A weekend roadtrip south of Sydney
After our seemingly endless travels throughout North America, we've returned home to Sydney with a longing to feel grounded — at least for a little while. Since settling back in, we've planted our roots at a new address, dusted off the few belongings we had left behind, and caught up with all the familiar faces of our friends and family that we missed dearly when we were away.
But before long, that familiar itch to hit the road and explore different places kicked in, only this time around, it was a thirst to see our own backyard, Australia.
After travelling another country to such an extent, there's a certain amount of guilt you face when you come home and realise that you've never seen the burnt-red dirt of the outback or the clear turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
With this, I'm working on creating a series of travel guides, where I'll be covering what you can see and do, by simply taking a short drive out of our main cities or hopping on a quick domestic flight interstate.
From hidden country towns to tropical rainforests and main cities to off-grid dwellings, I look forward to sharing with you all that Australia has to offer.
New South Wales is dotted with countless country towns that are waiting to be explored. One of the best of these is Kangaroo Valley, a quiet, modest and charming village located only a two-hour drive south of Sydney.
The main attraction that first lured me to this town is The Cottage Kangaroo Valley, a quaint weatherboard home, that's been lovingly restored by artist Lisa Madigan.
The former housing of The Kangaroo Valley Times, a local newspaper from the late 1880s, now welcomes guests to stay inside its impeccably styled space where you can simply stay in and unwind, or take off from to explore its neighbouring surrounds.
As soon as we arrived here, we were welcomed by a white picket fence and giant old palm tree, with the country air instantly working its magic. One step inside was all it took to fall in love with the cottage's light, bright and white interiors. It was easy to tell that a lot of love has gone into this rural retreat, with a natural-born artist having carefully curated every detail.
During our two-night stay at The Cottage, we spent much of our time staying put and enjoying the property. The temporary treechange called for sleep-ins, afternoon swims and a late long lunch in the backyard.
The best thing about these types of short trips are the no-fuss days that come with them. You know that you're not staying for long, so you consciously plan nothing at all, and in turn, have everything to gain. You're forced to adopt the slow pace of life, taking the time to breathe a little deeper and enjoy getting back to basics. Even the simple task of setting out lunch turns into a long afternoon, where the sun dips low, whilst still feeling your skin dry from the swim down in the river.
Just a 30-minute scenic drive from Kangaroo Valley lives Berry, a popular south-coast, country town that blends old-world charm with new tricks. The main drag of Queen Street still exhibits all the original township buildings, that are now occupied by trendy homewares stores and elegant dining venues.
We visited this well-loved locale on a sunny afternoon, where the streets were filled with people, shopping and eating the day away. Regardless of its popularity, it's easy to tell that Berry really doesn't take itself too seriously, with pun-friendly shop names still displayed proudly like 'It's Berry Necessary' and 'Sew & Tell'.
Another short 40-minute drive inland from Kangaroo Valley leads you to beautiful Bowral, Southern Highland's main attraction. Being a somewhat larger country town than Berry, Bowral has developed a more sophisticated stature, that seems to ooze more of a cosmopolitan vibe than country.
Here you'll find The Press Shop, offering a unique cafe experience where you can sit for either breakfast or lunch in the cafe itself, or shop in their adjoining letterpress stationery store. During our visit, we grabbed a table outside where I ordered the lamb shoulder sandwich for lunch; so delicious, it was one of those meals that you think about long after you take your last bite.
Around the corner from The Press Shop is the Green Lane precinct, a combined shopping and dining laneway that offers so much, you could spend an entire day here. Having only a few hours up our sleeve, we made a pit-stop to the Green Lane Kitchen, an outdoor courtyard where you can order gourmet lunch offerings in a relaxed leafy setting. We also popped into The Orangery, a nursery with a beautifully curated jungle of plants, where the only limitation is what amount of greenery you can fit in your car.
Our afternoon visit went by all too briefly, and as we went to leave Bowral, I knew that I had some unfinished business here.
Once it was time to head back to Sydney, we decided to take the coastal route home and make a final stop at Gerringong.
This seaside town is the home of Werri Beach, a refreshing change, having no paid parking or big crowds, unlike that of many Sydney beaches. We arrived late in the afternoon at the Ourie Pool, located at the southern end of the beach, where we found ourselves swimming alone in the ocean bath — something I've never experienced before.
After our swim, we quickly rinsed off under the beach shower before continuing our jouney home. With wrinkly fingers and salty-drenched hair, it felt like there was no better way to give the summer, one last hurrah.