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NSW road trip ideas to set those wheels in motion
Get out, bliss out and hail the sunshine this weekend.
Situation: the weekend is looming, you've checked your calendar and it's completely empty. What do you do? Chill out at home? Nah. You throw caution to the wind, jump behind the wheel and drive.
Adventure awaits and so do memories. And if you're not exactly the kind of person who leaves without a little bit of a plan, you're in luck because we've nutted out a few top road trips you can take that won't take up more than a day, or at most, a weekend of your time.
Where can you go?
Head north-west: Wollemi National Park
You've hiked the Blue Mountains and wined and dined your way around the Hunter Valley, but have you swum, canoed or camped at Wollemi National Park? Yeah, we thought so. Often overlooked for these more popular escapes, Wollemi is a World Heritage Listed park named after the rare Wollemi pine – though that's not its only claim to fame.
Within its green walls lives the most extensive sandstone canyon system in eastern Australia, pagoda rock formations, hanging swamps, waterfalls, glow worm tunnels, over 100 Aboriginal sites and a wide range of Australian fauna including the brush-tailed rock wallaby and the glossy black cockatoo.
Park entry is free, camping is permitted and the views are spectacular. Go for it.
- Ideal for: Adventure seekers and hikers.
- Distance: 184km to Newnes, which takes 3 hours and 20 minutes to drive, but it's slightly less if you're already northwest in suburbs like Carlingford.
- Top road trip stops: Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, Blackheath and Wolgan Valley.
- Best time to drive: Spring or autumn when the weather is cool enough to hike and canoe the area.
Head north-east: Nelson Bay
We don't need to tell you twice that this is one pretty piece of Mother Nature. The calm, romantic inlet is a magnet for water babies, families, lovebirds and everything in-between. People are drawn in by its marine activities, which include swimming, snorkelling, dolphin watching and whale spotting.
Landlubbers aren't without a healthy dose of activities either with cycling tracks between beaches and the sand dunes of Worimi Conservation Lands just a stone's throw away.
- Ideal for: Water babies, families and relaxing getaways.
- Distance: 213km from the Sydney CBD, which takes 2.5 hours to drive, but it's slightly less if you're driving up from a north shore location like Warriewood.
- Top road trip stops: If you've the time to spare, stop by Avalon, Whale and Palm Beaches, Norah Head and Lake Macquarie.
- Best time to drive: Summer for the beaches or between May and November for whale watching.
Head west: Orange
There's something utterly romantic about the regional town of Orange, and yet something completely unassuming. It's the place to take bae on a weekend break where you can unwind on a colonial deck and sip wine purchased from cellar doors – and all without the hype or tourists that places like the Hunter Valley welcome.
Its trails aren't something to snoot at either. The heritage walking trail takes you around town through tree-lined streets and colonial buildings while those with itchy feet can leg it up the neighbouring extinct volcano Mount Canobolas for panoramic views of the town and beyond.
- Ideal for: Romance and foodies.
- Distance: 250km, which takes 3.5 hours to drive from Sydney CBD, but it's slightly faster if you're leaving from the west, for example around Bankstown.
- Top road trip stops: Wentworth Falls, Bathurst and Meadow Flat (for the autumn leaves).
- Best time to drive: Might be biased here but autumn is when Orange is at its most picturesque.
Head south: Jervis Bay
There are so many highlights en route to the south coast gem that is Jervis Bay, you're going to have to pick and choose to see them all within a weekend. Our advice? Extend your trip that much longer.
Let's start with "The Gong" – or Wollongong for the purists. Its coastal trails carry you through bush while peeping over coastal crag and beachfront and offer a mix of easy and difficult trails.
Make your next stop Lake Illawarra and Shellharbour for more water views and local food then veer inland to Kangaroo Valley. It's the stuff family trips, girls' weekends and couples stays are made of with its impressive sandstone towers, forested landscape and small-town feel.
Jervis Bay is all the above and more. It's cycling and hiking tracks interwoven with brilliant green forest, bleach-white sand and turquoise blue water begging to be explored.
- Ideal for: Water babies, adventure seekers, relaxation, families and romance.
- Distance: 227km, which takes 3 hours and 40 minutes to drive, but it's slightly less if you're driving from a south Sydney suburb like Roselands.
- Top road trip stops: Wollongong, Lake Illawarra/Shellharbour and Kangaroo Valley.
- Best time to drive: Summer for the beachy keen, autumn or spring for bushwalking and winter-autumn (June to November) for whale watching.
- Idea departure from: Roselands
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