Secret islands, remote beaches, precious wildlife, and an iconic city that plays host to world famous events – New South Wales is the veritable smorgasbord of the most diverse and unique experiences for the ultimate bucket list adventure.
While we wait for New South Wales to welcome back UK travellers, why not take this time to plan ahead for an awe-inspiring trip of a lifetime.
We’ve rounded up 21 reasons to visit New South Wales in 2021 to kick start your travel inspiration:
ONCE IN A LIFETIME…
With only 400 visitors allowed on the island at any given time, the World-Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island is one of New South Wales’ most precious adventure spots and one of the world’s cleanest locations. A paradise of untouched forests, ancient volcanic mountains, pristine beaches and an abundance of rare flora and fauna, including 200 species of birds, the island is popular with keen hikers and nature lovers. The unspoilt island is also home to world’s southernmost coral reef, best for a dive or snorkel. Winter months on the island mean cooler climbs, a quieter island, and improved chances of clear views from the summit of the impressive Mount Gower.
Home to some of the world’s infamous and incredible wildlife, it is unthinkable to miss out on visiting the big five of New South Wales – Koalas, Kangaroos, Wombats, Wallabies and Platypus. An array of idyllic locations help checking off taking selfies with the wildlife from your bucket list – catch kangaroos at Pebbly Beach, visit Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, spot wombats in the Kangaroo Valley, see the wallabies in Australian Botanic Gardens and watch platypus at the Blue Lake.
An hour of travel South from Sydney’s city centre will bring travellers to North Wollongong. You can drop from up to 15,000 feet and freefall at over 200 km/hr for an insane minute, then enjoy your float back to earth and soak up some unique views of the Southern beaches. Having an experience of a lifetime, visitors can also take an option to skydive at Newcastle for an adrenaline rush and fly over Lake Macquarie.
Ski-lovers can still make it down in the Snowy Mountains with its longest ski run Thredbo’s Crackenback Supertrail in the typical summer season. The 2,228m Mount Kosciuszko in the main range is the country’s highest mountains, offers alpine resorts for cater skiing or snowboarding. Apart from winter sports, you can also hike or cycle along tree-lined trails, kayak, horse ride or go trout fishing in the valleys.
Sitting on the Southern Hemisphere, Sydney is among the major cities to welcome the new year. Visitors can join in the renowned New Year’s Eve party with astonishing display of fireworks. A fireworks display is also on show every Saturday around Cockle Bay, preceded by the Harbour of Light Parade – decorated ships illuminating the harbour.
HISTORY BUFFS AND CULTURE LOVERS…
New South Wales has more to learn about the many different indigenous nations and cultures. Aboriginal festivals are here for discover such as Boomerang Festival with contemporary indigenous artists in Byron Bay, or June’s NAIDOC Week to celebrate the unique cultures and history of the people. Aboriginal rock art is scattered across national parks in New South Wales, visit the dramatic formations and 36,000 years old relics in Mungo National Park; see Aboriginal rock art and hear Dreamtime stories about the culture and mythology of Mutawintji Historic Site near Broken Hill; or Red Hands Cave in Blue Mountains National Park. To gain more understanding, visitors can choose to take an aboriginal-guided tour to discover a different perspective on the land, such as smoking ceremonies with aboriginal guides on Unkya Local Aboriginal Land Council Cultural Eco Tours or Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Awareness at Narooma.
New South Wales is filled with festivals year-round, including: Sydney’s Mardi Gras in springtime; Parkes Elvis Festival every summer; Broken Heel Festival celebrating drag queens and the LGBTQI+ community; and the Deni Ute Muster bush party. Art lovers can explore the Art Gallery of New South Wales, home to more than 2,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks; or discover the Murray Art Museum Albury on the banks of the mighty Murray River in Albury; get outdoors and watch the sunset with the collection of 12 sandstone sculptures at The Living Desert Sculptures in Broken Hill.
A drive or regional flights will take visitors to Broken Hill and Cobar, home to sun-baked sand dunes, national parks, and wetlands in over 120,000 hectares of remote lunar landscape. The red-stained sand region in the west-end of the state holds spectacular landmarks like the Mundi Mundi plains and Living Desert sculptures. The Mutawintji National Park hosts Aboriginal rock art up to 30,000 years old, while the Mungo National Park is filled with sand dunes and dried up lakes with archaeological treasures to explore as it holds the oldest human skeleton discovered in Australia. You can also choose to rent a houseboat holiday in Wentworth, embark on a caravan fishing trip in Brewarrina or dip in the warm artesian waters of the bore baths in the opal mining town Lightning Ridge.
Venture beyond the cliché itineraries for scenic drives across the state. Classic long-distance routes include the 140-kilometre Grand Pacific Drive, the state’s northern coastline New England Highway and Greater Blue Mountains Drive – 1200km of carved mountains and valleys, ancient forests, where travellers can soak in coastal sceneries, mountains, and plenty of cultural pit stops en-route.
TAKE TO THE SEAS…
Hire a sailing yacht, either bareboat charter or with a skipper to enjoy a luxurious cruise along the spectacular Sydney Harbour and its icons including the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Guests can stop in at some of the secluded beautiful beaches, accessible only by boat. For those more inclined to a romantic boat trip, they can meander through the harbour waters surrounded by a vibrant sunset with selections of lunch, high tea, evening cocktails, dinner or cabaret cruises tailored for any requirements.
No matter if it is a childhood dream of your own or having little ones in tow, visitors can now swim with wild dolphins Australia’s dolphin capital Port Stephens. Local operators provide wetsuits, masks, and snorkels where you can swim alongside the playful dolphins in their natural habitat and fulfil your fascinations.
New South Wales has about 100 oceanside pools along the coast from Yamba in the north to Bermagui in the south, namely the Merewether Baths and Bogey Hole in Newcastle, Bermagui Blue Hole and Yamba Rock Pool. The rocky swimming spots are impeccable for cooling-off in shallow waters, laying out for a sunbake, or to simply taking a dip in the salty fresh waves.
The pristine waters of New South Wales are filled with incredible marine life and myriad corals, as well as kelp forests, sea caves, drop offs and shipwrecks. Dip within the crystal-clear waters of Montague Island while visiting the seal and penguin colony, or Julian Rocks near Bryon Bay (said to rival the Great Barrier Reef) to spot turtles or manta rays. The calm waters of Shelly Beach also provide the best spot to snorkel for encountering giant cuttlefish or baby dusky whaler sharks.
The New South Wales’ coastline are lucky to sport Humpback Highway, Humpback and southern right whales or even orcas as they migrate to north to breed from May to November every year after a summer spent feeding in Antarctic waters. Locations include Jervis Bay, Eden, Port Stephens and Cape Byron’ clifftop lookouts and beaches to see the whales breaching and lobtailing, or head out on a whale watching cruise to get closer to these giants in the deeper waters.
Escape to New South Wales’ most scenic beaches to soak up some rays and get a taste of the Australian life. The coastal destinations have plenty to offer – rejuvenating yoga stretches, soft sand jogs, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Renowned Sydney beaches like Bondi and Tamarama are surfers’ heaven of the Pacific Ocean, the warm waters pick up epics swells that suits from beginners to professionals. The sand also stretches to North’s Byron’s Bay, packed with festivals, concerts, or nightlife. While Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay has some of the whitest sands in the world, the whole of the southern coast is filled with turquoise waters for some splashes.
There is no better place than the National Parks to get in touch with Australia’s magnificent and rich wilderness, where travellers can camp, swim and hike in the nature under the towering gum and eucalyptus trees. Various national parks are scattered throughout the state, hiding secluded beaches, cliff-jumping spots, and rugged rock-faces. The Blue Mountains are easily reached by train from Sydney – with dozens of lookouts, the famous Three Sisters rock formation, ever-changing waterfalls, and Australia’s largest network of walking tracks – exploring the famous eucalyptus forests is a must-do.
FOR THE FOODIES…
Seek out top drops in wine regions like the Hunter Valley and Mudgee. The 150 wineries in Hunter Valley offer vineyard tours and wine tastings fir their famously Shiraz or Semillion. Visitors can also take cooking classes by some of the finest restaurants gourmet eateries, farmers markets, delis, and even craft beer breweries, and you can round out your time here with a bewildering range of experiences like horse riding and motorbike tours. After a 3.5-hour trip northwest from Sydney, you can reach the other wine country Mudgee is filled with food markets best for endless dining and drinking experiences, cellar doors tours. Families can also join in cherry picking at the Roth Family Orchard, sign up for a hot air balloon experience or visit the UNESCO World-Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park.
As the third largest fish market in the world – and largest in the Southern Hemisphere – Sydney Fish Market has numerous food stalls, restaurants and cafés offering everything from latest fresh catches to snacks and meals including sushi doughnuts; traditional Cantonese ‘yum-cha’; and fish and chips. Or take a seat at the dining area to enjoy the salty sea breeze of the Blackwattle Bay. If you are up for improving your culinary skills, why not try your hand at learning to prepare some dishes yourself at Sydney Seafood School?
Dine under the sails of Sydney Opera House at Bennelong Restaurant and order chef Peter Gilmore’s stunning dessert, inspired by the iconic building itself. Enjoy freshly shucked Sydney Rock oysters straight from the farm gate on the NSW South Coast.
2021 EVENTS AND NEW OPENINGS
Immerse in Vivid Sydney 2021
The 23-day festival lies across May and June is a hub of creativity, innovation and technology that offers a range of public exhibitions, installations and live music around Sydney Opera House, The Rocks, Luna Park, Darling Harbour and other prime locations in the city. The light installations and projections on famous landmarks run through the night and bring together artists and music makers to share their creativity through performances, workshops and conferences.
Be amongst the first to experience new hotels in new prime locations
Opening in December 2020, Crown Towers Sydney – soaring to new heights as tallest hotel in the city – is all inclusive with guest rooms to premium villas with luxurious interiors that look over the newest waterfront precinct Barangaroo. The all-embracing infinity pool and terrace mounts the shoreline redefining bespoke luxury. If you are looking for a beachside vacation, Iconic Hotels has opened its first coastal Adobe Hotel at Malua Bay in March 2020. Guests can enjoy the exceptional seaside views, perfect for a surfing holiday and pets are allowed too. Further north, QT will open the first premium hotel in late 2021 for the region. Within walking distance of Newcastle’s Harbour and surf beaches, the 106 guestroom hotel also features a boutique rooftop bar and a signature dining concept.