In my very biased opinion, the best way to spend a weekend in Sydney is at the beach. Kick back on a sheltered Sydney Harbour beach or battle the waves on an ocean beach – either way, no need to leave the city to have a kick arse weekend.
But of course I’m all for outdoor adventures and exploration. And with beaches, mountains, and valleys all within 2-3 hours from the city, there are plenty of options for fun weekend trips from Sydney. Here are some of the best adventures to be had in New South Wales, all within a few hours from the big city.
The Northern Beaches
If you’re over Sydney’s city beaches (a notion my beach bummin’ self cannot comprehend), consider heading north to a new stretch of sand. From Manly up to Palm Beach you’ll find Sydney’s famed Northern Beaches – no less than 23 of them, in fact. The vibe up here is decidedly more chill, with small towns comprised more of affluent families than tourists – each one with its own beach or three.
For a relaxed and/or romantic getaway from Sydney, book an Airbnb for a weekend in one of the northern beach towns and base yourself there as you beach hop. Don’t miss hiking up the Barrenjoey Headland at Palm Beach for an epic view from Sydney’s northernmost point, kayaking or paddle boarding in Narrabeen Lake, or the gorgeous ocean pool in Mona Vale.
How to get there: 1-2 hour drive or 2 hour bus ride from Sydney CBD
Just a 3 hour drive south of Sydney (and sadly disconnected from any effective public transport) lies Jervis Bay, one of the most popular weekend road trips from Sydney and home to some of Aussie’s legendary white sand beaches. Kite surfing and kangaroos are rampant here, but you can’t go wrong just sticking your toes in sand so fine it squeaks when you walk on it.
You can do Jervis Bay in a (very long) day, but it tends to get cloudy and windy by the afternoon so it’s better to plan for some morning beach time if possible and do it as an overnight trip instead. Jervis Bay is also quite large and the towns and beaches around the bay are pretty spread out, so the more time you can spend here, the better. Hyams Beach is by far the most famous part of Jervis Bay, but there’s not much of a town around it so if you’re looking for cafes and bars, head north to Huskisson or Vincentia.
I recommend camping in Jervis Bay, either in Booderee National Park on the south end, or at Honeymoon Bay on the north end. Campsites can be tricky to secure on summer weekends, so be sure to book your site at Booderee at least a month or two in advance. Honeymoon Bay is first come, first served, with no reservations in advance.
How to get there: 3 hour drive south from Sydney
Royal National Park
If it’s outdoor adventures and dramatic coastal views you seek, Royal National Park is your jam. And, bonus: it’s one of the best Sydney weekend getaways by train.
To fully appreciate this gorgeous region, you should tackle the 27km coastal track – it’ll spoil you with endless views of the eastern Aussie coast dotted with beautiful beaches, creeks, and waterfalls. You can hike the whole thing in a (very long) day, OR you can camp overnight at North Era and hike with all of your food and gear on your back (exhausting, but so worth it).
Alternatively, you could opt for a day trip to the Royal and hire a car for a day, stopping off throughout the park to enjoy viewpoints and short walks.
How to get there: Ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena, then trek 27km and catch the train back from Otford. Otherwise, Bundeena is an hour drive south from Sydney.
For a relaxing retreat, head down to Kangaroo Valley and immerse yourself in nature. Kangaroo Valley sits in between the Southern Highlands and the NSW South Coast and thus is often overlooked for its more convenient neighboring regions – but this only makes it more peaceful and relaxing!
This trip is best done by renting a car for a weekend and staying at a B&B or Airbnb that has enough amenities and beautiful landscapes to make you forget all about the stresses of city life, or you could opt to camp on the Kangaroo River.
There’s heaps to explore in and around Kangaroo Valley, from strolling through the town village to wine tasting at Yarrawa Estate to kayaking or canoeing down the Kangaroo River. But it’s equally as enjoyable to just kick back and enjoy the verdant green landscapes.
How to get there: 2 hour drive south of Sydney
Sunrise at Govetts Leap.
The Blue Mountains are one of the best Sydney weekend getaways by train – simply hop on the train from Central Station and get off in Katoomba about 2 hours later. From here, you can access viewpoints and hiking trails sans vehicle, though if you do have your own wheels, you’ll have lots more options here.
If it’s your first time visiting the Blue Mountains, be sure to check out the famous Three Sisters, ride the world’s steepest railway, and wander the cute shops and cafes in Katoomba.
If this aint your first Blue Mountains rodeo, consider booking a rock climbing or abseiling trip (recommended: High and Wild), taking a hike (recommended: Grand Canyon loop, National Pass, Leura Cascades), or scoping out the gasp-worthy views at one or more of the best scenic viewpoints (recommended: Govetts Leap, Lincoln’s Rock, Hanging Rock).
How to get there: 2 hour train ride or 1.5 hour drive from Sydney
Wine tasting is the name of the game in The Hunter. Unless you’re able to wrangle yourself a DD, you’ll want to book a spot on a wine tasting tour from Sydney. Either way, you’ll have yourself a delightfully tipsy day sampling New South Wales’ finest wines (semillon is a must) while enjoying the gorgeous vineyard landscapes along the way.
How to get there: Book a day tour from Sydney, or drive about 2 hours north and explore the vineyards independently.
Yep, you guessed it – it’s another beach getaway from Sydney! Port Stephens is about 3 hours north of Sydney and has a host of both calm bay beaches and rugged ocean beaches (even a nude beach!).
It’s most convenient to base yourself in Nelson Bay and explore the Port Stephens region. Whale watching, diving, and SUP are popular aquatic activities here, but also be sure to walk to the Mt. Tomaree summit to catch the view in the photo above. The nearby Stockton sand dunes are fit for frolicking and quad biking, should you need a break from all that beachin’.
How to get there: 3 hour drive north of Sydney
The Hawkesbury River
Photo credit: Flickr
I’ve yet to cross this hidden gem off my Sydney weekend trip list, but all signs I’ve seen point toward the Hawkesbury being a worthy weekend getaway. If you go with a group of friends or family, rent a houseboat – it’s definitely the thing to do on the river.
Otherwise, there’s loads more outdoor adventures to be had on the Hawkesbury: kayaking, fishing, tubing, bushwalking, swimming, and more.
How to get there: 1 hour drive northwest of Sydney
The Southern Highlands
If you’re craving some countryside vibes, head south to the Southern Highlands. Here you’ll find quaint villages amidst rolling hills, and slightly further afield there are waterfalls and rainforest walks galore (see the next Sydney weekend getaway on the list for more into on these!).
Bowral is the main town in the region and is an absolute delight for antique shopping and frolicking, particularly in autumn when all the leaves are changing colors. It’s also an excellent weekend trip from Sydney in the winter, as you can experience the colder weather and then cozy up by a log fire at your accommodation.
The Southern Highlands is a top spot for wine tasting near Sydney as well. I can recommend Centennial Vineyards for their beautiful grounds, and Southern Highlands Winery for their delicious wines.
How to get there: 1.5 hour drive south of Sydney
Between the Southern Highlands and the NSW South Coast sits a lush region full of picturesque waterfalls, most of which can be accessed by following route A48 from Moss Vale and driving east. This makes for an amazing Sydney weekend trip for nature lovers keen to camp, hike, and get wet!
The waterfalls all vary in terms of size, swimmability, and access, and can be found in 3 national parks:
- Morton NP: Fitzroy Falls, Belmore Falls
- Budderoo NP: Carrington Falls, Gerringong Falls, Minnamurra Falls
- Macquarie Pass NP: Jump Rock, Cascade Falls
My personal favorites are Belmore Falls and Jump Rock, both of which can be hiked to and swum at. I HIGHLY recommend getting yourself a copy of Wild Swimming Sydney, which has detailed descriptions and directions to all of the above waterfalls and more.
The Minamurra Rainforest Centre in Budderoo NP offers walking platforms through the rainforest and access to Minnamurra Falls. It’s also the place to go if you want to hear lyrebirds in the wild.
How to get there: 2 hour drive south of Sydney
Newcastle is one of the best weekend getaways from Sydney by train (especially on Sundays, when transport is capped at $2.80 for the whole day no matter how far you travel).
Like Sydney, Newcastle is a city of beaches – just on a much smaller scale, and with more of a country feel. Natural highlights in Newcastle include the Bogey Hole (a picturesque rock pool), the view from Fort Scratchley, and coastal walks.
How to get there: 2 hour drive or 3 hour train ride north from Sydney
Foodie weekend trips from Sydney, anybody? Orange definitely fits the bill here, and being a bit further afield than other wine regions near Sydney, it’s not too busy or touristy.
Wine tasting is a must in Orange, with a slew of award-winning wineries that specialize in cold climate wines. There’s also some really excellent local produce on hand, which you can sample at the pick-your-own-fruit farms or at some of the gourmet restaurants in town (e.g. the highly-rated Charred Kitchen).
Really, the best way to do Orange is to rent a house with a group of friends (or a cottage with your partner) and spend the weekend cozying up enjoying the local wine.
How to get there: 3.5 hour drive NW of Sydney
The Central Coast is one of the easiest weekend getaways from Sydney, as it’s only about an hour away from the city. This stretch of coast is famed for its golden sand beaches and laidback vibes.
One option is to base yourself in Avoca or Terrigal, the two main beach towns in the region, and stay in an Airbnb or hotel. Terrigal is much more bustling, while Avoca is quieter.
Or for an entirely different sort of getaway, you could opt to camp in Bouddi National Park just south and explore the gorgeous beaches there. Be sure to hike part (or all) of the Bouddi Coast Walk, it’s a real gem.
How to get there: 1 hour drive north of Sydney
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
This Sydney weekend getaway is only for the camping enthusiasts I’m afraid, as the only place you’re allowed to stay overnight here is a campground.
If that’s you, then you’ll love pitching your tent at The Basin in Ku-ring-gai National Park, which is best accessed by ferry from Palm Beach. You can hire kayaks and stand-up paddleboards from a vendor at the campground, or hike to some of the other beaches and coves around Ku-ring-gai. The views of Pittwater from higher up in the park on the trails are exceptional.
How to get there:1 hour drive north of Sydney, + a 30 minute ferry ride if traveling via Palm Beach
River Caves Canyon.
File this one under Super-Adventurous, Off-Grid Getaways From Sydney. Newnes is the jumping off point for a maze of 4WD tracks, where you could easily spend a whole weekend adventuring and getting lost in your 4WD vehicle (you can rent a fully kitted out 4WD here).
If you need more than that, then there are heaps of canyons to explore across Newnes Plateau – some you’ll need proper gear for, while others you can hike to without actually having to canyon through (such as Deep Pass Canyon and River Caves Canyon).
Either way, camping is the best way to experience a weekend in the Newnes forest. The 4WD tracks are accessible from behind the Zig Zag Railway station.
How to get there: 3 hour drive NW of Sydney to reach Newnes