Jason Friend / Alamy
Nicholas Fonseca
October 01, 2014

Once you’ve arrived—I know this will feel like a hard ask, but listen to me, anyway—you don’t want to let the city of Sydney suck you in to the point that you end up ignoring what’s happening in its gorgeous surroundings. You can drive in pretty much any direction (well, except east, unless you can somehow traverse the ocean in a car), and in an hour or two, you’ll be presented with some of the most beautiful vistas in New South Wales. Whether you’re a wine snob (guilty), a camping aficionado (guilty), a fan of leisurely antiquing (check back with me in about 20 years), or simply want to visit a nearby city, you’ll most certainly be able to find something that appeals to your need for a getaway within your getaway. Don’t have a license? Not to worry. Most of these locations are also easily accessible via the train or bus.

Blue Mountains

So named because of the azure haze that often settles above them, the Blue Mountains—which, in actuality, are not so much a series of peaks as they are a grouping of ridges, plateaus, and gorges—are a quick getaway from the city and a fantastic place to spend a weekend. You’ll want to take one of the countless walks in the area, and most definitely get a look at the Three Sisters, a trio of sandstone rocks made for picture-snapping.

Hunter Valley

Color yourself a wine aficionado? Then you’ll love the Hunter, which is a huge region located just a couple hours’ drive north of Sydney. People flock here for tastings at dozens of cellar doors, weekends away with friends in its many holiday homes, and the odd outdoor concert at Hope Estate.

Bowral

The Southern Highlands are a preferred vacation spot for many Sydneysiders, who enjoy its rolling hills and quiet surroundings; it’s a great place to rent out a holiday home for a large group or, alternatively, to arrive with your better half for a quiet romantic weekend. Bowral, specifically, is a cute little town with quaint shops, nice restaurants, and a chill vibe that shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking to get out of the city for a spell.

Royal National Park

Australians being Australians, they’ve dubbed this place the “Nasho.” It’s the world’s second-oldest national park and there are all manners of activities on offer in the area. Head here for a weekend camping trip, take a leisurely drive through on a Sunday, visit the gorgeous beaches on its eastern edge, and be sure to find one of the gorgeous waterfalls hidden deep in its center.

Newcastle

This industrial port town located just under two hours north of Sydney is the largest coal-exporting harbor in the world, and for far too long, it had a pretty grimy reputation. No more. In recent years, a raft of young guns overhauled the place so completely that it’s now a must-visit. Great new bars, excellent restaurants and a nightlife scene that’s been reborn are just three of the reasons you should check out Newcastle.

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