by Laura Pattara, Travel Writer
Think Katoomba, Jervis Bay, and the Hunter Valley are all that NSW offers for a sneaky weekend away? Think again!
Whether you’re a local seeking an easy escapade or an interstate visitor looking for somewhere unique to explore, find your travel inspiration with these stunning weekend getaways in NSW that’ll take you way off the beaten path.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it coastal town of Seal Rocks, just 275km north of Sydney, is enveloped by the Myall Lakes National Park. Its isolated location makes it one of the most underrated seaside towns in the Mid-North-Coast. Discerning local surfers and beach-bums know their way around, of course, yet everyone else seems to have missed the memo. Goodie!
We’re talking a jaw-dropping stretch of impossibly white sandy shores, sapphire waves and a late 19th century lighthouse that denotes mainland Australia’s second-most easterly point. Visit between April and November and you might just cast your bewildered gaze at migrating humpback and southern rights whales heading north.
That’s some kind of NSW weekend getaway magic, right here.
Wollemi National Park
Image Credit: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
Bit of a wilderness freak? Then Wollemi is definitely where you’ll want to aim that GPS. Snuggled tightly between two famous NSW weekend getaway destinations (ahem, that would be The Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains) this speck of natural gorgeousness has all the hallmarks of a travel titan. This is the largest swath of forested wilderness left in the State, is heritage-listed and offers an abundance of outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, swimming and camping.
All of this just two hours northwest of Sydney?
Get outta here!
The Southern Highlands
Image Credit: visitnsw.com
Sydney-siders will have surely heard of Mittagong, Bowral, Berrima and Moss Vale, but we bet even they don’t know the full extent of highlights in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Aside from this being wine country extraordinaire (do you really need another excuse for a sneaky weekend getaway?) this spectacular, off the beaten path region is bursting with eye-popping scenery, farmers’ markets and antique shops in ridiculously quaint heritage villages. Plan a visit to see Bowral in Spring and you’ll see the town blanketed by over 100,000 extraordinary tulips during one of Australia’s oldest floral festivals.
The ideal destination for a dirty weekend getaway (of the muddy kind!) Barrington Tops is one of the least-developed corners of NSW, one that’s home to a spectacular national park you’ll want to explore by 4WD. This is Utopia for outdoor enthusiasts and a place defined by its rolling green hills, high-altitude passes, twisting gravel tracks traversing often-swollen rivers, and prized temperate rainforests that have earned the park World Heritage status. Like the Blue Mountains of a century ago, Barrington Tops is where wilderness-wildlings find their inner peace away from the rest of the world. For an extreme and unforgettable NSW weekend getaway way off the beaten path, visit in winter to see the tropical wilderness shrouded by snow. The closest towns for an overnight stay are Scone and Gloucester.
Straddling the Clarence River and revered for its Edwardian and Victorian heritage architecture, Grafton is a classic Aussie country town, one that absolutely oozes classic continental charm. The late-Spring crowds are enticed by the town’s jacaranda explosion, although the impressive year-round cultural programme means Grafton is a fab place to visit any time of year. Craving a glorious NSW weekend getaway in nature but think Barrington is a little too hardcore? Then head to Grafton and spend a day in nearby Nymboi-Binderay National Park, which offers similar yet much less daunting rainforest and granite gorge-based experiences.
Insider tips for an exceptional weekend getaway in NSW
- Book your accommodation ahead of time – Don’t waste your precious weekend free time driving around aimlessly, looking for a place to sleep. Book ahead and you’ll have a much more enjoyable time away.
- Check the weather – Because who wants to be caught out with the wrong gear? Don’t make the rooky mistake of thinking you’ll instinctively know it’ll be sunny and glorious wherever you go on your weekend getaway in NSW, even in summer. This is especially true if you’re planning a countryside escapade inland.
- Make sure your roadside assistance is up to date – You know what will happen if you forget to check, right?!
- Download your Google map – So it will work offline, in case you’re exploring more remote areas of NSW, like Barrington Tops.
- Plan to stop before sunset – Not only should you be sipping a delicious sundowner somewhere amazing by the time the sun sets, but driving after dark outside cities anywhere in Australia can be quite dangerous. Because roos! Be safe, stop early.
- Pin the tourist info offices along your route – For every known point of interest, you’ll discover at least a dozen more that are equally enchanting yet never make the covers of tourist brochures. Find out what the real hidden gems are, no matter where you happen to be!
- Pack smart – Savvy travellers know that ‘minimalist and organised’ is the best packing approach for a weekend getaway in NSW. A set of convenient packing cubes is all you really need. Pack a couple of changes of clothing, a toiletry bag (don’t forget the sunblock!), a pair of flip-flops for the beach and hiking shoes for the peaks (packed in their own shoe bag to contain dirt) and you’re good to go!
- Is your travel companion a bit of a snorer? – Psssst. Check out this mask & earplug set! Don’t worry, mum’s the word!