Sydney is rich with road trip opportunities. Jump in the car, drive a few hours in any direction and you’ll find a stunning seaside village, a small country town or a bustling regional hub. There are countless pubs, cafes, bars, breweries, bistros, fish’n’chip shops, wineries, historic hotels, pizza joints and fine diners scattered within a few hours of Sydney. These are a few we reckon are worth hitting the road for this summer.
Eschalot, Southern Highlands
Berrima mightn’t get the attention afforded to nearby Bowral, but with its main street boasting a jam shop, ceramicist, collection of cafes and antique stores – as well as Australia’s oldest continuously operating pub, the Surveyor General Inn – it’s a worthy GPS entry. The ultimate Highlands dining experience is a meal at Eschalot, stationed in one of the region’s most historic buildings. Take a seat in the cute garden by the side of the restaurant for plates of fried chicken with a Sriracha and honey glaze, or gin-cured salmon with garden kimchi and whipped tofu, then move closer to the crackling fire to share a bottle of wine. Agrarian bliss.
Grand Ettie, Southern Tablelands
Until recently, the Southern Tablelands was considered the forgotten sibling of the Highlands. It’s just another hour south down the freeway, but the region has garnered a bit of attention lately thanks to the Argyle Inn. On weekends Hugh Wennerbom’s pastoral country pub paradise fills with Sydneysiders keen to experience a refined-but-rustic taste of country life in Taralga. While the Argyle is more than worthy of its reputation, chef Brenden Gradidge has created an equally trek-worthy venue, on the same street. Grand Ettie’s cafe menu – scrawled daily onto butcher’s paper hanging from the wall – is filled with hits inspired by the produce he’s been able to pull from nearby. That might mean a succulent lamb toastie or fried eggs with black pudding and a generous grating of black truffle. Luckily, the bacon and egg sandwich – on freshly baked focaccia – and the breakfast sausage bun are always on offer. Both are worth the drive alone. Whatever you do, don’t leave without eyeing up the baked treats by co-restaurateur Chloe Smith.
Orange is a foodie town, so when one restaurant attracts repeated recommendations and awards, it’s probably the kind of place you should rush towards. The name of the venue suggests giant grill-lined steaks and blackened salmon fillets, but chef Liam O’Brien (ex-Bentley) understands that fire can be a subtle medium. Sure, you might be handed some stunning local beef during your set menu experience, sourced from a neighbourhood producer credited on the menu and licked to tender perfection by the flames of Lucy, the kitchen’s impressive grill. But you’ll also find a little mound of hand-picked spanner crab tossed with smoked butter, or a little charred pizza dough topped with house-made sour cream and trout roe. The showstopper is the Charred Alaska, set ablaze with a local whisky. Leave the car at home to take advantage of one of the best wine lists in the country.
Sorensen’s Glasshouse, Blue Mountains
The problem with eateries with beautiful views is there are only so many window seats to enjoy the vistas. The solution? Build your cafe in a glasshouse and make every seat a window seat. Sorensen’s Glasshouse, just outside Leura, doesn’t just celebrate the beauty of the Blue Mountains, it’s featured inside too – from the dressed rocket piled onto the garden breakfast to the lush plants dotted around the tables. There’s nowhere in NSW more perfect for watching the seasons change than the Blue Mountains, and no better seat than Sorensen’s for nature’s show – preferably along with a plate of Belgian waffles drizzled with caramel sauce or a cheese-topped shakshuka dotted with free-range eggs.
Tropicana Pizza Pizza, Central Coast
When in Woy Woy, make time to drop into Tropicana Pizza Pizza – and make sure you take plenty of snaps. Chances are, by the next morning you’ll think the whole experience was some beautiful fever dream. Finding its chaotically thrilling sweet spot somewhere in the centre of a Blue Hawaii, Cocktail and Twin Peaks Venn diagram, Tropicana is all about the fun. Grab one of the retro booths and a round of Mai Tais, then split a fisherman’s wharf pizza loaded with seafood from the local marina. Or order up a bottle of natty wine and some buffalo wings and let the tunes take you to vibe town.
That feeling you get walking into Scotties? It’s the same as after you’ve stepped out of the water at the beach, ambled to your towel, laid down in the sun and cracked open a cold beer. Wedged between Newcastle’s two most popular beaches, Scotties takes everything great about summer and finds a way to turn up the volume. Battered kingfish with potato-inspired beetroot scallops, salt and vinegar mussels, or a lobster club sandwich complete with shatteringly crispy hash brown will see you through. Wines are sunny and diverse, but no visit is complete without the Yuzu Margarita. Sure, this grown-up equivalent of a Frosty Fruit in the backyard on a hot day says it serves two, but we won’t tell if you don’t.
Otis Deli, South Coast
Few names in food elicit the kind of mouth-dampening response that Yotam Ottolenghi. Otis Deli, in the bright South Coast town of Nowra, doesn’t just nod gently in the Ottolenghi direction, it goes full Yotam thanks to chef Emily Herbert, who spent half a decade as head chef at the Belgravia restaurant named after the chef himself. If the veggie parties and Middle Eastern-inspired grain fiestas in the cabinet aren’t enough to excite you, the pastry case shows a range of sweet and savoury baked treats packed with local ingredients. Everything’s available to eat at the small cafe or to take away, so take a box of deliciousness to the nearby Nowra blowhole, just a few hundred metres away.