One of the world’s most dazzling cities, Sydney is packed with exciting things to see and do, but even hardcore city slickers need a weekend getaway every now and then. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of options for weekend escapes within a short drive of Sydney’s hustle and bustle. World Heritage-listed wilderness areas, cute country towns, mountain peaks, lush valleys, and sun-soaked beaches are all within easy reach of the city, and families will find great options for cheap weekend getaways with kid-friendly attractions. Whether you’re planning a mini-vacation with the kids, plotting a romantic escape, pining for an epic road trip, or looking for short breaks for singles, find ideas with our list of the top weekend getaways from Sydney.
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1. The Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains
For an exhilarating dose of nature and breathtaking vistas, you can’t beat the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, about an hour’s drive from the CBD. This is one of the best short breaks from Sydney and an especially popular last-minute weekend trip in the summer, when the mercury soars and temperatures are cooler at the higher elevations. Winter brings possible sprinklings of snow and opportunities for couples to snuggle up in a cozy cabin by a crackling fire.
Inhale the fresh eucalyptus-tinged air in the beautiful Blue Mountains National Park; gawk at the famous Three Sisters rock pinnacles shrouded in mist; hike the extensive network of trails; see cool-climate plants at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden; and explore charming mountain villages with art galleries, boutiques, and tea shops.
For a unique perspective of the park’s natural wonders, you can soar across the valley on the Scenic World Skyway or glass-floored Scenic Cableway, or ride the steepest railway in the world through an ancient rainforest. Waterfalls, wildlife, and lookouts are other top attractions. This is also one of the few easy weekend getaways from Sydney by train.
If money is no object, stay at the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, and if you’re planning a romantic getaway, Parklands Country Gardens and Lodges is an excellent choice, with 28 acres of gardens, elegant decor, and a luxurious day spa.
2. Jervis Bay and the South Coast
It’s no secret. Most Sydneysiders agree that the South Coast has some of the state’s best beaches, especially in the Shoalhaven region. In fact dazzling Hyams Beach, about three hours south of Sydney, near Jervis Bay, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. It’s the perfect spot for a weekend getaway if you want to bask on snow-white sands (reputedly the whitest in the world) and slip into the silky, sparkling blue water on a hot summer’s day.
But Hyams isn’t the only stunning slice of coast. Murrays Beach, Huskisson, and Steamers Beach are other top choices. Hiking trails lace the surrounding bushland of Booderee National Park, and other popular things to do here include kayaking, dolphin and whale-watching cruises, fishing, boating, stand-up paddleboarding, and scuba diving in Jervis Bay Marine Park. On the way south from Sydney, stop off at Kiama to see the blowhole and soak up the salt-tinged sea air on the Kiama Coast Walk.
Head farther south from Jervis Bay, and you can surf the breaks at Mollymook Beach, come face to face with kangaroos at Murramarang National Park or Pebbly Beach, and soak up the sunshine on true-to-its-name Pretty Beach. For a relaxing splurge, stay at Bannisters by the Sea in Mollymook, a luxury oceanfront resort with a vanishing edge pool; posh day spa; and highly-acclaimed seafood restaurant by famed chef, Rick Stein.
3. Port Macquarie
Beaches, bushwalking, wildlife, and water sports are some of the top ingredients of a wonderful weekend getaway, and you’ll find all these and more at picturesque Port Macquarie. Called “Port” by the locals, this former penal colony lies about four hours north of Sydney. Glistening beaches stretch north and south of the busy little town – Flynn’s Beach, Nobby’s Beach, and Shelly Beach are among the most popular, and you can ride camels at beautiful Lighthouse Beach, which seems to stretch on for miles.
A great way to explore the coast here is on the nine-kilometer Port Macquarie Coastal Walk in Sea Acres National Park, and you can break it up into several smaller sections if you’re traveling with kids or short on time. For a breathtaking overview of the region, stroll the short hike up to Tacking Point Lighthouse or hike to North Brother summit in Dooragan National Park.
Thanks to the town’s enviable position at the mouth of the Hastings River, fishing is also excellent. Sign up for a deep-sea fishing trip, cast a line off a local pier, and make sure you can sample some of the fruits of the sea at the town’s excellent restaurants.
Port Macquarie is also home to one of the largest populations of wild koalas on the Eastern Seaboard. Kids will love exploring the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail (pick up a trail guide at a visitor information center) and visiting these loveable Aussie critters at the Koala Hospital. Other family-friendly weekend getaway activities include visiting the Billabong Zoo: Koala & Wildlife Park and plucking fresh produce at Ricardoes Tomatoes and U-Pick Strawberry Farm. Whale-watching trips whisk you out to see the underwater wildlife.
Across from the beach, Sandcastle Apartments Port Macquarie makes a great base for exploring this stunning town – especially for families and groups. Beautiful blue-water views and sunny spaces greet you in the one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments.
4. The Hunter Valley
A horse in the Upper Hunter Valley
Just over a two-hour drive north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is a haven for foodies. This is the oldest grape-growing region in Australia, but you can also sample farm-fresh produce on multi-course tasting menus at top-notch restaurants. Chocolates, cheeses, chutneys, fresh-from-the-hive honey, olives, and aromatic oils are all specialties of the region, and you can work off all the gourmet delights by hiking the scenic trails in nearby Wollemi and Barrington Tops National Parks.
You’ll find plenty of family-focused things to do here, too. Soar over the valley in a hot air balloon, bike along quiet country roads, cuddle kangaroos at the Hunter Valley Zoo, and admire the botanical beauties at the Hunter Valley Gardens. Active couples can play a few rounds of golf or tennis, and unwind at one of the region’s luxury day spas at the end of the day. In a convenient central location, Pokolbin Village makes a great-value base for a short break, with cozy cottages, an inviting outdoor pool, tennis and boules courts, and a popular little Italian eatery on-site.
5. Port Stephens
View from Tomaree Head
Port Stephens is mostly about the water. Rippling volcanic headlands embrace a lovely slice of blue-water bay and white sand, less than three hours north of Sydney, and you’ll find more than 20 beautiful beaches where you can lay down your towel. Swimming, surfing, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating are popular water-based activities, and this is also one of the top fishing destinations in Australia – especially for game fishing, with record catches of billfish species.
Whales and dolphins are also frequent visitors in the bay. Sign up for a cruise to see them in action. You can also get out on the water in nearby Myall Lakes National Park, one of the largest lake systems in the state.
Port Stephens also offers plenty of adventures on land. Hike the Tomaree Head Summit Walk for panoramic views of the Port Stephens coast, zoom down the largest dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, and explore pristine pockets of natural bushland. The main towns are Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay, but the Hamptons-style Anchorage Port Stephens in nearby Corlette also makes a great weekend escape, with two sparkling pools, water’s edge restaurants, and a luxury spa.
New Parliament House
Fabulous cafes and restaurants, provocative galleries, and thought-provoking museums and memorials make Canberra a cool spot for culture vultures. Designed by American architect, Walter Burley Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, the city is also easy on the eye – gardens and green spaces punctuate urban areas, and glittering Lake Burley Griffin sits at its center, ringed by inviting walking tracks.
You’ll find most of the city’s top tourist attractions around Lake Burley Griffin in the Parliamentary Triangle. Here, you can tour New Parliament House and browse the exhibits at the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Gallery of Australia, and Questacon: The National Science and Technology Centre. But if you only have time for one attraction, make it the Byzantine-style Australian War Memorial, a poignant tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers. Families with kids will love the National Zoo and Aquarium.
Canberra is also famous for its family-friendly festivals. Floriade, held in September or October, is a particular favorite, with exhibits celebrating the city’s colorful spring flowers, but you can admire the local flora at any time of the year at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Canberra is also beautiful in the autumn, when fiery fall hues ignite the city’s gardens. The heritage-listed Hyatt Hotel Canberra, with Art Deco decor and a weekend high tea, puts you close to the top cultural attractions.
7. Kangaroo Valley
Life moves at a slower pace in the lush Kangaroo Valley, about a two-hour drive southwest of Sydney, making it the perfect escape for stressed-out city slickers. You won’t find any traffic lights in this quaint Southern Highlands village, just rolling green fields and farms surrounded by emerald escarpments, and the historic 19th-century Hampden Bridge – with only one lane, so you have to slow down.
Wilderness areas beckon just beyond, with hiking trails, waterfalls, and, plenty of wildlife, including, you guessed it, kangaroos! Don’t miss the famous Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park, and you can also kayak down the Kangaroo River or go horseback riding and wombat spotting.
Foodies will be in heaven here. Stop by one of the town’s cute tea rooms for afternoon tea, pick up some fresh produce from the farmers market, and sample a fresh-baked pie from the famous Kangaroo Valley Pie Shop. While you’re here, save time to browse the gardens and galleries in Bowral, a 40-minute drive away. If you’re here for a romantic weekend, The Laurels B&B is a lovely choice, with antique furniture, chandeliers, and clawfoot tubs.
8. The Snowy Mountains
Snow gums in the Snowy Mountains
Summer, winter, spring, or fall, outdoor activities are the main focus in the Snowy Mountains. This is the ideal weekend escape for active couples and families. In winter, you can ski or snowboard down the snow gum-spotted slopes, cross-country ski, or snowshoe, and then snuggle by a crackling fire in the evening.
At other times of the year, popular things to do include trout fishing in the region’s crystal-clear streams and lakes, mountain biking, rafting and kayaking along the mighty Snowy River, and hiking amid the snow gum forests and wind-whipped heathlands of Kosciuszko National Park. Serious hikers might want to spend the weekend tackling the 16.8-kilometer return hike to the summit of 2,228-meter-high Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak.
If you prefer to soak up the rugged alpine scenery from the comfort of a car, take the Kosciuszko Alpine Way, a scenic self-drive route, which runs for 108 kilometers from Canberra to Albury. If you’re looking for a cozy hideaway for the weekend, Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa sits right at the edge of Kosciuszko National Park, where you can play outdoors in all seasons.
9. Coffs Harbour
Aerial view of Muttonbird Island
About 5.5 hours north of Sydney, Coffs Harbour is a long road trip from the city, but if you have a long weekend up your sleeve, it’s worth it. Families will find plenty of things to do here, from basking on the beautiful beaches and getting up close with friendly marine mammals at the Dolphin Conservation Park to visiting the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, with its scenic walking trails, lovely views, and the chance to spot migrating whales. Other popular things to do include surfing, swimming, fishing, and kayaking, and you can also keep a lookout for migrating whales from May through November. For spectacular views of the coast and rainforest head to the Forest Sky Pier.
No visit to Coffs Harbour would be complete without stopping by the iconic Big Banana Fun Park, even if only for a photo op. But the kids will love the water park, rides, and banana-themed desserts. If you have time to explore further afield, try to squeeze in a drive along Waterfall Way. This 185-kilometer scenic drive connects Coffs Harbour and the New South Wales’ town of Armidale passing by rugged river valleys, lush rainforests, waterfalls, and wildlife-rich national parks.
BreakFree Aanuka Beach Resort in Coffs Harbour makes a great base, with a range of facilities and accommodation styles to suit everyone, from families and couples to single travelers.