Where to go in NSW: Short Getaways from Sydney
Wondering where to go in NSW for a short getaway? Whether you want to hit the hiking trails, discover a great NSW winery, enjoy a weekend away with the kids and native wildlife, or have a grown up city break, we have put together some options for you to consider.
We are lifelong Sydneysiders who love nothing more than jumping in the car and spending a few days outside the city. Below we share some of our favourite places and tips for what to do when you get there
So let’s start planning…
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Take a trip south – Wollongong and the Illawarra
There is lots to see along this journey south of Sydney. You can take the straightforward drive down the freeway or the scenic route through the Royal National Park and down the Grand Pacific Drive, which sees you heading across the beautiful Seacliff Bridge.
Itinerary ideas for the Illawarra Coast
An Active Getaway near Wollongong
If you fancy a little hiking, you could spend a few hours in the national park, perhaps the walk from Wattamolla to Eagle Rock. You could hire a rowboat at Audley and enjoy a break on the Port Hacking River, or make your way to Bundeena and check out the Aboriginal engravings.
Want more? There are dozens of great bush walks in Wollongong and just as many fabulous beaches like this one at Thirroul north of Wollongong.
A little further down the coast is Otford Farm horse riding and a number of golf clubs.
A Family Getaway
Point the car to Symbio Wildlife Park, where you can meet native animals and learn about their needs before stopping at Stanwell Point to watch the hang gliders fly.
In Wollongong, you could pop into the Science Museum or play a round at Holey Moley mini golf.
A Food lovers Getaway
The first stop on a foodie trip south should be Darkes Glenbernie Orchard in Dharawal National Park bushland. Taste cider, honey mead wine, apple cider vinegar. You can also pick apples in season (mid-Nov to April/May).
For lunch, make your way to the coast and Headlands at Austinmer, where you can enjoy your meal right on the beachfront.
Wollongong is also home to 3 breweries, all within walking distance of Wollongong Town Centre. The next day should start with a healthy beachfront breakfast – we usually end up at Diggies but you could also check out Pepes on the Beach just opposite.
Art and Culture in the Illawarra
Pop into the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple at Helensburgh or the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple in Berkeley in suburban Wollongong.
Museum lovers are also in luck with a couple of gems in the Illawarra, including HARS Aviation Museum at Shellharbour Airport, the Australian Motorlife Museum at Kembla Grange and The Wollongong Art Gallery.
If you prefer your art outdoors, Wollongong has plenty of street art with 40 murals across the city centre and in neighbouring Shellharbour thanks to its Wonderwalls Festival.
Where to stay in Wollongong
- Headlands Hotel at Austinmer Beach – a great beachfront dining area and bar, hotel rooms and apartments, most with stunning water views.
- Mantra Wollongong – Pet friendly apartments, perfect for the whole family
- Quest Wollongong – one and two bedroom serviced apartments
Keep heading south to the Kiama and it’s pretty harbour, the town of Gerringong 10 minutes south or the beautiful Seven Mile Beach at Gerroa.
Kiama and Gerringong Itinerary Ideas
There are some many things to do in Kiama and neighbouring Gerringong, we have a whole page dedicated to it. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. We know you will want to come back.
Active Getaway in Kiama
An overnight stay in Kiama or Gerringong is perfect for completing the 22km Kiama Coast Walk.
You could also just enjoy a coastal picnic, a swim in one of Kiama’s beautiful rock pools, paddle the Minnamurra River or a stroll in the Minnamurra Rainforest and the waterfall.
Family Getaways in Kiama
Kids will enjoy watching the Kiama Blowhole at full steam, check the visitors’ centre for the best times of day to see it.
On the way to Kiama detour to the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures or spend an afternoon at the Jamberoo Action Park, with its water slides, mini golf, rides and chairlift.
Foodie Escapes in Kiama
The Illawarra may not be the first place to pop into mind when you think about winery getaways, but there are several cellar doors in the region. We suggest you pop into Crooked River Wine or Coolangatta Estate for a tasting or to pick up a bottle for later.
If you are more a craft brew lover, local Stoic Brewing in Gerringong has a good range, including a Ginger Cider for those strange beings like me who don’t love beer. They also run events and host food trucks.
If your getaway is on a Wednesday, don’t miss the famous farmers’ market in Kiama or on Thursday and weekends there are markets in nearby Berry.
Add some Art and Culture – Pop into Boolarng Nangamai – Aboriginal Art and Culture Studio in Gerringong and watch the local artists at work.
Where to stay in Kiama and Gerringong
- Motel 617 Kiama – Queen rooms, family rooms and a 2 bedroom apartment in this clean and tidy property
- Mercure Gerringong – 52 king rooms, some can sleep up to 4 people, swimming pool and onsite restaurants
- Park Ridge Retreat – a variety of rooms including family and interconnecting room options. Onsite restaurant with lovely gardens. Close to town centre and beach.
A Beach Escape North to the Central Coast
Beginning just 60 minutes of Sydney’s CBD is the beautiful NSW Central Coast, it’s a fast and easy drive and the bushland buffer of Berowra National Park between the city and the coast really makes it feel like you are much further away
Central Coast and Hinterland
There are many layers to the Central Coast, from the ever popular Terrigal waterfront to the tiny communities at Pearl Beach and Patonga on the peninsula. Head inland and there is just as much waiting to be discovered in the Hinterland.
An Active Getaway on the Central Coast
For a quick break that does you the world of good, why not pack your hiking boots and hit the trails? There are lots of excellent walks on the Central Coast. We love the Patonga to Pearl Beach track at Brisbane Water National Park. or the Bouddi Coastal Walk At Bouddi National Park.
If you are a regular visitor to the coast, consider exploring the hinterland, Strickland State Forest, and nearby Somersby Falls. If you have always wanted to try horse riding, make your way to Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures.
If you’re more of a water baby, you might like to explore Brisbane water from a boat. Head to Anderson’s Boat Shed in Ettalong and pick up a vessel to suit. Alternatively, a sunrise paddle with Bombora Ettalong Beach SUP is a brilliant way to start the day.
Family Getaways on the NSW Central Coast
First stop on your family getaway to the central coast should be the Australian Reptile Park. You can meet all sorts of animals here, but their reptile collection is second to none.
Test your fear of heights at the Treetops Adventure Park in Ourimbah State Forest where you will find ziplines, trampolines and ball pits, everything you need for a few hours of exhausting fun! Suitable for the whole family 3 years and above.
Start your second day with an extra special breakfast – with the alpacas at Iris Lodge Alpaca Farm just inland from Tuggerah.
A Central Coast Foodie Escape
If oysters for breakfast is not your thing, then keep driving to Woy Woy where you will have plenty of options. You can also pick up some bakery goods for the rest of your trip.
From here, make your way to Erina, the home of Distillery Botanica, for an afternoon gin tasting. If you are running out of energy, a shot of their famous Mr Black should sort you out.
Terrigal is a great base for a foodie trip to the Central Coast. After you eat and drink your way around this dining hotspot you can finish the day with a sunset stroll along the Terrigal boardwalk to burn off a few calories.
Start your second day with breakfast in Ettalong. It’s hard to go past the pastries at Sasa Sicilian Street Food, grab one of their famous Cannoli or something savoury if you are not a sugar lover, either way you won’t be disappointed. Get your breakfast to make the short drive up to Mount Ettalong for a beautiful view of Pearl Beach.
After exploring the peninsular beaches, head to The Boathouse at Patonga or Fisherman Wharf at Woy Woy for a light lunch before the drive back to the city.
A getaway full of Art and Culture on the Central Coast
History lovers will enjoy learning all about life along the Hawkesbury River. Arrive at Brooklyn for the 10am Riverboat Postman for their morning tour, which includes a light lunch.
Next stop as you make your way to Terrigal is the Gosford Regional Gallery and Edogawa Commemorative Garden. On our last visit, we enjoyed a photography exhibition that highlighted the coast’s beautiful beaches. The Edogawa Garden is a traditional ‘shuyu’ (strolling style) garden and a great place to give your photography skills a workout.
If you would rather view photos than take your own pop into the Ken Duncan Gallery, in Erina. Ken is undoubtedly the best known landscape photographer in the country and his gallery features an extensive collection of his work from around the world. There is also a cafe on site.
If history is more your thing, consider a tour of Henry Kendall Cottage in West Gosford or Alison Homestead in Wyong who offers a tour of the property with tea and scones for $10 pp.
Night time options for culture lovers on the coast include The famous Avoca Beach Cinema or the Art House Wyong for some live theatre. If you visit on the weekend, don’t miss the Bouddi Gallery – a social enterprise supporting indigenous artists from around Australia
Where to stay on the Central Coast
- Ibis Budget Gosford – If you just want somewhere to lay your head, this is a good no frills option with studios, one bedroom and a 3 bedroom townhouse
- Crowne Plaza Terrigal – a variety of suites and rooms, some with water views, indoor and outdoor pool opposite the beach.
How to spend a few days in Newcastle
If you have never visited Newcastle, use this opportunity to right that wrong. NSW second biggest city, once a coal mining town and known as the Gateway to the Hunter Valley, offers plenty to amuse visitors on a short stay.
We recently had a 4 day break in the city and loved the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful beaches. We were delighted by the great cafes and restaurants and enjoyed every meal. Along with its natural beauty, the city has some interesting museums and galleries and has retained many of its original buildings.
The drive north from Sydney is easy and takes about 2 and a half hours. Alternatively, you can take the very scenic route which travels via Lake Tuggerah and Lake Macquarie (A43 &A A49). You follow the coast as far as the Entrance before heading back inland.
This is also a great destination to visit by public transport, with trains taking a similar time to complete the journey and departing every 30 mins from Central.
An Active Getaway in Newcastle
Start your visit to the Hunter Coast’s biggest city with a bush walk at Glenrock Lagoon just south of town. The Yuelarbah walking track is a 6.8km return walk (or ride) that is relatively easy and delivers several highlights, including Leichhardt Lookout and two small waterfalls before you reach Burwood Beach.
Next up, it’s time to explore the beaches along the Bathers Way. Begin in the south at Merewether Beach. By the time you get to Merewether and its iconic ocean pool, you will probably be starving. There are two great options: either Merewether Surf House if you fancy eating in or for a great takeaway option, Blue Door Kiosk.
Re-nourished its time to hit the pavement again. As you stroll the path into town, keep an eye out for the stairs down to the Bogey Hole. You will find it just past King Edward Lookout. This rock pool is the oldest convict built ocean bath in the country.
Alternatively, book yourself a cycling tour with Newy Rides and let them help you discover the city’s best sights.
Next morning it’s time for a visit to Stockton Beach and the dunes. The largest in the southern hemisphere, this is an adrenalin lover’s dream with quad biking, horseback riding or sand boarding.
Family Getaway in Newcastle
Start your visit with a swim at the ocean baths, or if it’s not swimming weather, ride the Stockton ferry, the 8 minute ride across the Hunter River to the Griffith Park Playground and let the kids run free for a while.
Older kids might prefer to visit the Newcastle museum, which along with having some fun at the photo walls outside the museum where you can take your seat as mayor of the city or perhaps take your dinosaur for a walk.
Hunter wetlands make a brilliant spot for a family picnic with ducks, walking paths and a popular adventure playground.
Tonight have a wander along Honeysuckle wharf as the sunsets and grab dinner by the waterfront. Alternatively, The Hood Milkbar will put a smile on any kid’s face.
Start your second day with breakfast at Blue Door before arriving at Blackbutt Reserve for their 10am opening. Entry is free and you can get up close to several Aussie favourites like koalas, wombats and wallabies.
A Foodies Guide to Newcastle
We only touched the surface on our last four-day visit and have a long list for when we go back. After a quick stop at Strzelecki Lookout and the Anzac Memorial Walk, we made our way to Merewether Beach.
We enjoyed Merewether Surf House for brunch/lunch with a view. We made our way along the beach as far as Newcastle Beach, passing Susan Gilmore Lookout, King Edward Lookout and Anne Furnely Lookout.
From here we strolled over to the Grain Store where you will find 21 beers on tap and over 50 gins to choose from. You may find it hard to get away, so leave your visit to the afternoon and perhaps walk from your hotel.
If you have the stamina to kick on, the city has a great small bar scene. Alternatively, Jams Karaoke Bar to belt out a few tunes and some Osaka Street food to sustain you.
If you want someone to help you find the best spots quickly, Newcastle Afoot offers Eat and Drink Newcastle History.
You might like to choose a walk or two from the list above between meals or you will never get through all the good things to eat in Newcastle.
On day two, head to Darby Street, where you will find several breakfast options. The main street shops are great – I particularly enjoyed fossicking the book collection at Cooks Hill used books. Also keep your eye out for the giant headphones!
Make your way to Newcastle City Farmers Market to fill the esky before you head home.
Want more ideas? Check out our guide to 24 Irresistible weekends from Sydney
Feature image: Scenic coastal views across Walkers Beach and Gerringong Golf Club, Gerringong. Credit: Destination NSW