Sometimes you just need to GTFO of Sydney – and you don’t need to travel far to make a couple of nights away feel like a holiday. Whether you’re in need of a beach break, a hike in the mountains, or an escape to the country, we’ve found a host of holiday destinations that are accesible from Sydney (all still within NSW) to inspire you.
RECOMMENDED: The best places to go glamping in NSW.
Short getaways from Sydney within NSW
Ah, wine country. Proud growers, wine makers and vintners from this region have been squeezing the good stuff out of grapes for close to 180 years, and it has earned the Hunter solid street cred on both Australian and international vinous scenes.
While you may only know Lake Macquarie for its expansive body of water, this unassuming region sandwiched between Sydney and Newcastle has a lot to offer city folk looking to slow down and get back to nature.
Drive only two short hours south of Sydney and you’re in an adventure playground. Destination surfing spots, climbing cliffs, and coastal treks draw in those who relax by doing, but if you prefer to recline and dine, there’s fresh seafood, local produce and a burgeoning dining scene to ensure all your relaxation goals are met.
Drive through cherry blossoms, lurid wattle and gold mine adjacent creeks (that still yield a nugget or two) to find some of Australia’s most interesting wines and meet the passionate makers.
New South Wales has some spectacular ski resorts and snow fields. You can hire all your gear at any of these spots (think skis, snow jackets, helmets – anything).
‘Mudgee’ comes from the Wiradjuri word ‘Moothi’ which means, romantically, ‘Nest in the Hills’. It has a climate several degrees warmer than the surrounding high country, which, along with sandy loam soil, makes the area attractive to viticulturalists.
For some, a trip to the Blue Mountains holds the promise of seclusion and serenity among the gum trees. For others, it’s about conquering mountain trails and spontaneously teaming up with other avid adventurers to explore the bush waterfalls and swimming holes.
While Byron Bay’s town centre has succumbed to a backpackers-meet-the-one-per-cent influx, the lifetime fire twirlers and queer communes haven’t been completely expunged from the Byron Bay region.
Here you can walk a World Heritage convict road, sample locally brewed cider or go horseriding. Winding through it all is the river, a place for fishing, watersports or a lazy cruise amid stunning scenery.
The dining scene across the Central Coast is really hitting its stride. Thanks to some seriously talented young chefs, excellent refurbs and creative spaces, there are restaurants and cafés in Long Jetty, Avoca, Terrigal and Woy Woy that are well worth a road trip.
Tried and tested places to stay
This storied and secluded seaside getaway has ‘Sydney institution’ written all over it. The hours really do seem a little bit longer in the Northern Beaches, and the distant echo of the crashing waves far below is pretty much all you can hear at this intimate clifftop retreat overlooking Whale Beach.
We stayed at one of Unyoked’s three wilderness hideouts in NSW to see what #cabinporn is all about (and to see if we could hack the ‘spiciness’ of this off-the-grid style of aspirational travel). We had a wild time – in every sense of the word – during this wonderful experiment.
Can you imagine kangaroos hopping around at dusk, set against the backdrop of the ocean? At Diamond Head Campground, you’ll get to see this most days and sometimes these cuties even laze amongst the tents all day long. With 75 campsites to choose from, there are plenty of options for where to park your caravan or pitch your tent for the night.
There are three tents to choose from, each overlooking a different aspect of the Capertee Valley, the largest valley in the world. All three offer total seclusion, which is not only pleasant but needed, since the central chamber of each one has a 360 degree view out, and in.
Situated around 25 minutes north of Mudgee, Sierra Escape is an off-the-grid, camping-style experience that offers the comforts of a five star hotel. Emphasis should be placed on ‘escape’ here – the dirt road from the centre of Mudgee means it's a bit out of the way – but the journey is a small trade-off for its secluded location.
This is the kind of mini-break accommodation designed to feel like a guest room in a very rich friend’s holiday home. The linens are blindingly white; the textiles are printed with aquatic species and tropical leaves; and there’s Netflix available on each TV if you want to hibernate.
Or try further afield...
If you’ve done Hobart, we suggest making a pitstop in this northern town. It’s overrun by rolling hills and Dawson’s Creek-style seaports, plus it’s cool climate wine country, so even the hangovers are beautiful.
New Zealand’s capital city is known for its concentration of excellent coffee shops, leading restaurants and craft beer scene – but it’s also rich with beautiful waterside walkways, hilly cycle paths and a specialist sanctuary of the country’s rarest wildlife.
It’s a city that knows its best assets come plucked straight from its prehistoric origins, including a heaving rainforest and reef, which locals are eager to share with visitors.
Instagram-worthy landmarks like Heart Reef and secluded, long white stretches are very romantic. But you don’t need to fork out for honeymoon-priced hotel rooms to enjoy a tropical weekend getaway to the world-famous islands of the Great Barrier Reef.
Narooma is in the middle of the mollusc producing estuaries and rivers of Southern NSW. The snaking trail between Shoalhaven and Wonboyn is known as Australia’s Oyster Coast and every May oyster farmers from this fertile region congregate to shuck off their best at the Narooma Oyster Festival.
Just three hours away from Melbourne or Sydney by air, the North Island is an accessible holiday destination that boasts diverse landscapes and experiences for all kinds of holidayers, from the relaxed traveller to the adventure seeker.
Canberra was listed among the globe’s hottest destinations when it ranked third on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018. This is the highest ranking an Australian city has ever achieved on the Lonely Planet list since its inception, and reveals just how unfairly overlooked the city has been.