Sydney-siders are collectively guilty of this – saying they’re spending a few days “up the coast” and never specifying exactly where. Well, friends, read on to find out exactly where you should be hightailing it to on your next cheeky weekender.
Ladies and gentleman start your engines for a car ride just long enough to fit all the bangers in, but short enough that you don’t get fidgety and resort to a fourth round of Eye Spy. Just two hours’ drive or train from Sydney lies the quirky beachside city of Newcastle, lined with naval history and bursting at the seams with coffee culture by day and pub culture by night.
First have a read of our 48 Hours in Newcastle guide to get a handle on your next getaway. If you’re looking to pad out your stay (v. recommended) make sure to schedule some time to peruse the streets glistening with comic book and record stores, take yourself on a lil’ pub crawl to absorb local live music and, most importantly, hang out on the beautiful, sprawling beaches.
Speaking of beaches – Newcastle Beach YHA is literally across the road from the beach and has free cheese and wine nights on Wednesdays. ‘Nuff said.
Welcome to your new home! Trust us, you ain’t leaving. The Indonesian-inspired Port Stephens YHA is nestled under a rainforest canopy and surrounded by lush native flora and fauna, and inquisitive wildlife. Sounds like the start of a Disney film, right? If you’re not lounging on your personal balcony or around the pool, or warming yourself around the bonfire with a bevvy in hand, you could ignite your inner daredevil by cruising on the Stockton Sand Dunes. How about a boat cruise complete with boom net so you can get super friendly with the local whales?
There’s oodles of life-affirming walks and hidden beaches, and when you’re done getting your fill of fresh air you can retire to one of the many laid-back but scrumptious eateries and pubs. The dream. Here's how we reccommend spending 48 hours in this little slice of paradise.
Get yourself a map and pop your finger halfway between Sydney and Byron Bay and you’ll find the one and only Port Macquarie. If you fancy all things salt water, you’re going to have an absolute blast. Port Mac boasts nine truly stunning beaches all connected by an 8km coastal walk, and the kind of small-town laid-back charm that can only be found in a city by the sea. Take a sunrise surf or sunset paddle board with the locals, visit the disastrously adorable koala hospital, laze the afternoon away by the resort-style pool at Port Macquarie YHA before heading out to the local Irish pub for trivia and fresh-to-death oysters. Don't go too hard, though - you want to be fresh for your sunrise beach camel ride. Sounds like a bloody wonderful holibob to us!
We’ll avoid a “hello Bello” pun if you promise to visit this gorgeous lil’ town. The Belfry Guesthouse is the stuff of dreams; complete with a wrap-around balcony so you can follow the sun as it domes over the sprawling green surrounds. Just look at this view, would ‘ya!
Bellingen is a true hippie mecca, where the hours tick by slow and every minute feels salubrious. Browse artisanal eateries and shops, set voyage into the Dorrigo National Park, try your hand at everything from yoga to dreamcatcher weaving, and revel in the sense of wellbeing you gain by being somewhere as magical as this. Namaste.
Just keep driving until you see the Big Banana, then you know you’ve arrived (it’s about 5.5 hours’ drive from Sydney, if you needed a little more specificity). The beauty of this town is that it’s got all you need in walking distance from Coffs Harbour YHA – beach, walking trails, the jetty, pubs, restaurants, Botanical Gardens, oh my! The hostel has tonnes of free surfboards, body boards, fishing gear and snorkel equipment so you can explore under the sea, then join them for a wander on one of many gorgeous, nature-filled local walks.
When you’re all tuckered out, and you will be, take a gamble on turning left or right out of the hostel and indulge in a coupla couplas and some world-class meals. Word on the street is, Coffs is home to one of Australia’s ten best pizzas. Ya welcome. Here's how we reckon you should spend your weekend in Coffs, if you fancy more local's recommendations.
If you’ve heard someone refer to Yamba as ‘up the coast’, they’re 100% surf-obsessed and throw a shakka in every picture taken of them. Take your definition of ‘relaxed’ and slow it down by half – this town runs at a snails’ pace and we bloody love it.
So, you’ll be in the ocean. A lot. Angourie is known as one of the best surf spots in the country, but there’s dozens of spots around the coast to fit your experience level. If you’d rather spectate, the local beaches are among the most beautiful in the land, and are so expansive and unspoilt that you’ll often feel like you’ve got the place to yourself.
Once you’ve showered off all the salt at Yamba YHA, head out with sunkissed cheeks to one of the top-notch local pubs or restaurants. Local, seasonal produce features heavily in all eateries ‘round here, and of course it must be washed down with a couple craft beers or perfectly chilled vinos. And by a couple, we mean quite a few – the Yamba crew are always up for a goooooood time.