The state of New South Wales is home to sandy beaches and Snowy Mountains, red wine and Blue Mountains, scenic road trips and the even more spectacular Humpback Highway. From Sydney’s harbour to Byron Bay’s surf, discover the best attractions NSW has to offer.
One of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks is the ‘Coathanger’ that stretches across the city’s sparkling harbour, and you can climb to the top of it. Book a BridgeClimb experience to scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which towers 134 metres above the water. Prices start at $168 for adults but you can’t put a price on panoramic views from the top of the arch.
NSW is renowned for its beaches, and none have a reputation quite like Bondi. This strip of sand in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs is one of the most famous beaches on Earth let alone NSW, and it offers plenty of things to see and do. Have a dip, learn to surf, swim a lap at the striking Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, grab a coffee or meal, pop into a local gallery or market, or stretch the legs on the picturesque coastal walk to Coogee.
The NSW countryside is peppered with about a dozen wine regions, from the sweet whites produced in the north of the state to the full-bodied reds coming out of exciting new cool-climate areas, but the Hunter Valley is the most recognised thanks to its world-class Semillon grapes and 120-plus cellar doors. The craft breweries of Sydney’s Inner-West and the restaurants and cafes of Surry Hills are some of NSW’s other tasty food and drink experiences.
The fabled assertion that Hyams Beach holds a Guinness Record for having the world’s whitest sand might be a myth, but that doesn’t stop visitors from flocking to this idyllic corner of the NSW South Coast. Take the three-hour road trip south of Sydney to see the snow white sand for yourself, scheduling inland pitstops at some of the gorgeous towns in the Southern Highlands like Berry and Bowral.
NSW isn’t just South Coast sand and Bondi surf—there’s also some powder for those who prefer to hit the slopes than the waves. Sure, Australia’s snow is no match for Europe or North America but the Snowy Mountains region gives skiers and snowboarders their fix. Plan your trip at snow resorts like Thredbo and Perisher, or towns on the doorstep of the snowfields like Cooma and Jindabyne.
There’s no more quintessentially Sydney way to travel than taking the ferry, and there’s a comprehensive network of routes spanning the harbour out of Circular Quay. Make a day trip to bustling Manly on the Northern Beaches, see the animals at Taronga Zoo, or visit one of Sydney Harbour’s many islands such as the historic Fort Denison or the former convict site Cockatoo Island.
Hikers visiting NSW should make a beeline to the Blue Mountains, an area of UNESCO World Heritage listed bushland just west of Sydney. The lofty Cliff Top Walking Track, the scenic Great Round Walk, impressive Grand Canyon Walk, challenging National Pass, and the epic multi-day Six Foot Track are among the best bushwalks Australia has to offer.
Australia’s biggest winter event and the world’s largest light show illuminates up the NSW capital each May and June, as Vivid Sydney transforms the Harbour City’s most iconic landmarks into larger-than-life sculptures of light. More than two million visitors fill Sydney during the three-week festival, when the entire city lights up after dark with a dazzling array of light installations and projections.
Every Australian winter, tens of thousands of whales escape chilly Antarctic waters by making their way up the East Coast, and NSW enjoys plenty of great vantage points overlooking the ‘Humpback Highway’. The calm, nutrient-rich waters off the town of Eden near the Victorian border are perfect for spotting the majestic mammals; Batemans Bay, Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and cruises from Sydney are other good whale-watching areas in the state.
The other creatures that habitually migrate up and down Australia’s East Coast? Backpackers. Young budget travellers always end up in Byron Bay at some point of their journey and learning to surf is usually high on their Aussie bucket list, with a number of surf schools introducing rookies to the waves at Main Beach. Experienced surfers will also enjoy breaks at the Wreck, Clarke’s Beach, the Pass, and the secluded Cosy Corner.