Where can you travel from city to countryside, through national parks and historic villages, past engineering marvels and geographical spectacles, with a bit of finger-licking gastronomy for good measure? Sounds like something out of reach and too-good-to-be-true, but you’re in luck. It’s right on your doorstep from Sydney.
This road trip is one of our favourite excuses to ditch the city for a weekend away, taking you deep into the peaceful surroundings of Kangaroo Valley, with everything from coastal wonders to history and heritage to Mother Nature’s marvels along the way. All you have to do is put your foot on the pedal and enjoy a killer weekender itinerary; this one’s on us.
Start your weekend with a perfect blend of old and new (not to mention a perfect blend of coffee) at The Fine Food Store, nestled in the heart of The Rocks. Positioned on the oldest laneway in the historic area, this café and specialty food store brings together contemporary design and trend-setting takes on classic breakfast meals. Whether you’re craving something sweet or savoury, light or hearty, The Fine Food Store’s menu will show you some love. Surrounded by history, and only a short walk from both the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, you couldn’t get much more Sydney than this.
Just on the outskirts of Sydney, Royal National Park is really a destination in itself, but that’s a whole other story. For this trip, it’s more about passing through and enjoying the typically Aussie landscape, but if you feel like time is on your side, do go for one of the many bush walks that traverse the park, or take a detour out to the spectacular coastline (Wattamolla is one particular gem). Turn off at Loftus to the scenic route through Australia’s oldest national park to get the most out of your roadie, rather than taking the usual drive along the Princes Highway. You might just get some ideas for your next weekender.
One of the most popular attractions on the Grand Pacific Drive, the Sea Cliff Bridge is a pretty unbelievable sight, and is definitely up there on our list of most unique bridges we’ve ever come across. Hugging the ragged coastline in one big wiggly line, this iconic feat of engineering was (very logically) named by an 11 year-old girl from a local primary school, and is one of only seven parallel-to-coast bridges in the world. Take your time by parking up on the south side of the bridge, and enjoy a gentle meander along the pedestrian walkway so you can get that million-dollar ‘gram.
Just a few minutes past the Sea Cliff Bridge, stop for a bite to eat at Grand Pacific Drive prerequisite, The Scarborough Hotel. Built in 1886 (but don’t worry, it has been renovated since then), this coastal restaurant has become somewhat of an institution over the years, and we’ve got a sneaking suspicion it’s because of the view from its garden dining area. Did someone say as far as the eye can see? Perched right on the clifftop, call in advance to book a garden table so nothing will stand between your tantalising meal and the horizon. You can’t get much better than that.
Another of the major tourist attractions on the Grand Pacific Drive is a completely crazy display of Mother Nature’s power at the Kiama Blowhole. Formed by basalt lava flows 260 million years ago, the ocean blasts through a hole in the coastal rock up to 30 metres high in the right sea conditions, so have your camera at the ready in case there’s a shot of a lifetime waiting for you! But sure you don’t stand too close, as the blowhole is notorious for not being kind to inattentive visitors and, don’t know about you, but we’re not too fussed on road trippin’ while completely soaked. If the main blowhole isn’t putting on a show, head to the ‘Little Blowhole’ a few kilometres further south, which, although being slightly less impressive, is more reliable with its H2O explosions.
After travelling around Australia for a year, The Famous Berry Donut Van pulled up in Berry and never left. It’s not hard to see why once you get there, as its beautiful heritage buildings and friendly country town vibes make Berry a popular day trip for Sydneysiders looking for a bit of peace and quiet. The Donut Van is the pearl in Berry’s crown, creating delicious little morsels of cinnamon-y dough freshly each day. And having done so for 55 years, you’d best believe they are the best donuts in New South Wales, maybe even Australia itself.
Could there be any better way to discover the story of Kangaroo Valley than by jumping straight into a heritage walk when you arrive? With a long history of Aboriginal culture and settler influence, Kangaroo Valley doesn’t just have incredible nature and wildlife, but offers a wealth of opportunities to learn about an historic pioneering community. It’s always more interesting knowing the stories behind a place, so, rather than going in blind, soak up all the information in the self-guided tour and your visit will be a lot richer because of it. Even the Hampden Bridge has so much more to it than just its impressive architecture… Find the information brochure on the Kangaroo Valley website and discover it all.
To relieve the afternoon’s hunger (and quench its thirst), sidle into The Friendly Inn Hotel for a dinner with a decent sized helping of heart and soul. One of the oldest pubs in the region, you can find anything you’re craving here, from seafood and burgers to steak and salads. We’re partial to cracking open a cold beverage in their garden and enjoying the view of the endlessly beautiful Kangaroo Valley. You may want to stay a bit later and share some rounds with the travellers and locals who frequent the pub; how could you go wrong with a place that has ‘friendly’ in its name?
When it comes to accommodation, Kangaroo Valley options are endless and all something a bit special. From idyllic farm stays to historic cottages to all-you-could-ask-for bed and breakfasts, all that’s missing are high-rise corporate hotels and motels… And we’re not sure we’re complaining. For a bit of everything, Holiday Haven Kangaroo Valley is right in the centre of the township, offering convenient and affordable accommodation options, from non-powered and powered campsites all the way through to six-person cabins. Take your pick and sleep in comfort, the next day’s adventures await.
Welcome the morning in Kangaroo Valley with a coffee that might make you consider moving to the countryside. The General Cafe brings all sorts of city vibes to rural Australia, catering for anyone’s dietary requirements with their unpretentiously scrumptious menu. Soak up the friendly atmosphere whilst enjoying your breakfast out on their lush veranda, or browse their stocks of handmade deliciousness, including dukkah, sauerkraut, sourdough and much more. Opt for the Chef’s Special Breakfast to get your taste of the freshest ideas the kitchen can offer, with a bottle of their homemade kombucha to fizz up your morning.
If the 20 minute drive between Kangaroo Valley and Fitzroy Falls impresses you, prepare for your mind to be absolutely blown along the Fitzroy Falls Walking Tracks. One of the most popular tourist destinations in NSW for generations, and with good reason, the Fitzroy Falls are a mammoth 80-metre drop waterfall over sandstone cliffs, surrounded by the never-ending forest of the Morton National Park. The track around the east rim of the valley takes around 1.5 hours return, and the west rim track takes around 2 hours. Both provide unbeatable views of both the falls and the incredibly vast valley, so choose which one you think is for you and and run with it. Or walk with it, we wouldn’t blame you.
As tempting as it may be to take the shortest route between Fitzroy Falls and Wollongong, the Macquarie Pass is notoriously steep and narrow, with hairpin bends and sometimes slippery conditions. For less confident drivers or those looking for a more relaxing drive, take Jamberoo Mountain Road instead. It’s a bit longer but just as scenic, we promise!
By the time you hit Wollongong, there may be a reasonable rumble in your tummy, so head to Humber, where you can reserve a spot for a weekend lunch on Wollongong’s only rooftop bar. Affordable, kid-friendly and housed in a funky refurbished Hillman Humber dealership building, Humber is the place to go if you’re looking for that sweet spot between the relaxed happiness of a long lunch and the electric energy of a cocktail bar. Find your perch on the edge of the rooftop so you can enjoy whatever deliciousness you order with the backdrop of Wollongong smiling at you. Need we mention the Smoked Salmon Salad Bowl?
Wollongong is filled with enough attractions to keep you busy during a long beachside holiday, let alone a single afternoon, so take your pick and get exploring. With pursuits to tingle the senses of culture aficionados, nature lovers, adrenaline junkies and just about everyone in between, it’s a crockpot of activity in the Gong. One of our favourite spots is the Nan Tien Temple, as one look at the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere will transport you to a place of calm (much needed, perhaps, near the end of a weekend road trip). The Blue Mile is a killer way to make the most of the Gong’s beachy vistas and newly constructed esplanade. There are several bars along the Blue Mile, so you won’t have to worry about getting thirsty either…
Heralded on more than one occasion as Sydney’s best burgers, grab one of these finger-licking goodies upon your arrival back in the city from Mary’s CBD, a takeaway burger bar on Castlereagh Street. Because of the lack of space (made up for by heavy-metal music and a tonne of character), boost yourself and your burger to the neighbouring Hyde Park or, if you think you can get there before your dinner goes cold, the Royal Botanic Gardens for a picnic surrounded by nature and fresh air. If you’re lucky enough to be there in summer, you might even be able to catch a flick at the St George Openair Cinema. How could you beat the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour? Bridge and Opera House included.
Banner Photo Credit: Destination NSW