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Best places to visit in New South Wales

Uncover the must-visit destinations of NSW for everything from day trips and weekend getaways to lengthy holidays.

Islands, top winery destinations, magnificent beaches and quiet glamping spots – this list of the best places to visit in NSW won’t disappoint, no matter what kind of traveller you are.

This guide to NSW will help you plan that small trip you’ve been waiting to take, or the road trip you’ve been meaning to do up the coast for ages.

Hitting the open road? Check out our picks of the best road trips around NSW.

Where to go in NSW

Byron Bay Lighthouse New South Wales Australia

Byron Bay

A much-loved holiday destination perched on NSW’s north-east coast, Byron Bay has been drawing local and foreign visitors in for yonks. Though it’s not the architecture, incredible nature or culture that bring people here – it’s the vibe. Super laid-back, Byron Bay has made itself a place for hippies and backpackers to carve the waves, discover diving, whale watch and tuck into a raw diet or cleanse.

  • Best for: Surfing, relaxation, beaches.
  • How to get there: Direct flights are available from Sydney, Gold Coast and Brisbane to Ballina Byron Airport. Buses stop in Byron Bay from a number of other destinations along the east coast.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Be the first to watch the sunrise at the Byron Bay Lighthouse, kayak with dolphins, take a surfing lesson, take a day trip to Nimbin and explore the local markets.
  • How long do I need? 2-3 days.

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Rear View Of Woman Looking At Sydney Harbor Bridge Over River Against Sky

Sydney

This cultural capital is home to some of Australia’s most iconic sites such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Then, let’s not forget the multitude of Sydney beaches and the amazing food scene.

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Southern Highlands

A winning combination of national parks, wineries, quaint towns and cosy accommodation, the Southern Highlands has plenty to do to fill a weekend or two. More than a dozen towns and villages dot the region, including Bowral, Mittagong and Mossvale.

  • Best for: Small towns, wineries and national parks
  • How to get there: It’s a 1-hour drive from Wollongong or a 1.5-hour drive from Sydney to Bowral, the largest town in the Southern Highlands. You can also get there by train from Sydney’s Central Station.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Taste the local wines and dine on award-winning cuisine, hike in the region’s national parks to see waterfalls, check out the surrounding views with a tree-top walk, stroll around the region’s charming towns, check out the Bradman Museum if you’re a cricket fan.
  • How long do I need? 2-3 days.

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Blue Mountains RedBalloon

The Blue Mountains

Towering over you, the UNESCO World Heritage Listed area is are a hiker’s paradise with trails leading you between the small towns that dot the region. Though it’s most popular for a day trip from Sydney, consider staying at least a night in the area, perhaps in Katoomba so you have time to see more than just the Three Sisters rock formation.

  • Best for: Nature, active travellers.
  • How to get there: Day trips from Sydney to the Blue Mountains are very common but if you’re travelling on your own then driving will take 1.5 hours. Trains depart from Central railway station to Katoomba and vary in duration from 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Visit the iconic Three Sisters, ride the Scenic Skyway, hike to Wentworth Falls, take a sunset tour and roam through the villages.
  • How long do I need? 1-3 days.

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Picture not described

Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley is one of the country’s main wine regions, producing shiraz and semillon at its best. At 250km from Sydney, it has all the makings of a weekend trip. Wine is not the only topic in the Hunter though. Country roads make for scenic drives, foodies can rejoice with the amount of gourmet fare available and hot air balloons rise above the region regularly.

  • Best for: Wine, foodies, nature.
  • How to get there: Hunter Valley is a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney. Direct buses from Sydney are available. Alternatively, you can take the train to Maitland or Morisset and connect onto a bus or take the train to Singleton station and catch a 20-minute taxi. Lastly, tours are a popular way to reach Hunter Valley from Sydney.
  • Top 4 things to see and do: Take a wine tasting tour, see the sights from above in a hot air balloon, try gourmet food, do a beer crawl.
  • How long do I need? 1-3 days.

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Port Stephens

Home to more than 100 resident dolphins and offering 20 beaches, Port Stephens is made for coastal breaks. There are a handful of towns – including Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay – lining the port; that’s larger than Sydney Harbour.

  • Best for: Beach breaks, holiday towns, aqua life
  • How to get there: It’s a 1-hour drive from Newcastle or a 2.5-hour drive from Sydney to Nelson Bay. You can also fly to Newcastle Airport, which is 30 minutes from Nelson Bay.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Climb to the top of Tomaree Head for scenic views of the area, explore the Stockton Sand Dunes, take a dolphin watching cruise and meet the local residents, kayak through calm waters.
  • How long do I need? 2-3 days.

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SKIING THREDBO NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA

Snowy Mountains

Despite the name, this region – which includes Thredbo and Perisher – can be enjoyed year round. During winter, ski the slopes of the tallest mountain in mainland Australia, Mt Kosciuszko. During summer, put your best foot forward on one of the many hiking trails.

  • Best for: Adventure, outdoor lovers, skiing, relaxation.
  • How to get there: The Snowy Mountains are a 5.5-hour drive from Sydney. Flights are also available to Snowy Mountains Airport on REX airlines from Sydney. This takes an hour. Another option is to fly into Canberra and drive for 1.5-2.5 hours in a rental.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Spend a day or more on the slopes, go horseback riding through the mountains, unwind at a spa and see the Boggy Creek Show.
  • How long do I need? 1-4 days.

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Hyams Beach, Australia

Jervis Bay

Boasting what is said to be the whitest sand in the world, Jervis Bay has made a name for itself as the place for holidaymakers to venture to in the summer. Picture aqua clear waters, fine white sand, dolphins jumping in the distance and small yet charming villages. With some of the safest beaches in the country, ample opportunities for diving and top beaches, a trip to Jervis Bay is in order.

  • Best for: Beaches, water activities, nature.
  • How to get there: Sydney and Canberra are both a 3-hour drive away. It’s also possible to get to Jervis Bay from Sydney on a day tour.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Go whale/dolphin watching, do the White Sands Walk, try diving, relax on Hyams Beach and spot wildlife on a cruise.
  • How long do I need? 2 days.

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Coffs Harbour, Australia

Coffs Harbour

This touristic coastal town brings in visitors with its famous Big Banana, beautiful beaches, easy access to hinterland villages and the nature that surrounds the area. A marine park, whales, coral reefs and Mutton Island Nature Reserve are the highlights of Coffs Harbour, making it an excellent stopping point along the NSW coast.

  • Best for: Nature, wildlife, beaches.
  • How to get there: Coffs Harbour is a 6.5-hour drive from Sydney. Countrylink services trains between Sydney and Coffs Harbour which takes 8-9 hours.
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Visit Muttonbird Island, take a picture with the Big Banana, explore the beaches, visit Dorrigo National Park and walk the Forest Sky Pier.
  • How long do I need? 1-3 days.

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People Walking On Steps By Sea Against Clear Sky

Newcastle

This coastal city may only be a fraction of the size of Sydney but still packs a punch. It’s the second oldest city in Australia and although hard times may have passed through it, Newcastle is still a place to visit. Put it on your list for its laid-back vibe, excellent surf spots, great food scene and modern neighbourhoods filled with boutique shopping and cool bars.

  • Best for: Beaches, scenery, foodies.
  • How to get there: Newcastle is a 2-hour drive from Sydney. Bus companies regularly stop in Newcastle. Trains can be taken from Sydney to Hamilton or Broadmeadow station where you can connect to a shuttle bus. Newcastle also has an airport in Williamtown, 25 minutes out of the city.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Walk the Bathers Way, try skydiving, take a scenic cruise, check out the beaches and go whale watching.
  • How long do I need? 2-3 days.

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Lord Howe Island lagoon

Lord Howe Island

Only allowing 400 visitors at a time, Lord Howe Island is a tropical treasure in the Tasman Sea, some 600km off the coast of Port Macquarie. This island has a unique ecology as it was formed by volcanic activity and is now a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Crystal clear waters, hiking, subtropical forests and the natives of the island, masked boobies, are what draw visitors to this little slice of paradise.

  • Best for: Active travellers, nature.
  • How to get there: The only way onto the island is by flight. These depart from Sydney and Brisbane year-round with QantasLink and take approx. 2 hours.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Dive the coral reefs, hike up Mount Gower, see what’s underwater at Lord Howe Island Marine Park, kayak, surf or paddle board the waters and see the island from above on a scenic flight.
  • How long do I need? 5-7 days.

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Vines in autumn Leaves, Mudgee

Mudgee

This small town is known for its colonial buildings and the 30-some wineries that surround it. The town is both charming and elegant with buildings that tell stories from history. Looking for somewhere much quieter than the Hunter Valley? Mudgee is it.

  • Best for: Wine and foodies.
  • How to get there: Mudgee is a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney and a 5-hour drive from Canberra. By air, you can fly from Sydney on FlyPelican in under an hour. Trains depart from Sydney to Lithgow station where you can catch a bus to Mudgee.
  • Top 5 things to see and do: Winery hop, try the local beers, check out the farmers market for fine foods, explore Wollemi National Park and take a hot air balloon ride.
  • How long do I need? 2 days.

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Best beaches in NSW

Beachy keen? Then get set to bask on the sands of these iconic and loved beaches:

  • Bondi Beach, Sydney: Undeniably the most famous beach in NSW, Bondi has room to spare and a buzzing promenade.
  • Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay: As mentioned above, Hyams Beach is regarded as having the whitest sand in the world. Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe us.
  • Palm Beach, NSW: This blissful northern beaches favourite is a short drive from Sydney. Its claim to fame is being the setting for Home & Away’s Summer Bay. Outside of the chance to spot the stars, this beach has golden sands and is surrounded by water on three sides.
  • The Wreck, Byron Bay: Surfers don’t make a pilgrimage to Byron Bay for the fun of it. This is a haven for wave breakers, and The Wreck is one of the best known beaches to catch a big one.
  • Wategos Beach, Byron Bay: For the sunbaker within, Wategos Beach is the place to roll out your beach towel in Byron Bay. The beach is protected from large waves, making it a fan favourite for snorkelling, swimming and relaxing.
  • Ned’s Beach, Lord Howe Island: Being one of the most untouched islands Down Under, you can’t really go wrong wherever you go on Lord Howe Island. However, Ned’s Beach stands out for its diverse range of coral and its aquamarine coloured waters.
  • Diggers Beach, Coffs Harbour: Quiet and beautiful, Diggers is tops for families seeking gentle waters to splash about in.
  • Caves Beach, Newcastle: One for the explorers, Caves Beach consists of a network of sea caves ready and raring for your exploration.
  • Merewether Beach, Newcastle: But if you really did want to get onto those waves in Newcastle, Merewether Beach is the place to do it. It hosts international surfing competition Surfest annually so you can bet the surf is on point.

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