rainfall. Here, you can discover the abundance of native flora and fauna by exploring the West Rim, East Rim, and Wildflower walking tracks, which trace the towering escarpment and down through the fern-lined gorges. Though, you should know the falls are found in the Southern Highlands—a two-hour drive south of Sydney—so you’ll probably want to pack enough supplies for a day trip or your tent and camping supplies for an overnight adventure.
Set in the backdrop of the sleepy Southern Highlands, Belmore Falls is nestled between native Australian bushland and lush rainforest scenery, an hour and a half from Sydney. The 100-metre waterfall cascades into two separate pools, eventually forming Barrengarry Creek. Getting there is easy enough — park at the Hindmarsh Lookout car park, where you can also stop and make use of the picnic facilities before tracing the short 2km trail to Belmore Falls lookout. The adventurous can hop over a wire fence to reach a now-abandoned trail (2.5km return) about halfway between both lookouts. Though ill-advised, the track descends all the way to the base of the falls, so you can get your toes wet and feel the spray of the water on your face.
Get ready to traverse moss-covered rocks and lush green forest on the way to Minnamurra Falls, about two hours south of Sydney. Choose between a 1.5-kilometre trail or a four-kilometre loop as you cross a magical suspension bridge and past various lookouts for the best views of the two-tiered waterfall. The greenery and abundance of wildlife will make you feel like you’re in another world, as the whipbirds echo around you, resident swamp wallabies peek at you, and colourful orchids peek out from the wooden floorboards of the elevated walkways. Unfortunately, the viewing platform is the closest you’ll be able to get to the falls, with threats of fines for anyone who leaves the boardwalk for that perfect snap. Fitt Tip: as a bonus adventure on your way back to Sydney, why not consider checking out the famous Kiama Blowhole?
It’s only five minutes from the highway, but you’ll forget all about reality when you step out of the car at Somersby Falls on the Central Coast. This one is for those wanting less of an intense hike and more of a relaxing day in a scenic location — with the first lookout to the falls being less than 100 metres from the car park and picnic area. The entire track only takes about 20 minutes and spans less than one one kilometre. However, it does descend some pretty steep terrain on treacherous moss-covered rocks, where you’ll follow a series of different cascades and take minor detours off the route along Floods Creek to reach the wide expanse below. Fitt Tip: mind the brush turkeys — they’ll likely be eyeing your picnic lunch.
Another easy hike for relaxed adventurers, explore the rainforest south of Sydney with a trip to Maddens Falls in the Dharawal National Park. After an hour drive out of Sydney, you can reach the main lookout with less than one kilometre of walking and tune into nature with the help of the abundant wildlife. The more adventurous may want to bring along waterproof shoes or rock climbing shoes to scale the fencing for a closer look at the falls. And the most adventurous may even consider climbing down to the base — but do so at your own risk. Fitt Tip: Consider a bonus adventure to the old Helensburgh Station, where you’ll enter an abandoned railway that’s home to hundreds of brilliant glowworms.
Get the latest news on Sydney’s fitness scene.