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New South Wales and Sydney

From a geographic standpoint, New South Wales is a treasure map studded with natural opulence, the spoils up for grabs each day by those lucky enough to visit or reside in the state. For lush rainforests, postcard-perfect beaches, stunning harbor towns, thriving wildlife reserves, flourishing wine country, and a touch of the Outback, travel to New South Wales to enjoy the quintessential Australian experience in the country’s most populous region.

The crown jewel of New South Wales is Sydney, and at the heart of it is Sydney Harbour, a heady vision of architectural splendor blooming from the sea. The Circular Quay, The Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge set the tone for an unrivaled civic aesthetic rounded out by the peaceful splendor of the Royal Botanical Gardens, the cobblestoned pathways of Centennial and Hyde Park, the Grecian rock pools of the Bondi Iceberg Baths and the colorful Victorian-terraced shops lining the boulevards of the upscale Paddington district. Visitors to Sydney will find it easy to flit away the hours wandering through an abundance of posh boutiques, cafes, and bars. However, those who’ve pegged Sydney as all shimmer and no substance should think again.

Home to a population of 5 million, Sydney is a bustling metropolis with an edge of multiculturalism. This is reflected in everything from the food and the nightlife, to the city’s obvious appreciation for its Aborigine roots, as showcased in its local galleries and museums. The entire city seems perpetually in motion—the beach boardwalks spill over with rollerblades and bikini babes, the cafes swell with friends meeting to enjoy the day¬¬, and the Harbour waters are endlessly twinkling with rowers, sailboats, and yachts.  

From the upscale Park Hyatt Sydney, Westin Sydney, Sheraton on the Park, Shangri-La Hotel Sydney, Quay West Suites Sydney to the more affordable Mercure Sydney, the Ibis Sydney Darling Harbour, or the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour, there are plenty of options for accommodations when vacationing in Australia’s oldest city. 

Outside of Sydney, the eastern most part of New South Wales is a spectacular coastline stretching the length of the state. From Merimbula to Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay, the coastline is dotted with the scenic beaches, interspersed with gorgeous rivers and small country towns. Once a 1970’s hippie community, Bryon Bay has developed into an area of surf culture, alternative lifestyles and luxury indulgence. Palatial estates have been built into the hills surrounding the town, turning the area into one of the most popular retreats in the state.

New South Wales is also home to Hunter Valley, the oldest wine region in Australia. Best known for its Semillon and Shiraz varieties, vines were initially planted here as early as the 1820s. Today there are over 140 wineries to explore and several award-winning eateries with a focus on local produce. For glorious, panoramic views of the countryside, Visitors to Hunter Valley should consider staying the night at the upscale Sebel Kirkton Park Hunter Valley Hotel.

Most of New South Wales’ population resides along the coast, an area popular with tourists due to the abundance of activities including water sports, hiking, and camping. Behind the coastline, the Great Dividing Range lines the state’s entire eastern border and includes the Snowy Mountains, an oft-visited ski destination. The north end of the state is more tropical, with banana plantations and famous surfing beaches, while to the south there is an ambience reminiscent of the English countryside, with cooler weather, less crowded beaches, and scenic bays.

From rainforests, waterfalls, and rugged bush to marine wonderlands, outback deserts, and World Heritage areas, New South Wales is home to more than 780 national parks and reserves. National Parks include Royal National Park, the first national park in all of Australia; Kosciuszko National Park, home to mainland Australia’s highest peak; Wollemi National Park, containing the Wollemi wilderness area and Wollemi pines; Mutawintji National Park, with its well-preserved specimens of Aborigine Rock Art and engravings; and Mungo National Park, a dry lake region where significant archaeological remains have been found.

About an hour and a half hour drive from Sydney is the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains, containing nearly one million hectares of sandstone plateaus, dramatic cliffs, and deep valleys and canyons. Here visitors can catch a glimpse of the iconic Three Sisters rock formations, while staying the night in the charming artist town of Katoomba. Lord Howe Island, another World Heritage listed site, is only a thirty minute flight from Sydney in the Tasman Sea. With only 400 visitors allowed into the area at any given time, the Island is an undiminished ecosystem of rare wildlife.

Desert to the west of the Dividing Range covers at least half the state. This area is rugged and extremely dry. Apart from cattle roaming, huge stations, and wild animals, there are only a few small towns spread out over this entire expanse of land. Broken Hills, once a mining town, has transformed itself into a popular destination for weekend visitors. An easy train ride from Sydney, it has become known for its excellent galleries and arts stores as well as desert tours exploring the surrounding historic mining areas.

With its vast array of terrain and iconic “must-visit” sites, the itinerary possibilities in Sydney and its surrounding areas are nearly endless. From outdoor adventures to world-class food, wine and shopping, travel to New South Wales for the vacation of a lifetime.

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