4 of Sydney’s loveliest summer escapes

The best ways to escape Sydney's crowds this summer.

New South Wales’ capital is arguably Australia’s prettiest city. Surrounded by a sparkling harbour dotted with iconic landmarks (hello, Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge) – Sydney's beauty is hard to make a case against. But the city's allure isn’t limited to its central harbour. Whichever direction you head, there are alluring swimming spots, natural wonders and idyllic villages to be discovered. Here are four of the best.


1. Palm Beach

Jonah's restaurant terrace, Palm Beach, New South Wales

The lovely outdoor terrace at dining institution, Jonah's (supplied).

If you’re seeking respite from Sydney’s busy city beaches, head 45kms north to seaside suburb of Palm Beach. Here you’ll find long stretches of golden sandy beaches, like Whale Beach, which you’ll share mostly with local surfers. The pretty peninsula is also a cloistered playground for Sydney’s well-to-do: hatted culinary destination Jonah’s, with its restaurant and boutique hotel, put Palm Beach on the map some 90 years ago and in recent years has welcomed fancy neighbours like Bert’s Bar & Brasserie and Barrenjoey House. 

Drive: 1hr approx. Bus: 2hrs approx.


2. Royal National Park 

Aerial view of Royal National Park, Sydney

The Royal National Park coastline (courtesy DNSW).

Sandwiched between Sydney and Wollongong discover a piece of paradise that is abundant with hidden natural gems. The Royal National Park dates back to 1879 and is the world’s second-oldest national park, but goes relatively unexplored by Sydneysiders. There’s lots to do here with more than 100km of walking trails for varying abilities, stunning sandy stretches (our picks: Garie and Wattamolla beaches) and secret, off-trail swim spots, such as Winifred Falls, which is encircled by bushland.

Drive: 55mins approx. Train: 1hr 15mins approx.


3. Leura 

Aerial view of Leura, New South Wales

A bird's eye view of Leura (courtesy DNSW).

The gateway to Katoomba, Leura is the younger (and dare we say it, cooler) sibling of the Blue Mountains, and home town to the iconic Three Sisters rock formation, making it the perfect starting point for a day-hike through one of the area's many cool, leafy valleys. If you're after a food-driven adventure, the village’s leafy streets are worth hiking too: lined with heritage-listed buildings, they're home to quirky local businesses such as Leura Garage, a cafe that plates up locally sourced food in an old mechanics’ workshop. At the top of the town you’ll find Flemish Flavours, in a 19th-century mansion, which serves European dishes and Belgian brews in their beer garden. 

Drive: 1hr 20mins approx. Train: 2hrs 5mins approx.


4. Newcastle

Merewether Baths in Newcastle, New South Wales

A typical morning scene at Newcastle's Merewether Ocean Baths (courtesy DNSW).

Sydney might be the nation’s biggest and buzziest, but Australia’s most chilled out city is only two hours up the road. Newcastle’s long, sandy stretches and lazy rolling waves has ensured a thriving surf culture, while its various shopping strips and markets (our pick: Hunt&Gather) will keep designer bowerbirds busy all weekend long. A lively brunch scene, a waterfront dotted with pubs and ocean pools (our pick: Merewether Ocean Baths) and several scenic walking tracks complete the picture. See you there.


Words by Constantina Demos and Georgia Rickard; images suppllied

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