Fancy a weekend getaway from Sydney? A road trip doesn’t just recharge your batteries; you’re also helping local communities get back on their feet after the devastating bushfires. Even towns located well away from fire ravaged areas have been hit with cancellations as international and domestic visitors stay away. Towns, jobs and family businesses that rely on the tourist dollar to survive need your help. We’ve rounded up eight of the best weekend road trips from Sydney to make the most of your couple of days off.
#1 Seal Rocks
Distance from Sydney: 277 km north
Driving Time from CBD: 3.25 hours
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Port Stephens to check out Mount Tomaree with its spectacular views.
What to Do There: Surf, see Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, seal and whale watching (seasonal)
The Geographical Names Board of New South Wales wasn’t too inventive with this holiday village’s name, referencing the seals that sun themselves on the rocks just offshore. To see the rocks and stunning Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse (that has been warning shipmasters of the rocks since 1875), follow the main road, Kinka Road, beside the beach and up the hill. Read the information boards about the lighthouse and the area’s geology.
Dubbed Byron Bay without the traffic, Seal Rocks is a surfers’ paradise. Head to Seals Rocks or Bluey’s Beach to enjoy a surf, swim or something to eat.
Look out for the colony of Australian Fur Seals and in spring the lookout point and lighthouse beach are some of the best whale watching spots in NSW as the whales head back to the Southern Ocean.
Be sure to check out the spectacular sea cavern where the ocean surges through a tunnel, just before you reach the lighthouse.
If you’re up for an easy walk, head to Treachery Headland Walking Track for a look at a giant fig tree in the coastal rainforest and another look at the lighthouse and rocky headland.
If you have a 4WD, take it on to Lighthouse Beach then go for a drive to nearby Myall Lakes National Park.
Distance from Sydney: 220 km south
Driving Time from CBD: 3.5 hours
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Stop for lunch on the banks of the Shoalhaven River or sample the region’s produce at one of the local restaurants. Vintage warplanes are on display at Fleet Air Arm Museum, but if you have young kids they might enjoy the Shoalhaven Zoo.
What to Do There: Swim, surf, snorkel, fish, play a game of golf
If the weather is looking fine, head south and enjoy the beautiful beaches Mollymook offers. Just like Seal Rocks, Mollymook is a beachside paradise. Take the fishing rod and throw in a line from the beach, swim, surf, snorkel or drive around the rocky headlands.
Look for fossilised shells along the Gondwana Coast Fossil Walk, or take in the wildflowers at Ulladulla Wildflower Reserve. Bens Rock and Hanging Rock in the Nowra area offer good walking opportunities.
If a round of golf is more your style, Mollymook has an 18-hole championship course and a 9-hole course for the weekend hacks. There’s also barefoot bowling at the club and wine tours if you want to enjoy a tasting or two.
Distance from Sydney: 260 km northwest
Driving Time from CBD: 3.5 hours
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Blue Mountains National Park for lunch with The Three Sisters
What to Do There: Enjoy the town’s heritage, visit Wollemi National Park.
If you like to enjoy a glass of good wine while on holiday, put Mudgee on your list. Located in the beautiful wine region, Mudgee also offers great walking trails and national park hikes to walk off the extra calories.
Southeast of Mudgee is the World Heritage listed Wollemi National Park with its canyons, cliffs, gorges, rivers and forests. Ferntree Gully Reserve has a one hour loop walk that takes you past rock formations, ferns and orchids.
Take in the sights of the incredible heritage streetscape with its pastoral history and colonial gold rush era on display. But if you can’t get enough of historic towns, take a drive north to Gulgong and check out their 130 heritage listed buildings and Australia’s oldest operating opera house.
#4 Jervis Bay
Distance from Sydney: 200 km south
Driving Time from CBD: 3.25 hours
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Visit the blowholes and caverns at Kiama and the Minnamurra Rainforest.
What to Do There: Look for local wildlife, swim or snorkel at the beaches, visit national parks, bushwalk or cycle on tracks, whale watching.
The list wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of Jervis Bay. Another stunning seaside location in the Shoalhaven region, Jervis Bay gives you an opportunity to see the local wildlife including dolphins, seals, little penguins, sea dragons and whales.
Testament to the landscape, there’s no shortage of national parks in the area. Check out Jervis Bay National Park for its crystal clear water and white sandy beaches, woodlands and wetlands. Discover the grisly past of the Cape St George lighthouse ruins at Booderee National Park, learn about bush tucker or try spotting the 200 species of birds on the walking trails at Booderee Botanic Gardens.
If you’re visiting in the cooler months, Jervis Bay is one of the best spots to see the migrating humpbacks and southern right whales as they hang out in the bay’s calm waters or glide past from June to November.
Stock up on local tasty produce at the village and markets and enjoy a meal at the cafes, restaurants and pubs.
#5 The Hunter Valley
Distance from Sydney: 240 km north
Driving Time from CBD: 3.30 hours
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Hawkesbury River, Yengo National Park
What to Do There: Visit the wineries and artisans, take the walking trails through Barrington Tops National Park and Hunter Valley Gardens
If you’re a bit of a foodie, head for the Hunter Valley. Known as the oldest grape-growing region in Australia, there’s plenty of wines to taste and pair with fresh local produce. The area is known for its cheese, chocolate, honey, olives and oil.
When it’s time for a little exercise, head to the Wollemi and Barrington Tops National Park. The walks and trails take you to lookouts and picnic areas to take in the magnificent diverse rainforest and falls.
The Hunter Valley Gardens are 14 hectares of gardens with thousands of trees and shrubs in 10 themed gardens. Spend a few hours wandering through the gardens and visiting the shopping village and rides.
Distance from Sydney: 120 km
Driving Time from CBD: 90 minutes south
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Take a stroll through the Australian Botanical Gardens, take in the historic architecture at Menangle or the NSW Rail Museum at Thirlmere.
What to Do There: The Bradman Centre, visit the waterfalls, The Big Potato, and Cherry Tree Walk
Whether or not you’re a cricket tragic, the Bradman Centre is a must visit for every Australian. Trace the legend’s career and the history of the game through the museum’s interactive displays. Shane Warne’s Baggy Green cap is the latest addition to the Museum after Warne donated it to the bushfire appeal. After your visit, drive by Don Bradman’s childhood home.
The Cherry Tree Walk is a beautiful living memorial to the 526 soldiers who died during the Vietnam War. Visit in spring for its spectacular flowering show.
Be sure to wander through the town’s boutiques, galleries, markets and stop for a bite at one of the eateries.
Visit the historic town of Berrima, just 10 minutes’ drive away. The Illawarra Tourism Route will take you to Berrima via the stunning Fitzroy Falls and then on to Belmore Falls in Morton National Park. If you have kids, don’t miss a photo opportunity with the Big Potato.
#7 Port Macquarie
Distance from Sydney: 380 km north
Driving Time from CBD: 4 hours
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Lookout in Laurieton, South West Rocks, Myalls Lake National Park
What to Do There: Go koala spotting, swim at the beaches, fish in the river or ocean
If you’re happy to travel a little further and you have a long weekend, Port Macquarie won’t disappoint. The former penal colony has stunning beaches including Lighthouse Beach where you can ride a camel. But to appreciate the full coastline, take the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk in Sea Acres National Park. It’s just a short hike up to Tacking Point Lighthouse for spectacular views.
Port Macquarie has one of the largest wild koala populations so you’re sure to spot a few in the trees. Kids love the Koala Sculpture Trail and Billabong Zoo: Koala and Wildlife Park. You can also visit the Koala Hospital which cared for many koalas following the devastating bushfires.
The Dooragan National Park offers walks and trails including one to the summit of North Brother to take in the incredible view.
Camden Haven River is popular for swimming, fishing and dolphin spotting. Walk through the Kattang Nature Reserve to Perpendicular Point to look for whales in winter.
Distance from Sydney: 210 km west
Driving Time from CBD: 3 hours
Places to Stop/Attractions Along the Way: Blue Mountains National Park
What to Do There: Drive around the Mount Panorama Circuit, visit the caves
You don’t have to be a rev head to visit Bathurst. Everyone can enjoy a spin around the Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit or a visit to the National Motor Racing Museum.
Visit the Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve for self-guided caves tours and walking tracks. The Kangaroo Boundary Road Reserve is close to town and has a loop track to see the mobs of kangaroos and views over Bathurst.
The Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum has a huge collection including a T. Rex skeleton in the middle of town in an old school building. Ben Chifley’s Home gives an insight into the prime minister’s life.
So remember to Holiday Here This Year, the tourist campaign encouraging Australians to visit their own backyard. You’ll be supporting local businesses recover from the bushfires.