If you live in Sydney, there is an endless list of fun and family-friendly things to do in the city and surrounding areas. Sometimes, however, we all get itchy feet and feel the need to explore somewhere new. If you have kids, you may not want to drive too far - as a relaxing weekend away soon turns into "I'm bored!" and a battle in the backseat along the way. A destination that is 2.5 hours away or less is a good limit to stick to, as you can stop off once or twice at a roadside bakery or beach and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
There are many options if you want to hop in the car for a quick overnight trip to a coastal town north or south of the city. Keep reading for some ideas for this weekend...
More than just reptiles at the Australian Reptile Zoo, Central Coast. Image: Australian Reptile Zoo Facebook
If you hop in the car and get on the highway and head north, there are several family-friendly spots to stop off along the way. The first options begin just an hour away at the turn-off to Gosford, with quiet beaches (eg. Copacabana) and more popular holiday destinations for tourists. Our family have enjoyed delicious fish and chips by the water at Terrigal, watched the pelican feeding along the waterfront at The Entrance and hit the beach at Avoca. A must-see for all families is the Australian Reptile Park - just look for the dinosaurs on the highway. It is guaranteed to entertain your kids - and surprise them!
Visit for the day, or make a whole weekend out of a trip to the Central Coast! Image: Australian Reptile Zoo Facebook
Nelson Bay is the main tourist town in the scenic Port Stephens region, located half an hour north of Newcastle. It is a popular area for families, with 26 bays and beaches to visit - all of which are particularly safe and family friendly. When you feel like a day at the beach you can choose between the sandy beaches within the bay (with no waves) or the surf beaches outside the bay, along the coastline. Popular places to stay are Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay and Little Beach due to their pristine white sand, holiday accommodation and range of eateries nearby. For ideas on what to do when you get there, see the article Top 40 Things to do For Kids in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens.
The Wollongong region is so close to Sydney that you could go for a day trip and the kids are guaranteed to nap all the way home! Although the kids may not be able to see it well from the back seat, adults will enjoy driving along Grand Pacific Drive, which follows the coastal headlands, way above the ocean. Our family's favourite parts to visit are North Wollongong Beach (with beaches, lighthouses and breakfast at Lagoon Deck Bar), Shellharbour (for its beaches and colourful playgrounds), Gerringong (for the beach and country views) and Kiama, for its quaint shops, cafes, beaches and Kiama Blowhole - which the kids love to watch!
Chill out with an ice cream at North Wollongong Beach
Huskisson/ Jervis Bay - 2.5 hours south (see map here)
This small south coast town swells in population over the summer months, as visitors from Sydney visit to experience the natural beauty of the region. Some of the most popular activities for kids are swimming at the white sandy beaches, going on dolphin watch cruises (although you can often just see them standing at Huskisson Wharf!), enjoying fish and chips on the sand and visiting the famous Hyams Beach. This beach was made famous by "reportedly" being in the Guinness World Record book as having the whitest sand in the whole world! Yes, the world! Take your buckets, umbrella and jam-packed beach bag and enjoy the day at this remote beach location.
Why is it so popular? It really is, the epitome of paradise.
Fine white sand for sandcastles at Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay
These ideas are just a small taste of some of the towns, villages and tourist attractions to visit within 2.5 hours of Sydney, with many more places to discover. The best part of going on a summer road trip with kids is that they don't expect much - they are happy with a bucket and spade, an ice cream and a new hotel or cabin to explore. Just being somewhere different from home, is an adventure in itself.
Also, don't forget that you don't need to hit the road for a new adventure - you can always have a "stay-cation" in your own city. You could visit some of the more popular venues such as Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour, Bondi or Manly - or you could make a day of visiting the local pool or go to an area of Sydney you have never been to before. The world is your oyster - where will you be travelling to this weekend?
Get up early and enjoy the sunrise on a stay-cation at Manly Beach
Kiama is the best. 3 hours from Sydney. Great beaches, coastal walks and attractions. Blowhole is impressive when seas are up but care must be taken. Manly Beach almost at my doorstep, parking is ticketed and expensive unless you're a local with a council parking permit.