With year-round good weather, beautiful beaches at your doorstep and plenty of local green spaces, Sydney is a pretty good place to live. But even the most die hard Sydney lover needs a break from the city from time to time. The great news is that New South Wales has no shortage of weekend getaway destinations where you can unwind, indulge and little and let the worries and stresses of life slowly melt away.
It may seem like an obvious choice, but there are so many reasons why Byron Bay is one of the best destinations for a summer weekend getaway from Sydney. Byron offers the perfect mix of amazing beaches, farmers markets, early morning yoga, rainforest walks, local boutiques and five-star dining. Visit the cult favourite Spell Designs boutique to fulfil all your boho fashions dreams, head to Byron Farmers’ Market to pick up local seasonal produce, and enjoy fresh seafood right on the beach at Beach Byron Bay.
Take the scenic 3.5-hour drive from Sydney, through the Blue Mountains, to Orange for a food and wine lover’s dream country getaway. Visit in April or May for some of the best Autumn leaves in the state, or make it a spring trip to take in the beautiful cherry blossoms. The main draw of Orange is, of course, the many amazing local wineries. Philip Shaw Wines, Borrodell Estate and See Saw Wines are some of the most popular options in Orange. For food, you can’t go past Lolli Redini, the only hatted restaurant in the town.
Two-and-a-half hours north of Sydney, Port Stephens is an outdoor adventure lover’s paradise. The Stockton Bight Sand Dunes are a must visit: the largest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere offer 4WD, quad bike and sandboard tours, or take in the view from the back of a horse or camel. For a slower-paced weekend away, head to one of the 26 local beaches with your towel and a good book.
The Snowy Mountains
The Snowy Mountains is bustling during the snow season, with snow lovers heading to some of Australia’s best ski resorts like Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass. But don’t overlook the Snowy Mountains for your summer getaway. There’s plenty to see and do in the warmer months too: lace up your hiking boots and take on the 13km Kosciuszko Walk to Australia’s highest point, go horse riding through the country that inspired Banjo Paterson’s iconic The Man From Snowy River, or learn about Australia’s greatest engineering project at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre in Cooma.
Whether you’re after local wines, fresh produce, national parks or quaint country villages, you’ll find plenty to fill a weekend in Mudgee. The 3.5-hour drive there makes the trip worth it in itself as you wind your way through the beautiful Blue Mountains and Wollemi National Park. Once you arrive, refuel with Zin House’s famed five-course set menu before heading off for an afternoon of cellar door hopping at places like Lowe Wines, Robert Stein Winery and Moothi Estate. Work off your food and drink with a bushwalk through Ferntree Gully Reserve or join the hour-long Mudgee Heritage Walking Tour.
If you really love wine, there’s only one destination for you: the Hunter Valley. With more cellar doors than any other wine region in the country, it’s a dream come true for any wine lover. Perennial favourites include Audrey Wilkinson (which comes complete with stunning views over the valley), Harkham Wines and Peppertree Wines. You could easily spend a whole weekend visiting cellar door after cellar door, but the Hunter also offers plenty of great bushwalks in Wollemi National Park and a calendar of events including the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival, Opera in the Vineyards, and the Spring Festival of Flowers.
Natural beauty, great food and drink, and local boutique shopping: the Blue Mountains are a classic Sydney escape for a reason. While you’ve likely visited countless times already, there are still plenty of reasons to make the one-hour drive west to this World Heritage listed wonder. Take one of the many bushwalks through the Blue Mountains National Park, ride the world’s steepest passenger railway at Scenic World, and head to Leura Garage for lunch or dinner. For a truly luxurious stay, book into the carbon-neutral Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley where you can relax by your private pool and look out at the native animals just metres away in the bushland.
For white sand and clear blue water, it doesn’t get much better than Jervis Bay. Hyams Beach is perenially popular with holiday makers, but for something a bit quieter don’t overlook some of the other South Coast gems like Murrays Beach or Steamers Beach, or head further south to Mollymook. Head out on the water at Huskisson for a dolphin watching cruise, or take on the 90-minute White Sands Walk and keep your eyes out for some local wildlife.
Just an hour and 20 minutes from Sydney, Bowral is the country escape you need to unwind from the frantic pace of city life. Learn about cricket and one of the game’s all time greats at the Bradman Museum or live out your Pride and Prejudice dreams with a tour of of the National Trust’s Retford Park. When it’s time to refuel, you’re spoilt for choice. Press Shop Cafe serves up locally-sourced produce for breakfast and lunch and is housed within the flagship store for the beautiful Bespoke Letterpress (stationery lovers rejoice!). For dinner head to Grand Bistro or Onesta Cucina.
If you haven’t been to New South Wales’ second largest city in a while, you might be surprised by how Newcastle has reinvented itself. There are the beautiful beaches of course (or you can take a dip in the Mereweather Ocean Baths, the largest public seawater pools in the southern hemisphere), but there’s also a thriving local foodie scene. For fine dining, there’s the hatted restaurant Subo or Restaurant Mason; or for something more casual head to the trendy Darby Street area and check out The Autumn Rooms or Three Monkeys.
Header photo: Byron Bay - photo by Delphine Decurage from Unsplash