Plan a NSW Road Trip and Explore Regional Australia
Looking for some NSW road trip inspiration? Not sure where to go? Our road trip ideas will help you discover some of the best towns in NSW. From opals to an open range zoo, there’s much to do when you hit the road and head west.
2020 was an odd year, bushfires, self-isolation, basically too much time at home, so when it was time to go exploring again we started planning a road trip. We asked our fellow travel writing friends to share their favourite NSW road trip ideas to help us fill our itinerary with new towns and sights. Hopefully, they will also spark the travel bug in you and inspire see more of our beautiful state.
7 Road Trips in NSW That Are Not On The Coast
As a nation of coast dwellers, many of NSW favourite holiday spots are dotted on the coast between Eden and Tweed Heads. But we would love to encourage you to take the road less travelled and head inland. We have pulled together this list of getaway ideas from our own and our fellow Aussie travel bloggers’ favourite spots. Many of us are drawn to the coast for our holidays, but there is so much to see inland. It’s time to visit our unique country tours and enjoy their hospitality.
Kathy, from 50 Shades of Age, tells us about this beautiful spot in Northern NSW.
One of the best little country towns in New South Wales would, without a doubt, have to be Bellingen around 530 kilometres north of Sydney. Bellingen is on the scenic Waterfall Way alongside the Bellinger River and is about 19 kilometres due west of the coastal town of Mylestom on the Coffs Coast.
Waterfall Way is surrounded by lush green rolling hills, views over the beautiful Bellinger River or a backdrop of tree-clad mountain escarpments as you plunge into the mountainous terrain. So the drive out to this charming little country town is a pleasant experience in itself.
I would describe Bello (as the locals call it), as being extremely laid back with a bohemian feel about it. The town consists of lovingly restored buildings lining the main street with plenty of quirky cafes, pre-loved fashion, trendy boutiques, gift shops, art galleries and interesting bookshops.
Once a sleepy little rural town, it still has that country feel about it and is surrounded by dairy farms and lush green rolling hills. The Bello of today is flush with organic produce, artisan bakeries, a gelato shop, its own brewery, a grand old pub and the creative community is alive and well.
There are a couple of excellent eateries in town, including the Old Butter Factory Cafe and Cedar Bar & Kitchen, in an old church in Bellingen. They both come highly recommended.
As for accommodation in Bellingen, there are pubs, motels, bed & breakfasts, cabins, farm stays and campgrounds.
Read about our drive along the Waterfall Way
Leah Smileski from Kid Bucket List visited Cobar in NSW Central West with her family and shares her advice with us.
Since copper was discovered by in the mid-1870s, Cobar, which sits in the middle of NSW between Dubbo and Broken Hill has been one of the states’ most productive mining towns. The first discovery was made by a pastoralist who was led to the site by local Aborigines; I wonder if they knew what sharing the location would result in if they would have gone ahead?
Today thanks to increased mining in recent years activity Cobar’s is home to 4,000 people and is a busy, welcoming little town. Several mines including the New Cobar Open Cut Gold Mine and Great Cobar Copper Mine are open for visitors.
There are a number of heritage buildings in Cobar and a stop at the Great Cobar Heritage Centre where you can learn about Cobar’s history from 1869 to the present day is a good way to start your visit. You can also can learn about gold production and mining history by visiting some of these are historic or working mines.
However, one of the biggest drawcards to the Cobar area is the incredible Aboriginal rock art. You will find it about 40 km west of the town at the Mount Grenfell historic site. The site boasts 1,300 artworks of the Wongaibon people including hand stencils and depictions of animals and people making it one of the most significant in the state.
Cobar is just under 700 kilometres from Sydney via Dubbo and will take you on eight hours to get to in your car. We suggest you avoid driving between dusk and dawn as it is prime time for kangaroos, goats and emus to wander on the road. We also recommend visiting in Spring or Autumn when the weather is mild. Summer can be scorching!
Check out these itineraries for exploring Cobar on their local tourism site
Maitland and Morpeth
2 Aussie Travellers fill us in on all the great food you can find in the Hunter region of NSW.
While many are familiar with the fabulous wineries in the Hunter Valley, Maitland and Morpeth are less well known. These adjacent country towns have developed a strong foodie culture that is the perfect foil to their region’s supply of world-class wines, farm-fresh produce and quality artisan foods.
The chef’s and owners of the innovative local cafés, restaurants and bakeries have put the towns on the map as a must-visit destination for food lovers.
Located just a 2-hour drive from Sydney, it’s easy to incorporate Maitland and Morpeth into your NSW country road trip. It’s a picturesque drive too, as both towns are on the banks of the mighty Hunter River with plenty of open farmland and rolling fields.
Another reason to visit these historic river port towns is their gorgeous heritage buildings and the stories from the past that have been so well preserved. Take one of the self-guided heritage walks, join a tour of Morpeth Gaol, wander along the riverfront and seek out the street art down by the Levee.
The modern Morpeth Art Gallery rivals many in far larger cities and when you are done ensure you still have time to chat to the locals over a leisurely coffee, wine or a delicious meal at the likes of The Rigby and Coquun.
There’s no one right time to visit the Maitland area, but our pick is when the temperatures fall, and you can enjoy cozying up in front of an open fire with the famed Hunter Valley hospitality. Check out Toni’s post on where to eat in Maitland if you decide to head this way.
Read about our stay in Morpeth and Maitland earlier this year.
Related: We recently spent 2 nights in nearby Newcastle and had a great time!
Jane from To Travel Too recently revisited Mudgee, a fantastic food and wine region, and shared their experience below.
Mudgee is one of NSW’s premier wine regions in the Central Tablelands of NSW. The 270 km journey will take you around 3.5 hours to 4 hours or 45 minutes by air with Pelican Airlines.
Mudgee is home to over 35 wineries, a gin distillery, cheesemakers, local restaurants and bars. You can wander the historical streets of Mudgee in the morning taking in the colonial buildings that date back to the 1800s, or enjoy a coffee at one of the many coffee shops before heading to one of the local wineries for wine tasting and farm to table lunch experiences. Two of our favourite wineries are Gooree Park Wines and Moothi Estate.
The best time to visit Mudgee is in the Spring or Autumn. The summer months between December and February will see temperatures reaching the high 30s. If you can plan to visit Mudgee between Thursday and Sunday, you will find all the wineries and restaurants open, some of the smaller wineries close between Monday and Wednesday.
You can choose from a range of accommodation from Airbnb’s, boutique hotels, glamping, bed and breakfasts, pubs and farm stays. Here is a shortlist of our favourite Airbnbs in Mudgee.
Mudgee will capture your hearts! Find out more about what to do in the area on the official site.
Kelly Anne from Silver Compass Tours shares a favourite of mine, Orange, the town where my father was born and grandfather lived to a ripe old age.
A sophisticated, large country town buzzing with quality and hatted restaurants, cafes and wine bars, high-end boutiques, artisanal stores and surrounded by vineyards and over 40 cellar doors on its outskirts, Orange in the Central West is ideal for a country weekend escape. It’s a great place to experience ‘living like a local’.
Just a 3.5-hour scenic drive from Sydney west over the Blue Mountains, Orange is also accessible by XPT train and direct daily flights from Sydney with REX Airlines.
Blessed by four distinct seasons, you’ll want to keep coming back to experience them all. The annual Orange F.O.O.D Week festival each April coincides with the Autumn produce harvest and wine vintage, attracting over 10,000 visitors to the region over its two-week program. Six months later the Orange Wine Festival is held in October, incorporating the Orange Wine Show where local vignerons uncork the latest vintage to review the spectacular results.
The Orange wine region is the highest altitude wine-producing region in Australia (starting at 600 metres up to 1,100 metres above sea level). The cool-climate wines of the Orange region are produced in an elegant, full-bodied style similar to Europe with the Chardonnay, Sparkling, Shiraz and Pinot Noir varietals the stars of the region.
Orange is now fast emerging as one of Australia’s most exciting food and wine destinations.
Check out a list of great Airbnbs in Orange
Natalie and Steve, the Curious Campers, write one of our favourite Aussie blogs. They have covered so much of the country on their travels and today share the historic town of Wentworth.
Wentworth is 1050 kilometres west of Sydney. The river town offers travellers everything from significant landmarks and fascinating colonial history to natural wonders, including one of New South Wales’ most beautiful national parks.
Wentworth sits on the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. With its lovely reserve, an observation tower and plenty of information about the intersection.
If you’re a history buff, there’s a lot to like about Wentworth. Highlights include the PS Ruby, a self-guided historical walk/drive, the wonderful Pioneer Museum and the well preserved Wentworth Gaol.
There are some great natural features around Wentworth too. Perry Sandhills is 6km south of the town. They are great for sandboarding or just walking across to appreciate their size.
Anyone with a green thumb will love The Australian Inland Botanic Gardens. It features a rose garden with over 1600 rose varieties. There is also a great playground and giant musical instruments made from recycled materials that kid will love.
Wentworth is the closest base from which to explore Mungo National Park. It is 150 kilometres away. The wind and water sculptured desert landscape are spectacular. Combine what you see today with the area’s 40,000-year-old indigenous history, and you have a unique location.
Wentworth is a brilliant spot to visit year-round. Although, if you don’t like the heat, avoid visiting in summer. Otherwise, put Wentworth on your itinerary next time you plan a road trip west of Sydney.
Find out all the wonders of Wentworth on their local site.
Marijs originally from Belgium now calls Australia home her website Rooftop Antics encourages women to travel more and gives you great solo itineraries, travel fashion and travel tips.
The highlight of my Sydney to Broken Hill drive is a tie between White Cliffs and Mungo National Park. While Mungo National Park is all over Instagram, few people have heard of White Cliffs. This old-school mining town in NSW is the definition of an underrated destination. Yet it is in my opinion much cooler than its more well-known cousin in South Australia, Coober Pedy.
Visiting the strange white hilly landscape that the locals of White Cliffs call home is a fantastic experience. Underground houses can be found below the white hills and give the town its deserted feel upon arrival. They are absolutely necessary though to maintain a cool indoor climate in the gruelling heat. Don’t forget to visit one as the interior of houses such as ‘the White House’ is nothing short of spectacular.
The white hills covered in rubble are also a photographer’s dream. I recommend driving around and exploring all of the rusty old vehicles, popping into one of the local tourist stores such as the aptly named Stubby house, and trying to have a chat with a local (if you can find one).
If you are looking at staying in White Cliffs, look no further than The Underground Motel. The name gives it away, but the hotel only has underground rooms. Think cool temperatures, a lot of history, and nature’s best blackout curtains. I also recommend having a chat with the backpackers working at the hotel; they have some great stories!
Find out all about Opals and the other wonders of White Cliffs on the Destination NSW site.
Check out this cool dugout on Airbnb.
Want to start with shorter drives? Check out our list of day trips 1-2 hours from Sydney.
6 thoughts on “NSW Road Trip Ideas: Explore Regional Australia”
Even when you love a good road trip as much as we do there are always new places to discover. Thanks Paula for adding a couple more good options for our next trip south.
I’ve been to half of these places but obviously have a lot more exploring to do in my own state. Thanks for hosting me in this great collab post.
Thank you for this post! I saved it for later as it will help in planning the epic Australia road trip that’s on my bucket list. White Cliffs is now on my itinerary!
Can’t wait to explore these while we are in Australia! So many great tips!
That’s a great spot right by the vineyards!
Great suggestions. There are so many places to visit in NSW. My mum was born in Maitland so I have been there many times!