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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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