International travel is off the cards, at least for the next few months, and with the ever-changing interstate rules, travellers are seeking adventures in their own state. Sydneysiders are spoilt with choice for weekend getaways, from farm stays to bohemian beach towns, there’s plenty to see and do if you’re looking to escape the city life.
Missing a summer trip to the Amalfi Coast? Head north to the Central Coast and find beautiful beaches, dramatic coastlines, and some of the world’s best food. If you’re longing for charming European villages and wine, take a trip to the Southern Highlands, to discover impeccably maintained gardens, boutique shops and restaurants, and a wine region to match Tuscany.
You don’t need to board a plane for it to feel like a holiday. Load up the car and hit the road. Adventure awaits, so here, best places to escape to.
Since the pandemic, Byron Bay has turned into a celebrity hideout, attracting the likes of Zac Efron and long time resident, the Hemsworths, with its spectacular beaches, forested hinterland, and stylish coastal towns. You can drive here, which is about eight hours from Sydney, or fly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport for a shorter trip. There’s a huge range of accommodation from luxury beach resorts like Elements or you can rent a stylish holiday house, charming cottages, and a number of secluded campsites. As for things to do, you can ride the perfect wave at one of the many beaches here, or head to the rainforest to find a quiet respite and a waterfall or two. Byron is also home to Australia’s largest music festival and hosts several live entertainment events throughout the year. Volcanic soils and sustainable farming create the renowned fresh produce you will see on local menus, including Three Blue Ducks and Fleet.
Just a short drive north will plot you right in the middle of the central coast, a long stretch of scenic bays, beautiful beaches, national parks, and small coastal towns. Accommodation here varies from holiday resorts to self-contained houses and luxury hotels. The Entrance is popular for families because of its kid-friendly attractions, like pelican feeding and TreeTop Adventure Park. The Central Coast also offers adrenaline-fuelled adventures including ziplines, mountain bike trails, sky diving, abseiling, and survival courses. You can shop till you drop at the many seaside markets and boutique stores selling artisan produce and quirky gifts. The dining experiences range from beach-cafes to waterside pubs and the freshest seafood around. The highlight here is the trails through untouched bushland, taking walkers from deep forest to open beaches and waterfalls. There are plenty of lookouts and whale watching to be had.
Whether on sand, land, or water, you will find adventure in Port Stephens. Here, holiday seekers explore the largest coastal dunes by quad bike, scuba dive in crystal waters, and sail alongside bottlenose dolphins. You can glam on the water’s edge, rent resort-style apartments or sleep in boutique luxury resorts like Bannisters. Restaurants are dotted along the waterfront, offering sunset views, fresh seafood, and local produce. Some of the best restaurants include Rick Stein, Cheeky Dog, Point Restaurant and there are many fish and chips shops in town that are worth a visit. There are around 26 beaches, some perfect for surfing, others, sheltered bays for families, and vast stretches of white sand. There is also plenty of hikes here to take in a panoramic view of the region, including Tomaree Head walk and Wreck Beach walk. Neighbouring towns including Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay, Soldiers Point, and Anna Bay also make for a great day trip from Port Stephens.
Cooler climates, green rolling hills, award-winning vineyards, and colonial architecture have attracted visitors to the Southern Highlands for more than 140 years. You will find Sydneysiders sitting at the cafes, tasting the wines, and perusing through the boutique shops most weekends given it’s only an hour and a half drive from the CBD. Here, you can visit several small towns, each with its own character and range of epicurean delights. Bowral is known for its tulip festival and shopping, while Berrima has a classic country charm to it and the picturesque Bendooley Estate. You can also venture to even smaller towns like Mittagong to pick up fresh-baked pastries or Moss Vale for unique shopping and farmers markets. Stay in B&Bs, vineyard retreats, Airbnbs, or historic manors-turned hotels. Be sure to take in the picturesque canola fields, rolling hills, and mountain scenes.
The Blue Mountains are home to some of Australia’s most dazzling natural attractions, including dizzying cliffs, country villages, and million-year-old valleys. If you’re up for a little adventure, spend some time here to explore the rainforest, in particular, the Jenolan Caves and several lookouts: Echo Point, Narrow Neck, Evans, and more. There’s also a plethora of cafes, restaurants, and bars nestled in its historic towns along with boutique stores. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is iconic, but a few other accommodation sites have popped up over the last few years, including Bubbletent Australia and Love Cabins; both unique places boasting views and privacy. Another popular town is Bilpin, where the famous Bilpin Cider is made. You can go apple picking here, or spend a lazy Sunday strolling through market stalls.
Escape to a flourishing wine country, where you can taste tipples from Australia’s oldest wine region. The Hunter thrives with acclaimed restaurants, festivals, ancient rainforest, and beautiful heritage. Only two hours from Sydney, the Hunter is a popular weekend getaway, especially for those looking to spend their days strolling through vineyards, tasting wine and cheese until sunset. Although, there is more to the region than just wine. Explore buzzing cafes, fine dining classics, or classic country steakhouses spread throughout the Hunter. You can also go horse-back riding, take a hot air balloon ride and bushwalk through Yengo National Park. As for where to stay, there are accommodation options to suit various budgets, including campgrounds, vineyard cottages, guest houses, and luxury resorts adjacent to golf courses. You can live the high life or stop by for a world-class tipple, the choice is yours.
For a seaside escape without the crowds, road trip to Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast. Here, you’ll find a coastal paradise, with white sand beaches and sparkling blue waters, which literally glow at night thanks to phytoplankton. Put Hyams Beach at the top of your to-do list to experience the famous stretch of fine white sand. The waters are calm which makes it great for snorkeling, fishing, and stand-up paddleboarding. The bay is also home to two national parks, one is a haven for bottlenose dolphins and little penguins, the other offers several hiking trails, with views of the bay. Beachside campgrounds are one of the most popular options here, including Paperbark Camp, a safari-style glamping experience by the river. There is also a holiday park with 14 self-contained cabins by the water.
Orange is more of a boutique wine region, with a wealth of cellar doors. What really sets this destination apart from the Hunter Valley is its landscape. Here, cooler climate wines take centre stage including award-winning chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and cabernet sauvignon. During summer, Orange’s temperature can soar above 40, but during winter it’s known to snow. One of the few places it snows in New South Wales. Autumn is one of the best times to visit and watch the leaves change to auburn oranges and reds. Its history is part of the gold rush, therefore is plentiful with camping sites, but if you’re looking for comfort, there are many rural properties, vineyard villas and hotels to stay at. Surrounded by stunning countryside and national parks, you can hike to Towac Pinnacle for views of the valley or take advantage of the 18-hole golf course, two minutes from the main town centre.
Contrary to popular belief, the snowy mountains aren’t just for wintertime. The legendary high country is great all year round, offering world-class mountain bike trails, horse-riding, fishing, and craft breweries. Although, if you’re looking for thrilling downhill runs in the colder season, then Thredbo and Perisher are what you’re looking for. Kosciuszko National Park is home to Australia’s highest mountain and if you’re up for the challenge, hike to the top for panoramic views across the region and beyond. Keep an eye out for local wildlife including platypus at Bombala Platypus Reserve. You can take a cultural tour for indigenous insights into the wilderness and animals. Below, the rivers are ideal for fly fishing and trout fishing adventures or whitewater rafting, if you’re in need of an adrenaline rush. Take a rejuvenating dip in a naturally heated spring or explore the stalactites at Yarrangobilly Caves.
A few years ago, we would have never mentioned Broken Hill as a destination, but the unofficial capital of the NSW outback is thriving with a vibrant artistic community, updated accommodations, and plenty of cool mining landmarks. The drive out here is long, 13 hours to be exact, but it’s a scenic drive through desert landscapes, which have been used as movie sets. Walk down Argent Street to find many great shops, galleries, restaurant,s and cafes including the Palace hotel, from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. As Australia’s oldest mining town, dating back to the 1880s, there’s a lot to discover here. The Albert Kersten Mining and Mineral Museum give insight into the sciences of geology and mining, through artifacts including a 42kg silver nugget. Broken Hill also has the oldest regional gallery in NSW, which features works from the Bushmen of the Bush, a group of five artists who collaborated in town. There are many other galleries and studios including Pro Hart Gallery, Willy Nilly Art, and Living Desert Sculptures, which is a 20-minute drive north of town. You can stay in shearer’s quarters, luxury homesteads or in a tourist lodge. There are also several holiday house options to rent for the weekend or week.
Kiama is a breezy two-hour drive from Sydney and is a favourite with families looking for a laidback holiday spot. You’ll find plenty of history and some of the state’s prettiest ocean pools as well as a blowhole. The lighthouse is iconic as is the natural cavity that blasts seawater 20-metres into the air. If you’re a walker, there is a spectacular 22km trail between Minamurra and Werri Beach which boasts a mix of sealed paths, grassed tracks, and beach walks. Boneyard and Bombo Beach are popular surf spots while Kiama’s main beach is more ideal for families. There are several beachside holiday parks to choose from, all of which have access to a nearby beach and walking trails. For even more scenery, Kiama Downs is a peaceful township home to Cathedral Rocks, distinctive rock formation, and the perfect sunset spot.
Visit The Big Banana, an iconic tourist attraction in Coffs Harbour, or board a whale-watching boat. There’s much to see and do in this beachside city just under a six-hour drive from Sydney. There are several beautiful beaches to visit like Jetty Beach and lookouts to view the nearby emerald rainforest and coast. Coffs Harbour is a family-friendly destination, where kids can feed penguins at the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park or walk among hundreds of butterflies in the Butterfly House. From September to April, there are twilight food markets, featuring multicultural cuisine and lots of choices for the kids. Set up camp at a beachside resort and holiday park or head to the mountains for a hinterland retreat. You can even stay on a farm by a river.
In need of a digital detox? Kangaroo Valley awaits. Expect verdant farmlands, dramatic wilderness, and a tranquil river in one of Australia’s most beautiful valleys. Cross the historic bridge to find tea rooms and pies, waterfalls, and wine (lots of wine). Fitzroy Falls and Gerringong Falls are major attractions and make for a picturesque hike through the forest. You can stroll through town, to visit a heritage-listed pub or munch on a pie from the Kangaroo Valley Pie Shop. Take full advantage of the landscape by booking a secluded retreat or cottage nestled in the valley or on the hills. Barranca Kangaroo Valley is a taste of off-grid opulence, but you can also book tiny homes like the Edmond from In2thewild.
Despite last year’s best efforts, Sydney’s hospitality scene continues to thrive—as do Sydneysiders. We mourned the casualties of lockdown and while we hoped for new beginnings this year, it hasn’t turned out quite as we expected. Nevertheless, we march on and this list of new restaurants and bars opening is the bright light we inch toward as we approach to exit this tunnel someday.
So, what’s on the horizon for Sydney’s dining scene? Kylie Kwong is set to launch her latest concept, everyone’s favourite 50’s bartenders will don a new suit at a new establishment, Neil Perry ventures to Double Bay for a restaurant that is all his own, and a zero-waste bar is to make its debut soon.
This is just the beginning. We hope to see many more exciting venues opening over the year. For now, here are the city’s most anticipated openings for 2021.
Kylie Kwong at South Eveleigh
Kylie Kwong is no stranger to Sydney with the better part of two decades on the dining scene. Her Potts Point establishment, Billy Kwong was a favourite but when it closed in 2019, people have been waiting for the powerhouse chefs next steps. We’re happy to tell you, she is coming back on the scene with her biggest project yet, South Eveleigh. Formerly known as Australian Technology Park, South Eveleigh is an emerging dining destination of which Kwong is the ambassador. Expect a relaxed daytime venue featuring local indigenous produce with her signature Cantonese culinary style. It’s a world away from Billy Kwong, but it is set to bring new meaning to the word ‘casual eatery’. She will also focus on sustainability, with the South Eveleigh Native Rooftop Garden and seafood from Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery.
Core at Crown Sydney
English Chef, Clare Smyth, is the first and only female chef to run a restaurant with three Michelin stars, Core in Notting Hill. She even catered for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s private wedding reception. It seems fitting to bring her talent’s to Sydney’s new rising star, Crown Sydney. In February, Smyth plans to introduce another Core to the tower, which focuses on local produce, and sustainability. The wines will be local as are the ingredients. This isn’t Smyth’s first introduction to Australia. She’s travelled around the country, which inspired the menu, offering the best Australia has to offer.
It’s almost here, our favourite Ratpack bartenders are opening Sammy Junior, a suave cafe on the ground level of 66 King Street in the CBD. The espresso coffee bar will be the highlight of the morning trade, offering a bespoke Sammy coffee blend crafted by coffee connoisseur Martin Hudak (2017 World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion and Mr Black Ambassador) alongside a short selection of classic breakfast bites from consultant chef Rob Lechowicz (Blackwood Pantry).In the afternoon, the focus will be mini cocktails which will be on tap alongside a beer and a few wines. The cheeky small doses of cocktails will be best enjoyed alongside an afternoon business meeting or as an after-work tipple but don’t expect to settle in for the night. Sammy Junior will shut from about 6 pm so head down to Maybe Sammy in The Rocks to continue the evening. Architect George Livissianis (Chin Chin Sydney, The Apollo, Cho Cho San, The Dolphin Hotel) will bring to life the interiors. Expect some visual similarities to Maybe Sammy.
Neil Perry in Double Bay
A household name, Neil perry is opening is first solo project mid-year after a 40-year career. Don’t expect to draw similarities to Rock Pool, this restaurant in Double Bay is all his own. The 170-seat venue will focus on plant-based dishes and salads during the day, with a selection of grilled options. Expect an approachable restaurant, with interiors by ACME (Mimi’s, the Grounds) and designer David Caon. The unnamed restaurant is highly anticipated with locals and diners who have followed Perry throughout his career. The new venue is Perry’s way of breathing life back into Double Bay, an area he spent many years dining in.
Aria Wine Bar
Aria is a Sydney institution, serving fine dining to locals and visitors for several years. This year it’s transforming part of the restaurant into a relaxed wine bar. Yes, it will be serving food, so if you don’t want to splash out on the full menu, you can head to the bar for wine and snacks. The wine list will be the highlight, which includes over 80 wines by the glass and 1700 bottles. Anna Solomon (co-owner and Solotel’s creative director), Matt Moran, Joel Bickford (Aria head chef), and Alex Kirkwood (head sommelier) are the creative minds behind the fresh, laid back experience. The bar will celebrate the pillars of Aria’s 20-year success, at the same time offering locals a new side of Aria. One of which doesn’t require a reservation to enjoy cocktails, and snacks from Bickford.
Re is perhaps the most exciting addition to our diverse restaurant and bar landscape. The boundary-pushing bar will be the world’s first permanent no-waste bar opening up an entirely new category, one we can get behind. Matt Whiley of Scout and Maurice Terzini from Icebergs and CicciaBella are the masterminds behind this new concept swinging its doors open sometime in February. The bar puts sustainability at the forefront, which includes the interior. Set in a heritage list- 19th Century railway engineering workshop the fit-out is comprised of recycled and repurposed building materials. The bar and tabletops are designed from recycled plastic bottles and Tupperware containers. Food that would otherwise go to waste will be given new life in cocktails, with spirit-heavy options. There is to be a food menu from Chefs Alex Prichard (Icebergs) and Nic Wong (Cicciabella).
There’s a new Greek restaurant coming to town from Greek-Australian Chef, Peter Conistis. Ploos, will find it’s home in Campbell’s Stores, the dining precinct in Circular Quay. Conistis is known for his restaurants, Alpha, Omega, and Cosmos, so Ploos is rumoured to be a fresh venue. Expect South Mediterranian dishes you would find in Crete or Cypriot, an oversized eat-at-bar, and harbour views. Ploos is slated to open in March 2021.