7 Ways to Make the Most of a Short Escape From Sydney
We hate to say this, but you can have enough of Sydney. The Harbour City boasts buckets of sandy beaches, heaps of historic architecture, and a great pub scene to wash it all down. Sure, a staycation at one of these indulgent spa hotels might do the trick, but if you’re reading this, you’re ready to get out. Short escape from Sydney anyone?
Luckily you’re not going to have to run far. Nearby New South Wales is a fully kitted out playground of snow capped mountains, bohemian beach towns, and vineyards by the glassful. Whether you’re looking to catch a couple of waves on the South Coast or unwind at a Blue Mountain retreat, NSW spoils you for choice. That’s why with 400 million annual visitors to Hotels Combined, we’ve whittled it down to the real hard hitters. Here are our best ways to make the best of a short escape from Sydney. Try to remember to be back by Monday!
1. Bask in The Blue Mountains’ Royal Haze
A Unesco World Heritage Center, the Blue Mountains are something truly special. Picture loaf-like rocky hills rising out of an almost impenetrable canopy of eucalyptus trees. It’s these same trees that give the national park it’s dreamy indigo haze. No wonder then that this short escape from Sydney is a crowd favorite. Only with over 11,000 square kilometers to play with, you’ll hardly notice anyone else there.
A trip out into Sydney’s high-rising back garden is all about the bushwalks, the cozy countryside retreats, and the extensive aboriginal heritage. Begin your weekend away by heading to Echo Point and paying your respects to The Three Sisters. The park’s original pinups, these towering sandstone formations were believed to have once been three beautiful women from the local Katoomba tribe, who were turned to stone by a sorcerer to “save” them from bad marriages. Down in the valley, the limestone Jenolan Caves are another fascinating sight, holding icy subterranean rivers and thousands of caramel-colored stalactites.
With two acres of beautiful, landscaped gardens, this boutique hotel makes for an idyllic short escape from Sydney. The George is situated in the charming village of Blackheath at the foot of Mount Piddington. Conveniently, this puts you within easy reach of beautiful hiking trails, including the dramatic Burramoko Ridge.
The hotel itself is decorated in the Victorian style, featuring period furniture, central heating, and a cozy library, where guests can enjoy complimentary port and chocolates. The onsite restaurant serves fresh seasonal produce and contemporary Australian favorites.
- Blackheath Pool (1.3 kilometers)
- Fort Rock (1.8 kilometers)
- The Campbell Rhododendron Garden (1.8 kilometers)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 129 – USD 153
Guest Rating: 9.0
Address: 194 Great Western Highway, Blackheath, Australia
2. Beach Bum Around in Byron Bay
“Cheer up, slow down, chill out.” A beach break in Byron Bay does exactly what it says on the tin. The birthplace of Australian counter-culture, Byron was the original place to go if your hair was long and your T-shirts were tie-dyed. Today, it’s good looks have turned it a little over to the trendy side. You certainly won’t have to look far to find infinity pools, cold-pressed juices, and vegan tacos. But Byran hasn’t really changed. With spotless swathes of sand and waves well worth catching, it’s still the perfect place to waste a couple of barefooted days.
When it comes to making your short escape from Sydney, Byron Bay is a good 8 and a half hours by car or coach. A quicker way is one of the 58 weekly flights into nearby Ballina airport, which will also help you make the most of the weekend. Luckily, you can’t really go wrong with what time of year you hop on a jet plane. Byron boasts sunny skies year-round. See what’s on before you go, though. The town’s calendar is packed year-round, some highlights being Byron Bay Bluesfest and Splendour in the Grass, Australia’s biggest winter festival. And if you can’t make it to the party, you can always go kayaking with the dolphins.
Leave the campervan for next weekend, and treat yourself a little at this sleek Byron beach resort. Elements boasts 202 stylishly appointed villas decked out in hip minimalist furniture. Most have freestanding bathtubs and if you upgrade to a Luxury Villa, you’ll also get an enclosed terrace with a gas fireplace. Outside, the jacuzzi and infinity pool offer beautiful sea views.
For those looking to drink and dine onsite, Elements offers diverse options. Sit down to a world-class meal at Azure Bar and Grill. Not exclusive enough for you? Slip into your best swimsuit and order full service at Elements’ perennial swim-up bar, Summer Salt—resort guests only.
- Barrio Argentinian Restaurant (850 meters)
- Circus Artis Byron Bay (1.2 kilometers)
- Belongi Beach (4.1 kilometers)
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 252 – USD 527
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 144 Bayshore Drive, Byron Bay, Australia
3. Hang Back For a Bit In The Hawkesbury
This charming region of sleepy villages is one of those places everyone always talks about visiting. It’s easy to see why. Packed full of history and squeezed between multiple national parks, the Hawkesbury makes for a wonderful weekend away. Many headed here on a short escape from Sydney center themselves around the township of Windsor with its beautiful colonial buildings. History nuts can retrace Sydney’s origins as a penal colony along the Great North Road. Meanwhile, those looking for a lazier long weekend can drop anchor at Wiseman’s Ferry, where Hawkesbury Houseboats rent great floating weekend residences.
You’ll never be too far from a vineyard in Hawkesbury, either. Ebenezer and East Kurrajong both have proud histories of barreling and bottling. Elsewhere, the tiny village of Bilpin boasts a thriving cider industry. Don’t believe us? Stop by at either Bilpin Cider Company or Hillbilly Cider for a crisp glass of the stuff. You’ll see why comparing Hawkesbury to anywhere else in NSW is like organic apples and oranges.
With its sandstone facade and shuttered windows, this bed and breakfast is a slice of the old country in charming Ebenezer. A self-described agribusiness, Tizzana produces wine and olives, both of which will find their way onto your dinner plate before you check out. Its location is a great jumping-off point for exploring the other winemakers that are scattered around this part of the Hawkesbury.
The rooms themselves are the final flourish to this romantic Tuscan hideaway, with colonial furniture and French doors that open onto the verandah. Tizzana also features a cozy library and lovely landscaped gardens.
- Jubilee Vineyard Estate (95 meters)
- Dargle Ridge Lookout (12.0 kilometers)
- Riverside Oaks Golf Course (23.0 kilometers)
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 172 – USD 216
Guest Rating: 9.0
Address: 518 Tizzana Road, Hawkesbury Valley, Ebenezer, Australia
4. Stock Up On Memories In Hunter Valley
This rolling landscape of quietly rustling grapevines is a pour of perfection. As any enologist will know, it was Hunter that first put Australian wines on the map. Over 180 years later, it’s still bringing home international wine awards by the barrelful for its refreshing whites and soft, velvety reds.
The best time for boozing in Hunter is Summer (December to February) when it’s harvest time for the vineyards. Sip on spectacular Semillons and chardonnays at prizewinning makers like Audry Wilkinson, which also offers great views of the Brokenback Mountain Range. Or savor a full-bodied Shiraz from Gartelmann Wines, in Lovedale. Looking to listen to some jams while you knock back your glass? You’ll hear them at the Grapevine, Hunter’s hedonistic summer festival at Roche Estate.
Inside and outside of prime wine time, Hunter offers a full list of activities for those who don’t want to drink. For visitors during the cooler winter months, the focus will be on the great grub, particularly at Hunter Valley Food and Wine Festival. A short escape from Sydney in October and September can enjoy a packed schedule of cultural activities, including Opera in the Vineyards and the Spring Festival of Flowers.
Located in Pokolbin, guests at Spicers Vineyards Estate can enjoy picturesque surroundings and great pours in one of the village’s most acclaimed wineries. Its twelve cozy guest rooms feature granite bathtubs, king-sized beds, and wood-burning fireplaces that are perfect to cozy up to with a glass of shiraz. The Vineyard’s House, meanwhile, is a perfect getaway for larger parties, with room for up to eight people and its own private pool.
The staff at Spicers are more than happy to arrange transport around the Hunter—and no, we don’t just mean minivans. Feel the breeze in your hair as you glide past the vineyards on one of their rental bicycles. Or truly elevate your experience and ask them about a hot air balloon or helicopter ride. Cheers to that.
- Piggs Peake Winery (2.0 kilometers)
- Matilda Bay Brewhouse (4.2 kilometers)
- Handmade in the Hunter Markets (14.0 kilometers)
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 218 – USD 815
Guest Rating: 9.7
Address: 555 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin, Australia
5. Take a Running Jump Into Lake Macquarie
Only 90 minutes drive from the city, this well-loved lake is actually an easy, short escape from Sydney. However, it’ll take some salty self-discipline to drag yourself after only a few hours. Whether it’s the sizzle of beachside barbecues or the abundance of aquatic sports, something about laidback Lake Macquarie will have you hanging around for longer than you intended.
Whatever your outdoor inclination, Lake Macquarie has it in spades. Skippers can explore the water by boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard before calling “land ho!” and taking in the fantastic coastal scenery (and occasional blowhole action) at Snapper Point. Inland, the majestic Watagan Mountains offer crashing waterfalls and great equestrian adventures by the likes of AAA Horse Riding.
Boasting great views of Caves and Hams beaches, this luxury holiday resort is still only a short drive from the lakefront. After checking into one of the 18 contemporary beach bungalows, guests can take a dip in the vanishing edge swimming pool. The private sea-facing terraces are also a great place for a late afternoon drink.
Don’t move on without sitting down to a meal at Caves’ award-winning onsite restaurant. Specializing in thoughtful paddock-and ocean to-plate dining, it’s the perfect place for a lazy afternoon lunch of freshly shucked oysters or wood-fired pizza. Outside, Caves’ beach garden is a great seaside spot to sun yourself while you crack open a frosty lager.
- Mawson Restaurant (220 meters)
- Spoon Rock’s Lookout Point (2.4 kilometers)
- Reids Reserve (3.2 kilometers)
Star Rating: 4.5*
Price: USD 155 – USD 530
Guest Rating: 8.6
Address: 7 Mawson Close, Caves Beach, Australia
6. Flock to the Sunkissed Central Coast
Running up NSW’s sunkissed shoreline from Sydney to Newcastle, the Central Coast is a varied region of sublime sands, salty lagoons, and wild walkabouts. The southernmost beaches may be accessible by ferry from Sydney’s Palm Beach, but don’t sell yourself short. There’s something for everyone who dedicates a couple of well-deserved days to exploring the Central Coast.
Just looking for a little peace, quiet, and sea spray in your hair? Head to the cozy coastal suburbs of Avoca Beach and Terrigal. The Copacabana (no, not that Copacabana) is another good choice, especially for those hoping to catch pods of migrating humpback whales between May and August. The whales are just the beginning of Central Coast’s bountiful wildlife offerings, too. Walkabout Wildlife Park and Australian Reptile Park are great places to fawn over the native fauna, while the daily 3.30 p.m. pelicans feeding at The Entrance will definitely leave you with something to squawk about.
Boasting views over one of Central Coast’s prettiest little coves, Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific is what every short escape from Sydney should be. The resort offers a heated outdoor pool, fitness center, and is just a brief walk from Terrigal Beach, making it a great choice for families. If you’re looking to get properly pampered, the onsite spa also offers a variety of soothing treatments.
Drinking and dining are never a problem at the Crowne Plaza. At the Seasalt Restaurant, you can dig right into the catch of the day. Meanwhile, the comfortable lounge bar offers wonderful evening views of the ocean.
Star Rating: 4.5*
Price: USD 189 – USD 463
Guest Rating: 8.7
Address: Pine Tree Lane, Terrigal, Australia
7. Shred It on The Snowy Mountains
Rising to 2,228 meters above sea level, the National Park mountain range is an outdoor playground for all seasons. Chances are, these reputable rises will crop up on your itinerary between early June and late August when the snowfall is heaviest. Obviously, you’ll want to give the main ski resorts of Thredbo and Perisher some serious consideration. Both boast lengthy runs—of up to 5 kilometers in Thredbo’s case. What’s more, if you can sneak out of the office midweek, there are some great on-slope accommodation deals from AUD 140 a night.
“The Snowies” might have it in their name, but there’s also plenty to do when the mercury is high. December through January, Lake Jindabyne makes a real splash with canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, wakeboarding all available. Meanwhile, adventure awaits at Jillabenan, where you can cave, climb, and abseil your way through the crevasses with a guided tour.
Wake up slopeside and ski right out of the door at this accommodating ski lodge in Perisher. Boonoona is right at the foot of Carruthers Peak, giving you easy access to Blue Lake and Mount Twynam. It’s also close to some great hiking trails in the summer.
When you’re ready a well-earned aprés-ski, the lodges bar and games room has a variety of pours. Meanwhile, the sauna and equipment storage rooms are the final touches that every ski trip needs.
- Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club (400 meters)
- Eiger Chalet White Spider Restaurant (450 meters)
- Powder Inn (1.4 kilometers)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 507 – USD 1,481
Guest Rating: 9.8
Address: 18 Billy Button Place Perisher Valley, Perisher Valley, Australia
You Can’t Go Wrong with a Short Escape From Sydney
Don’t get us wrong. We know that Sydney’s appeal doesn’t stop at the Opera House, nor these 31 ways that it tops out Melbourne. But the Harbour City’s biggest drawcard is the variety it has right on its doorstep. Whether it’s popping bottles in Harvey or bagging some beach time in Byron, NSW packs a fuller roster than you can check in to a single trip.
What’s your top tip for a short escape from Sydney? Let us know in the comments below!
I’m a blogger, history buff, and serious overpacker, currently based in Taiwan. Eats, drinks, and destinations are my thing. When I’m not writing about those, I’m either hitting up the local hot springs or slurping down a bowl of sesame noodles. I hope to one day do both at the same time.