The capital of New South Wales, Sydney is a powerhouse urban centre that has so much to see and do it keeps residents entertained for years on end, and visitors coming back for more. But when the city is beginning to grind you down, you’ve got some time off, or if you just feel like a breather, you might be thinking of some weekend getaways from Sydney for a bit of a change.
Luckily being based in Sydney means the scope for embarking on epic road trips to find your slice of relaxation for a few days is pretty huge. There’s heaps of stuff to see, do, explore, discover, and taste – and all practically in Sydney’s back garden.
If it’s winter and you feel like skiing, the Snowy Mountains await. If it’s something more beachside you’re after, all you have to do is drive up to the Central Coast. Wine country’s practically next door in Hunter Valley, but if you want to be really wowed by the power of nature, the Blue Mountains are sure to do it.
If you still can’t choose, check out our in-depth look at some of the best destinations on Sydney’s doorstep below.
Further reading: Pet-friendly getaways in NSW.
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The Blue Mountains
If you’re looking to get out into nature on a weekend getaway from Sydney, you couldn’t get much better than the rugged Blue Mountains, especially if you want something close by: the foothills of this mountainous region start just 50 kilometres from the edge of the city.
With its highest elevation soaring up to 1,189 metres above sea level and encompassing part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, the impressive Blue Mountains have a wealth of natural wonderland to adventure through.
It’s actually UNESCO World Heritage-listed, and you can see why. There are vast canyons, swathes of eucalyptus trees, and towering karst rock formations. Gushing waterfalls, rainforests and a whole lot of wildlife can be seen amongst it all. There are even some historic villages to visit.
One of the most famous things to see in the whole of the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters. This rock formation on the north of Jamison Valley is one of Australia’s most photographed landmarks. It’s an incredible sight.
A bushwalk from nearby Echo Point leads to the rock formations themselves, and down to the valley floor via a route known as the Giant Stairway – 800 stone and steel steps, to be precise. Another way to see the sights of the area, and the Jamison Valley as a whole, is by taking a ride on the Katoomba Scenic Railway.
This incline railway is a must for railfans, of course, but also a super cool way to take it all in. It’s an ex-mining track that was used in the 1880s and is now a popular tourist attraction.
The views are breathtaking, and riding on this super steep track (52 degrees gradient) will take you up past sandstone cliffs and through rock tunnels.
Aside from taking in the views, for those who want to get active, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with adventure sports in the area. From rock climbing and canyoning to mountain biking and hiking, there’s a lot to choose from.
In case you were wondering, the Blue Mountains are named for the blue-tinted haze that hangs over them when you view them from afar; however, they haven’t always been called that.
They’ve been home to the Gundungurra people for millennia, who believe that the Blue Mountains were created by an epic battle between Mirigan and Gurangatch – half-fish, half-reptile Dreamtime creatures whose fight is said to have formed the landscape itself.
You can see examples of habitation by the Gundungurra people throughout the Blue Mountains. One such site is at Red Hands Cave, named for its stencil art shaped around people’s hands. The King’s Tableland – an Aboriginal site that dates back 22,000 years – is an ancient meeting place with ochre paintings and depictions of animal tracks.
There really are a lot of things to see and do in the Blue Mountains!
Highlights of the Blue Mountains:
- Taking the incredible Katoomba Scenic Railway for amazing views of the Three Sisters
- Ride the Scenic Cableway or Skyway for yet more stunning vistas
- Walking the 800 steps of the Giant Stairway to really get into it
- Touring Jenolan Caves and the 3 Sisters
- Visiting the picturesque town of Leura for lunch and gallery browsing
- Check out the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains
Like many Mountain destinations, the Blue Mountains is home to some delightful accommodation ranging from 5-star resort-style hotels through quaint B&Bs and self-contained chalets, cottages and houses.
At the very top end, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is a luxury lodge that is considered by many to be one of Australia’s best.
Lillanfels is an institution and offers elegant rooms in a grand old mansion and it’s also pet-friendly which is a bonus.
Blueberry Hills on Comleroy offers lovely rooms, suites and cottage on their tranquil property and are famous for this incredible breakfasts!
Only 300 metres from Three Sisters lookout is Winston Cottage which is a great choice for families and groups with 3 bedrooms and a beautiful outdoor terrace.
For something different checkout Dome Sweet Dome, a light filled geodesic dome house that can sleep up to 6 people. Set on 1/2 an acre with gardens, onsite parking and only a 5 minute drive to Wentworth Falls.
The Hunter Valley
Just north of Sydney, Hunter Valley makes for a great spot to retreat to, especially if you like wine. Hunter Valley, if you didn’t already know, is most definitely wine country and it’s one of the reasons it’s one of the perfect getaways from Sydney.
With a history of growing and producing wine since the early 1800s, the area played an important role in the development of wine in the country and has helped put Australia on the map as a wine-producing nation.
The Hunter Valley is particularly known for Semillon and Shiraz, both of which thrive in the area and make for some excellent drinking.
Exploring the valley itself is dreamy. It means stopping off at the many charming towns throughout the region, soaking up the natural scenery along the Hunter River, and – of course – whiling away the hours at one of the many wineries.
It’s a very popular place to visit – it’s actually the sixth most visited place in Australia. It’s well equipped and well suited to a relaxing weekend getaway from Sydney. With its world-class wines and foodie credentials, it’s a region that is simply begging to be visited.
It can, however, be tricky to know where to start your journey, or where to base yourself. If that’s what you’re wondering now, then Pokolbin is the place for you. It’s basically the capital of this particular wine region.
There are loads of wineries, restaurants, accommodations, and plenty of scope for all sorts of activities – more than any of the other towns or villages in the region. If you like your getaways jam-packed with stuff to see, do, and taste, Pokolbin is where it’s at.
The northwestern corner of Pokolbin is somewhere you should really hit up. You’ll find boutique wineries and easygoing eateries, all with absolutely sublime views.
It’s made even better by the fact that you can leave the car at home and explore on two wheels, thanks to a dedicated bicycle path that connects more than a dozen wineries. That means being able to taste wine to your heart’s content instead of having to argue over who’s the designated driver every time you head out!
Singleton is another excellent spot. This town dates back to 1820 and sits on the bank of the Hunter River. It’s a charming countryside location with all the visitable credentials you’d expect of the area – old pubs, boutique markets, historic buildings, and museums. Antique shopping, and maybe a browse of a farmer’s market followed by a long lunch, is the order of the day here.
For those who want to spend time in nature rather than wining and dining, there are many national parks located in the area to explore. The Watagans National Park is one of the best – think hiking, mountain ranges and beautiful views. There’s also the Werakata National Park. Set in the southeast of the Hunter Valley, it has a rich Aboriginal history and diverse plant and animal life.
Highlights of The Hunter Valley:
- Touring the various wineries, distilleries and other producers
- Dining at the many excellent restaurants and cafes
- Riding your bike from winery to winery in Pokolbin
- Spending the afternoon at one of the region’s many golf courses
- Going antique shopping in the charming town of Singleton
- Taking a hike in the Watagans National Park
- Seeing it all from up high in a hot air balloon
Where to stay in The Hunter Valley
As you would expect of one of the Worlds pre-eminent wine regions there is a vast array of accommodation in the Hunter Valley.
You find fabulous self-contained accommodation a little further out of the valley at The Wattle Lodge which is one of the best pet-friendly places in the Hunter Valley as well.
For something really special book Squire’s Vineyard and grand 5 bedroom ranch-style house set on massive grounds around a private lake. Another place worth checking out is the ‘Wine Barrel‘ a round converted miners hut that can sleep up to 6 people and really allows you to stay in a part of the Hunter Valley’s rich history!
Located north of Sydney, the Central Coast region of New South Wales is ideal for those looking to get away from city life with a refreshing coastal break.
It’s just over an hour’s drive from the centre of Sydney, making it very doable indeed.
There’s something for everybody in terms of coastal vibes, making it great for a little adventure of any kind. There are resorts, laid-back beach towns, surfing opportunities, and nature to discover – including whale watching. If you’re into it, the Central Coast probably has it.
As for places to hit up, either for a flying visit or to base yourself, you may want to visit Wyong. With its easy transport links and beachside living, Wyong is ideal for a weekend getaway from Sydney. There’s even mountains and forests to explore when you’ve had enough sea and sand for one day.
Nearby small towns, such as Bateau Bay and Toowoon Bay, provide charming small-town ambience and make for great day trips from Wyong. Things you can get up to in places like these range from bushwalking to fishing or simply relaxing on beaches.
If you plan on visiting Bateau Bay, make sure you bring your swimsuit; it’s a haven for snorkelling and all things sea-based.
It makes up part of the Wyrrabalong National Park. This large area is divided into two sections, preserving a tract of coastal rainforest along the Central Coast region.
This is the perfect spot for whale watching – but there’s also bird spotting, surfing, swimming, and learning about Aboriginal heritage.
For whale watching, one of the best vantage points is Crackneck Point lookout. You can see the majestic giants migrating offshore from May to November – don’t forget your binoculars!
Another great base along the Central Coast is the city of Gosford. Also with good transport links and a good selection of beaches, there are waterways and national parks on the doorstep, making it a year-round destination.
Gosford basically acts as the “gateway” to the NSW Central Coast, which is generally considered to begin at the Hawkesbury River in the south and run all the way to the Watagan Mountains in the north.
The size of Gosford means there’s a lot going on here. There are a host of restaurants and cafes – think bottomless brunches to chow down on, such as at The Bon Pavilion, and craft beer bars and brewpubs to check out (try the Six String Brewing Co. for one thing). Aside from that, you can find Japanese gardens, museums, art galleries, and even wildlife refuges to visit in town.
One beach location near Gosford you may want to hit up, for example, is Umina Beach.
This long arc of sand is set on a blissful, out-of-the-way area known locally as “The Peninsula”. Here, you’ll find small towns like Woy Woy, Blackwall, Booker Bay, and Ettalong Beach, with their small boating harbours, waterside houses, and sleepy vibe. Umina is even derived from a word meaning “place of sleep”!
Highlights of the Central Coast NSW:
- Visiting the town of The Entrance for the lively “pelican feed” (great for families!)
- Walking the Coast Walking Track in the Wyrrabalong National Park
- Glimpsing migrating whales from Crackneck Point lookout
- Enjoying the cafe and dining scene of Gosford
- Whiling away your time on any one of Wyong’s wonderful beaches
Where to stay in the Central Coast
The iconic Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel is a beautiful adults-only place to stay in Killcare that is considered one of Australia’s finest boutique hotels.
Country NSW is a large region of the state that’s full of history and rugged nature. It’s here that you’ll find some of the oldest towns in Australia, founded by early pioneers in the colonial days.
It’s also home to national parks, rivers, open plains, and highlands, as well as important indigenous history, gold rush heritage, and winemaking.
There are many sights around where you can soak all this up, from foodie destinations to ancient Aboriginal sites.
This area is a good option for families looking to take a weekend getaway from Sydney. That’s because it’s easy to get out into the country without finding yourself in the middle of nowhere. Country NSW is a chilled out sort of area, with heaps to do for just about everyone.
To start with, there’s Bathurst. Set in the Central Tablelands, this is where the 1850s Gold Rush kicked off. Once gold was discovered here in 1851, people from all over the world began making a beeline to Bathurst in search of their fortunes.
Not just famous for gold, Bathurst also has connections to motor racing, with the Mount Panorama Racing Circuit. Motor racing buffs will already know that this venue hosts races throughout the year.
Elsewhere, there’s Mudgee. Situated on the banks of Cudgegong River, this town is all about its heritage streetscapes. Another settlement that hit the jackpot in the Gold Rush, you can see evidence of that wealth in its pretty Victorian streets and buildings.
Another thing Mudgee is known for is wine; boutique wineries are the name of the game here. If you’re in the area for wine specifically – or if you happen to be here and you’re a wine-lover – then Orange is the place for you.
Three and a half hours from Sydney, Orange boasts beautiful landscapes, wineries, and outstanding eateries for a foodie weekend getaway. That’s right; it’s not only about wine, but also cheeses, meats, and even craft beer.
If rejuvenation is what you’re looking for, then the Moree and Narrabri area is where you should be considering for your Country NSW destination of choice. Take a dip in natural mineral water and therapeutic springs.
Dubbed “Australia’s natural spa capital” the water is geothermically heated for ultimate mineral-rich relaxation. The most popular of these is the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre. It also helps that the surrounding scenery is picturesque and has abundant opportunities for getting out and enjoying it, including camping, canoeing, and swimming in Warrie Lake.
For a city trip, Tamworth is worth your while – especially in January, when the town hosts the Tamworth Country Music Festival. This 10-day extravaganza draws in thousands of music fans each year. Tamworth also works as a good jumping-off point to explore the Warrabah National Park, which boasts bushwalking aplenty.
With so many different towns and places to visit throughout the Country NSW region, it’s fair to say there’s enough here for more than just a weekend.
Highlights of Regional NSW:
- Wallowing in the rejuvenating waters at Moree
- Sampling some fine wines in the town of Orange
- Learning about the history of the 1850s Gold Rush in Bathurst
- Browsing the produce at Mudgee Fine Foods Farmers Market
- Enjoying the music festival at Tamworth
Where to stay in Country NSW
There is endless choice when looking for places to stay in Country New South Wales.
In Mudgee Cobb & Co Court Boutique Hotel is our pick for both comfort and a history lesson while Evanslea Luxury Boutique hotel is our choice for a place to stay in Mudgee with pets.
We would go to Armidale just to see the new fitout at art-deco Tattersalls Hotel while in Far North NSW The Eltham Hotel has also had a recent renovation and now offers elegant accommodation in a handful of rooms upstairs.
The Snowy Mountains
Known colloquially as the Snowies, the Snowy Mountains are situated around five and a half hours from Sydney (roughly 490 kilometres away).
Here, you’ll find the highest mountain range in all of mainland Australia – and, naturally, some of the country’s finest skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
The Snowy Mountains get heaps of natural snowfall every winter between June and September, which results in some prime powdery conditions for hitting the slopes.
Five of the highest on the Australian mainland can be found here, all of which are more than 2,100 metres above sea level. It’s no wonder that the region is home to no less than four winter sports resorts.
It may surprise you to know that skiing has actually been going on in Kiandra – an old gold mining town – since the 1860s. Kiandra, by the way, is now a ghost town, just in case you were interested in visiting.
However, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that skiing in the Snowy Mountains began to boom. The rest is history. Today, it’s a wonderland of snowy fun, with pristine snow and terrain parks for all levels. There are even cross country skiing trails to discover, too.
The largest snow resort in the Snowies also happens to be the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere: Perisher boasts an incredible 47 lifts, with all sorts of runs and terrains for skiing and snowboarding. Night skiing is pretty popular here, too. It all kicks off in early June with the Perisher Peak Festival.
Thredbo is another of the Snowy Mountains’ ski resorts. You’ll find the longest ski run in Australia, complete with cafes, restaurants, nightlife, and Alpine villages to explore.
Another resort to consider is Charlotte Pass, the highest snow resort in the country, with a range of adventures awaiting intrepid weekenders. It’s only accessible by over-snow transport.
The fun doesn’t stop in the summer. When the snow melts, cyclists flock to the winding tracks of the Snowy Mountains for what’s often considered Australia’s best biking area. A great option is to take your bike on the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift then enjoy the exhilarating Thredbo Downhill Bike Run.
If you want something a little more entry-level, check out the Thredbo Valley Track, which curves alongside the glassy Thredbo River. For something more rugged, the Mount Kosciuszko Summit Trail provides spectacular views of the mountains (it’s also hikeable).
There are bushwalking tracks around the area, of course, and Alpine trails, too. You can hike through the UNESCO-protected Kosciuszko Biosphere Reserve, a picturesque scene with carpets of wildflowers in bloom and forests of twisting snow gum trees.
But if all you want to do is chill out amidst the beautiful scenery with some delicious food and drink to indulge in, there’s scope for that, too! There are plenty of cellar doors with cool climate wines to enjoy, which can be paired alongside freshly caught fish from the surrounding area.
Highlights of the Snowy Mountains:
- Hitting one of the many slopes at Perisher Snow Resort
- Hiking amidst the wildflowers of the Kosciuszko Biosphere Reserve
- Sampling the fun nightlife and apres ski around Thredbo Snow Resort
- Cycling along one of the many awesome trails here in summer
- Enjoying various wines from Tumbarumba Wines Escape
Where to stay in the Snowy Mountains
For groups and families, the Shearers Hut at Boloco Station is perfect with 3 bedrooms that can sleep 6 people. Located on a working sheep farm on 4000 acres and there is also wild deer, kangaroos, wombats and significant birdlife as well. Only 45 minutes from the skifield there is also trout fishing, mountain-bike riding and more!
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