Overseas travel is totally off the cards for the rest of the year, and even interstate travel is an ever-changing beast. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a cheeky weekend away within your own state.

Checking into a small town for a night or two is the perfect way to release months of pent-up iso energy, while also supporting communities and small businesses at a time when they need it most.

I racked my brain for all the roadtrips and quick getaways I’ve been on to compose this personally-certified list of destinations. Here are the best kept secrets where you can escape for a responsible and socially distanced weekend away.

If you’re not from NSW, you might have to hold off for the time being. Or you can use this as some kind of mood board. I’m not the boss.

1. Gundaroo

Literally my pic from a month ago.

Gundaroo is the cutest town you’ve never heard of. I know that because I recently went there to live out my Hobbit-esque fantasies. Boundless plains, a 200-year-old pub, a pervasive scent of burning wood and even a cider brewery – Gundaroo has it all.

The town’s just three hours south of Sydney, and literally half an hour out of Canberra, meaning you can swing by Questacon in between frolicking among the cockatoos and having the best country town pub burger you’ve ever tasted.

I stayed in this cottagecore underground Airbnb that keep kept me warm all through the night.

2. Hat Head

Hat Head may just be the beachiest beach town in the whole state. The main beach is over 15km long, and almost all of it is completely untouched by the town. It’s pristine and the surf is great. Right next to the beach is also a lagoon, and a bloody good one at that. It’s formed by the nearby creek which meets the see at Hat Head.

But wait, there’s more! If you drive five minutes out of town on a dirt road, you’ll reach yet another 15km long beach. Attached is one of the largest coastal sand dune areas in the whole state, perfect for sandboarding or just watching the sunset. There’s a great public campgound nearby, too.

This cute surf cottage is just a short walk from the beach.

3. Newnes

Newnes has possibly the best bush walks in NSW, and it’s just a couple of hours outside of Sydney (on the other side of the Blue Mountains, in fact) so it’s ideal for a spontaneous weekend away. There’s a tonne of gorgeous campsites if you’re so inclined, as well as basic accommodation and even a small resort.

Be sure to go for a bush walk, whether it’s to the historical ruined beehive coke ovens (I’ve seen them about 50 times and I still can’t explain to you what a beehive coke oven is, but trust me, they’re cool.) Alternatively, you can go for another, equally-beautiful walk and end up at a goddamn glow worm tunnel – an abandoned railway tunnel that’s been taken over by phosphorescent worms.

This renovated bakery is located in the neighbouring Capertee Valley.

4. Hill End

Forget your primary school gold rush excursion. Hill End is actually cool for a weekend away, especially at this time of year. This historical town is so fun to wander during the golden hours of the afternoon.

Afterwards, you can check out the handful of historical pubs, bakeries and cafes dotted among the empty lots where old pubs, general stores and even an oyster bar once stood. And yes, if you really are keen on reliving those school excursions, the gold mine is still open and heaps of fun.

This restored terrace is on the pricier side, but that’s what you pay for a slice of NSW’s most picturesque town.

5. Wallis Lake

Sure, I might not have loved this area when I was forced to kayak here in the rain, but the handful of towns around Wallis Lake are gorgeous. Bluey’s Beach and Boomerang Beach are probably the two best known, and the Booti Booti campground right next to Seven Mile Beach (it’s closer to six miles by my measurements) is also beautiful.

The fact you have both a lake and beaches at your doorstep is a massive plus if you’re into, uhhh, activities involving water. You might just see some dolphins, too.

This Airbnb is literally called the Shaka Shak, and it looks just how it sounds.

6. Parkes

If you’re a space nerd or a sucker for all things Australiana, then you simply must see ‘The Dish’. Not the film, but the actual radio telescope that the film’s based on. And it’s in Parkes, just half a day’s drive out of Sydney!

Why put such a huge (and historically important) telescope all the way out here? Because the skies are clear of pollution, making them great for stargazing. Out here you’re in the thick of farmland, so you’re well placed to take in some nature during your bucolic/space-themed weekend away.

You can’t make the drive out here and not stay in an oldschool pub. Luckily there’s one half an hour north that looks like it pours a mean bevy.

7. Currarong

It doesn’t get more beach and bush than this. Currarong’s located just outside Jervis Bay – literally.

Not only is the tiny town situated on a huge strip of pristine beach, but it’s also on its own damn peninsula. That means bushwalks abound, and there are plenty of hectic cliffs and caves to check out along the coastline. There also a a fish and chip shop called Zac’s Place which has my name written all over it, just saying.

Check this house on stilts on the edge of town, which is literally still a five minute walk to the beach. It’s also a total steal at $80 per night!

8. Mollymook

Mollymook is bougie Ulladulla, which would also deserve a spot on this list if it weren’t already so well-known. As a rule off thumb, this whole region is great for a weekend away.

There’s not one, but two (!) gorgeous beaches and a spooky cemetery which is honestly one of the coolest I’ve walked in. Oh, and if you feel like dropping some cash, gastronomical daddy Rick Stein has a restaurant there, for some reason. It’s fucking amazing.

Peep this cute Airbnb which has dogs in the pic.

9. Oberon

No idea if it’s named after the fairy king from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but if you froth Aussie country town vibes, this is the place for you. At less than three hours away from Sydney, you can’t pass up Oberon for a cheeky weekender.

Better yet, it’s also your gateway to the world-renowned Jenolan Caves. Not only are they on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but they’re also the oldest cave complex in the world (that we know of).

This nearby farmstay cottage is nothing short of gorgeous and surprisingly affordable.

10. Bundeena

Is this a cop-out because it’s technically on the outskirts of Sydney? No. The thinking here is that it’s only an hour by car, meaning you have more time of your precious weekend away to spend bush walking and/or swimming, if weather permits.

Situated in the thick of the Royal National Park, there’s no shortage of beaches, trails and other gems to check out. Wattamolla is iconic, but you can probably give the infamous Wedding Cake Rock a miss.

This studio has the lushest garden ever. Yiew.

The writer was hosted by Airbnb for a weekend away in Gundaroo.

Getty Images / WalkerPod Images

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