Popular Family Holiday Spots Within Driveable Distances From Sydney

  • All Ages

By: Phoebe Ackland, ellaslist

Sometimes that one big, planned, family trip to Bali each year just isn't enough reprieve from this chaotic city, endless work demands and a lack of bonding time with our precious little ones. Here are some family-friendly, budget getaways that you can drive to from Sydney. Pack up the car, leave the screens at home, and enjoy a family road trip with a glorious destination waiting to welcome you. 

1. Newcastle

A 2-hour drive from Sydney.

There are a number of family-friendly activities waiting to delight families in Newcastle all-year round. Walk amongst the eucalyptus at Blackbutt Nature Reserve, home to a number of rare and endangered species of animals. There are daily reptile shows where you can interact with a scaly friend or two, and you are invited to witness wombat feasts, bird brunches, nocturnal nourish hour and koala dining feed sessions throughout the day. Visit the beautiful Nobbys Beach for a dip during the warmer months, or if you're visiting from May-November, a spot of whale watching is a must-see. In fact, Nobby's has been named one of the top whale-watching spots in the world.

For some local history, check out the FREE and family-friendly Newcastle Museum. They have 4 permanent exhibitions open year-round including Supernova- where kids can get hands-on with science experiments, Fire and Earth where you can learn about the industrial history of Newcastle, A Newcastle History where you can learn about the unique character of Newcastle, and the Link Gallery where you can check out 1800s artefacts including a pipe organ and locomotive. For thrill-seekers, head to the TreeTops Adventure Park where you can climb, weave and fly through the gum trees on a self-guided ropes course. 

For more attractions including bike tracks, quad biking, vantage points, lighthouses, and segway adventures, head to VisitNewcastle. 

2. Kangaroo Valley

About a 2-hour drive from Sydney.

The perfect little nature escape. This friendly community has no traffic lights, wide open green spaces, lush rainforests, creeks, rivers, and plenty of native flora and fauna. Families are at no lack of great activities in this beautiful landscape- there's horse trail riding, Flavours of the Valley cooking classes, valley yoga, and heaps of festivals happening throughout the year.  

If you're visiting during April, don't miss Pioneers Day at the Pioneer Village Museum. There'll be sheep shearing, butter churning, BBQs, traditional dress-ups and plenty more. If you're visiting during February, make sure you head to the Kangaroo Valley Show- there will be show jumping, horse judging, wood chopping, a poultry pavilion, a dog show and a grand parade, pig racing and so much more. On the second and fourth Sundays of every month, you have to head to the Farmers Market to enjoy one of the region's biggest drawcards: fresh produce! 

For some local history, take the Historic Village Walk and truly take a step back in time. The Hampden Bridge is a great photo opportunity too- a Victorian-style bridge that feels somehow right at home in a rural village. There are also a tonne of scenic walks and adventure sports to get involved with too. 

For more places to go and things to see, check out Visit Kangaroo Valley. 

3. Bowral

About a 90-minute drive from Sydney.

Bowral is a charming little town in the Southern Highlands- a mere 1.5-hour drive from Sydney, or a quaint, short and sweet train ride through some stunning landscapes. 

The best time to visit? September! The Tulip Time Festival runs in September when the gorgeous tulips of all different varieties and colours are blooming. As well as being a feast for the eyes, there will be musical performances to enjoy, kid's activities and market stalls, as well as some stunning photo opportunities and smells to delight the senses. Also happening during Spring is the Southern Highlands Food and Wine Festival, where a delicious range of food, drink and wine will be available, from all corners of the region. 

Cricket fans young and old simply must check out the Bradman Museum and Internation Cricket Hall of Fame. There are state-of-the-art interactive experiences including lots of touch screens, video screens, equipment used in original matches and lots more. Where better could you celebrate one of the most popular sports in the world? For some spectacular views, head to the Bowral Lookout. You'll have views over Bowral, the Wingecarribee River Valley and Moss Vale. Enjoy a meandering walk on one of the walking tracks, or make use of the picnic shelters and picnic tables for a picturesque family afternoon. 

If mums and dads fancy a bit of alone time, make sure you check out the Centennial Vineyards. Taste fine, aromatic wines planted over 80 acres of beautiful land. There are plenty of country-style, warm and homely pubs in Bowral too, so drop by for some lunch. 

For more things to do and see in Bowral, check out VisitNSW. 

4. Port Stephens

About a 2-hour drive from Sydney.

Sand dunes, enchanting blue water and a dolphin-dwelling bay twice as large as Sydney Harbour! There is a great mix of budget and luxury accommodation options available- just in case you're in no rush to head back home.

Port Stephens is chockablock with kids and family activities including: beach horse riding, beach camel rides, Go-Karting, quad biking over the dunes, the Hunter Region Botanic Garden, shark and stingray encounters, Fighter World, heaps of water sports, golf, tennis, eco-tours, surfing, toboggan parks and the Oakvale Farm and Fauna World. 

The sand dunes of the Worimi Conservation Lands are definitely the biggest drawcard for adrenaline junkies: some of the dunes reach heights of 30 metres with 60-degree slopes. Oakvale Farm and Fauna World is a must-see for little animal lovers. Here you'll find 100s of native Australian fauna and domestic farm animals as well as the new Splash Bay- an awesome water park with tipping buckets, spray tunnels and water cannons. 

Fighter World is another highlight, showcasing Australian Fighter Aviation history, jam-packed with hands-on experiences. Explore cockpits, check out weapons and engines, listen to live audio feeds, and get the best view in the house of take-offs at the Observation Deck.

The highlight of Port Stephens is definitely the water- you can make use of it with fishing, parasailing, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, whale and dolphin watching, jetboating, diving, kayaking...or of course, swimming and sunbaking! Accommodation near the beach is a must if you're staying the night (pictured)

For more things to do and places to go in Port Stephens, visit Love Port Stephens. 

5. Hunter Valley

About a 2-hour drive from Sydney.

Although it is a spectacular, close-by place to visit for wine lovers, families are sure to have a ball in wine country too. 

A highlight you need on your family schedule includes the Hunter Valley Zoo. Here's you'll find both Aussie and exotic animals, with plenty of hands-on experiences to be had including wombat and reptile petting and marmoset holding. Daily shows include dingo, African lion and alligator talks, meerkat, white African lion and maned wolf keeper talks, and a few feeding sessions you can witness up-close.

For a delightful picnic spot, head to the Werakata National Park near the Hunter Valley Zoo. Check out Forestry Hut that operated once upon a time for the timber industry, meander along one of the many walking or bike tracks, and stop off at the Astills picnic area- lunch on some local produce under the shade of some gums.

Another must-see in the Hunter Valley Gardens: home to 25 acres and 10 stunning feature gardens including one that children will adore- Storybook Garden. This magical garden is home to nursery rhyme characters including Humpty Dumpty, as well as teddy bears, ducks, horses, giraffes, and all matter creatures. Families will also love the Hunter Valley Aqua Golf and Putt Putt- its super fun, and well-known for giving out a heap of prizes to skilled (and lucky!) golfers. 

Of course, it would be crazy to head to the Hunter Valley and not swing by a winery, so make sure you do that, as well as a cosy little pub for a roast or some lunch.

For more places to stay, see and go with families, check out VisitNSW. 


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