For a last-minute unplanned weekend getaway take this road trip from Sydney to the Hunter Valley and back down to the Central Coast, combining bush and beach into one delicious weekend out of the city.
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Free camping – no planning required!
- Road trip Tourist Drive 33 and the Hunter Valley
- From bush to beach, on the cheap, all in one weekend
Less is More When it Comes to Adventure
Ever found yourself arriving at Friday knock off with no plans in sight but the familiar inner rumblings to break free from the city and soak up some time in nature?
There’s a plethora of free or cheap camping spots within a stone’s throw of Sydney, all with sufficient amenities that allow you to be no more organised than having thrown some sleeping comforts in the car and harnessed that gnawing desire for adventure.
Read more: Top 5 Camping Spots Near Sydney
No food plan? No troubles, we’ve got that covered. Forgot the jet boiler for morning coffee? Thou shalt not be deprived of caffeine on this trip.
No room for trinkets and toys? Just need some sturdy adventuring footwear, to keep you entertained and out of the social scrolls. These types of road trips are the spontaneous (unprepared) adventurer’s ultimate-escape (non) plan. And this is one of my favourites.
Day 1 – Sydney to Wollombi
Time driving: 1hr 50min
Yengo National Park has been glaring at me from Google maps for some time, demanding to be explored. Once you’ve broken free from the desk on Friday afternoon, take the M1 out of Sydney, and just past Brooklyn Bridge, take the Tourist Drive 33 exit. This drive is the start of your immersion in nature and a good dose of history.
Tourist Drive 33
Tourist Drive 33 used to be the main road connecting Sydney and the Hunter Valley; it was built by convicts in the 1800s. The drive will take you through some of the most stunning countryside NSW has to offer. There are a few eclectic towns along the way, but your destination for the night is the historic town of Wollombi.
Wollombi is the gateway to the Hunter Valley. The town is oozing with character, and plenty of country hospitality – starting with, and centred around, the local Wollombi Tavern.
The pub offers free camping on its grounds, next to a river. Yep, accomodation, food, bevvies, and entertainment all within the same paddock. So commence your wine-down from the week of work overlooking the Hunter Valley, before settling in for a night under the stars.
Day 2 – Wollombi to Bouddi National Park
Time driving: 1hr 50min
The offerings of Wollombi don’t stop at the pub; historical walks, cafes, an art gallery, the odd weekend market, and plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails in the nearby Yengo National Park.
So in the morning, take your time exploring and treat yo-self to breakfast and a good coffee at one of the cafes. Consider it offset by your free camping.
Once you’ve had your fill of the bush, it’s time to head east and move this low-cost adventure to the coast (and take advantage of Mother Nature’s free shower). The ocean is calling! Head north-east out of Wollombi, and make tracks for the Central Coast.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the best surf spots right along the coast, with a contentious local opinion that MacMasters takes out the title for best family friendly surf beach.
Further north, towards Gosford, Shelly Beach brings the gentle swells to the wave party, while Pelican Beach offers an exposed beach break for the more experienced.
Little Beach and Putty Beach are two of the campgrounds within Bouddi National Park, but definitely need to be booked ahead if you’re exploring during school holidays.
Personally, I think Little Beach campground has got it made; it’s the unprepared camper’s dream. There are six small camp spots right on the water, BBQ facilities, and a toilet, all just a short walk from the car park. If the motivation to cook up a storm escapes you, there’s a convenient cafe just over the hill and well within walking distance, at MacMasters Beach.
Day 3 – Bouddi National Park to Sydney
Time driving: 1hr 30min
Bouddi Coastal Walk
From either of these campgrounds you’re well placed to make the most of a full Sunday of exploring.
The Bouddi Coastal Walk is an 8km (one way) trail that takes you past clifftop lookouts and Maitland Bay, through the woodland and rainforest vegetation, before arriving at Putty Beach campground.
Alternatively, Copacabana Beach is on the northern side of Little Beach and is a family-friendly spot prime for coffee, beach, and rockpools.
- A car
- Camping gear (Bare minimum in summer: mozzie net and a cosy sleeping bag)
- Hiking shoes
- Insect repellant
- Road trip snacks – for when you’re breaking free of Sydney’s Friday night traffic chaos!
- Surfboard (if you’re really prepared!)
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Distance Covered / Days
375km / 2.5 days
Start and End Points