With NSW travel restrictions lifting it's time to pack up your beach bags and opt for the scenic route. Sure, driving takes a little bit longer than jumping on a flight, but it also promises to be much more memorable, and after spending months confined to our homes we want to lap up every precious holiday moment.
From beautiful beaches and delicious wine regions to spectacular national parks and historical towns, a road trip is the perfect way to soak up our wonderfully diverse state of NSW.
What's more, it would be remiss of us, given the current climate of COVID-19 not to mention that this form of travel lays the foundations for a pathogen-free vacation with minimal contact points and less chance of prolonged exposure to communal spaces. As does opting for motel-style accommodation - no lifts, no foyers, no dining rooms - simply pull up at your front door and let the vacation begin!
Time to dive in, escape, get back to basics and explore our home soil. Here are our recommendations for pit stops to make along the way from Sydney to Byron Bay stay.
Blessed with golden beaches, a dynamic arts scene, boutique shopping and no shortage when it comes to drinking and dining hotspots, Newcastle is one very hip little town. Pay a visit to the Lock-Up, a cultural centre of art, music and ideas, which hosts regular contemporary exhibitions and shows in a heritage-listed police station. Once you’ve worked up a hunger from all that art consumption head over to The Flotilla. This neighbourhood restaurant and bar, owned by Silver Chair’s Chris Joannou and Zach Scholtz, is both casual and elegant with a focus on locally sourced seasonable produce.
Despite some vineyards baring the same family name for four generations, the Hunter Valley region’s new driving force comes in the form of forward-thinking producers, winemakers and restaurateurs. With around 150 wineries in the area it’s hard to know where to begin, but we personally can’t go past the family-owned biodynamic vineyard, Krinklewood. Their minimal intervention wine-making process steers clear of herbicides, pesticides and chemical sprays resulting in wines that are both interesting and beautifully balanced. Also worth a visit is Coquun. The menu presents the best of what the Hunter Valley region has to offer with many items written in the local indigenous language, Wonnarua.
Admittedly the majority of this itinerary has rotated heavily around eating and drinking so it’s high time we threw in some exercise! Just a short drive out of Port Macquarie sits Dooragan National Park. Here you’ll find a number of walks to suit all fitness levels, whether you’re challenging yourself to the summit hike or hitting the rainforest route for a leisurely stroll. Okay, back to food and booze. If seafood is your thing Bills Fish House is a lively little venues that does not disappoint, think sustainably caught seafood and an impressive range of cocktails.
Trust us, there’s more to Coffs Harbour than a comically large banana. From scuba diving to sky diving, there’s a tonne to do here if you have a day or two. For our lactose loving friends, The Cheese Making Workshop is an absolute must. Whether your partaking in one of their classes or stocking up for later, the offering is beyond impressive. If you’re spending the night, take it back to basics with a visit to the local pub. Toormina Hotel excels in all your favourite classics – think parmas, pizzas, burgers, nachos along with a lengthy tap list of craft beers to wash it all down. Come the next morning fuel the last leg of your trip with a caffeine fix from Supply Coffee, a micro-roastery with coffee so good you’ll feel like you’re in Melbourne’s north!
The trip from Coffs to Byron is just under 3-hours, break it up with a stop in Yamba for a spot of casual coastal shopping at the Island Collective. Palm tree door knocker, anyone? If you still have a few hours before you’re due to check in to your stay make one final foodie stop at Harvest Newrybar. Perched in Byron’s hinterland, this multi award-winning restaurant ticks all the boxes – creative, mouth-wateringly delicious and sustainable at heart. Note, this is a pretty popular spot so best to book ahead!