NSW is world famous for its coastline and beaches filled with sun-obsessed swimmers during the summer months. But while towns like Byron Bay or Yamba and suburbs like Bondi or Manly are our go-tos for much of the year, where are the best winter getaways?
New South Wales is full of cozy destinations ideal for the colder months, from the famous Snowy Mountains with its hiking-friendly national parks and powder-covered ski slopes, to quaint towns full of fireplace-heated restaurants and of cellars.
Here are the best winter getaways in New South Wales.
Just a 90 minute drive southwest of Sydney, Bowral is a charming little town set in the vast green hills of the Southern Highlands. And at nearly 700m above sea level, it provides much-needed cool winter air in a comfortable setting.
The long main street of the city is full of cafes, shops and antiques. Find locally made vintage gems, bespoke furniture and one-of-a-kind decorative pieces at the labyrinth-like Dirty Janes Antique Market. Queue for award-winning and wildly popular pastries, gourmet pies and sausage rolls from Gumnut Patisserie. Then, make your way through the many suburbs of the Southern Highlands and warm up with a winter stout at Eden Brewery, a glass of full-bodied red at Artemis Wines (the region certainly has no shortage of cool-climate vineyards and gates of cave), or hiking through a nearby national park.
See our full guide to the Southern Highlands here.
Where to stay
Enjoy rural views of the hills above Bowral inside this funky ‘Book Shed’ home or experience the natural bushland of East Bowral with this bespoke cabin stay. Alternatively, book a room at Milton Park Country House, a converted mansion inspired by the country hotels of Europe.
The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains, about an hour’s drive west of Sydney, are as ready to be a winter destination as anywhere in Australia. Make no mistake, the area is an absolute masterpiece of nature all year round with its spectacular landscapes, waterfalls, caves, hikes, historic sites, valleys and World Heritage-listed bushland. UNESCO (the Three Sisters are an obvious must-see route). ). But there’s something more in the air during the colder months, when villages like Katoomba, Blackheath and Leura really come alive.
But don’t worry, you’ll easily escape the frost at fine-dining establishments like the Turkish restaurant Ates, with its famous 150-year-old wood-fired oven, or Blaq, an all-day restaurant that champions sustainable, local mountain produce. inside Kyah, a newly opened motel-boutique-hotel. Or inside the Mountain Culture Beer Co brewery, enjoying an American-style schooner and burger right next to the fermentation tanks.
Read our complete guide to the Blue Mountains here.
Where to stay
You are absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to winter accommodation in the Blue Mountains region. Like the aforementioned Kyah boutique hotel. Meanwhile, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, located just outside the area, is as breathtakingly scenic as it is luxurious (private fireplaces included). For Airbnbs, we love the Scandinavian-inspired “Wondernest” cabin and, at Wentworth Falls, the “Falls Rest” cabin, which features a fireplace and a gorgeous clawfoot tub.
We couldn’t write a list of winter getaway destinations without including the Snowy Mountains – that would be madness. For snow-related adventures, we head to the winter town of Jindabyne. Situated on the shores of Lake Jindabyne and surrounded by alpine scenery, the town is the perfect place to explore ski resorts like Perisher and Thredbo or hike the spectacular Mount Kosciusko Summit Walk reaching Australia’s highest peak at 2,228 meters. The mountain is often snow-capped in the winter, so it will be challenging but rewarding to cross-country ski or hike to get there. If you accept it, reward yourself with a lager from Kosciuszko Brewery or a belly-warming pie from Sundance Bakehouse.
Where to stay
Reclusive mountain getaways are the name of the game for lodging in the Snowies. Stay warm and cozy at this quaint little house just outside of town, or Big Yard Escapes, which includes bushland and an outdoor fire pit. Or treat yourself to some luxurious seclusion with this winter-ready mountain cabin.
The city of Orange in the central plateaus is no stranger to winter snowfall. If there’s one thing we covet in the depths of winter here, it’s the area’s incredible vineyards and quaint wineries. The area’s extinct volcano, Mount Canobolas, won’t do much to warm you up, but a cheese platter and assorted shiraz by the fire certainly will. Take your pick, with wineries like Bloodwood Wines, De Salis Wines and Heifer Station all offering unique experiences and products. For a bite to eat, you’ll find winter-friendly restaurants like Charred, which offers slow-charred meats with a local farm-to-table ethos and relaxing fireside tasting. In August, the whole city celebrates the cold weather with the Orange Winter Fire Festival, featuring a night of bonfires and loads of arts and entertainment.
Check out our full guide to Orange here.
Where to stay
For a place to store your wine, book this renovated cottage built in 1885 or this stunning designer hotel, both located in the heart of the city. Alternatively, book your stay on the scenic grounds of a winery.
A 4-hour drive from Sydney, the riverside town of Gundagai is steeped in First Nations and colonial history. Sitting on the Murrumbidgee River, Gundagai offers plenty of fresh country air, endless green landscapes, hiking and biking trails, historic pubs and sights. Like the famous “The Dog on the Tuckerbox” statue, which has stood since 1932 and continues to donate to the local hospital.
Where to stay
Nearby Kimo Estate is an absolute scenic paradise, with beautifully designed cabanas and outdoor wood-fired hot tubs overlooking the green hills. Alternatively, book a stylish and comfortable stay at Flash Jack’s, a charming boutique hotel just off the city’s main drag. Or look for this eco-friendly off-grid, wildlife-friendly cabin complete with an outdoor veranda tub.
A 3.5 hour drive northwest of Sydney is the town of Mudgee in west central New South Wales. Nestled on the banks of the Cudgegong River, this rustic town ticks a few key boxes for a winter getaway. Like heritage architecture to explore, plenty of unique activities, endless wine cellar doors, incredible dining options, and scenic rolling hills to soak in.
Take a guided walking tour of downtown, catch a concert at Roth’s Wine Bar, or get your wine straight from the source at any winery. Enjoy a tasting with organic wine pairings at Lowe Family Wine Co, a tasting flight at Huntington Estate Wines, or the view of Moothi Estate. And if you’re looking to fill the hours between wine tours, why not see the region from the unreal perspective of a hot air balloon flight.
Check out our full guide to Mudgee here.
Where to stay
It’s hard to go wrong with accommodation in or around Mudgee, but consider that bright farm stay studio just outside of town or that cozy winemaker’s cottage set amongst vineyards and farmland. Burnbrae Wines. Or try your luck booking at Gawthorne’s Hut, an award-winning, uniquely designed eco-cabin with stunning views and an outdoor fire pit. Finally, if you like glamping, you should make yourself comfortable this winter at Sierra Escape.
If you’re already visiting the Southern Highlands for a winter getaway, why not add Kangaroo Valley to your itinerary for a night or two? Just a 30-minute drive from Bowral or a 2-hour drive from Sydney, this secluded, verdant valley is perched on the hillside between the highlands and the sea.
Stay in the historic village or in the thick bush, with cool-climate wine, cafes, old-fashioned pubs, canoeing (but don’t fall in) and plenty of hiking. The pick of the local hikes has to be the Three Views walking track in Morton National Park, a 9.5km back track which offers plenty of late winter wildflowers and clifftop views over the Morton Gorge. Shoalhaven. Expert tip, the nearby town of Berry (which might as well have made it on this list) is home to a cinnamon donut van that you absolutely must visit.
Where to stay
In a small house with an elegant design, a picturesque setting, an outdoor bathtub and an outdoor fireplace for your winter weekend? Kangaroo Valley has you sorted with this house or this one. Or treat yourself to a little more space in the depths of the forest by booking this luxury treehouse perched above the Kangaroo River (yes, another outdoor bath included) or this hillside three-bed room of cliff and its gigantic terrace overhanging the valley.
Who said winter getaways only meant going inland? Why not consider a seaside destination during the colder months? You might not choose to brave the colder waters (though, how good is a winter swim?!), but the beaches, hiking trails and main streets are much less crowded, even in our state’s most popular hotspots. Top of our coastal winter list is Port Stephens, a 2.5 hour drive north of Sydney, just past Newcastle. In this case, fewer people mean you’re more likely to see the local inhabitants of the area – pods of dolphins and, if you’re very lucky, koalas too.
Warm up before that cool swim by hiking the Tomaree Head Summit Walk, which begins at Shoal Bay. The 2 hour round trip hike is sure to make you sweat but reward you with stunning views of the Port Stephens coastline. Winter is also the main season for whale watching, with humpback whales migrating north past Port Stephens from May to September. You might catch them from land if you’re lucky or book a cruise to see them up close. Finally, take full advantage of the area’s Stockton Bight sand dunes, which can reach over 30m high at 60-degree angles, ideal for 4×4 or sandboarding.
Where to stay
For a touch of luxury, we love Bannisters Port Stephens. Book this waterfront apartment overlooking Shoal Bay or this waterfront Hamptons-style hotel for a base. Or, for something totally different, consider a nearby bush cabin in the middle of the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary.
For even more getaway ideas, check out our local getaways section.
Image credit: Destination NSW
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