When planning a vacation to Sydney, many overlook traveling outside of the city limits to the New South Wales countryside and outback. Just a short drive from Sydney, you can see golden beaches on the Pacific Coast, the soaring summits of the Blue Mountains or enjoy fine wines on the Hunter Valley. Rent a car and experience it all in a few days.

Travel north to Newcastle and spend time on Mereweather Beach. With excellent surfing and swimming, there is a myriad of casual dining available at nearby beachside cafes and restaurants.  Share the waves with dolphins at Crescent Head.

Less than 2 hours from Newcastle, you will find excellent vineyards, mountains, lakes, world heritage rainforests, historic towns and fine dining.  Set amongst rugged mountain scenery, Hunter Valley Wine Country is the oldest and most popular wine producing area in Australia. Sample local wines at cellar doors, including Tyrrell’s, Brokenwood, Briar Ridge, De luliis and McGuigan, or learn more about wine at the Hunter Valley Wine School.

Bistro Molines
Bistro Molines

The region is also a place where you can indulge and explore.  Whether you delight in cheese or chocolate, olives, jams, honey, gelato, the Hunter offers ample locally grown products. From casual tastings to fine dining, the region has world-class restaurants and premium local produce to tempt the most discerning taste bud.

Work off those extra calories with a round of golf at a selection of courses. Tee off at the Greg Norman-designed championship course at The Vintage, the Stever Smyers designed Cypress Lake Course or The Hunter Valley Gold Course in Pokolbin. For the complete amateur or family fun, enjoy a game of Put Putt at the Hunter Valley Gardens.

Alternatively, rent a bicycle and explore the Hunter Valley at a relaxed pace as you explore the quiet country lanes like Palmers Lane, which links six cellar doors. Go horseback riding the stunning Molly Morgan Range or enjoy a historic walk around Woolmbi. Stroll through the Hunter Valley Gardens or take to sky with a hot air balloon ride.

Ready to relax? The Hunter Valley is renowned for high quality spas, retreats and therapies. Pamper your mind and body with a range of treatments that will have you have relaxed and ready for another day of adventures.

Accommodation options suit various budgets, from luxury retreats like Spicers Vineyard Estate and Chateau Elan Hunter Valley to historic hotels and family run motels. Check out the exciting events calendar for food and wine festivals, agricultural shows, horseracing, and jazz, opera and rock concerts among the vineyards.

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Spicers Sangoma Escarpment Suite
Spicers Sangoma Escarpment Suite

Continue south through historic towns and quaint villages to the Blue Mountains. This natural wilderness of untamed bush, spectacular rock formations and native wildlife. The Blue Mountains get their name from the natural blue haze created by vast eucalypt forests in this World Heritage area. Tiny droplets of oil released from the trees mix with water vapor and sunlight to produce the distinctive color.

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia (by Stanley Landscape Photography)
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia (by Stanley Landscape Photography)

See the famous Three Sisters rock formation from Echo Point Lookout at Katoomba or explore the Jenolan Caves. Board the world’s steepest passenger railway and descend into an ancient rainforest with Scenic World Blue Mountains or watch traditional Indigenous dance performances at Waradah Aboriginal Centre.

The Blue Mountains is ideal for bushwalking, with myriad options available, from easy strolls to longer walks.  The Grand Canyon Track is an historic loop tracks that takes you into the heart of landscape, past waterfalls, along clifftops and into the depths of the valleys. One of Australia’s classic walks is the challenging 3-day Six Foot Track, which follows the route of the original 1184 horse tack carved to take tourists from Katoomba to Jenolin Caves.

See glowworms near Lithgow in the Glow Worm Tunnel, a disused railway tunnel where larvae of the fungus gnat cover the walls and ceiling with a bioluminescent glow, like stars blossoming in the night sky.

The Jenolan Caves is regarded as one of Australia’s most spectacular cave systems where you will see a labyrinth of stalactite-lined limestone caves sculpted by underground rivers.

The Blue Mountains delivers outstanding accommodation, from cottages and cabins to luxury resorts, including Lilianfels Resort & Spa, a smart, glamorous boutique hotel built around a century-old stone mansion near spectacular Echo Point.  Spread out on the valley floor is Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley, which offers luxurious style and sophistication to the classic Australian bush setting.

Wolgan Valley
The Views from the One & Only Wolgan Valley Villas

For more information about Sydney and the surrounding area, check out Down Under Answers.