Let us help you explore the great state of NSW, and it’s capital Sydney with our New South Wales Travel Guide. Located on the South Eastern Coast of Australia and has borders with Victoria in the South, Queensland in the North and South Australia in the middle, it’s got beaches, national parks, UNESCO world heritage sites, native wildlife, regional towns, mountain ranges and so much more.
You could spend years exploring and never leave the state! But if you are short on time, our guide will hopefully narrow down your own highlights of the state to include on your visit.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Fun Facts About New South Wales (NSW)
- 2 Getting To & Around NSW
- 3 Major Festivals, Events & Holidays in New South Wales
- 4 Regions in New South Wales (with Highlights & Things to do in Each)
- 5 All Our Posts About New South Wales
Fun Facts About New South Wales (NSW)
- NSW has a population of 8.1 million people (in 2020)
- Sydney – the capital of NSW – is the most populated city in Australia with almost 5 million people in 2020
- The NSW Coastline is 2137km long (combining the mainland (2007km) & Islands(130km))
- Some of NSW’s most popular attractions include Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, The Blue Mountains, Bondi Beach, Manly, Byron Bay and The Hunter Valley Wine Region.
- The NSW border (with Victoria, South Australia and Queensland) is 4,635km – the longest of any state border.
- Famous Aussies from NSW include Hugh Jackman, Rebel Wilson, Rose Byrne, Toni Collette, Miranda Kerr and Elle Macpherson.
- NSW has 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
- Sydney Opera House
- Greater Blue Mountains
- Wilandra Lakes
- Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
- Australian Convict Sites (Grouped as one but include Cockatoo Island, Hyde Park Barracks, Old Great North Road & Old Government House.)
- Lord Howe Island
Getting To & Around NSW
- Arriving via Air into NSW:
- Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Aiport; or
- Newcastle Airport – A domestic airport offering flights to/from Canberra, Dubbo, Gold Coast and Melbourne.
- Arriving into NSW via Interstate Train or Interstate Bus:
- You can take interstate trains to almost all other Australian capital cities from Sydney Central Station (Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth – but not to Tasmania and the NT).
- There are 3 Interstate Bus Companies – Greyhound (offers national routes), Firefly (Routes between Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide) and Murray (Sydney to Woolongong & Canberra)
- In Sydney: Walking, Trains, Metro, Ferries, Buses, Taxis/Uber.
- Around the State: Trains, Regional Coaches & Buses, Driving
Major Festivals, Events & Holidays in New South Wales
- Tamworth Country Music Festival (Tamworth – 14th-23rd January 2022) (2021 Cancelled due to COVID)
- Australia Day: 26 January 2021 (Public Holiday)
- Sydney Festival (Sydney – 6th-26th January 2021)
- Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (Sydney – 19 Feb – 7 March 2021)
- Surfest(Newcastle – usually Feb – March but cancelled in 2021 due to COVID)
- Easter: 2nd – 5th April (Good Friday, Saturday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday)
- Royal Easter Show (Sydney – 1-12 April 2021)
- Anzac Day: 25th April 2021 (Public Holiday)
- Byron Bay BluesFest (Blues & Roots) (Tyagarah – 1st-5th April 2021)
- Splendour in the Grass (Byron Bay – 23rd-25th July 2021)
- Vivid Sydney (Sydney – 6th-28th August 2021)
- Broken Heel (Broken Hill – 9th-13th September 2021)
- Labour Day: 4th October 2021 (Public Holiday)
- Bathurst 1000 (Mt Panorama – 7th-10th October 2021)
- Sculpture by The Sea (Bondi – October & November 2021)
- Christmas & Boxing Day: 25th & 26th December 2021 (Public Holiday)
- Sydney New Year Eve: 31st December
NSW School Holiday Periods
We list these because as with any country, school holidays generally mean that prices increase, and crowds can be larger. They may be unavoidable depending on your own vacation or family situation, but it is good to keep them in mind when planning your trip and being aware of the effect it may have on your stay.
- Summer: 21 December 2020 – 26 January 2021
- Autumn: 5 April – 16 April 2021
- Winter: 28 June – 9 July 2021
- Spring: 20 September – 1 October 2021
Regions in New South Wales (with Highlights & Things to do in Each)
The capital of NSW and the most populous city in the state, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Sydney was actually the capital of Oz (rather than Canberra). Usually the starting or finishing point of any visit to Australia, it is also a fantastic city break enjoyed by millions of Aussies (and international visitors) each year.
- Sydney Opera House & Sydney Harbour Bridge – iconic Australian landmarks.
- Bondi Beach – Australia’s most famous beach
- Fun for the kids: Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, SeaLife Centre, Wild Life Sydney Zoo
- Ride the harbour ferries – Sydney to Manly is a favourite
- Enjoy the Botanic Gardens and the views from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests and waterfalls are intertwined with villages filled with guesthouses, galleries and gardens – it’s no wonder it’s one of the best day trips from Sydney, and an area that deserves a least an overnight stay if you have time.
Blue Mountains Highlights
- The Three Sisters at Katoomba – they appear in every Sydney Guidebook, and on most Australian Bucket Lists. And for good reason – do not miss them.
- The Blue Mountains Skyway at ScenicWorld – which provides epic views over the 11,400 km² Blue Mountains National Park
- Hike to Wentworth Falls – the highest waterfall in the national park
- Jenolan Caves – one of the most spectacular cave systems in Australia,
- The HopOn HopOff Bus (HOHO) is a great way to get around the region.
Just north of Sydney, beautiful beaches and incredible National Parks make the area popular with adventure lovers young and old, with local producers and wineries offering something for every foodie.
Central Coast Highlights
- Lake Macquarie – at 4x the size of Sydney Harbour, it is one BIG lake and a favourite holiday destination for Sydney-siders
- Beaches – Avoca, Terrigal, Pelican, Frazer & Shelly (to name just a few!)
- Australian Reptile Park – see a massive salty up close (that’s a saltwater croc for the non-Aussies), hand-feed kangaroos or explore the Venom Room (full of poisonous spiders and snakes!)
- Bouddi National Park – the 8km coastal walk offers incredible views
- Central Coast Aquapark – kids love this inflatable water park (runs throughout Summer); where adults are better suited to the pedal-boats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards available at Aquafun.
- Glenworth Valley – for the adventure junkies there is horse riding, abseiling, kayaking, laser tag and quad biking on offer.
Country New South Wales
Including Bathurst, Cowra, Mudgee, Dubbo, Goulburn, The Murray, Tamworth (and more!) – Country NSW has something for everyone. And with 70 National Parks, you won’t be short of outdoor adventures.
Country New South Wales Highlights
- Home to 2 of Australia’s most iconic festivals and events: Tamworth is the Australian home of Country Music & the Bathurst 1000 is the 161 lap supercar race on Mount Panorama that has been running since 1960.
- Top National Parks: Oxley Wild Rivers NP, New England National Park, Cunnawarra National Park & Cathedral Rock National Park
- From bush tucker to gourmet cuisine, breweries to wineries – foodies will love exploring Country NSW.
- Relax on the Murray River as it runs along the southern edge of NSW: think paddle steamers, kayaking, beach camping and boutique whiskey sipping.
The Hunter Valley is known as one of Australia’s premier wine regions, and being located just a 3-hour drive from Sydney, it makes for a great destination for a day trip or a weekend break.
- Hunter Valley Wine Region – wineries, hot air ballooning, farmers markets – it’s the perfect weekend getaway.
- Upper Hunter – relax at the Washpools Waterhole, camp and fish at Lake Glenbawn or have fun at the Scone Horse Festival.
- Barrington Tops – explore the National Park, go kayaking or abseiling or visit the Dugong Museum.
Lord Howe Island
Listed as one of Lonely Planet’s best destinations to visit in 2021 (they called it the ‘last paradise of the Tasman Sea!) – the island is home to 300 residents and only allows 400 visitors at any given time. This means you need to plan your stay in advance (and save up, it’s protected status and limited access mean it is one of the more expensive destinations in Oz) – but the expense and the 2 hour flight are totally worth it.
Lord Howe Island Highlights
- Snorkel or Scuba Dive with over 450 fish species and 90 species of coral.
- Go hiking through the lush island interior on the Valley of the Shadows, or take the challenging trek to Mount Gower
- Enjoy the pristine beaches
Newcastle, Port Stephens, Byron Bay, Yamba and Coffs Harbour – the North Coast of NSW sure knows how to pack a punch!
North Coast Highlights
- Visit the most easterly point of Australia at Byron Bay Lighthouse (and keep an eye out for migrating Whales or the friendly dolphins as you look down to the ocean)
- Hit the surf at Yamba
- See the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour
- Take in the view from the Skywalk in Dorrigo National Park
Get a taste of the outback from the movies with stunning views, historic colonial towns, rich indigenous culture and World-Heritage national parks.
Outback NSW Highlights
- In Brewarrina the Aboriginal Cultural Centre offers a no holds barred re-telling of the history of the local Aboriginal people.
- Mad Max Museum in Silverton pays homage to the iconic movie filmed in the area.
- Go on a ‘Starfari’ in Warrumbungle National Park – Australia’s first Dark Sky Park.
- As the drag queens in the Aami advert proclaims, “we’re off to Broken Heel” – and you should too! Celebrating the iconic Aussie film, Priscilla Queen of The Desert, the Festival offers desert, disco and plenty of divas, darlings. And even if you don’t visit for the Festival, there is plenty to explore throughout the year (such as the Desert Living Sculptures, above)
Ski & Snowboard on Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak in winter – or hurl down it on a bicycle when the snow has gone. Add in some wine tasting, horse riding, fishing and other relaxing pursuits and the mountains are heaps of fun whatever the weather.
Snowy Mountains Highlights
- Hit the slopes at Perisher, Thredbo or Charlottes Pass
- Go walking in Kosciuszko National Park – or hike to the top on the summit walk.
- Sip your way through the Snowy Valleys on the beverage trail from Tumut.
The NSW South Coast is packed full of vacay destinations. From Shoalhaven & Jervis Bay to Kiama, Shellharbour, Merimbula and Wollongong – if you’re looking for beachy, nature and a bit of adventure and possibly a bit of wildlife spotting, you can’t go wrong here.
South Coast NSW Highlights
- Snorkel with Seals off Montague Island; or see some of our native wildlife at Mimosa Rocks home to koalas, swamp wallabies and long-nosed potoroos.
- Taste the freshest seafood and shuck your own Oysters on the Sapphire Coast
- Take in the epic views along the clifftop trail on the Kiama Coast Walk
All Our Posts About New South Wales