What with its famous opera house, charismatic neighbourhoods and many beautiful beaches, lots of travellers get stuck in Sydney – many at the end of an east coast road trip. But there are plenty of great opportunities for weekend trips from Sydney that are essential for anyone living in the city – or for travellers or backpackers in Australia who are just passing through.
Including the best of central and southern New South Wales’s coastline, wine regions, mountains and even Australia’s often forgotten capital city, there is so much you can do and see in this area of the country. Sydney’s great, but the surrounding nature really shouldn’t be missed.
The best of Australia is in its beautiful nature, and you really don’t have to look too far to find it.
I have asked fellow travel bloggers about their favourite weekend trips or drives from Sydney. All of these trips are under a four hour drive from Sydney CBD and are full of enough things to do to enjoy two days in.
They make for a refreshing break away from the big city and whether you are returning to Sydney (check out my Sydney itinerary if you are!) or carrying on your Australia road trip, these trips will be a great addition to your time down under!
The Best Weekend Trips from Sydney
- Distance from Sydney: 2 hours by car (120 km). Around 2.5 hours by train.
- How to get there: Car is a great option if you want to stop at points of interest along the way. Train is the best option if you want to relax and enjoy the great scenery on the way.
- Perfect for: Everyone. Families, couples and backpackers have plenty to do in Kiama. But it is especially suited for couples.
Kiama is just a two-and-a-half hour train ride from Sydney and is packed with fun things to do for all kinds of travelers. It is a charming town towards the south of Sydney in the famous coastal Illawarra area. The first thing you should check out here is the Kiama beach with its incredible bluer-than-blue waters. Kiama blowhole, little blowhole and Kiama lighthouse are also famous attractions that both adults and kids can enjoy.
If you like hiking and have the time, you should not miss doing the coastal walk from Kiama to Minnamura river. Grab a map at the Kiama visitor’s center and follow the coastal trail to Minnamura. You will cross beautiful landscape along the way including spotting skull rocks, gorgeous Bombo beach, Bombo headland quarry, Cathedral rocks (which is especially magical at sunset, also check out the cave here) and finally the Minnamura river bed itself. The walk is about 11 kms and usually takes less than 3 hours including photo stops.
There is a water park in the area too. Check out Jamberoo action park for water fun activities and mini golf. If you like fishing or surfing, you must visit Kendall’s beach. Wander into James Oates Reserve to enjoy pleasant greenery and water, in short, nature at its best. Also check out Minnamura falls and rainforest in Budderoo National Park.
The Hunter Valley
- Distance from Sydney: 2 hours 20 minutes (170km).
- How to get there: Drive via the M1. It is also possible to go via public transport but this usually involves train, then bus then taxi.
- Perfect for: Families, couples, girlfriend getaways, groups of friends… anyone really.
The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s oldest and best loved wine regions and makes for a fun weekend getaway from Sydney, whether you are visiting with family, friends or a special loved one.
The region specializes in Shiraz and Semillon grape varieties and with over 150 wineries to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice for choosing where to go for a wine tasting. Several companies offer wine tasting tours so you can try out a few different ones and not have to worry about having a designated driver.
Dining out is another highlight in the Hunter Valley, with several wineries boasting cellar door restaurants where you can enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding vineyards. Golfers are also well catered for with several 18-hole championship golf courses to choose from, where you can tee off alongside the kangaroos sleeping in the shade.
There is a good choice of accommodation in Hunter Valley, depending on the type of weekend you are planning. Smaller boutique hotels such as Chateau Elan or Kirkton Park will suit couples, while families tend to flock to the Crowne Plaza to make use of the fun kids club that keeps kids entertained while parents hit the wineries. Beyond this you can find everything, from backpack hostels to private house hire.
By Marianne from Mum on the Move
- Distance from Sydney: 2 hours (118km)
- How to get there: Drive or Public Transport
- Perfect for: Couples, Families, Groups
Rolling green hills, manicured gardens, fresh organic produce and a lively food, wine and arts scene, the Southern Highlands south of Sydney attracts many weekenders for a rural retreat. The Southern Highlands is a 2-hour drive from Sydney. Visitors can very quickly escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get their country vibe on.
Centred around the town of Bowral, the Southern Highlands is made up of many more quaint and adorable historic towns, each with their own unique charm. Activities involve hiking around the majestic Fitzroy Falls, downhill mountain biking in Bundanoon or wine tasting in Berrima. Arts and craft markets are found almost every weekend and the Bradman Museum celebrates the sport of cricket, in particular one of the most famous of Australian sportspeople, ‘The Don’ Donald Bradman.
The Southern Highlands is also a fabulous place to just drive around. Take in magnificent public gardens and watch kangaroos lazing about in paddocks at sunset. Festivals are held throughout the year with the annual tulip time one of the biggest floral festivals in Australia. The region has something for all seasons. It has a mild, comfortable summer and a cosy, stay-by-the-fire winter. It has a wonderful Springtime bloom while Autumn brings out brilliant and ever-changing colours of leaves.
By Warren from Sling Adventures
- Distance from Sydney: The Blue Mountains is a vast region, but the popular central town of Katoomba is around a 90 minute drive (100km) from Sydney.
- How to get there: The Blue Mountains are accessible from Sydney by car, coach and rail. The train ride is easy and scenic. It takes around two hours to get to Katoomba from Sydney’s Central Station, and if you stay for a couple of days it’s possible to travel between the most popular Blue Mountains towns by train.
- Perfect for: Families, couples, friends, nature lovers
The Blue Mountains is a vast and beautiful mountain range in New South Wales, a short trip from Sydney and easily accessible for a weekend break. Made up of eight protected areas and covered in forests of eucalyptus trees, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its outstanding natural biodiversity.
As well as a series of quaint towns that you can travel between by train, the Blue Mountains offer incredible nature walks and hiking trails, filled with wildlife, waterfalls and caves. One of the Blue Mountains’ most exciting attractions is Scenic World in Katoomba. There’s a panoramic cableway that soars for over 500 metres between peaks, with views of the Three Sisters and Katoomba Falls. There’s also a scenic railway that is the steepest passenger railway in the world, and a 2km walkway through Jurassic rainforest. You could easily spend a full day here, and while it’s a family friendly venue it’s also an engaging attraction for adults.
By Maire from Temples and Treehouses
- Distance from Sydney: 3 hours / 198km
- How to get there: Car
- Perfect for: Families, Nature Lovers, Couples
Once you’ve explored the best beaches in Sydney, head down to Jervis Bay. Three hours south by car, Jervis Bay boasts a number of stunning white sand beaches. – in fact, Hyams Beach is said to have the whitest sand in the world.
Crystal clear waters teem with marine life including dolphins, penguins and fur seals. In addition to the beautiful beaches,
there are two National Parks bordering Jervis Bay; the Jervis Bay Marine Park and Booderee National Park. Both offer great hikes, cycling trails and the opportunity to see plenty of Australian wildlife, including wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, and echidnas.
There is a wide range of accommodation, from campsites to boutique B&Bs and plenty of activities including kayaking, surfing and stand up paddleboarding. The villages in the region offer great cafes and restaurants, with plenty of food sourced locally, and stylish boutiques.
If you visit between the months of June and November there is a good chance you will see humpbacks and southern right whales, as they make their annual migration along the coast. All year round Jervis Bay is a great weekend break from Sydney and offers the chance to enjoy some of the best beaches in the whole of Australia.
By Hayley from A Lovely Planet
- Distance from Sydney:1 hour drive (40 km)
- How to get there: Drive up through the Northern Beaches. You can also take the B-Line bus from Wynard or Manly (approximately 1.5 hours).
- Perfect for: Families, couples, groups of friends.
If you are a fan of Australian TV soap opera Home & Away, then Palm Beach will be better known to you as Summer Bay. This Northern Beaches suburb sits on the peninsula an hour’s drive from central Sydney and makes for a beautiful weekend getaway from Sydney.
Most people head to Palm Beach for the stunning stretch of white sandy beach. It is popular with surfers and kite surfers, as well as families and groups of friends looking for fun in the sun. Although it is a popular weekend destination, the beach will always be less crowded than the famous city beaches such as Bondi or Manly.
Don’t miss the walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. This 1-hour round trip up the hill offers fabulous views over the peninsula and out to sea. Reward yourself with delicious food at the Boathouse, a popular spot for lunch or afternoon drinks in the sun.
As it is only an hour’s drive out of Sydney, you can easily do Palm Beach as a day trip. But once you arrive you might not want to leave, so better to plan to stick around for a day or two! Jonah’s restaurant and boutique hotel offers luxury lodging, or choose from a selection of holiday homes on Airbnb.
- Distance from Sydney: 2 hours 40 minutes (215 km) to Nelson Bay.
- How to get there: The easiest way is by car, travelling up the M1. Alternatively, a coach departs Bay 8 of the Western Forecourt at Central Station in Sydney at 2pm. It arrives at Nelson Bay at 5.35. It also stops at Soldiers Point, Anna Bay, Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay. It’s operated by Port Stephens Coaches.
- Perfect For: Families, couples and backpackers.
Port Stephens is a great destination for a weekend away from Sydney, and it has something for families, couples and backpackers.
Port Stephens isn’t a town – it’s the name of the vast harbour that stretches from Tomaree Head and Shoal Bay inland to Soldiers Point and beyond.
It’s a great place to go boating, either within the harbour, up the Myall River (which feeds into it from the north) or out to sea.
The area also has several outstanding beaches. The view from the summit of Tomaree Head (a fifteen-minute walk from the car park) is spectacular, looking out to Zenith, Wreck and Box Beaches, and Fingal Spit sand bar beyond. There are several other ocean beaches including lovely Fingal Bay.
Stockton Sand Dunes are a real backpackers’ favourite. They’re the largest moving sand system in the southern hemisphere, and great for everything from 4WD to sandboarding. There’s also an extraordinary settlement of fishermen’s shacks made out of whatever detritus the Pacific Ocean leaves on the shore.
By Faye and David from Delve into Australia
- Distance from Sydney: 2 hours (156km)
- How to get there: travel by car via the Hume Motorway/ M31 or train and bus from Sydney Central Station
- Perfect for: a couple’s getaway
After a relaxing couples weekend getaway? Then Kangaroo Valley is a perfect place to stay with your loved one.
Close to Sydney, this beautiful town offers a relaxing retreat where you can unplug, get back to nature and enjoy its lush rolling hills and slower pace of life.
Not only is it the ideal place to relax and unwind but it also offers some fun outdoor activities to bond with your partner. This includes kayaking or canoeing along the Kangaroo River, bushwalking or mountain biking the many trails in Morton National Park and Kangaroo Valley Reserve. If your’e after something a bit more relaxing, how about playing a round of golf at the local country resort or even finding your inner bliss with a private yoga session overlooking the valley!
After experiencing the great outdoors, why not head to the local village to see its historic buildings, antique shops and eateries.
Also by visiting the village you’ll get the chance to see an impressive medieval style suspension bridge, which is also Australia’s oldest suspension bridge.
Kangaroo Valley is also a great place to visit with friends or family – as long as you love the outdoors, you’ll have a good time here!
Overall, the best thing about Kangaroo Valley for a weekend getaway is it offers a variety of accommodation options to soak up its incredible views right from your doorstep – so you never need to venture out far to see its beauty!
By Danielle fromStuff It Go Travelling
The Central Coast
- Distance from Sydney: 1.5 hours (100 km)
- How to get there: Drive from the city
- Perfect for: Families and adventurous couples or backpackers
A short and easy drive from Sydney, the Central Coast is perfect for a weekend outside the city. With 2 national parks on the doorstep and over 25 beaches to choose from, there is plenty to keep you busy here for a few dozen weekends
Fill your days in the great outdoors discovering indigenous rock art and secret waterfalls in local bushland, hiking in the stunning Bouddi National Park, or trying your hand at kayaking in the tranquil Brisbane Waters National Park. Families will love the calm waters of Ettalong or Pearl Beaches where kids can play safely and parents can find excellent coffee at hand.
After dark, there are lots of restaurant options within the region. In recent years the food scene has really developed with quality dining and drinking options are dotted all along the coast if you prefer not to cook.
The area is relatively deserted outside holiday periods and there is plenty of quality accommodation for every budget. Choose from upmarket holiday rentals and boutique hotels to budget pub rooms and National Park campgrounds.
By Paula from Sydney Expert
- Distance from Sydney: 3 hours 15 minutes (294 km)
- How to get there: Drive, bus or train
- Perfect for: History, politics and culture fans
It’s not the first place that comes to mind when you think of road trips from Sydney, but Canberra, the nation’s capital, is pretty underrated. With a national reputation of being rather dull, many travellers skip over it entirely.
It’s no Bangkok or London, but there’s plenty to do in Canberra to pass a pleasant weekend. Head to Parliament house for a guided tour or even to sit in on a Question Time (they start at 2pm when Parliament is sitting – click here for more details). Check out the Australian War Memorial to learn a little about Australia in wartime and get an overview of the country’s history at the National Museum of Australia.
If art is more your thing, the National Gallery of Australia is located in its capital, and if you’re the edgier type, head to the Bus Depot Markets every Sunday from 10am-4pm.
Nature lovers won’t find themselves at a loss, either – Mount Ainslie is near the city centre and offers a view over the entire capital, and the shores of Lake Burley Griffin (which admittedly, is a man-made lake) are perfect for a bike ride – or if you want to take to the waters, you could go kayaking or windsurfing too.
So don’t believe what everyone says when they tell you that there’s nothing to do in Canberra – it’s well worth a weekend trip from Sydney.
- Distance from Sydney: 3 hours (175 km)
- How to get there: Car or private tour operator from Katoomba
- Perfect for: families, couples or backpackers who are seeking something out of the ordinary
Jenolan Caves, located slightly southwest from the popular Blue Mountains, are the perfect spot for a weekend away for those who love nature, cave exploration, and adventure. Jenolan is about three hour from Sydney, and is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Their location is somewhat remote, so having a car is the easiest way to get there, but the caves can also be visited with private tour operators as a day trip from Katoomba, which is easily reached by train from Sydney.
There are over 300 limestone caves here, with nine open to the public. The most popular is Lucas Cave, however the tours range from easy walks in open spaces to night tours, ghost tours, and spelunking caving, for the more adventurous. The caves offer stunning natural formations, including stalactites and stalagmites, and large chambers, including one that has even been used as a concert hall.
There is also a wide range of bushwalking trails near the caves, and wildlife is often spotted here, including platypus, kangaroo and wallabies, echidnas, and many bird species. Accommodation is also available at the nearby Jenolan Caves House, and an on-site café serves meals and snacks. Most cave tours are fine for children.
By Katie from The Accidental Australian
I hope this post has helped you decide on which weekend trips from Sydney you’ll be taking this summer! If you enjoyed this article, please share it or follow me on Facebook!