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The Top 3 Holiday Spots Near Sydney

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by Sean Goedecke (subscribe)
Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published May 1st 2012
Holidaying in New South Wales

The typical travel advice for people taking a holiday in NSW – go to Sydney, the oldest and largest city in Australia – isn't very useful to people who already live there. And while Sydney's hardly a boring city, the occasional change of scenery can still be the difference between a satisfying life and an ennui-ridden, drawn-out existence.

Glenworth Valley Fishing
Look at the existential dread in that child's eyes.


With that in mind, what are the good places to travel to? Coffs Harbour is very pleasant, if you're willing to suffer through the over five hundred kilometre drive – but for people who don't have a whole day to waste in getting to their holiday destination, here are three more accessible holiday spots.

Wollongong

Wollongong – pronounced Wool-on-gong – is ridiculously close to Sydney. In fact, it sits right on Sydney's south border, in a narrow strip that stretches forty kilometres down the coast. It's a linear city, bounded on one side by the sea and on the other side by a line of mountains. If you like, you can even catch a ninety-minute scenic train from Sydney. During summer, Wollongong's beaches are as picturesque as Sydney's, but with less people. Austinmer and North Beach, to the north of Wollongong's city centre, are the only beaches that pick up substantial crowds. They're still worth going to, though. If you're sick of crowds, head down south of the city to Port Kembla beach, which is enormous. People shy away because of the nearby steelworks, but the beach itself is over the headland and has very nice views.

Guns at Flagstaff Hill
The guns at Flagstaff Hill Fort (photo by Adam JWC).


Mount Keira Lookout and Mount Kembla Lookout are free and offer spectacular views, especially at night. The café at the top of Mount Keira offers Devonshire Tea as well, for those who want to get a little fancy. There's also a popular five kilometre loop around Mount Keira, surrounded by the rainforest – but beware of leeches. If it's rained recently, they'll be out and about.

Newcastle

About 150 kilometres north of Sydney, Newcastle sits at the mouth of the Hunter River and is Australia's oldest port. As usual, it's host to a number of excellent beaches: Bar Beach is a good all-rounder, Dudley Beach is nice for a bit of privacy, and Nobbys Beach is flat as a tack but offers kite-surfing. The Newcastle ocean baths are worth checking out as well, especially the Merewether Ocean Baths, which is the southern hemisphere's largest ocean baths complex, and the unfortunately-named Bogey Hole, hacked out of the rock by the early convicts.

Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral, a constant presence on the skyline (photo by Adam JWC).


One of Newcastle's main strengths is its location as a hub town, surrounded by great beaches, wineries and mountains. Travel out west to the wineries – Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, for instance, or the Catherine Vale Vineyard, which borders Yengo National Park – or take an easy walk up Mount Sugarloaf to the lookout.

Gosford

Gosford is a little city, located about halfway between Sydney and Newcastle. It's less than an hour by car away from either, and a short ferry trip on the Palm Beach Ferry from Sydney. The main attraction is probably the Australian Reptile Park, full of crocodiles, snakes and other family-friendly animals. A notable lack of fences means that you'll get a chance to pet – or get bitten by – an emu. If you're travelling from overseas and want to see wombats, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils and other Australian fauna in one convenient location, Gosford is an excellent choice. It's also a good place to just kick back and relax. Many holiday-goers from Sydney choose to rent a house for a week, which is perfect for families or large groups of people. Expect to pay about a thousand dollars, give or take a few hundred depending on how nice the place you rent is.

Glenworth Valley Abseiling
A little girl about to leap off a cliff near Gosford.


Those looking for adventure can take a short drive up to Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures, on 69 Cooks Road, Peats Ridge, for a spot of physical activity. Half-day sessions of kayaking, quad biking, horse riding and abseiling are offered, and fit people can easily book one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The price for two classes is about a hundred and fifty dollars, depending what you do, but you can take them in consecutive days if you want to. After all, spending six hours a day in strenuous physical activity sounds a lot like work.
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Why? Because we all need to get away from something.
When: Whenever you've got time.
Where: Less than a day's drive from Sydney.
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