We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - a short day trip or an overnight getaway can be just as good for the soul as a full-blown holiday, all for a fraction of the cost and without dipping into your leave balances!
We’ve done all the hard work for you, shortlisting our six favourite destinations within a short drive from the Sydney CBD - all of which can be accessed directly using the time frames specified, or if time is no object, by some of the state’s most scenic and spirited driving roads.
Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a day trip, these destinations are perfect for the whole family to enjoy:
Blue Mountains National Park (1-hour drive)
Nestled just an hour's drive west of Sydney CBD, the Blue Mountains National Park is a must-visit melting pot of artisan culture and the stunning natural beauty of the Mountains themselves, scattered with winding roads simply begging to be driven! The Blue Mountains can be accessed directly via the Great Western Highway, or up the Bells Line of Road if you’ve got a little more time and want to seek out a stunning stretch of road.
The Mountains are dotted with tourist attractions making them a great option for a day trip, as well as numerous accommodation options from humble bed’n’breakfasts through to huge hotels including the famous Hydro Majestic Hotel, for those that want to stretch the trip out by a day or two.
Royal National Park (1-hour drive)
Situated just south of Sydney CBD, the Royal National Park is a natural playground offering a mix of picturesque coastal scenery and exhilarating driving roads. Take the Grand Pacific Drive, a scenic coastal route, and enjoy breathtaking views of the coastline and the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge. With several picnic spots, bushwalks, and family-friendly beaches, this destination is perfect for a fun-filled day trip.
The Park itself is dotted with tracks and trails making it a haven for walkers and cyclists looking to immerse themselves in the greenery, and the many lookouts are a stunning spot for a quick photo, or a picnic lunch.
Hunter Valley (2-hour drive)
As well as boasting the state’s highest concentration of award-winning cellar doors, the wider Hunter region is a verifiable treasure trove of activities for kids and grown ups alike! Even those not magnetically drawn to the region’s many wineries and distilleries will still be able to stack their score card with the Hunter Valley Gardens for the kids, hatted restaurants for the foodies and accommodation that ranges from rustic farm stay all the way to five-star luxury.
The most direct route from Sydney is straight down the freeway if you’re in a hurry, however the Old Pacific Highway or Putty Road are a little more scenic for those wanting to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Jervis Bay (2-hour drive)
The Jervis Bay region is famous for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, and is a popular destination on the State’s South Coast due to its proximity to Sydney. Everything around the famous bay is a National Park which has protected the region’s natural beauty, making it’s white sand beaches like Hyams Beach a great spot to snap some photos for Instagram, snorkel or simply sit on the shore for a picnic in the sun. The region has embraced ecotourism with a range of glamping options, as well as plenty of holiday rentals that can be a real bargain in the fringe and off-seasons.
The drive from Sydney gets progressively more scenic the closer you get to the Bay, and while the Princes Highway that’ll deliver you there isn’t the stuff of postcards, some of the arterial roads through the region are the kind of roads that’ll put a smile on your face.
Port Stephens (2-hour drive)
Perhaps the north coast might be more accessible for you, in which case Port Stephens gets a nod as another coastal region with it all! Whether you’re seeking a swim in the ocean or something a little more protected on the bay-side, one of Port Stephens’ 26 stunning beaches will be the right fit for you. As you snake around the region, between National Parks, you’re never far from the coast and can always catch a glimpse of glistening water between the trees.
The region is flush with accommodation options to extend your stay, along with other attractions to easily make a weekend out of the trip. For those leaving Sydney and wanting a drive that they’ve felt a part of, consider taking the Old Pacific Highway instead of the M1.
Kangaroo Valley (2-hour drive)
Formally a ‘through-town’ that locals and travelers visited on their way to somewhere else, Kangaroo Valley has experienced somewhat of a renaissance as Sydney development continues to sprawl past its previous limits, making the Southern Highlands more accessible than ever. The entire region is a postcard, with soaring mounts, lush greenery or stunning lookouts never far away, and the region is quickly establishing itself as a foodie destination, centered around the Valley’s famous pub, the Friendly Inn, and its sprawling lawn and beer garden.
Whether you do a day trip down for lunch or pack an overnight bag and stay in one of the region’s many accommodation options, we’d put the Valley on your list of untapped NSW destinations!
With these six amazing travel destinations within a two-hour drive of Sydney CBD, you have plenty of options for thrilling drives and family-friendly adventures. From the stunning Blue Mountains and Royal National Park to the wine region of Hunter Valley, the coastal beauty of Jervis Bay and Port Stephens, and the serene Kangaroo Valley, each destination offers its own unique charm and exciting driving experiences. So pack up the family, hit the road, and create unforgettable memories exploring these fantastic locations near Sydney.