Sydney is surrounded by laid-back coastal towns, historical settlements and stunning natural landscapes. Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities, unique shopping, secluded beaches or a fun night out, NSW has something for everyone. These are our favourite places to visit from Sydney.
If you take the majestic, winding 90-minute drive south of Sydney, you’ll find yourself in the Illawarra region. The main gem here is Wollongong, the 10th most populated urban area in Australia. There are plenty of things to do in this beautiful coastal city. Start by having a dip in the ocean. North Wollongong Beach and Wollongong City Beach are the most popular, so if you’re after a quieter spot, try Stanwell Park Beach. Go to the headland to try and spot the humpback whales swimming past during their migration period between May and November. If you’re into water sports like kayaking, waterskiing and donutting, the saltwater lakes in Shellharbour and Lake Illawarra are must-visits. There are also some great fishing spots in the area, too. Speaking of fish… if you’re feeling hungry, the best fish and chip spot is on the outskirts of Wollongong at Aish’s Seafood & Takeaway in Berkeley.
If you drive through the Blue Mountains, eventually you’ll arrive in the Central West region. It’s a truly unique area that’s very different from the coastal capital cities. Bathurst is well-known for two things: the annual Bathurst 1000 car racing event that runs around Mount Panorama, and Charles Sturt University (CSU). During the semester, the whole city comes alive and buzzes with students. Some of the best food in town is located in a little cafe called The Hub on Keppel Street. When there are no races on, Mount Panorama is a public road, so you can take a drive around the 6.2km circuit or walk along the edges (just be careful, as there aren’t any footpaths). To end the day, head back into town and enjoy a delicious pizza at the converted church come restaurant, Church Bar. Each pizza is named after a street in Bathurst.
Many Sydneysiders have started flocking to Newcastle for cheaper rent and a slower, relaxed lifestyle. This coastal city has the perfect blend of beachy small-town vibes with all the amenities offered in Sydney. Head to Suspension Espresso for a tasty coffee and something to eat while you take in a book in the leafy courtyard area. Darby Street is a great strip to stroll along with many boutique fashion labels, cafes and bars, while many of the city’s beautiful, historic terrace houses still stand in the Newcastle East area. Grab some fish and chips from Scotties Seafood Restaurant and have a picnic on Newcastle or Nobbys Beach. Another great picnic spot is King Edward Park. With a beautiful rotunda in its centre, this park dips into the ground like a well, surrounded by big, grassy hills. Here, you’ll find Newcastle’s famous Bogey Hole, a small natural swimming hole hand carved by convicts in 1819.
Tamworth is the country music capital of the nation (the Tamworth Country Music Festival is held here each year in January). As music is embedded into Tamworth’s DNA, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of live music venues scattered across town. Major bands can be found playing at the Capitol Theatre, and local musicians will often grace the stage at the Imperial Brew House. The town’s most iconic landmark is the roadside Big Golden Guitar. Make sure you stop by for a photo. For a unique eating experience, try the Glasshouse Restaurant on Goonoo Goonoo Station, a former sheep station from early British settler times. You can also stay overnight in one of the historic shearing sheds or cottages.
Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads
Byron Bay, Australia’s most easterly point, has a real ‘hippie’ vibe, and locals can often be found walking around town in their swimming costumes. There’s a never-ending supply of amazing, healthy food in Byron. Browse the many vendors that are set up right in front of the beach – Orgasmic Falafel is not to be missed. The biggest pub in Byron, the Beach Hotel, overlooks the main beach and is the perfect spot to have a drink and watch the sun go down. If you’re looking for a dance, head to Cheeky Monkey’s for pop music and dancing on tabletops. Ten minutes out of Byron is Brunswick Heads. For a fun night out, try Cheeky Cabaret at the Brunswick Picture House. It’s big, bold and brash, and features monthly world-class cabaret performances in a renovated, 50s-style cinema. Plus, it’s BYO (you can bring your own wine and beer)!