NSW school holidays 2020: Top destinations ready for influx of tourists

With the Queensland border remaining closed, regional NSW towns are poised to cash in as Sydneysiders look to escape the city for a winter break.

The school holidays are around the corner but the getaway options are limited. International travel is off the table, ruling out traditional favourites such as Bali, Fiji and New Zealand (for now).

Regional road trips are set to dominate with air travel options remaining limited as airlines slowly increase their flying capacity.

Australian Tourism Industry Council director Simon Westaway predicts destinations within a three-hour radius of Sydney - such as the Hunter Valley, the Blue Mountains and the South Coast - will prove popular for holidaymakers.

Three Sisters from the Echo Point lookout at Katoomba, NSW.

Three Sisters from the Echo Point lookout at Katoomba, NSW. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

But even places further afield, such as the Central West and the North Coast will benefit from the "captive market" the border closures have created.

"Dubbo should do really well, it's a good time to experience the zoo. Orange has really turned it on as a destination in recent years," he said.

"The mid-north coast … it's a longer drive but it's still absolutely viable if you're looking at a week-plus stay."

Byron Bay in the state's far north is one destination shivering Sydneysiders are eyeing off due to the region's warmer climes.

Byron Bay.

Byron Bay. Photo: Getty Images

Destination Byron president David Jones says the Queensland border closure creates "an interesting dynamic" this school holiday period.

Historically, half of all people entering the Byron region are day trippers - mostly from Queensland - so Mr Jones says the town has a different flavour.

"We're seeing really strong robust numbers, albeit fewer travellers but certainly a longer length of stay which is excellent," he said.

As long as accommodation capacity remains lower than usual, Byron will "not feel as busy" and will be "easier to navigate than previous years", Mr Jones said.

Byron Shire Council mayor Simon Richardson says "most people are booked out or close to it" for the school holidays.

"[But] there are always more rooms in the inn for people making up their minds."

NSW Police are bracing for a surge in road usage as people embark on road trips.

"Extra traffic is expected on major routes across NSW as families head to popular holiday destinations," a spokesperson said.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy is urging all road users to stay alert on the road over the school holiday period.

"We're asking you to manage your trip, slow down, take regular breaks, avoid distractions, and ensure everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seatbelt," he said.

"It is much more important to arrive safely, than not to arrive at all."

The lifting of NSW travel restrictions has already resulted in large numbers of people visiting the South Coast and Hunter Valley regions for the June long weekend, with both areas reporting strong July bookings too.

Meanwhile the belated launch of the ski season next week will see an influx of tourism to the alpine regions.

As the economy begins to pick up, Mr Westaway says three major factors beyond border closures will determine the speed of the domestic tourism rebound. The first is how quickly airline capacity returns, enabling people to fly long distances. Second is whether people are reluctant to travel due to fears of catching or spreading COVID-19. And third is how much household income levels are affected by the recession and job losses.

"If you've got a constrained household budget, as much as you love to travel … you've got to have a steady wage and [enough] leave left to be able to travel," Mr Westaway said. "In this current climate if you take a holiday you might not have a job when you come back."

Five NSW road trips to consider:

Blue Mountains - 100km (1.5hrs) - Possible for a day trip, but a long weekend is even better.

Hunter Valley - 160km (2hrs) - Just a short trip up the M1 with wineries galore.

Jervis Bay - 200km (3hrs) - The water might be chilly but the beaches are still pristine.

Dubbo - 390km (5hrs) - Explore inland and visit the zoo. Make sure to stop at Mudgee on the way.

Byron Bay - 760km (8hrs) - About as far north as you can go. Perfect for a longer break.

See also: The seven wonders of NSW, named by the experts

See also: Six of the best national park day trips from Sydney