New South Wales is Australia’s most populated state, and home to its largest city, Sydney. The first thing that comes to mind when you think of NSW, or even Australia, might be the iconic Sydney Opera House, but there’s plenty more urban and regional delights on offer for tourists to NSW to enjoy.
From relaxing and sipping tea in the Chinese Gardens, going over your luggage limit shopping at the Paddington Markets, enjoying the stunning vistas of the Blue Mountains, to chatting with the cheerful hippies at Byron Bay, you’re bound to make many fond memories and meet many interesting people in your travels around the state.
Lets explore the best places to visit in New South Wales:
1. Byron Bay
Byron Bay is a true Australian icon: this lovely little town was a major hippie & alternative centre in the 60s, and the culture still leaves its mark (you’ll even still see hippies milling around!) It’s become a popular spot with tourists from Sydney and further afield to take a relaxing break with their families, and to enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the town.
There’s a gorgeous beach and adorably quirky boutique shopping.
You can also visit Australia’s most powerful lighthouse, which is still active and is great for a postcard-perfect view of the town (and for a lighthouse selfie!)
You can also take a quick detour to Tropical Fruit World, where you can try all sorts of exotic delights and bush-tucker fruits.
Finger limes are particularly delicious, as are black sapotes (popularly known as the chocolate pudding fruit!)
2. Snowy Mountains
Colloquially known as “the Snowies”, this mountain range is the highest in Australia, and contains Mount Kosciuszko which towers at 2,228 metres over sea level.
The mountains experience large amounts of snow every winter, and are great for skiing and snow sports, but they’re just as much of a delight in summer: you can enjoy fishing for salmon or trout, hiking through pristine mountain wilderness, or cave exploring.
(Also, enjoying a local brew and taking in the atmosphere of a true-blue Aussie pub!) The local flora and fauna is also a treat; many rare species can be found in the mountains, and if you’re lucky you might spot a mountain pygmy possum or a dusky antechinus.
3. Mungo National Park
Mungo National Park is a true Aussie outback experience.
The barren landscape is starkly beautiful, formed on a chain of dried-up riverbeds and sand dunes.
It’s also famous for its insight into the beginning of human life, as it is one of the oldest places outside of Africa to be continuously populated, for 50,000 years.
The oldest skeleton in Australia (Mungo Man) was found here, as was the earliest example of ritual cremation (Mungo Woman). You can take a tour guided by an indigenous ranger for a special understanding of the significance of the area in local Aboriginal culture, and even stay overnight in an old shearer’s quarters.
Just over an hour away from Byron Bay, Nimbin can best be described as Byron’s less-known (and therefore less-commercialized!) soulmate: when housing got more expensive in Byron Bay, much of the hippie community moved here.
Since its inland, there’s no beach to enjoy, but the alternative lifestyle is much more pronounced here, and many visitors to Byron Bay will make the short trip here as well to see a taste of Byron Bay-of-yore.
With its colourful streetscape, and its yearly Mardi Grass (yes, grass, not gras!) festival, Nimbin has become the Australian capital of the alternative lifestyle, the hippie movement and environmentalism.
Strike up a chat with some locals – the best thing about Nimbin is its people! – and enjoy this truly unique town.
5. Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay is famous for having the world’s whitest sand beach (as per the Guinness Book of Records!), Hymas Beach.
This charming, quaint collection of small towns is great for nature-lovers, surfers, divers and holiday-makers.
The Aboriginal history of this town goes back thousands of years, and since the area isn’t heavily touristed, you can enjoy the experience of having this treasure of unspoiled Australian nature mostly to yourself.
6. Port Stephens
With over 140 bottlenose dolphins, this is a great place for dolphin-watching, or even swimming with the dolphins! It’s also a popular spot for surfing, bushwalking, horse (and camel!) riding, and bicycling.
Port Stephens is the home of the Great Lakes Marine Parks, where you can encounter a wide variety of marine species: from humpback whales to sponge gardens!
7. Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie
These three sites are a stone’s throw away from each other, and there’s enough here to keep you busy for a few days.
The Hunter Valley is known in Australia and beyond for its fantastic wineries, and gourmet cheeses, olives and olive oil.
Newcastle is also known for its culinary delights, as well as a vibrant handmade, bespoke shopping culture that is reminiscent of a real-life Etsy! Newcastle also boasts gorgeous beaches, and a great café and bar culture.
At nearby Lake Macquarie, you can take a stroll of its clear-blue, stunning namesake lake, or enjoy a coastal bushwalk or mountain hike.
It is also known for its sailing, cruising and kayaking, as well as a vibrant artistic scene.
8. Taronga Zoo or Taronga Western Plains Zoo
These sister zoos are some of Australia’s most popular.
Taronga Zoo is a short, enjoyable ferry ride from Sydney’s city centre.
The Western Plains Zoo, also known as Dubbo Zoo, is also well-worth a look if you’re in the area.
Taronga Zoo boasts a gorgeous view of the river, and 2,600 animals of 340 species.
The Western Plains zoo boasts free-ranging peacocks, pelicans and black swans, as well as many Australian native animals (it’s a great place to see a Tasmanian devil, a wallaby or a kangaroo!) and species from further afield.
The grounds of both zoos are immaculate, the animals are well-kept, and if you’ve got time, they’re different enough that you’ll enjoy both!
9. Bondi Beach
This iconic Sydney beach is perhaps Australia’s most well-known internationally.
It’s always very busy, but the vibrant atmosphere is part of the fun, and it’s also the place to spot celebrities – both local and international! Its one of Australia’s most touristed sites, and has been added to the Australian National Heritage List.
(Another Aussie world record: it’s also the site of the largest swimsuit photo shoot, with 1,010 bikini-clad participants!) The surrounding suburb, also called Bondi Beach, has many popular eateries and boutiques, as well as Bondi Pavilion, a community cultural centre.
10. Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is perhaps the best-known tourist site in Sydney, and the home of the Sydney Opera House.
There’s plenty to see, do and shop for here, and the Paddington Markets and Chinatown are a short walk away, making this area a great place to while away a day.
Some of the highlights of Darling Harbour are the serene Chinese Garden of Friendship (with a lovely tea shop), the nightlife at King Street Wharf, Sydney Aquarium and Zoo, and the world’s largest cinema screen.
There’s also always of plenty of events going on, so check out DarlingHarbour.com for the latest information.
11. Powerhouse Museum
This is considered one of the best museums in Australia, with an excellent collection of interesting exhibits that’s fun for all ages.
The museum building is a converted powerhouse, and the exhibits largely focus on technology-related themes, such as science, communication and space technology.
The museum’s collection consists of over 400 thousand artifacts, and exhibits change regularly, so it’s worth visiting again if you’re in Sydney a second time.
12. Manly & Northern Beaches
Manly is a quaint beach-resort suburb a short ferry away from Sydney city centre.
You can enjoy an ice cream or fish and chips on the beach, or go on a nature or heritage walk– there’s 100km of trails in the area.
Northern Beaches extends from Manly to Palm Beach (just under 40km north), and is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and lovely coastal towns.
The area attracts 8 million visitors per year, and it’s a must-do for visitors to Sydney.
13. South West Rocks
South West Rocks is a beautiful small town surrounded by lush greenery, on the Mid North Coast of NSW. The beautiful beach is nestled among towering pines, and the town is not far from one of the world’s best cave dives, Fish Rock Cave, or from Smoky Cape Lighthouse, which is a great whale-watching spot.
The nearby rainforest is home to wallabies and swallow-tailed butterflies, and the ruins of Trail Bay Gaol (opened in 1886) is a heritage site which forms an interesting insight into the convict history of Australia.
14. Blue Mountains
Named after the blue haze that can often be seen on the horizon, the Blue Mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a must-see on the itinerary of international and local tourists alike.
The dramatic scenery of the rugged mountains and the deep gorges (up to 760 metres!) make it a fascinating example of Australian geology and nature.
The Three Sisters sandstone rock formation is perhaps the best-known Blue Mountains attraction.
It’s also an interesting example of historic indigenous inhabitation: the Kings Tableland Aboriginal Site dates back 22,000 years.
This area is also great for spotting exotic Australian animals: 400 different species, some of which are rare, can be found here.
There’s plenty of tourist attractions to be found here, both man-made and natural, but a particularly gorgeous site is the Jenolan Caves, a network of fossil-rich limestone caves with beautiful calcite formations.
15. Budderoo National Park
Located on the NSW South Coast, this national park boasts beautiful lush scenery and stunning waterfalls.
Just over 100km from Sydney, Budderoo is an ideal place to get away from the inner-city hustle and bustle.
The park is great for bushwalking, birdwatching, or even a picnic.
The award-winning Minnamura Rainforest Centre, the Jamberoo Lookout and the Nellies Glen picnic areas are particularly charming, and there’s plenty of photo opportunities to keep your Snapchat busy.