Stretching from snow-capped peaks to desert plains and sandy beaches, New South Wales (NSW) is the most diverse, yet still the most populous state in Australia.
The flashy and famous city of Sydney marks the state’s capital, a metropolis that is but an introduction to what NSW has to offer. Bordering the lesser-known Australian Capital Territory and Queensland, this New South Wales travel guide will take you from the well sought-after Byron Bay to the Great Dividing Range to showcase the must-see places of NSW in all their glory.
Whether you consider yourself a wine connoisseur or are partial to a glass now and again, a trip in NSW’s Hunter Valley will take you to 150 wineries that will have you tasting some of the finest Australia’s wines. While in Blue Mountains National Park, the highest of the Great Dividing Range, you’ll find walking trails that take you in search of waterfalls and in winter, in search of the best snow for your skiing trip.
To put things into perspective and to understand just how diverse New South Wales travel is, look no further than the world-class Bondi Beach, where sunshine, white sand and clear waters welcome you with open arms.
So, what comes first? Let’s break it down to see what travelling in NSW looks like;;
When to Go to New South Wales
NSW’s subtropical climate brings you hot summers and cool winters, but still welcomes the chance of year-round sunshine. New South Wales is not a state to miss out on the diverse climates that Australian states are known for with snow-capped mountains inland and the warmest weather sitting on the coast where stunning beaches await.
Summer in New South Wales is from December to February. While temperatures vary from city to city, you probably won’t feel the cold. Festivals are never too far away and the beach will be calling your name. This is the ideal time to go if you are looking for a summer holiday.
In New South Wales, winters are cold with temperatures getting as low as 7 degrees Celsius on the coast from June to August. It is possible to go skiing in the mountains further inland at this time. If chilly long walks and wine-tasting warmers between hitting the slopes appeal to you, then you’ll be surprised with what NSW has in store.
Best Places to Visit in New South Wales
Known for its beaches, food and wine, and electric environment to enjoy it all in, Byron Bay is somewhat of a myth among legends in Australia. Attracting people from across the world, Byron Bay sits on the doorstep of rainforest walks, coastal trails, and endless beaches, making it a dreamy destination for couples, friends and families alike, as you’ll see in this Byron Bay luxury tour.
Jutting out from the coastline is Australia’s most easterly point, Cape Byron, with a lighthouse that watches over the boats that bring in the catch for Byron Bay’s thriving food scene. In the resort town, you’ll find a host of local artists and designers that have boutique shops and market stalls appearing all around the town, fuelling its reputation for being the shopping capital of the coast.
The oldest of Australia’s wine regions, Hunter Valley is home to 150 wineries and vineyards that will become your personal NSW travel guide to some of Australia’s finest wines, taking you on the tasting tour of a lifetime.
Whether you are looking for a weekend away with the girls or a honeymoon with a difference, a Hunter Valley tour from Sydney will have you losing track of time as you hop between cellar doors, stop for a picnic in a vineyard and cheers to the sunset.
Sleek, stylish and filled with iconic landmarks, Sydney is without a doubt Australia’s most famous city. Bucket-list architectural masterpieces like the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are only matched by a drool-worthy food scene that packs a punch.
While many use the city as a base to explore with day tours from Sydney, unmissable tours in the city include sunset dinner cruises in Sydney, helicopter rides and also whale watching tours during mating season. That’s all without mentioning the city’s heavenly proximity to some of the best beaches in Australia!
To pack it all into one, there is everything from hop-on-hop-off tours in Sydney to multi-attraction passes that will take you through all of the bucket-list destinations. However, don’t spend all your energy on the day time, as the city is known for its plethora of restaurants and bars that warrant your energy and attention.
Protected by a peninsula, Jervis Bay is a small village and lined by a sheltered oceanic beach, which makes for one of the best holiday spots in New South Wales. In addition to its remarkable position just a few hours from Sydney, the white sand beach of Jervis Bay has some of the cleanest and safest water in the world to boot.
An adventure lover’s paradise, your beach days on Jervis Bay are matched by dolphin and whale sightings, wildlife adventures in search of wallabies, kangaroos and wombats, and amazing walking trails, all within a short distance of the village. To claim the title for Jervis Bay as the holiday destination of NSW, the village has a host of restaurants and cafes with outstanding fresh local produce, and even a growing music scene to fill your evenings with.
An iconic family destination, Coffs Harbour is another stretch of coastline that attests to NSW’s amazing collection of paradise locations.
Packed with fun activities, Coffs Harbour is a place for everyone, with cycle routes, great surf, hiking opportunities and waterfalls to search for. All this activity is balanced out by its idyllic beach location, great food and chance to dabble in the culture of the Gumbaynggirr people, who are connected with the beauty of the land that you have the honour to enjoy.
The Blue Mountains
Where golden canyons meet dense rainforests – it’s the only way to describe the Blue Mountains!
Ancient rock formations drop down to canyons where waterfalls are waiting to be found. The world’s steepest railway, Scenic World, can introduce you to the power of the Blue Mountains in all their glory offering views across the mountain ranges and towards Sydney.
The Blue Mountains are home to many retreats that offer a relaxing and intimate weekend away, such as this 3-day all-inclusive Blue Mountains indulgence trip that offers a mixture of wellness, nature and creativity.
The Blue Mountains are named after the blue haze that sits above the forest canopy. The haze is created by eucalypt trees that mix with sunlight and water droplets to create this amazing scientific phenomenon that adds a little mystery to this beautiful mountain range!
Getting around NSW
As the state capital, Sydney has an efficient and well-developed transport system. By taking the metro, you can scoot around the city comfortably as it offers direct access to all the key attractions in the city.
You can take the train from the centre of Sydney to the suburbs as well as nearby cities and towns within the state and beyond, with train lines reaching as far as Brisbane and Melbourne. If you are unable to drive, catching a train is efficient and convenient.
Other Places to Visit in NSW
To have the freedom to explore as much or as little of New South Wales, travelling as you wish, it’s best to take to the road yourself. You can hire a car from any major airport, city or town to go on a self-drive tour or you can purchase a second-hand car for a longer trip as it is often cheaper to do so.
Travelling to New South Wales in your own time, your trip can dip into other states, like this 7-Day cosmopolitan and coastal self-drive escape that has you following the coastline in search of your own adventure.
Australia’s must-see locations are so far spread out, so ticking off all the boxes on the bucket list means a lot of travelling. To make this possible, flying between locations is the only way.
With the main administrative hub of Australia in Sydney, regular and affordable flights are always at hand, such as those seen in this Uluru tour from Sydney where you cover two of Australia’s most famous attractions, Sydney Opera House and Uluru in just one week.
To take the stress out of navigating Australia’s roads, hiring a private driver is ideal for those who are less confident driving roads they don’t know, making your whole trip less stressful.
This 5-day Sydney and surrounds tour takes you to some of the best places to visit in NSW from the comfort of the back seat.
Where to Stay in New South Wales
This state capital is a big one! Choosing where to stay in Sydney can be a bit mind-boggling, however, you can narrow down your choices by deciding on a city or beach break and your budget for accommodation.
In Sydney, you’ll find beachside apartments, big-brand city hotels, dormitory hostels and low-key homestays all across the city including some of the hot property areas like Paddington, Surry Hills and Mosman. Do your research on areas that suit you, this well-connected city is easy to get around, so distance is rarely an issue.
Ranging from hostels to holiday parks to private cottages and villas, Byron Bay’s accommodation reflects its status as an internationally-renowned destination.
Suited to families, couples, backpackers and well, everyone! The majority of the accommodation is within close proximity to the beach, however, you will need to refer to the range of Byron Bay resorts to get that beachfront location that you have been dreaming of. As you can expect, the closer to the beach you get, the more expensive the accommodation is.
From lakeside homestays to 5-star resorts and cottages in the middle of a vineyard, the accommodation in Hunter Valley has one thing in common – they are a dreamy escape for the hustle.
The perfect getaway from the city, Hunter Valley accommodations have a cosy feel that is fitting with the endless rows of wine estates they are surrounded by. While there are only a few options available in Hunter Valley, staying here will never fail to immerse you in Australia’s world-class wine industry.
Set in the heart of the Great Dividing Range, you’ll never be stuck for choice in the Blue Mountains.
Camping grounds, motels and hostels; cottages, farm stays and guest houses; eco-lodges, resorts and retreats – the Blue Mountains have it all. Create the holiday of your dreams in this natural adventure land whether you are travelling solo, with family or friends or even on your honeymoon!
Places to Eat & Drink in NSW
Sydney is known for many things, and food is definitely one of them. From the vibrant markets to waterfront fine dining restaurants with the fresh NSW ingredients; Sydney has its finger on Australia’s foodie pulse. Exploring the city is a culinary tour in itself: there are so many restaurants to try, you’ll wish you had room for more.
To get started, try out the food halls like The Tramsheds, The Cannery and Barangaroo.
Everyone will find their favourite meal in Hunter Valley.
Those with a hankering for a hearty meal will find great comfort in the pubs, while diners looking for the best of local produce and beautiful presentation will enjoy the wineries, restaurants and the chance to take your time over High Tea.
Think tacos and Buddha bowls, and you pretty much have Byron Bay.
This sunshine and surfboards location is making a gradually impressive appearance on NSW’s food scene. With several restaurants popping up serving tasty and authentic Latin American food, Byron Bay is also starting to become a place that makes the farm-to-table concept affordable. Mix in some excellent coffee and a little foraging, and you’ll find Byron Bay’s food scene an endless treasure chest of hidden gems – come hungry!
The Cost of a Trip to New South Wales
To start planning your trip to the must-visit places in NSW, there are a few things to consider;
- Length of your trip
- Season or month you choose to travel in
- Accommodation class and type
- How many places you visit during your trip
- Number of activities or tours you take part in
- Expenditure on shopping and dining out
When you put everything together, you’ll wish you’d never started! However, planning a trip to New South Wales can be stress-free and exciting.
With Designer Journeys, all you need to do is send over the basics, sit back and wait! You’ll be connected with a Local Designer on the ground who will create a trip with all that you need along with some extras suggestions based on the information you have given. Taking care of everything from airport transfers to rental car pick, hotel reservations, and tours, our Local Designers make New South Wales travel a walk in the park.
Looking at Byron Bay and beyond, your trip plan will cover everything from a Sydney Opera House tour to NSW road maps included for your self-drive trip.
To see what is on offer, take a look at this 5-day iconic Sydney getaway tour starting at $1,790 per person. The trip includes;
- 4-star accommodation
- Six guided activities
- Airport transfers and transport by private car
- Four breakfasts
By adjusting small things like the hotel standard or choosing whether you want a private tour or join-in tour, this trip will soon be within your price range.
With Designer Journeys, you can browse our range of fully-customisable Australia tours and tailor any of them to your preferences with a Local Designer. If you can’t quite find what you are looking for, select ‘Design Your Own Trip’ and talk to a Local Designer to create an experience specifically for you!
Festivals in New South Wales
Byron Writers Festival
Part of NSW’s eclectic art scene, Byron Writers Festival is a place for creatives to gather and exchange. It is open for audiences to engage all of their senses to experience writing in all its glory.
Over the course of July and August, there is a range of events that cover a variety of topics, ranging from writer’s talks to performances. You’ll be sure to find something you will enjoy!
Orange Winter Fire Festival
Set in the Orange region, the Orange Winter Fire Festival is a celebration of winter and all the products that it brings to the state.
A chance to be immersed in the culture and lifestyle of those living in Orange, people from around the region come together for good food and wine, warm fires and local entertainment. This family-orientated event will warm your heart and your belly!
Sample Food Festival
Set in the north of NSW in Byron Bay’s hinterlands of Bangalow, the Sample Food Festival is one of the biggest culinary events in the state.
Farmers, chefs, bakers and creatives bring what they have to the table, while Aussies travel from far and wide to ‘sample’ what they have got in store. With several competitions, expositions and entertainment, this is definitely one to put in the calendar.
Splendour in the Grass
One of the hottest festivals on Australia’s east coast, Splendour in the Grass has been in many locations across New South Wales, Queensland and North Byron over the years. The music festival welcomes thousands of music lovers through its gates every year, set to impress with international acts that will light up everyone’s eyes.
Booked in for three days in winter, Splendour in the Grass is always a fun-filled weekend for friends!
Known as a festival of light, music and ideas, Vivid Sydney is an event not to miss.
With large-scale installations and projections, Sydney becomes an exhibition space of music and art with inspiring talks and forward-thinking ideas that attract millions to the city to see what Vivid Sydney is all about.
Hunter Valley Food and Wine Festival
Cuddle up in the winter months of May and June at the Hunter Valley Food and Wine Festival.
Showcasing Hunter Valley’s favourite culinary endeavours, the Food and Wine Festival is filled with events that will tantalise the palette. From masterclasses with the region’s best oenologists to food and wine trails unlike any other, spending a few days at this festival will be memorable for you and your taste buds.
Regional Tours in NSW
Port Stephens Tour from Sydney
The perfect weekend away, this 3-day Port Stephens tour is action-packed, ready for a memorable holiday. Spotting dolphins off the coast and spending some time catching rays on one of the beautiful beaches is just the beginning of what you can do in Port Stephens.
A Weekend in Wolgan
The gateway to the Blue Mountains, this trip to the Wolgan Valley is the retreat that we all need! Spend a day leisurely exploring all that Wolgan Valley and the Blue Mountains have to offer and finish it off with a gin tasting. It’s impossible not to come back from this trip without feeling a million dollars.
Byron Bay Luxury Tour
This exclusive Byron Bay luxury tour is all about treating you as you deserve to be. Spend your days relaxing by your beachfront retreat and embrace your Byron Bay luxury moment at Rae’s spa with an impressive range of services ready for you to relax and replenish.
Ready to Design Your New South Wales Travels?
Now you’ve seen just how diverse New South Wales is, it’s time to make your travel dreams a reality. From the snow-capped mountains of the Great Dividing Range to shores of Port Stephens and Byron Bay, NSW is the full package that you have been looking for!