From stalactite-lined caves and surfing kangaroos, to ancient fossils and Australia’s highest peak, the state of New South Wales is home to some of the country’s most diverse and interesting environmental attractions. Read on to discover the top 10 ecotourism experiences in NSW.
There’s a myth among tourists that you can see kangaroos surfing at Pebbly Beach thanks to an old photo of one who’d hopped on a board there. In reality, the resident roos aren’t quite that talented, but they do bounce all around this South Coast strip of sand about three hours’ drive from Sydney. Pebbly Beach is surrounded by the Murramarang National Park and the healthy kangaroo population is accompanied by sea eagles, dolphins and whales cruising past during winter.
Despite being 600km from the mainland, Lord Howe Island is officially part of NSW, and the volcanic remnant is one of the state’s most special ecotourism destinations. Only 400 people live on this tiny, isolated island and numbers of tourists are strictly limited, protecting the pristine forest, the stunning bushwalks around Mount Gower and the Valley of Shadows, the snorkelling at Ned’s Beach and the 200-plus species of birds.
On Sydney’s doorstep just west of the city lies a region that’s a bushwalker’s wildest fantasy. The Blue Mountains are criss-crossed with hiking trails that link must-see sights such as Echo Point and the Three Sisters with scenic lookouts like Wentworth Falls and Govetts Leap, passing through dense forests of gum trees along the way. The greater Blue Mountains area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000 for the ecological diversity of its eucalypt bushland.
Come for the animals, stay for the view. Taronga boasts the best backdrop of any zoo on the face of the Earth, with the sparkling Sydney Harbour providing a spectacular setting for the 4,000 animals across 350 native and exotic species. The Harbour City’s premier zoo takes a particular interest in the conservation of threatened wildlife, and also operates the open-range Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo in the west of the state.
Sure, scaling Australia’s highest peak (2,228m above sea level) isn’t exactly conquering Mount Everest (8,848m), but reaching the summit of Mount Kosciuszko is still one of Australia’s great outdoors experiences. The 13km trail winds through the picturesque alpine terrain of the NSW Snowy Mountains, about five hours’ drive south-west of Sydney, and the panoramic view from the top is something special.
This idyllic coastal region near Newcastle doesn’t just attract travellers keen to lounge around on its 26 sun-kissed beaches—Port Stephens is also home to a pod of 150 bottlenose dolphins, which you can visit on a tour with an eco-certified operator like Imagine Cruises that supports research into the local dolphin population. You can also spot whales in winter on a cruise, or from dry land in the Tomaree National Park.
The dunes of Lake Mungo in the remote south-west of NSW are believed to be the oldest ritual cremation site in the world, with archaeological evidence of burials dating back more than 40,000 years. The Willandra Lakes Region, about 15 hours’ drive west of Sydney and another nine hours out of Adelaide, dried up about 18,500 years ago, fossilising evidence of an ancient Aboriginal civilisation. You can now tour the UNESCO Heritage listed site with an Indigenous guide for great insight into this fascinating area.
The entire east coast of Australia turns into the ‘Humpback Highway’ between May and November, with whales cruising north to escape frigid Antarctic waters, and the former whaling town of Eden near the Victorian border is one of the best places to spot these majestic mammals on their travels. The calm, nutrient-rich waters of Twofold Bay and the Green Cape Lookout in Ben Boyd National Park are the two biggest humpback hotspots.
One of the highlights of the Blue Mountains is the underground maze of limestone caves at Jenolan, about three hours from Sydney. There are around 300 chasms but not all of them have been explored yet—hop on a guided tour of one of the nine caves open for public viewing, such as the photogenic Lucas Cave with countless stalactites dangling from the roof.
Situated just an hour south of Sydney’s city centre, the Royal National Park doesn’t offer just one ecotourism experience—it’s full of them. There’s bushwalks through rainforest and secluded beaches. There’s the stunning Bungoona Lookout and the iconic Wedding Cake Rock. There’s blooming wildflowers and abundant wildlife like echidnas and kookaburras. Lace up your walking shoes and enjoy!
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.