The main reason I love living in Sydney is the close proximity of gorgeous nature getaways during the weekend. While a weekend in the city can be very enjoyable (hello, beaches and secret bars everywhere!), I regularly prioritise getting out of the city and into nature as well. This results in many Google searches of the best weekend getaways from Sydney within a 1-3 hour drive.
I always cap the drive for any weekend getaway at 3-3,5 hours as this is an enjoyable distance to drive without losing too much of your weekend. If you are choosing to go on a weekend getaway from Sydney that is a 3-hour drive away, I highly recommend leaving on Friday evening to get the most out of your weekend. For the 1-2 hour getaways, an early morning departure on Saturday is just fine!
In this article, I will be sharing my favorite weekend getaways from Sydney that are anywhere between 1 to 3 hours driving from the city. They include camping trips, hotel or Airbnb stays, ocean escape, lakes, hikes, etc! The area around Sydney really has something for everyone!
A Short Weekend Trip from Sydney within a 1 hour drive
Most of the getaways that are only 1-hour drive from Sydney are easily visited in a day-trip, However, it’s not because it is close by that you cannot spend the night there! Head to the Central Coast for some hiking and beachside markets, to the Royal National Park for an overnight hike or to The Basin in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase national park for some chilled camping.
Central Coast: Bouddhi National Park & Central Coast Beaches
Central Coast is located within a 1-2 hour drive north from Sydney. It’s one of my regular spots for when I feel like I need an escape from Sydney. It has everything that you would need for a weekend getaway or even an extended stay. Gosford is the biggest city in the area and will have all the shops you need, while the coastline is filled with small coastal towns. Central Coast is home to many of my favorite weekend getaways: Bouddhi National Park, Avoca Beach, The Entrance, Box Head, and much more.
Bouddi National Park
Bouddi National Park has become a regular destination for me for a last-minute, want to get out of Sydney, trip. I love the convenience of Putty Campground, which offers a big parking space and facilities that include toilets and barbecues. I also love how long the beach is and how close the beach is to the ocean. You bet that you will be able to hear the waves and watch the stars.
You can start the Bouddi National Park Coastal Walk from any drive-in location in the park. This walking track will take you past all the beaches in the National Park and you can simply choose to turn around and walk back at any point.
Other great campsites for an overnight stay within Bouddi National Park (both walk-in campgrounds with basic facilities) are Tallow Beach Campsite and Little Beach. That last one even allows you to camp RIGHT NEXT to the water!
Central Coast Beaches
The coastal towns of Central Coast have such a beautiful vibe to them. Sydney-siders often head to the Central Coast to explore the cute weekend markets and to enjoy the small-town quiet just outside of the city. Every weekend there will be a market somewhere, the Avoca Beach Market being the most famous one.
The markets of the Central Coast have a real boho vibe and showcase many local artist and creators. I love heading here for a drink, some live music, and a swim. Find a list of the local markets here.
The Entrance is a bit of an underdog in this area, but I really enjoy it as a base for a weekend getaway from Sydney. I wouldn’t necessarily call the camping sites cozy as they tend to be quite full with permanent occupants (some of these caravan parks are so permanent that they have street names!) and big caravans that are quite close together.
However, I did find a little secret campsite that offers camping right on the lakefront by browsing the area on WikiCamps (get the iPhone app here) named Two Shores Holiday Village. The actual campground is nothing too exciting but you can pitch your tent behind your car with views on the lake and forget that there is a campground right behind you. Book it here.
My absolute favorite spot in this area is Norah Head and in particular the Soldier Beach Lookout. I was first introduced to this idyllic coffee stop by a Sydney-based friend and have since returned many times. You cannot stay overnight, but during the daytime, it is such a good spot to park up, go for a swim and relax. Especially when traveling in a van, this place is perfect to relax.
Stay in Central Coast
Royal National Park
For many Sydney-siders, the Royal National Park is a classic weekend getaway or daytrip. Home to the classic figure-8 pools, the options in this national park are endless. You can go to countless waterfalls, several beaches, both crowded and completely deserted, hiking trails, etc. Choosing between all these options will be your biggest challenge.
The beauty of the Royal National Park is that many of the locations are reachable via public transport, perfect if you are only visiting Sydney or don’t own a car.
Activities in the Royal National Park
I have a few personal favourites in the Royal National Park, as does everyone else who lives in Sydney! The most famous locations are Wattamolla Beach, Figure-8 Pools (don’t forget to check the tides if this is on your bucket list!) and Wedding Cake Rock. If you want to explore these famous destinations, jump on this tour. The national park, however, has so much more to offer. I tend to head to Gary Beach the most.
If you want to immerse yourself completely in the park and take in all of the dramatic coastal views, the Coast Track is your go-to. This 26km track takes you past all of the famous locations where you’re bound to run into tourists, but also the most desolate beaches that you might even have to yourself. If you’re up for a good 13km per day of hiking from Bundeena to Otford train station (or the other way around as many of my friends prefer), you will forget you’re so close to Sydney completely.
Stay in the Royal National Park
The town of Bundeena has a few Airbnbs on offer which would be a great jumping off point to The Royal National Park. It also has a cute little beach and a ferry that goes straight into Cronulla, Sydney. From here you can start the Coastal Track or just use it to drive in and out of the park every day. If you want to stay in the national park itself, you are going to need to camp.
Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park & Palm Beach
One of the many reason why Sydney is such a blessed location is the proximity of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. This national park is located across the water from Palm Beach, famous for the filming of Home And Away and for its lighthouse. This allows you to enter the national park in three ways, by car via the middle of the national park or from the left by turning off Pacific Highway in the Cowan area or by ferry via Palm Beach.
You can visit both Ku-Ring-Gai National Park and Palm Beach as a day-trip or as an overnight adventure. The options for a day trip are endless: Flint and Steel Beach, West-Head lookout over Palm Beach, the walk up to the lighthouse in Palm Beach, Jerusalem Bay, Great Mackerel Beach, and much, much more. My friend Lindsay wrote a blog post on day activities in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park that is worth a read!
But you’re here because you’re looking for a weekend getaway! Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park is also home to The Basin. It is a family-friendly campsite perfect for a 1-night stay. A little green haven close to the urban jungle of Sydney, The Basin has everything you need to forget your busy working week. It is the perfect starting point for a few walking trails, but you can also rent a paddleboard or kayak for a few hours. I recommend checking to ask what the best paddle or kayak location is when you visit. This can depend on the tides and the wind.
The campsite is easily accessible by ferry (via Palm Beach) or by car (via West Head Road). The most convenient way to get to the campsite is by ferry (check the timetables for the Palm Beach-Mackerel Beach ferry here) as this saves you a long walk down from the carpark. Simply park next to the Palm Beach Warf (it is a paid parking) and jump on the ferry ($17.20 for a return ticket). The ferry will drop you right at The Basin campground and from there it is a very short walk across to your preferred camping spot. As I mentioned before, this is a family-friendly campsite, so keep this into account when choosing your overnight spot.
Weekend Getaways within a 2 hour drive from Sydney
For me a 2 hour drive is the sweet spot of driving distance for a one-night weekend trip. You’re not too pressed on time to leave very early morning and you can still spend most of the day at your destination. Sydney is central to many great locations within this 2h driving distance, north, west and south! Here are a few of my favourites!
Lake Macquarie is soon becoming one of my preferred weekend getaways from Sydney when I don’t want to drive too far, but I want to feel like I’m out of the city.
It is a perfect little spot with lake access on one side and beach access on the other. The beaches here are beyond beautiful and the lake is perfect for many water-based activities. There is so much to do in Lake Macquarie that I would love to write a more elaborate article on it! In the meantime, here are the places I would hit up every time:
- Caves Beach: By far the most touristy beach in the area. The natural caves at the end of the beach are beautiful and can also be seen from the walking track on the headland.
- Catherine Hill Bay: A personal favorite and one of the beaches that I try to visit every time. With its beautiful jetty, Catherine Hills Bay is incredibly picturesque! Go beyond the entrance of the beach and walk past the jetty for an even better beach! I also highly recommend bringing your snorkel for some underwater fun.
- Redhead Beach: Another epic beach in this area. While it is a little bit more remote, it is still a popular destination for locals. The handy little kiosk makes a hot day much easier as well! Every time I have gone, the water was incredibly clear and so beautiful to swim it. If you have a 4WD, you can also drive the length of this beach. Pretty amazing!
Accommodation in Lake Macquarie
Lake Macquarie has one main hub called Warner’s Bay. Warner’s Bay has a few accommodation options if you prefer staying in a hotel over a campsite. When choosing a location to stay within our budget, we had our work cut out for us. Many of the hotels were too far from the town center and, frankly, didn’t look that great.
We were so relieved when we found Warners at the Bay (Be careful, closer to town, there is also a Warners Bay hotel which I’ve been told is not that nice)! While it is a little bit further away from the town center, it was an easy drive to all the brunch spots and I’ve been told it is by far the nicest place to stay in the area within that price range. It was located right behind a restaurant/bar (which didn’t cause any noise disturbance) but was nicely tucked away from the main road into Warners Bay making us feel like we were really on holiday. Definitely try and get one of the ground floor rooms as having the balcony was so much fun! Don’t feel limited to staying in Warner’s Bay though, the lake has many beautiful accommodation options around the lake as well.
If camping is more your jam, Lake Macquarie has an abundance of campsites located in the area. Here they are in order of my personal favourites:
- Fraser Beach: Camp right on the beachfront. This campsite has one of the best views in NSW and for good reason! Be fast as this campground can book out as far as a year in advance!
- Freemans Beach Campsite: This campsite is located next to Freemans beach and offers a nice amount of space for each camper. It books out a little less fast than Fraser Beach, but it’s still a pretty popular destination.
- Wangi Point Holiday Park: I went to this caravan park on one of my solo camping trips and thoroughly enjoyed this location! Drive all the way to the back of the park and have the tranquility of the lake and fewer people camping next to you. Wangi Wangi is also a small hub with a few high-quality restaurants.
Ah, the Blue Mountains, a favourite getaway for many Sydney-sider and tourists alike. A mountainous weekend getaway from Sydney is at your fingertip at only 1,5h to 2h drive depending on where you’re headed and where you’re starting from. There is an abundance of hikes, campsites, and activities to do in the Blue Mountains to choose from. I personally love heading to Mt. Wilson to observe the autumn foliage and drop in quickly into The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden (careful it can be busy). On your way back home, make sure to drive past Bilpin to pick up a cider and an apple pie! This area was badly affected by this year’s bushfires and can use some tourist dollars!
Accommodation in the Blue Mountains
The Hunter Valley is by far one of the most popular and famous weekend getaways from Sydney. The wine region close to Sydney has a 200-year old winemaking history and has an abundance of wineries to choose from and plenty of other delicious produce available. The Hunter Valley soil produces high-quality vines, olives, great dairy, and much more. It also draws in craftsmen that make chocolates and distilleries that produce different kinds of liquor. There are even craft beers that are being made in the area!
The Hunter Valley is a popular destination for both Sydney-siders and tourists visiting Sydney. Therefore some of these wineries can be very big and busy. If you want to avoid the large crowds, I advise you to choose a tour operator that is specialized in boutique wineries. If you are choosing to do a self-drive tour around the area (have a designated driver!), I highly recommend stopping in Broke. It’s a small town tucked away from the much busier Pokolbin and has plenty of family-owned small wines to taste!
Most tastings in the Hunter Valley area will cost between $5-$15. This cost will be deducted (in most places) from the wine that buy to take home. Buying at least a few bottles is highly recommended as the rural businesses in Australia have had a very tough year with the bushfires and the pandemic. I feel obligated to let you know that wineries cannot survive off tastings alone and therefore buying a bottle is the right thing to do.
Accommodation in the Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley is home to many amazing accommodation options within each budget. I would check out both Booking.com and Airbnb to find an amazing stay. As I said, this is a popular area and therefore there is a very wide selection of accommodation available.
If you prefer camping in the area, I can highly recommend the FREE campsite in McNamara Park, Broke. It is walking distance from several wineries and even has some tables and a toilet!
Weekend Getaways within a 3 hour drive from Sydney
A three-hour drive is still very doable for a weekend trip. Personally, I would prefer to leave Friday evening if we are doing a 3-hour drive from Sydney, but you can push it and drive up on Saturday and back on Sunday.
Oh Seal Rocks, how you have stolen my heart! My first drive into this idyllic spot immediately made it obvious how remote, yet popular these tropical-looking beaches are. With the closest IGA a full 40-min away, this is not really a spontaneous location to head to, but it is oh so worth the detour.
Seal Rocks has three beaches to choose from, Number One Beach, Boat Beach and Lighthouse Beach, and has both glamping and camping locations to stay in. The main beach, Number One Beach (Australia always has the most original names!) is the first thing you see when you arrive in Seal Rocks and is arguably the most popular beach. Cars are often lined alongside the beach and you will find Seal Rock’s first and fanciest campsite, Reflections Holiday Park, right next to the beach.
People head to seal rocks for the beach life. As it is quite remote (they do sell a great coffee next to the local shop), most visitors spend their time swimming, surfing, snorkelling, spearfishing and sunbathing. If you are as obsessed with the ocean as I am, then I highly recommend Seal Rocks!
Our favorite beach, Boat Beach, is a little bit further along up the hill and past the coffee shed. The best part about this beach and why we keep returning? The snorkeling! The rock formation on the righthand side of the beach is a fantastic snorkeling destination. It is home to grey nurse sharks, cownose rays, sea turtles, and an abundance of other fishlife. Surprisingly no seals though!
The snorkeling site is quite a far way out, so only experienced snorkelers and strong swimmers should try this snorkel. Never go without a buddy and make sure to check the currents before heading in. I love the WillyWeather app (get the iPhone app) to check currents, wind, weather, etc. There is no lifeguard on this beach so you are exposed to the open ocean. The area is frequented by Great White Sharks as well, so do check the shark reports in the area (I use the Dorsal app (iPhone app)).
Stay in Seal Rocks
For such a small and remote little town, there is a lots of accommodation to choose from (if it is not booked out). There is a big caravan park, vacation homes and a few Airbnb’s in the area! It really only depends on your budget. As it is a popular little spot, I would recommend booking in advance!
If you prefer staying in nature, there are a few camping options as well. Yagon campsite is located in Myall Lakes National Park and is managed by National Parks NSW. Treachery Camp is located on the same side as Yagon Campsite, but only available via a 4WD track. The beach attached to Treachery Camp, Lighthouse Beach, is very popular with surfers.
Yagon campsite is our regular campsite when visiting Seal Rocks as it is a steal compared to the other campsites available ($17 for a weekday camp and $24 for a weekend day camp). It used to be a great little secret for most travelers as it was first come, first serve, and was therefore often still had spots available even in really busy periods such as Easter and Christmas. They have recently changed it to booking only so it might not be as freely available as it used to be.
Yagon campsite is everything that you need, including a walk to the remote Yagon beach and a toilet. A small warning: this toilet smells gross so be prepared! The biggest tip I can give you for this campground is to avoid the shaded right-hand side of the campsite as it has way too many mosquitos. Regardless of where you camp in Yagon, bring heavy-duty mosquito repellent (I only ever buy Bushman in Australia, the only one that keeps the pesky mozzies away)!
Jervis Bay does not suffer from any lack of familiarity with tourists and visitors all-year-round. It is home to many tropical-looking beaches and campsites with great facilities within the National Park. This idyllic weekend getaway from Sydney has everything that you might be looking for in a dreamy escape. Many dolphin and whale lovers go here every year to go on one of the many boat trips out of Huskisson, the local town centre.
Jervis Bay is, of course, also known for its abundance of beaches! There are so many to choose from! My favorites include Honeymoon Bay (first come, first serve), Green Patch, and Bristol Point. But honestly, anywhere in the bay, it is absolutely breathtaking!
Newcastle is the next bigger coastal city you pass when driving north from Sydney along the East Coast of Australia. Many visitors pass it by, but it is worth a stop. I ended spending about three weeks in the city and got to know it quite well. I wrote a travel guide to Newcastle including my favourite places to eat, drink, go out and explore!
Stay in Newcastle
I noticed that I did not include anywhere to stay in my travel guide to Newcastle so I’m adding it in here! When staying in Newcastle, I wouldn’t necessarily stay right in the towncentre, but closer to The Junction. It is a cute melting pot of different restaurants while staying within walking distance to Bar Beach and to the city centre.
Nelson Bay and Port Stevens
Whether you’re in the midst of an East Coast trip or whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway from Sydney or Newcastle, Nelson Bay is a great stop! It is yet another location that I keep visiting over and over again. Why? The epic views, beautiful beaches, and abundant wildlife!
Nelson’s Bay is a mecca for various fun activities: whale watching, surfing, dolphin and whale watching cruises, scuba diving with Grey Nurse Sharks, hiking Tomaree Mountain for epic views, koala spotting, sand boarding in the sand dunes of Stockton Beach, and much, much more.
Accommodation in Nelson Bay
Nelson Bay has a few accommodation options, hotel and motel accommodation in the town centre of Nelson Bay, airbnbs all throughout the area or campsites that tend to be closer to the more remote beaches.