International travel is off the cards, at least for the next few months, and with the ever-changing interstate rules, travellers are seeking adventures in their own state. Sydneysiders are spoilt with choice for weekend getaways, from farm stays to bohemian beach towns, there’s plenty to see and do if you’re looking to escape the city life.
Missing a summer trip to the Amalfi Coast? Head north to the Central Coast and find beautiful beaches, dramatic coastlines, and some of the world’s best food. If you’re longing for charming European villages and wine, take a trip to the Southern Highlands, to discover impeccably maintained gardens, boutique shops and restaurants, and a wine region to match Tuscany.
You don’t need to board a plane for it to feel like a holiday. Load up the car and hit the road. Adventure awaits, so here are the best weekend getaways in New South Wales.
Since the pandemic, Byron Bay has turned into a celebrity hideout, attracting the likes of Zac Efron and long time residents, the Hemsworths, with its spectacular beaches, forested hinterland, and stylish coastal towns. You can drive here, which is about eight hours from Sydney or fly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport for a shorter trip. There’s a huge range of accommodation from luxury beach resorts like Elements or you can rent a stylish holiday house, charming cottages, and a number of secluded campsites. As for things to do, you can ride the perfect wave at one of the many beaches here, or head to the rainforest to find a quiet respite and a waterfall or two. Byron is also home to Australia’s largest music festival and hosts several live entertainment events throughout the year. Volcanic soils and sustainable farming create the renowned fresh produce you will see on local menus, including Three Blue Ducks and Fleet.
Just a short drive north will plot you right in the middle of the central coast, a long stretch of scenic bays, beautiful beaches, national parks, and small coastal towns. Accommodation here varies from holiday resorts to self-contained houses and luxury hotels. The Entrance is popular for families because of its kid-friendly attractions, like pelican feeding and TreeTop Adventure Park. The Central Coast also offers adrenaline-fuelled adventures including ziplines, mountain bike trails, sky diving, abseiling, and survival courses. You can shop till you drop at the many seaside markets and boutique stores selling artisan produce and quirky gifts. The dining experiences range from beach cafes to waterside pubs and the freshest seafood around. The highlight here is the trails through untouched bushland, taking walkers from deep forests to open beaches and waterfalls. There are plenty of lookouts and whale watching to be had.
Whether on sand, land, or water, you will find adventure in Port Stephens. Here, holiday seekers explore the largest coastal dunes by quad bike, scuba dive in crystal waters, and sail alongside bottlenose dolphins. You can glam on the water’s edge, rent resort-style apartments or sleep in boutique luxury resorts like Bannisters. Restaurants are dotted along the waterfront, offering sunset views, fresh seafood, and local produce. Some of the best restaurants include Rick Stein, Cheeky Dog, Point Restaurant and there are many fish and chips shops in town that are worth a visit. There are around 26 beaches, some perfect for surfing, others, sheltered bays for families, and vast stretches of white sand. There is also plenty of hikes here to take in a panoramic view of the region, including Tomaree Head walk and Wreck Beach walk. Neighbouring towns including Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay, Soldiers Point, and Anna Bay also make for a great day trip from Port Stephens.
Cooler climates, green rolling hills, award-winning vineyards, and colonial architecture have attracted visitors to the Southern Highlands for more than 140 years. You will find Sydneysiders sitting at the cafes, tasting the wines, and perusing through the boutique shops most weekends given it’s only an hour and a half drive from the CBD. Here, you can visit several small towns, each with its own character and range of epicurean delights. Bowral is known for its tulip festival and shopping, while Berrima has a classic country charm to it and the picturesque Bendooley Estate. You can also venture to even smaller towns like Mittagong to pick up fresh-baked pastries or Moss Vale for unique shopping and farmers’ markets. Stay in B&Bs, vineyard retreats, Airbnbs, or historic manors-turned hotels. Be sure to take in the picturesque canola fields, rolling hills, and mountain scenes.
The Blue Mountains are home to some of Australia’s most dazzling natural attractions, including dizzying cliffs, country villages, and million-year-old valleys. If you’re up for a little adventure, spend some time here to explore the rainforest, in particular, the Jenolan Caves and several lookouts: Echo Point, Narrow Neck, Evans, and more. There’s also a plethora of cafes, restaurants, and bars nestled in its historic towns along with boutique stores. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is iconic, but a few other accommodation sites have popped up over the last few years, including Bubbletent Australia and Love Cabins; both unique places boasting views and privacy. Another popular town is Bilpin, where the famous Bilpin Cider is made. You can go apple picking here, or spend a lazy Sunday strolling through market stalls.
Escape to a flourishing wine country, where you can taste tipples from Australia’s oldest wine region. The Hunter thrives with acclaimed restaurants, festivals, ancient rainforest, and beautiful heritage. Only two hours from Sydney, the Hunter is a popular weekend getaway, especially for those looking to spend their days strolling through vineyards, tasting wine and cheese until sunset. Although, there is more to the region than just wine. Explore buzzing cafes, fine dining classics, or classic country steakhouses spread throughout the Hunter. You can also go horseback riding, take a hot air balloon ride and bushwalk through Yengo National Park. As for where to stay, there are accommodation options to suit various budgets, including campgrounds, vineyard cottages, guest houses, and luxury resorts adjacent to golf courses. You can live the high life or stop by for a world-class tipple, the choice is yours.
For a seaside escape without the crowds, road trip to Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast. Here, you’ll find a coastal paradise, with white sand beaches and sparkling blue waters, which literally glow at night thanks to phytoplankton. Put Hyams Beach at the top of your to-do list to experience the famous stretch of fine white sand. The waters are calm which makes it great for snorkelling, fishing, and stand-up paddleboarding. The bay is also home to two national parks, one is a haven for bottlenose dolphins and little penguins, and the other offers several hiking trails, with views of the bay. Beachside campgrounds are one of the most popular options here, including Paperbark Camp, a safari-style glamping experience by the river. There is also a holiday park with 14 self-contained cabins by the water.
Orange is more of a boutique wine region, with a wealth of cellar doors. What really sets this destination apart from the Hunter Valley is its landscape. Here, cooler climate wines take centre stage including award-winning chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and cabernet sauvignon. During summer, Orange’s temperature can soar above 40, but during winter it’s known to snow. One of the few places it snows in New South Wales. Autumn is one of the best times to visit and watch the leaves change to auburn oranges and reds. Its history is part of the gold rush, therefore is plentiful with camping sites, but if you’re looking for comfort, there are many rural properties, vineyard villas and hotels to stay at. Surrounded by stunning countryside and national parks, you can hike to Towac Pinnacle for views of the valley or take advantage of the 18-hole golf course, two minutes from the main town centre.
Contrary to popular belief, the snowy mountains aren’t just for wintertime. The legendary high country is great all year round, offering world-class mountain bike trails, horse-riding, fishing, and craft breweries. Although, if you’re looking for thrilling downhill runs in the colder season, then Thredbo and Perisher are what you’re looking for. Kosciuszko National Park is home to Australia’s highest mountain and if you’re up for the challenge, hike to the top for panoramic views across the region and beyond. Keep an eye out for local wildlife including platypus at Bombala Platypus Reserve. You can take a cultural tour for indigenous insights into the wilderness and animals. Below, the rivers are ideal for fly fishing and trout fishing adventures or whitewater rafting, if you’re in need of an adrenaline rush. Take a rejuvenating dip in a naturally heated spring or explore the stalactites at Yarrangobilly Caves.
A few years ago, we would have never mentioned Broken Hill as a destination, but the unofficial capital of the NSW outback is thriving with a vibrant artistic community, updated accommodations, and plenty of cool mining landmarks. The drive out here is long, 13 hours to be exact, but it’s a scenic drive through desert landscapes, which have been used as movie sets. Walk down Argent Street to find many great shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafes including the Palace hotel, from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. As Australia’s oldest mining town, dating back to the 1880s, there’s a lot to discover here. The Albert Kersten Mining and Mineral Museum give insight into the sciences of geology and mining, through artifacts including a 42kg silver nugget. Broken Hill also has the oldest regional gallery in NSW, which features works from the Bushmen of the Bush, a group of five artists who collaborated in town. There are many other galleries and studios including Pro Hart Gallery, Willy Nilly Art, and Living Desert Sculptures, which is a 20-minute drive north of town. You can stay in shearer’s quarters, luxury homesteads or in a tourist lodge. There are also several holiday house options to rent for the weekend or week.
Kiama is a breezy two-hour drive from Sydney and is a favourite with families looking for a laidback holiday spot. You’ll find plenty of history and some of the state’s prettiest ocean pools as well as a blowhole. The lighthouse is iconic as is the natural cavity that blasts seawater 20-metres into the air. If you’re a walker, there is a spectacular 22km trail between Minamurra and Werri Beach which boasts a mix of sealed paths, grassed tracks, and beach walks. Boneyard and Bombo Beach are popular surf spots while Kiama’s main beach is ideal for families. There are several beachside holiday parks to choose from, all of which have access to a nearby beach and walking trails. For even more scenery, Kiama Downs is a peaceful township home to Cathedral Rocks, distinctive rock formation, and the perfect sunset spot.
Visit The Big Banana, an iconic tourist attraction in Coffs Harbour, or board a whale-watching boat. There’s much to see and do in this beachside city just under a six-hour drive from Sydney. There are several beautiful beaches to visit like Jetty Beach and lookouts to view the nearby emerald rainforest and coast. Coffs Harbour is a family-friendly destination, where kids can feed penguins at the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park or walk among hundreds of butterflies in the Butterfly House. From September to April, there are twilight food markets, featuring multicultural cuisine and lots of choices for the kids. Set up camp at a beachside resort and holiday park or head to the mountains for a hinterland retreat. You can even stay on a farm by a river.
In need of a digital detox? Kangaroo Valley awaits. Expect verdant farmlands, dramatic wilderness, and a tranquil river in one of Australia’s most beautiful valleys. Cross the historic bridge to find tea rooms and pies, waterfalls, and wine (lots of wine). Fitzroy Falls and Gerringong Falls are major attractions and make for a picturesque hike through the forest. You can stroll through town, to visit a heritage-listed pub or munch on a pie from the Kangaroo Valley Pie Shop. Take full advantage of the landscape by booking a secluded retreat or cottage nestled in the valley or on the hills. Barranca Kangaroo Valley is a taste of off-grid opulence, but you can also book tiny homes like the Edmond from In2thewild.
There’s plenty to celebrate this year, from new menus to restaurants throwing parties, bottomless brunches, and more.
Here, we have the latest on Sydney’s food news, from chefs taking over restaurants to limited-edition menus and feasts for all your friends to enjoy.
To celebrate World Gin Day, and for one week only, gin and food lovers can try nagashi-sōmen—translating to ‘flowing noodles’— which sees noodles sent down a bamboo chute for diners to collect with chopsticks. The one-off experience will be hosted at Kid Kyoto, where guests can enjoy their flowing noodles alongside a menu paired with delicious KI NO BI Gin cocktails. Purchase tickets here.
Tuck into a Fireball Burger
Feeling the cold? Fireball Whisky and Bar Luca have teamed up for the ultimate firey menu. Offered for a limited time only, head down to Bar Luca for $6 Fireball shots all day, a Fireball shot and cocktail on arrival, and an all-you-can-eat bites of the full “Blame Fireball” menu on Saturday, July 1. Book a spot here.
For two nights only, on Tuesday the 20th and Tuesday 27th of June, Graeme Hunt, Head Chef of Sydney’s trending late-night bar and dining venue at Zaffi, will be stepping up to the kitchen at award-winning bar PS40. Pop-up guests can expect a mosaic of colourful Lebanese-inspired bar snacks paired with exclusive midweek sips made by the mastermind behind the experimental bar, Michael Chiem.
Fan of Cinderella? The Great Hall is transforming into The Royal Palace for an enchanting high tea from July 1-2. There will be dancing and fun, and then Cinderella will run out of the venue leaving behind her glass slipper—the search for the missing beauty will begin. Tickets for the Cinderella High Tea costs $80-85 and you can purchase them here.
Grill’d has dropped two new burgers, and they’re beyond anything we could have imagined. Taking inspiration from Mexico, Grilld’s two new burgers are a Zesty Mexi and Luxe Nacho Burger. The Zesty Mexi features a black bean pattie with corn chips, tasty cheese, slaw, jalapenos, and chipotle mayo mixed with green tomatillo lime salsa. For meat lovers, the Luxe Nacho Burger is the same as the Zesty Mexi, but with a premium Wagyu pattie.