Belfast, the capital of Northern Island, is a great city where lots of fun can be had. Not only is the city fun to explore, but you can also enjoy a variety of day trips to add to your experience. Why not visit one of the historic castles the country is famous for? Take in the stunning scenery along the Causeway Coast. Or enjoy a range of diverse wildlife which is abundant across the countryside. Add to those incredible views and captivating cities, and you’ll be all set. Take control of your trip with a hire a car in Belfast and enjoy all the flexibility you need.
1. The Giant’s Causeway
- Distance from Belfast: 60 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 1 hour 15 minutes
- Suggested route: Head north using the M2 and A26
- Great for: Fresh air
Head to the coastline of County Antrim where you’ll find the popular driving area, the Causeway Coast Route. Here you can take in the breathtaking Giant’s Causeway, which boasts 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. Enjoy soaking up the fresh air with your family and take a walking tour suitable for all fitness levels. Finish the day with a picnic whilst looking out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Getting there is relatively easy. Take the M2 northbound towards Antrim where you’ll connect to the A26 towards Ballymoney. The final leg of your journey is on the B62 and B17.
SIXT’s top tip: Stop at Ballymoney on your drive. A quaint town, it has top restaurants as well as Ballymoney Museum for those who love history.
2. Crawfordsburn Beach
- Distance from Belfast: 11 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Approximately 22 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A2 along the coast
- Great for: Seaside day out
Close by to Belfast is the perfect day trip for those who want a quick escape to the coast. Only a short journey from the city you’ll find Crawfordsburn Beach, which is a pleasant and sandy beach that’s perfect for a family day out.
You’ll find Crawfordsburn Beach easy to reach from Belfast. Take the A2 towards Bangor before connecting to the beach on the B20. Close by to the beach is Crawfordsburn Country Park, which has the Woodlands Café where you can get refreshments.
SIXT’s top tip: Along the way you can stop at Ulster Folk Museum, which is a 19th-century building that takes you back in time.
3. Royal Portrush Golf Club
- Distance from Belfast: 59 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 1 hour 10 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the M2 and A26 to the Causeway Coast
- Great for: Practising your swing
Northern Ireland is renowned for its incredible golf courses, with there being many to choose from. What better way to spend your day than to head to the Royal Portrush Golf Club, where you can tee off in sublime surroundings. A 36-hole golf course which has views up there with the very best, you’ll have a great day out with friends.
After taking the M2 and A26 towards Ballymoney, you’ll need the B62 to complete your journey. The scenic Northern Irish countryside on the drive up will put you in the perfect frame of mind for a round of golf.
SIXT’s top tip: There’s a dress code at the clubhouse, so make sure you’ve packed your smart clothes before you set off.
4. The Gobbins Cliff Pass
- Distance from Belfast: 17 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 35 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the M2 and M5 to connect with the A2
- Great for: Hiking
Explore more of the Northern Irish coastline, this time by foot, at The Gobbing Cliff Pass. A dramatic coastline walk, you can soak up the biodiversity, take in the stunning views and explore caves and crevices along the way. An engineering feat that will take your breath away, it’s the perfect location for an afternoon hike.
A scenic drive to get to The Gobbins Cliff Pass adds to the beauty of this day trip. Depart Belfast via the M2 before joining the M5 briefly towards Whiteabbey. Continue your journey on the A2 until you reach the B150 which will take you to your destination.
SIXT’s top tip: Along the way you can visit Carrickfergus Castle, which was a Norman stronghold that’s great for all the family.
5. Dunluce Castle
- Distance from Belfast: 59 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 1 hour 9 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the M2 and A26 northbound
- Great for: Historical day out
If you want to spend more time at a picturesque castle then take a day trip to Dunluce Castle, which dates back to the 17th century. With some great exhibits on display, you’ll be able to travel back in time in this romantic ruin. Offering stunning panoramic views too, it’s the perfect place to take your partner.
Travelling towards Ballymoney on the M2 and A26 is the easiest way to reach the castle, with the B62 completing your trip to your destination.
SIXT’s top tip: Add another castle to your list by stopping at Galgorm Castle in Ballymena. It’s about halfway so it helps break up the trip.
- Distance from Belfast: 70 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 1 hour 30 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the M2 and A6 across the country
- Great for: Scenic city trip
If you want a change of scenery you should head to Derry, which is another great superb city in Northern Ireland. Take in the medieval city walls, peruse the Museum of Free Derry and wander over Peace Bridge. A city which has ingrained itself in the history of the country, you’ll love the quaint cafes and restaurants in the centre.
You can reach Derry in about 1h 30min if you depart Belfast via the M2. After taking the M22 past Lough Neagh, a large freshwater lake, you’ll join the A6 for the rest of your journey.
SIXT’s top tip: Have a pit stop in Antrim, which is on the shore of Lough Neagh. Here you can enjoy great views and a bite to eat.
7. Let’s Go Hydro
- Distance from Belfast: 7 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 25 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A24 south from Belfast city centre
- Great for: Water sports
Get your heart pumping faster with some fun and games at Let’s Go Hydro. Perfect for spring and summer activities, the whole family can enjoy the exhilarating aqua park that encompasses Knockbrackan Reservoir. With a range of attractions, such as slides, climbing walls, and trampolines, you can enjoy an active day suitable for all ages.
Easy to reach, you can take the A24 southbound towards Carryduff. You’ll find plenty of food and accommodation around your destination too, which makes it extra convenient.
SIXT’s top tip: Make a splash with your whole family. Remember to book ahead though to guarantee your place as it can get very busy.
8. Exploris Aquarium
- Distance from Belfast: 30 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 1 hour 5 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A20 all the way
- Great for: Marine life
A great day out for kids and adults alike, the Exploris Aquarium will put a smile on everyone’s face. With a variety of sea life and reptile exhibits, as well as a seal sanctuary and live shows, your kids (and you) will learn all about marine life. There’s an in-house restaurant too, so you won’t have to worry about getting hungry during your visit.
It’s easy to reach Exploris Aquarium, with the A20 taking you there. During your drive, you’ll follow the shore of Strangford Lough, which offers beautiful views the whole way.
SIXT’s top tip: Break up the journey at Helen’s Tower which is close to Newtownards. Here you’ll find a 19th-century tower and walking trails.
9. Winterfell Castle
- Distance from Belfast: 28 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Approximately 1 hour
- Suggested route: Take the A24 and A7, followed by the A25
- Great for: Game of Thrones fans
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones then you won’t want to miss out on visiting the Winterfell Castle and Demesne. With the castle and grounds being heavily featured in the hit TV show, this is a popular day trip from Belfast. Whether you’re of House Stark or House Lannister, you’ll love the guided tours on offer at this attraction.
Departing Belfast on the A24 you’ll join the A7 at Carryduff. Once you reach Downpatrick the A25 will take you the rest of the way to your destination.
SIXT’s top tip: Close by to this tourist site is the National Trust Castle Ward, which is a historic Gothic-style mansion that’s worth visiting.
10. Strangford Lough
- Distance from Belfast: 10 miles
- Travel time from Belfast: Around 30 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A20 all the way
- Great for: Beach recreation
Take a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city and visit Strangford Lough. With the closest point of the lough coming at Newtownards, there are many other areas you can drive to as well, such as Comber via the A22. At the lough, you can enjoy many recreational sports such as swimming and kayaking.
Strangford Lough is easy to reach with the A20 taking you to Newtownards and down the east shoreline. Take your car for a spin and stop as and when you please along this scenic route.
SIXT’s top tip: Check out the WWT Castle Espie, which is a former castle that was converted into a protected habitat for wildlife.