26 November 2018 by Kiera Greenwood
Between gleaming cities, glittering beaches and a truly stunning natural world, a variety of Australia’s icons are found in New South Wales. And, it’s all linked by some of the world’s most spectacular driving routes, bringing you out of Sydney’s urban sophistication, up into the dramatic Blue Mountains and across to the Hunter Valley winery indulgences. Then, hit the coast on roads that hug cragged cliffs to showcase giant views over dense rainforests and great stretches of white sands. In between, you’ll be entertained by unique wildlife, world-class gastronomy and that famous Aussie love of the great outdoors, best experienced on bush walks and afternoons spent surfing in the sun. But, with over 1,300 miles of coastline, there’s plenty to choose from. To help, we’ve picked out the state’s must-see destinations.
Blessed with one of the most recognisable waterfronts, you’ll know Australia’s largest city for the sweeping curves of its twin icons – the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. But, look beyond its poster child good looks and you’ll find plenty of substance. The cobblestone lanes of the historic district, The Rocks, feature heritage cottages and storied pubs, while the Victorian terraces of Paddington are given over to a chic café culture and boutique markets. However, this being Australia, there’s no escaping the sun, with Bondi’s white sands, coastal walks and famous surf among the highlights. Discover Sydney and its diverse surrounds, from sprawling vineyards to striking mountain landscapes, with our Sydney, Beaches & The Blue Mountains itinerary.
Take an aerial tour of Sydney Harbour for unparalleled views of Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and beyond
The Blue Mountains
Moving out of Sydney, you’ll quickly find yourself winding up into the green-dappled peaks of the Blue Mountains. A World Heritage-listed Area, cascading waterfalls hide among eucalypt forests and sandstone cliffs look out over great swathes of bushland. Take it all in on meandering hiking trails that lead through Aboriginal tribal lands, to stunning cave formations. It’s all the picturesque frame to a delightful collection of lodge retreats. Enjoy a two-week driving holiday along Australia's iconic East Coast that takes in the Blue Mountains with our unforgettable itinerary.
Three Sisters, Blue Mountains
After the Blue Mountains, the state’s scenery calms into endlessly undulating green curves terraced into pretty rows of vineyards. This is Australia’s oldest wine region – the Hunter Valley. Taste your way through its 150 wineries, often producing Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The region is also undergoing something of a foodie renaissance, with farm-to-table restaurants showcasing the best in local produce. Don’t miss out on the artisan cheeses, hand-made chocolates and bakery delicacies – it's all best discovered with our Highlights of New South Wales itinerary that takes in the best of the region.
Hunter Valley's vineyards are home to world-class wines – often at superb value
Turning back to the coast, you’ll arrive at the ‘Dolphin Capital of Australia’. Home to resident bottlenoses, Port Stephens is one of the world’s best places to spot these playful animals. Embark on a scenic cruise or, for something truly unique, there’s even the opportunity to swim with the pod. It’s all watched over by a collection of national parks, host to giant sand dunes and rainforest walks. And, for some relaxation, there’s over two-dozen beaches to choose from.
Dolphin spotting excursions at Port Stephens are a memorable affair
Continuing north, you’ll be welcomed to Port Macquarie with that famous Aussie cheer. Fissured into a network of canals and river tributaries, it makes for pretty river cruises that bring you away from its gorgeous beaches to its lush hinterlands. Here you’ll find the superb Billabong Zoo along with the aww-inducing Koala Hospital where you can walk right among these adorable creatures.
Slow the pace down with a stroll along the beach at Port Macquarie
Your next coastal stop should be Coffs Harbour for its watersports fun. There’s everything from surfing and paddle boarding to diving and kayaking to keep you occupied along with those now-familiar golden sands. However, it’s perhaps Coffs’ wildlife that excites the most, with walks and snorkel dips bringing you up close to kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, turtles and dolphins.
Turtles bless the waters here while, on land, you can get close to kangaroos and koalas
End your northern journey along the Pacific Coast with gorgeous Byron Bay. However, it’s not the long stretches of sandy beaches, the yoga getaways or the chic bars that have made this a long-time favourite; it’s the barefoot joy of it all. Artists’ studios abound, spa getaways open right onto the beach and the sunsets are long and colourful. This is boho-chic at its finest.
There aren't too many ways to enjoy a sunset than at Byron Bay
Jervis Bay & the South Coast
A drive south out of Sydney is equally rewarding, bringing you to deserted beaches and national park wildernesses. Head out past waterfalls and 20-metre-high blowholes to reach Jervis Bay where intertwining waterways make for excellent kayaking. Then, in between visits to historic gold-rush towns and fishing villages, watch the seasonal whale migration (May – November) before scuba diving with fur seals at Montague Island Nature Reserve.
When you're finished exploring the rugged beauty of the South Coast, perhaps opt for a bucket-list experience: scuba diving with fur seals