The first few months of weekends in Sydney often fly by in a whirlwind for new expats. Sydney’s beautiful harbour, amazing hidden beaches and parks waiting to be explored are more than enough to fill what can initially seem like endless amounts of time.
However, after a few months, the thrill of discovery can subside as newcomers settle into “real life” and find themselves, once again, swept away by the daily grind.
A quick weekend escape from the city can bring back that original sense of adventure every expat craves and the surrounding areas of Sydney make a weekend getaway easy and exceptional. Just a few hours north, south or west and one sees stunning scenery and amazing wildlife like koalas, kangaroos, wombats, platypuses and dolphins, plus miles of empty beaches.
Weekend breaks from Sydney
A trip to the Blue Mountains, named for their distinct blue colouring, is probably the most popular weekend getaway from Sydney as it’s a short drive and can easily make for a quick day trip.
The bluish haze that surrounds the soaring crags is the result of the eucalyptus oil produced from the many eucalyptus trees and, on a nice crisp sunny morning, visitors will also notice the wonderfully refreshing smell of eucalyptus in the air.
A drive to Katoomba or Leura, the two largest towns along the Great Western Highway, takes a mere hour and a half, and affords expats the chance to explore their amazing bushwalking trails, ranging from the easy and family friendly to harder rock climbing routes.
More specifically, the Three Sisters and Scenic World are the most popular attractions in the Blue Mountains but be sure not to miss the Jenolan Caves, rich with both Aboriginal and local Australian history, and which are about another hour’s drive from Katoomba.
The large network of caves will dazzle with brilliant crystal formations and pristine underground rivers. If expats are very lucky and plan the day right, they just might see one of the three platypuses that live along the Blue Lake next to the main entrance of the caves.
►Tip: The best times to see a platypus are dusk or early morning.
Hunter Valley is a dream come true for any foodie looking to spend an indulgent weekend away from Sydney’s own culinary genius. It is the oldest wine region in Australia and is best known for superb Semillon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
Booking a tour is the best idea, as driving and wine tasting do not mix well. Plus, the drivers are very familiar with the valley’s wineries and will often include not just the larger wine farms but also some of the smaller boutique wineries.
►Tip: If someone discovers a winery they like, it’s not a bad idea to join their wine club. This will often get consumers some really good deals on wines, plus bonuses like a free night’s stay at the winery.
Hunter Valley is a two-hour drive from Sydney but, instead of heading straight to the valley, take the more scenic and historic Great North Road (Tourist Drive 33). Plan a stop at Wollombi to sample the famous Jungle Juice at the Wollombi Tavern and ask about their proud wood chopping history. If visitors are there in the summer around Christmas time, they might even get a chance to see the famous wood chopping competition.
Lastly, be sure to see the Hunter Valley Gardens. They are particularly beautiful in late October to December when the roses are in full bloom. People visiting there around Christmas should plan a trip at night to see the garden’s special display of Christmas Lights.
Nelson Bay and the surrounding area is where people will want to go if they are at all interested in seeing dolphins or koalas, or maybe even a few wallabies. It’s a two and half hour drive from Sydney.
There are 140 resident dolphins that live in Nelson Bay and they are very easy to spot, often visible from the sea shore.
►Tip: For a closer look, take one of the many dolphin-watching cruises, but be sure to get a spot near the front on the lower level, as the dolphins love to play in the wake of the tour boats. If they're lucky, visitors might just get a photo of them jumping up in the air.
Those who are more adventurous might want to consider renting one of the smaller boats and follow the dolphin-watching cruise around the water. This way, one will be able to discover more of the bay while keeping a lookout for flippered friends.
The Central Coast of New South Wales is full of koalas. Plan a bush walk at Tomaree National Park, or try your luck at Lemon Tree Passage’s Koala Park. If visitors walk past Koala Park along the water they’ll reach the Native Corridor Koala Area.
If expats are interested in more than just the average two day weekend escape, cthey should consider taking the Grand Pacific Drive down the southern coast of NSW. The most scenic part of this drive is between Sydney and Wollongong. Plan to stop many times along the way, as the picturesque coastline will take one's breath away.
Down along the coast are many small Australian beach towns worth an overnight stay. The most popular and closest to Sydney is Kiama but just a little bit further on the beach is less crowded. Consider staying at Gerringong or even farther south.
The total drive time to Kiama on the Grand Pacific Drive will be about two and a half hours. Those choosing to go farther south should expect it to take longer. All the way down to Jervis Bay, for instance, another area with local dolphins, will take from three to three and a half hours.
The Grand Pacific Drive will also get travellers to the Southern Highlands of NSW. It is quicker to take a more direct route, but if travellers are up for a road trip then it is definitely worth it.
The most popular destination in the Southern Highlands is Kangaroo Valley, a very small town along a windy country road. There are larger towns more inland, like Moss Vale and Bowral but renting a cabin in the country is an experience that’s well recommended. The more in the country one is, the better the chances of seeing wallabies, wombats and kangaroos.
►Tip: The best time to see any wildlife around Kangaroo Valley is at dusk.
Another favourite town in this area is Berry. Though not really considered part of the Southern Highlands due to its close proximity to the coastline, Berry is the perfect mid-point between the South Coast Beaches and Kangaroo Valley’s wildlife.
It's a nice central town with many pubs, restaurants, cafés and boutiques to keep visitors busy.