“There is nothing quite so delightfully mysterious as a secret in your own backyard.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss.
As a Sydneysider through and through, I’ve lost count of the number of weekend getaways from Sydney I’ve done over the years. From rugged mountains to coastal seascapes, sleepy towns to countrysides, we’re quite spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to go on a road trip from Sydney.
Over the past few years, many of us have taken the opportunity to explore our own backyard here in Australia. And there is so much to see! Did you know an abundance of what we travel overseas in search for can be found right here on our doorstep?
Seeing as I undertook most of the following weekend trips from Sydney several years ago before I began blogging, I’ve reached out to my fellow Australian travel bloggers to share their more recent experiences at some of New South Wales’ best overnight escapes.
If you’re looking for destinations around 4 hours or less from our state’s capital, here are 14 ideas for Sydney weekend getaways to inspire you to be an invisible tourist on your next road trip!
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15 Weekend Getaways from Sydney for Your Next Road Trip
Although most of the following destinations can easily be done as day trips from Sydney, let’s dig into why each is perfect for an overnight stay. There are more reasons than you think!
Appreciate local specialties & unexpected fun in the Hunter Valley
2 hours north of Sydney
While the obvious thing that first comes to mind is wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, there is a wonderful variety of activities and attractions in the region to spend a night or two! It’s one my all-time favourite Sydney weekend getaway destination, with a different experience to be had every time.
Grab your friends to sample antipasto platters whilst hopping from vineyard to vineyard, go grape stomping, laugh your heart out at wine barrel rolling, admire a birds-eye view over the region from the skies or enjoy a horseback ride through the vineyards. Don’t miss the the themed Hunter Valley Gardens. Even glamping under the stars can turn an ordinary weekend into a romantic weekend getaway.
My detailed guide is full of more information and extra things to do in the Hunter Valley. And don’t worry if sampling wine is not your thing – I was pleasantly surprised to discover the numerous things to do for non-drinkers, too!
Enjoy spring blooms at Cowra Japanese Garden & Cultural Centre
4 hours west of Sydney
Can’t get to Japan for the spring cherry blossom season? No need to worry, as NSW has its own! Located four hours west of Sydney, Cowra Japanese Garden & Cultural Centre is one of the ideal weekend trips from Sydney for those who are seeking a sakura fix.
Spanning 12.5 acres and featuring all the elements you’ve come to know and love about Japanese gardens, the immaculately landscaped grounds are home to hundreds of varieties of flowering plants set against a quintessential backdrop of Australian gum trees.
Opened in 1979 to commemorate the relationship between Japan and Australia, the Cowra Japanese Garden is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. During WWII, a Prisoner of War camp was established in Cowra to house captured Japanese military. Today, the Cultural Centre displays artefacts, pieces of Japanese art and holds workshops in Japanese crafts such as bonsai and ikebana.
TIP: The annual Sakura Matsuri festival is usually held the last weekend in September, and tickets need to be bought in advance on the Cowra Japanese Garden website.
Step back in time in Berry
2 hours south of Sydney
Located in the Southern Highlands, there are numerous things to do in Berry and the surrounding area to span a weekend. This charming country town will allow you to feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to the late 19th century with its beautifully preserved architecture lining the main street!
Abundant with cafes and eateries to satisfy your appetite, some popular small businesses worth visiting are Milkwood Bakery, Sourdough Café, Great Southern Hotel (with boats perched on its roof), the Berry Ice Creamery and not to forget the famous Berry Donut Van. Farmer’s Markets are also held frequently.
Visit the Old Court House, the manicured gardens of Apex Park, shop for homewares or antiques, learn more about the town’s history at the Berry Historic Museum and leisurely stroll the Berry Heritage Walk.
TIP:Don’t forget to hop in your car to take advantage of nearby Seven Mile Beach on a beautiful day, as well as enjoy the incredible views to the ocean from Cambewarra Mountain Lookout!
Learn about our country’s history in Canberra
3 hours south-west of Sydney
There is much more to Canberra than Parliament House and politicians! It’s one of the best weekend getaways from Sydney to learn about our role in world history, enjoy delightful foodie experiences and to be immersed in the wonders of art and science.
Pay respects to those who fought for our freedoms at the Australian War Memorial (and perhaps feel overwhelmed by the number of red poppies left at the Roll of Honour wall). Stroll the Anzac Parade promenade and visit each of the numerous war memorials dotted along the way – dedicated to both Australian and New Zealand military factions. For sweeping views over the entire city, don’t miss Mount Ainslie Lookout.
Looking for fun things to do in Canberra? Head to Questacon – National Science and Technology Centre, it’s a huge drawcard for families with children of all ages, while the National Gallery of Australia houses a permanent Australian-themed collection as well as major artworks on loan from international galleries.
TIP:Indulge in a private floating picnic on Lake Burley Griffin from a specialty boat, join a brewery, winery and distillery tour or even take part in a mystery picnic to support local stores and artisans by solving clues!
Experience breathtaking ocean views in Wollongong
1 hour south of Sydney – Contributed by Christina, Travel2Next
Wollongong is the perfect getaway for those looking to escape the big city. If you are tired of all of the hustle and bustle in Sydney, then this coastal city might be just what you need. Beyond being a great place to visit, Wollongong also has many wonderful holiday rental homes perfect for a family or group of friends!
A highlight of any trip to Wollongong is the journey by road from Sydney. The drive takes about two hours, but it is well worth the time.
Along the way, you will be able to see some of Australia’s most spectacular sights and enjoy a change in scenery as the wind whips through your hair along Sea Cliff Bridge on Grand Pacific Drive. The road hugs the coastline, and by the time you arrive in Wollongong, you will be ready to for some city diversions.
Compared to Sydney, Wollongong’s beaches are nowhere near as crowded. Besides going to the beach, other things to do in Wollongong are exploring the city’s many arts and cultural festivals, eating fish n’ chips at the pier or taking a stroll on Wollongong Botanic Gardens.
Enjoy seclusion & hiking in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
1 hour north of Sydney – Contributed by Lindsey Puls, Have Clothes, Will Travel
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a great weekend getaway from Sydney, for those looking to get away from it all and enjoy the park’s quiet, secluded beaches and fantastic hiking trails.
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is also home to one of the largest known concentrations of Aboriginal sites in all of Australia. To see the park’s engravings, it’s best to go either early morning or late afternoon. This is because the shadows will make the engravings easier to see.
Another reason to visit Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is to see Barrenjoey Lighthouse. There are trails you can take to this iconic lighthouse, or you can also see it from the West Head lookout. This lookout also offers great views of Pittwater and Broken Bay.
Spend a quiet weekend camping at the Basin Campground or at a local bed & breakfast just outside the park. It’s a very relaxing way to spend a weekend!
Relax and unwind around Palm Beach
1 hour 10mins north of Sydney – Contributed by Victoria, Guide Your Travel
Palm Beach is a little town located north of Sydney and has one of the best beaches on the East Coast of Australia. It takes just under an hour to drive here from Sydney so it’s easy to reach. The town sits on a long peninsula with the Pittwater Lagoon on one side and the open ocean on the other. This means you’ll get to enjoy a surf beach as well as a calm lagoon which is perfect for water sports.
Ideal for short breaks from Sydney, Palm Beach also has lots of little restaurants and shops to choose from. You’ll also find campgrounds as well as some smaller hotels in town which make it the perfect weekend getaway. With lots to see and do nearby staying overnight is an absolute must. Enjoy an early morning walk on the beach or an afternoon at Great Mackarel Beach which lies on the other side of the lagoon and can easily be reached via ferry.
An absolute must-do activity to try while you are there is to hike to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse which sits at the very tip of the peninsula. The hike is quick and easy and the views are more than rewarding. You’ll get a sweeping panorama over the entire bay and the beautiful beach below. Make sure to pack your camera! It’s absolutely worth it.
Admire natural rock formations in Bundeena & The Royal National Park
1 hour 20mins south of Sydney – Contributed by Chris Fry, the Aquarius Traveller
You don’t need to drive far out of Sydney to appreciate the natural beauty you have in the area. The small seaside town of Bundeena is only an hour away from the city centre, with a population of less than 2000 people. Apart from being a low-key destination, it happens to be the starting point to the Royal National Park.
Established in 1879, it’s the world’s second-oldest National Parks, heritage-listed, and features unique attractions, plants, birds, animals, and is really great for bushwalking, cycling, or whale watching. One of the biggest attractions is Wedding Cake Rock, a unique rock formation shaped like a wedding cake. Pack a picnic for the day and set forth for exploration in over 16,000 hectares of bushland and beaches.
After your day’s activities, return to Bundeena and relax in several accommodation options. Something to suit everyone’s style and definitely a place to make you feel you’re away from the busy city life of Sydney.
Be left awestruck by the Blue Mountains
1 hour 20mins west of Sydney – Contributed by Raksha, Solopassport
One of the most popular weekend getaways from Sydney is the Blue Mountains. Famous for its eucalyptus forests and steep cliffs, this UNESCO World Heritage site got its name because of the blue haze blanketing the region.
The mountain ranges are made up of several beautiful and characteristic towns. Katoomba is the main town, home to the famous Three Sisters sandstone rock formation. All these towns and villages are also very well connected by the public transport from Sydney.
As the mountains have spectacular cliffs and trails, it is a famous destination for abseiling, hiking and mountain biking in NSW. Numerous hiking trails pass-through waterfalls and forests, range from one day hikes to multiple day hikes with various difficulty levels. It also has beautiful camping spots where one can enjoy the views of these mountains from a tent and on a budget.
The Scenic World has a cableway and walkway is especially for tourists who want to enjoy the Blue Mountains without having to do a lot of physical activity. The Scenic World is a short bus ride from Katoomba and is in demand among the families and children.
Explore boutiques, wine trails & cricket history in Bowral
1 hour 45 mins south-west of Sydney – Contributed by Danielle, Stuff It Go Travelling
After a weekend country escape full of wonderful wineries, gorgeous gardens and magnificent museums?
Then Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands is one of the short strips from Sydney. This breathtaking town is only a 1.5 hour drive from Sydney and will have you feeling relaxed in no time.
Nestled at the base of Mount Gibraltar, you’ll want to spend at least two nights in Bowral as it offers plenty to see and do. From vineyard hopping, boutique shopping, gaining cricket batting tips and indulging in books and breakfast (at the same time), Bowral will have you bedazzled.
Some of our top experiences include exploring the Southern Highlands Wine Trail (stop off at Mount Ashby Estate); visiting the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame (a must for any cricket fan); eating breakfast amongst books at the Elephant Boy Café and enjoying a picnic and walk to Mt Gibraltar Reserve.
These will have you falling in love with not only Bowral but the NSW Southern Highlands and booking another weekend getaway from Sydney in no time.
Adore historic buildings & coastal walks in Newcastle
2 hours north of Sydney – Contributed by Paula, Sydney Expert
Beaches, fine food, historic buildings and museums and art in abundant supply and you have more than enough reasons to spend a weekend in Newcastle, NSW second-biggest city.
In spring and summer, it is hard to tear yourself away from the many beaches and coastal walks. In cooler weather, there are excellent museums, galleries and quirky shops to keep you occupied.
One must-see is the Bather’s Way, a walk that takes in 5 beaches over a 6km stroll. Allow about half an hour to stop by the Anzac Memorial Walk, a 450m path and bridge that connects Strzelecki Lookout with Bar Beach and about 2 hours for the full walk.
You will also see the beautiful art deco ocean baths at Newcastle and Merewether Beaches and even if it’s not swimming weather, these are lovely to photograph.
TIP: Nature-lovers should check out Blackbutt Reserve, a free wildlife park 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre.
Be blown away by the unique treasures of Kiama
2 hours south of Sydney – Contributed by Kerri McConnel, Beer and Croissants
Kiama is a small town on the south coast of NSW that is blessed by its incredible natural landscapes.
Ninety minutes south of Sydney, Kiama draws thousands of visitors each year to the famous blowhole, but it’s worthy of staying for a day or two to make sure you see everything else this beautiful town has to offer.
The Kiama Blowhole can be accessed easily from the town. People line the edges of the rock formation, oohing and aahing at the water pushes in from the ocean with such force that it sprays up into the air, sometimes sending people running for cover.
Kiama offers a chance to explore age-old buildings, including the stunning pink post office. Completed in 1878, it is one of the oldest post offices in NSW. Also check out the original buildings of the CBC Bank, City Bank of Sydney, Court House and Presbyterian Church.
TIP: Don’t miss the historic terrace houses. Once home to quarry workers, they are now filled with places to eat and small shops. They are also the only wooden terrace houses left in NSW.
As a foodie, one of the highlights of my stay in Kiama was Parfait Patisserie with a great range of handcrafted croissants, pastries and bread.
Experience the rugged beauty of Kangaroo Valley
2 hours 20mins south of Sydney – Contributed by Margarita Steinhardt, The Wildlife Diaries
Kangaroo Valley is one of the most picturesque destinations for a weekend getaway from Sydney. This gorgeous valley, located just 150 km south of Sydney, is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some country comfort within easy reach of the city. And if you are looking for nature adventures, there are so many things to do in Kangaroo Valley, you’ll be planning another trip before you leave.
Surrounded by the towering walls of the Illawarra Escarpment, Kangaroo Valley is home to three epic waterfalls: Belmore, Fitzroy and Carrington Falls, and plenty of stunning lookouts, including Cambewarra Mountain lookout that offers one of the longest panoramas in Australia. There is a cozy restaurant at the top of Cambewarra Mountain – a perfect lunch spot with a view.
For something a little bit more active, you can take one of the walking trails or kayak down Kangaroo River with Kangaroo Valley Safaris. And if you’d rather unwind with a glass of local wine and a scrumptious meal, Crooked River Winery in Gerringong and Silos Estate in Berry have fantastic restaurants.
Be spoilt for choice by sandy beaches & whale watching in Port Stephens
2 hours 30 mins north of Sydney – Contributed by James Ian, Travel Collecting
Port Stephens is one of the great short getaways from Sydney. It’s a bit too far for a day trip and there is so much to do, you will need a full weekend.
There are 26 beaches to choose from – from windswept surf beaches to more secluded family friendly ones. There are several stunning lookouts, including Gan Gan Lookout and the stunning Tomaree Heads Summit Walk, where you can sweeping shorelines and native bushland.
Another famous thing to do there – and the highlight of my own trip – is sand tobogganing. The Stock Bright sand dunes are huge and sliding down them on a toboggan is super fun. The climb back up to the top in soft sand isn’t quite so much fun – but it’s a great workout.
For adventure lovers, you can also go horseback riding on the beach and even ride a camel. The area is also a popular whale watching area and I loved going whale watching in a sailing boat! Not only was it great to be out in a sailing boat, the whales were super close! There are also plenty of dolphins in the waters around Port Stephens and chances are good of spotting pods of dolphins swimming around.
No matter what you like to do, you will have a great weekend getaway from Sydney at Port Stephens.
Visit the world’s whitest sand beach in Jervis Bay
3 hours south of Sydney – Contributed by Pauline, BeeLoved City
Located 3 hours south of Sydney, Jervis Bay is an excellent destination for a weekend away in NSW.
Nestled between 2 national parks, Booderee and Jervis Bay, the area is home to fantastic hikes, famous beaches and cute little towns where you can relax.
The most popular thing to do in Jervis Bay is visiting Hyams Beach. It’s known as the world’s whitest sand beach (according to the Guinness book of records). This will be the highlight of your trip. The beach is so beautiful!
But this area is also home to many beaches in Jervis Bay that are just as pretty, but not as crowded. The best way to discover them is to go on the White Sands walk from Vincentia. It’s a short walk but it packs a punch and you’ll get to discover Chinaman’s Beach, a true hidden gem!
TIP: If you are visiting in winter, make sure to book a whale watching cruise.
You will find many holiday houses that you can rent for the weekend. For couples, Huskisson and Vincentia are ideal. If you are visiting with kids, you should opt for accommodation in Callala Beach.
Concluding these ideas for Sydney weekend getaways
That’s a wrap for these ideas for weekend road trips from Sydney! From interesting histories to endless foodie adventures, gorgeous sandy beaches with turquoise waters to lush greenery of our national parks, there is certainly a destination to suit you less than a 4 hour drive from our state’s capital.
Prefer not to drive? If you’re feeling more adventurous and your bank balance allows, you could always hop on a 2 hour flight to stunning Lord Howe Island! For more ideas outside of NSW, check out all my articles for Australia.
Thanks again to my fellow Aussie travel bloggers for their delightful contributions to this article.
Did you find these ideas for a Sydney weekend getaway helpful? Which destinations would you add to this list? Feel free to leave me a comment and share this article with your friends. You can also come and join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or TikTok for more Australia travel inspiration!
Until next time,
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