We know that sometimes you just need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life! We've made a list of 15 places within a 3-hour drive of Sydney where you can unwind and relax. We also have a couple of honourable mentions at the end which nearly made the list!
1. BOYD RIVER CAMPGROUND, KANANGRA-BOYD NATIONAL PARK
Just made it on the list! 2 hours, 59 mins from Sydney. Explore everything there is to love about the Australian wilderness amongst the towering snow gums of Boyd River. Nestled on the banks of the lush Morong Creek, be aware that your relaxing stay at Boyd River Campground may be interrupted by curious locals, including sugar gliders, tawny frogmouths and the occasional wombat or kangaroo. Immerse yourself in this untamed wilderness by going bushwalking, mountain biking, or simply spamming your Instagram with gorgeous landscape photography (when you get back to civilisation and wifi that is).
If you have a spare day, then stock up on water and sunscreen and take a scenic drive up to the Kanangra-Boyd Lookout – stunning views for miles and see if you can spot one of the soaring wedge-tail eagles! Boyd River is very remote, so come prepared with your own food and firewood. Creek water should be boiled or treated before use. No need to book, only park fees apply.
This serene, lakeside park caters to bushwhackers and glampers alike! Lounge on the grassy banks fishing, or get wet windsurfing or water skiing! If you’re feeling romantic, try a tandem bike ride along the scenic trail. If you’re single, don’t worry, regular bikes are fun too. If you’ve got kids to entertain, take them to feed the pelicans or just let them run wild on the play equipment while you watch your other half cook up a delicious feast on the BBQ.
In addition to luxurious modern cabins, Budgewoi Holiday Park offers spacious powered sites to park your caravan or motorhome. Explore every experience the Central Coast has to offer, including the Treetop Adventure Park, the Australian Reptile Park, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving or even hang gliding! When you’re all adventured-out, take a leisurely stroll to the Budgewoi shops, catch a movie or eat some fish & chips on the jetty.
Budgewoi Holiday Park has every amenity you could need, just bring your family, your RV and leave your worries at home!
1 hour, 46 mins from Sydney. This prime beachfront real estate could be yours for as little as $25 a night in the off season! Coledale beach is quite popular, but never as crowded as other comparable surf spots; with the Illawarra escarpment behind you and the great blue Pacific in front, it feels like you’re a million miles from home (unless you live in Coledale, in which case, lucky you!). Surf, swim, fish, dive, take #hotdogsorlegs pics; whatever floats your boat! Remember to keep your eyes peeled for friendly dolphins or the odd migrating humpback or southern right whale.
This place is (understandably) busy in peak season, so remember to book well in advance to snap up your own little slice of the beach! Sites are unpowered but the amenities block includes hot showers, toilets, a kitchen and a laundry. It may not be exactly secluded, but try being coaxed awake every morning by the sound of crashing waves, breathing in that fresh sea breeze and you’ll see that Coledale Beach possesses a real coastal tranquillity.
One of the most picturesque areas in the Blue Mountains, Cathedral Reserve is the unofficial camping ground in the tiny English heritage style village of Mount Wilson. If you are lucky enough to visit in Autumn, you can meander the Avenue, lined with golden beeches, elms and linden trees. If not, there is plenty to see and do here at any time of the year. Explore the lush Cathedral of Ferns, visit the historic and beautiful Turkish Bath museum, or enjoy a fun day with the family picking walnuts and chestnuts.
You can purchase supplies of food and firewood on the way here and relax with a picnic or BBQ surrounded by nature. If you plan to stay overnight, note that The Cathedral Reserve has water and toilets but no showers, so it’s probably best to lay off the canyoning unless you’ve got a shower in your RV!
Set up camp in Jenolan Caravan Park and there’s a plethora of spectacular adventures at your fingertips! You’ll obviously want to see the wondrous Jenolan Caves, but this culture-rich area is jam-packed with experiences for the whole family, or if you like, just you and boo. Soak up some history with a day trip out to the old ghost town of Yerranderie, view some stunning blooms at Mayfield Garden or Falkirk Farm, or go horse riding at Australia’s first ‘dude ranch’ – Yarrabin Guest Property.
Tired of hiking or biking around the numerous surrounding national parks or digging for mushroom gold at the local truffle farm? Need a little pampering? Unwind with a massage in the exquisite Japanese gardens of Blue Mountains Sparadise, an enchanting bathhouse designed to feed and rejuvenate your body and soul.
Located in the heart of the charming township of Oberon, Jenolan Caravan Park is close to everything, yet feels calm and secluded, nestled amongst the leafy wattles and pines. With powered sites, a modern amenities block and incredibly friendly hosts, you can bring your family, bring your dog, but most importantly, your sense of freedom.
Along with all the usual suspects you find in the Blue Mountains like hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and swimming, Blackheath offers some unique experiences for those wishing to test the limits. Try your hand at canyoning, hang gliding, rock climbing, or if you’re feeling really dangerous, go for a picnic at Hanging Rock – it’s less than 20 minutes away! If all that adventure gets too much, escape for a day or two to the serene Grose Valley, taking in the panoramic views and crisp mountain air.
You really are spoilt for choice here at Blackheath Glen. This multi-award winning park is situated high in the Blue Mountains and offers a range of accommodation options including self-contained cabins, large powered and ensuite sites. For a real bush camping experience and your own space, try one of the grassy unpowered sites. With every modern amenity, a public playground and even a wifi hotspot, you’ll be sure to please everyone, from the most active of children to the most sullen of teenagers.
Just down the road from Blackheath Glen is its sister park, Katoomba Falls. Tucked away on Scenic Cliff Drive, the park is just a 10-minute walk to Echo Point, where you can look out across the stunning valley below and raise your eyes to the famed Three Sisters above. It may become slightly crowded here at sunset, but take your camera (NOT your iPad) and you’ll see why. If you haven’t had enough picturesque scenery, enjoy a ride through lush rainforest on the Scenic Railway and return by cable car, or take in the breathtaking Katoomba or Wentworth Falls.
As with Blackheath Glen, Katoomba Falls Tourist Park offers cabins, powered and unpowered sites as well as a modern amenities block, camp kitchen and BBQs. In your down time, meander into town and sample culinary delights from the local cafes, play a round of golf at the local club or simply take a romantic, hand-in-hand stroll through the Everglades Gardens.
2 hours, 57 mins from Sydney (and worth the drive!).
Get back to basics with this charming outback campground situated by the banks of the Wollondilly River on a local property just out of Bowral. City kids and city pets will revel in the luxury of open spaces out here (but that’s the only luxury they’ll find!). There’s plenty of bushwalking and wildlife observation to be done in this seemingly remote station. Take a day trip to the magical Wombeyan caves via the scenic but unsealed Wombeyan Caves Rd, then cool off afterwards with a swim in the river. Learn how to create delicious feasts in a traditional Aussie camp oven, cooked over an open fire.
Come prepared for fair dinkum bush camping which means no powered sites, no camp kitchen and no laundry. There are flush portaloos, free hot showers (using river water) and you can purchase firewood, ice and basic food supplies at the bush style office. You should stock up on supplies like food and fresh water in nearby Mittagong before arriving.
Blue Gums Campground is nestled in the heart of the beautifully serene Yengo National Park. Whether you bring your mountain bike, your 4WD or just your walking shoes, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for exploring the wild Australian bush. Test your off-road vehicle on the Big Yango loop trail, cycle the Old Great North Road or walk the 6 km Yango walking track through the pristine rainforest with breathtaking views. Nature will provide all the entertainment you need out here, so you can take a few days’ break from Candy Crush Saga.
Sites on this campground are not powered and there’s no supermarket in this particular national park, so make sure you come prepared with your own food, water and firewood (don’t forget the marshmallows). So peaceful is this retreat, if you hear anything but the rustle of wind moving through the forest during the night, it’s more likely to be the local wombats and wallabies than other campers.
1 hour, 58 mins from Sydney. If your idea of relaxing doesn’t involve climbing a mountain or charcoal snags on an open fire, then how about lazing on white sandy beaches, or sampling gourmet food and wine amongst rolling green hills? Perhaps fishing on a tranquil river is more your style? Get back to nature comfortably at this well-equipped South Coast holiday park. There are endless activities to occupy the kids including an outdoor cinema, table tennis and unpowered go karts. For the adults, it’s the simple things in life that keep us entertained; winery tours, happy hour and a pool table. What else could you need?
If you haven’t brought your RV this time then there’s plenty of self-contained cabins to choose from, ranging from budget to deluxe. For a bit more space try one of the powered or unpowered sites down by the grassy banks of the river. There’s no need to hoard supplies here, just hit up the kiosk or take a scenic drive around Gerroa or Gerringong.
2 hours, 46 mins from Sydney (but seems like another world!).
Warning! Butts! Lots and lots of naked butts!
If you’re looking for a truly adventurous getaway with your partner, this secluded clothing-optional retreat is set along the banks of the Wollondilly River, just 40 km from Mittagong. You can choose to do (and wear) as much or as little as you want here; either explore the expansive 2,000-acre property or just laze by the pool, spa or river getting a nice, even tan. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere here is truly captivating; most people who stay don’t stop at one visit!
River Island provides accommodation to suit all styles and budgets, from fully equipped luxury cabins and caravans to powered and unpowered sites by the river. In the modern amenities block, you have the choice of private showers or if you prefer something a bit more social, try the communal one! There is also a laundry to wash your towels in (what else?). This place is a unique experience that everybody should try at least once in their life. Go on, apart from your clothes, what have you got to lose?
Situated beside Kangaroo River in the idyllic Kangaroo Valley, Glenmack Park has no shortage of adventures for you and your family to choose from. Try the highest zipline in Australia at nearby Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, go wild at Jamberoo Adventure Park or take a guided kayak or bike tour through the valley with the Kangaroo Valley Adventure Company. When you arrive back on site, chill out with some mini golf and feed the alpacas at the petting zoo. Be wary though, Yoda spits.
The best way to relax after a day jam-packed with fun and adventure is to retire to your tranquil campsite by the river, light a campfire and sing Bohemian Rhapsody acapella. Glenmack Park has every amenity you’ll need for the perfect camping holiday and you can choose to stay in one of the self-contained cabins, in your own RV or pitch a tent. If you’re bringing a monster truck of a caravan you will have ample space on the large, grassy powered sites; their motto is “No Rig Too Big”.
The picturesque Lake St Clair is nestled in the foothills of Mt Royal National Park, so when you’re not fishing, water skiing or canoeing, it’s enough to simply laze on the grassy banks with a picnic and soak up the view. Aside from the myriad water sports on the lake, you might want to take the scenic half an hour drive to Heuston lookout, situated 60 m above the Hunter River, allowing a spectacular sunset view towards the mines at Warkworth.
With 11 powered sites and 38 hectares of camping space, you can choose to be as social or secluded as you like. Very handy if you’re looking to rekindle a heated romance from your youth, but be careful and don’t let things get too hot – campfires are prohibited! The Lake has electric and wood fired BBQs, a camp kitchen and separate showers and toilets blocks, making it a perfect base to explore the surrounding national park, Mount Royal and the charming townships of the Hunter area.
14. LANE COVE RIVER TOURIST PARK, LANE COVE NATIONAL PARK
Only 29 mins from Sydney!
If you’re looking for a tranquil getaway but don’t want to venture too far, then Lane Cove Tourist Park is perfect! Only half an hour from Sydney, this peaceful haven set amongst lush greenery offers all the facilities of a caravan park surrounded by the beauty of a National Park. Serenade your lover whilst rowing crookedly down the river, then walk and ride* hand-in-hand through the lush forest (*please don’t ride hand in hand). In the evenings the kids can unwind in the recreation room or kick around a footy, while you socialise around one of the BBQs or take a relaxing dip in the pool.
Choose to pitch a tent or park your RV on one of the grassy powered or unpowered sites. Lane Cove has a full laundry, camp kitchen and four modern amenities blocks cleaned daily for your comfort, so make yourselves completely at home. There is wireless internet, but you might have to hang out near reception or the recreation room to use it. It is amazing how close to nature you will feel, only half an hour from the city!
This place exceeds our 3-hour limit (3 hours, 22 mins from Sydney) but it’s too good to pass over!
Once you’ve been to Coolendel there’s a fairly certain chance you’ll either A) Rave about it on every social media platform and invite all your friends down for the next long weekend, or B) Tell everyone you went to Bali and forgot to take pictures because you want to keep this fantastic hideaway to yourself. Hire a canoe and adventure down the 2.5 km of untouched Shoalhaven River that borders Coolendel or fish for the perfect bass at remote Estuary Perch. There are walking and mountain biking trails for all fitness levels, or you could just take a leisurely stroll down to the old mine workings at Grassy Gully Creek.
Coolendel offers cabins, or if you’ve brought a large group you can stay in the 20 person bunkhouse. There are no designated or powered sites here, so book ahead if you’re camping or caravanning and pick your favourite spot whether it’s an open grassy stretch or a secluded spot on the river, but be prepared to share these spots with local wildlife like wombats, wallabies and goannas. Cook on an open fire or a gas BBQ and enjoy a hot shower after a day of bushwhacking in the free amenities block. Try to stock up before you arrive, but the kiosk here has got you covered for essential food, ice and firewood.