Travelling around the New South Wales, surroundins of Sydney, either North (Central Coast, Port Stephens, Hunter Valley), South (Jervis Bay), West (Canberra, Blue Mountains). Big advantage of Australia is the possibility to be close to nature while living in city of the size of Sydney.
Canberra, administrative capital
The Australian capital Canberra, where the parliament and other national Australian institutions and museums are located is three hours driving from Sydney, in the inner lands. Nothing very interesting either, at least definitely not the first place to visit arriving in Australia, we though Canberra was a very quiet city, not very dynamic, only an administrative city, where most of jobs are in administration indeed. Chosen as the capital of the young Australian nation in the 1920s, in order to lower the rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney, Canberra is full of diverse museums (about the history of the federation, military history, political organisation, modern and traditional art…). Also, many good bushwalks are very nice, where you could see brumbies (wild horses) or wombats and wallabies. However keep in mind winters are very cold so wear warm clothes if you choose to go there at this period. There is a beautiful flower festival, Floriade in September, if you are around.
Canberra, boring city?
Walking around the Blue Mountains
2h00 from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are the best place near Sydney for amazing bushwalks, These forests are not very spectacular (except a beautiful lookout over the 3 sisters rock near Katoomba) but walks are nice. Be careful to take water, hats and a good map if anything happens. Every year, travellers get lost! You can get there by car, train (stop at Katoomba station). The city center of this city is not big, close to its neighbour Leura. Big supermarkets and plenty of available accommodations over there if needed to spend a good week-end out of Sydney.
Fresh air at the Blue Mountains
Usually a much colder weather in the Blue Mountains than in Sydney
Beaches of Jervis Bay
Another great national park south of Sydney, Jervis Bay, is well-known for its white sandy beach and wild wallabies, easy to spot on either at dusk or dawn, So we found out quite interesting to sleep near by, and the quiet village of Berry is an excellent option. This sleepy town 25kms from the park is in the middle of everything in the region, particularly Kangaroo Valley or Huskisson, a seaside town close to Jervis Bay. Actually this park in home of the most beautiful beaches near Sydney according to us. If you a camping fan, just bring your tent and you’ll be fine: either in a specified campground (paying or free of charge like the one in Bendeela) or wild camping in the countryside! Also great with a campervan 🙂 !
Camping or hotel?
Indeed in the village of Berry offers two or three hotels with quality rooms for reasonable prices, like the Berry hotel, where you can also have a good Aussie-style dinner. However keep in mind to book well in advance, especially during school holidays periods or long weekends.
We had the opportunity to meet with the local wildlife, particularly wallabies! Particularly in the national park, even if you have to wake up early to see them in the morning. And we think that sleeping in Berry is the best place for that! Wallabies everywhere, welcome to Australia!
Port Stephens and the Central Coast
Other magnificent places like Port Stephens and its impressive bay. As it is the case in any other area out of Sydney, the nightlife is completely dead. So just be prepared if you don’t go there with friends! Anyway, you don’t go to Port Stephens for crazy parties but for beautiful walks along the coast as well as sports activities such as sandboard, kitesurf or walks (quiet or more spectaculars like the one leading to a beautiful panoramic view over the bay).
Hiking until the top of Port Stephens is rewarding: Amazing lookout !
And National Parks, vineyards…
Finally, don’t forget the vineyards of Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, where excellent Australian wines, such as the shiraz, are produced. In a magnificent setting, you can appreciate glasses of wine accompanied with locally made cheese. A perfect place , appreciated by sydneysiders to celebrate a wedding! However, the region is very touristic and prices of wines bought locally very high…Other beautiful places to discover in New South Wales near Sydney such as the Royal National Park south and Ku-Ring-Gai National Park north. Pleasant bushwalks and wildlife (cockatoos and echidnas for example) are possible among many other activities. They are easily accessible one day out of Sydney if you are driving. Please note you have to pay an entry fee of $11.00 per vehicle.
Where did we sleep?
As you understood, many Sydney families are coming here with their tents and other equipment! We are now also used to this kind of holidays, we bought our tent and do from time to time camping holidays (but this is not what we prefer…) Also lot of available Airbnbs, an excellent opportunity to meet with local people, either north of Sydney in the Central Coast or around Newcastle, or south near Jervis Bay. Among the traditional accommodations we tried, let’s suggest:
- Big 4 Holiday Parks: Very well know from Aussie families, it is recommended if you have children, everything made for them! Here you bring your huge tent and you benefit from local facilities such as pool, barbecue…We like it or not. A bit close to each other, but it is camping anyway.
- The Berry Hotel: A good old pub Aussie style! We have dinner at groundfloor before heading upstairs to rest after drinking a lot of Aussie made beers (Carlton, Coopers, Extra dry, Victoria bitter, Little creatures…). Rooms are very simple, with shared bathrooms. But we loved the cute little historic village of Berry, 30mns from the beautiful Jervis Bay national park.
- Camping de Bendeela: A free camping ground, also near Jervis Bay. The first ones who arrive get the best spots of course. Bonus, you may hear wombats near your tent at night, we they come eat the fresh grass in the valley. Very typical you will see!