Feeling the need for a city escape? Skip the usual suspects and set your sights on New South Wales’ inner south. Mid-way between Sydney and Canberra and boasting the best of the country and the coast, this compact region was practically made for a weekend getaway.
While the beauty of the Southern Highlands' undulating peaks and valleys is reason enough to explore the region, the area’s geography also affords it with the perfect conditions for vine growing, making it much more than just a mountain range for wine-loving wanderers. With plenty of cellar doors to choose from amongst the area's vineyards and villages, visitors are well-looked after whether they prefer Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc. Best of all, if an afternoon spent sampling cool climate wines sways you to extend your stay, the area also happens to be peppered with historic manors, luxury homestays and quaint bed and breakfasts – perfect for a night's rest before venturing to the Kangaroo Valley.
Just 45 minutes south of the Southern Highlands, visitors will have no trouble getting to Kangaroo Valley in good time. A charming town known to move at a more moderate pace than it's commercial counterparts, the only traffic travellers might encounter en route are herds of cattle crossing the winding country roads.
Home to a people proud of their leisurely lifestyle, the valley’s residents take special care to preserve this natural paradise, with eco-friendly initiatives at the core of the town’s ethos. In return, they reap the rewards of the valley’s fertile soil, which provides fresh local produce of all varieties. Specialising in the kind of gourmet fare one would expect to find on a chef-designed charcuterie platter, this abundant valley village is a perfect place to stop for a picnic before continuing onwards to Kiama's coast.
If the rural countryside didn't satisfy your appetite for natural wonders, take a detour to the rugged coastal town of Kiama, where blowholes capture crashing waves and shoot seawater well into the sky. Further off the coast, migrating humpback whales mimic this mighty display, spraying salty mist into the air. For the best view of both, trek the 22 kilometre Kiama Coast Walk, or, climb to the top of the Kiama Lighthouse - a precariously positioned lookout with spectacular views up and down Kiama's rocky coastline. Once you've seen the shore's forces of nature for yourself, make your way back to the hinterland for a final foray into nature before heading back home.
If you happen to be travelling with children in tow, chances are they won’t let you drive past the rural gem of Jamberoo once they spot the signs for the Jamberoo Action Park – an impressive aquatic theme park with attractions to suit all ages. Left the kids at home? Make a beeline for Budderoo National Park, where a lush subtropical wilderness, rife with walking trails and remote picnic areas, is perfect for a quiet afternoon. Savour the last of the clean mountain air before the sun begins to disappear behind the tangle of treetops, signalling the start of your homebound journey back through the Highlands.