From surfing to shoreline drives, wine tasting to discovering the depths of the Outback, these essential experiences in New South Wales will connect you with the spirit of Australia
Mungo National Park (Maxime Coquard / Destination NSW)
Experiencing the Outback is an absolute must when visiting New South Wales, and there are few better ways to do so than by road tripping around it and sleeping under the stars.
One of the best routes through the Outback is the Darling River Run, which follows the Darling River for 730km from Walgett to Wentworth through isolated Outback villages and across dusty landscapes. The drive usually takes around four days to complete.
The route passes near five national parks. Go birdwatching for wedge-tailed eagles and emus in Kinchega, and discover Mungo National Park, an other-worldly landscape of sand dunes where the oldest human skeleton in Australia was uncovered: the 40,000-year-old Mungo Man. The Back O' Bourke Exhibition Centre, also on the Darling River Run, tells you more about Outback life and human history in the area.
There are campgrounds all along the route where you can pitch up and rest for the night. For an unforgettable stay, spend the night at Trilby Station, a family-run sheep station that dates back to the late 19th century. You can stay in your own tent or in a comfortable camping lodge here, and spend time walking, fishing, canoeing, birdwatching or simply absorbing nature in this unique Aussie environment.
Off to catch the morning waves at Bondi (Daniel Boud / Destination NSW)
New South Wales’ capital is the classic picture of an Aussie city: laidback and cosmopolitan, with a buzzing energy running through its veins. The city has a deep connection with the ocean, much like large parts of the rest of the country, so it’s a great place for you to follow suit.
Surfing is a major part of Aussie life. Even though you’re in a city, it’s possible to catch some waves not far from Sydney’s centre. Popular places for surf lessons are Manly, Bondi and Maroubra beaches, where you can learn year-round with expert instructors.
The Australian Open of Surfing is held on Manly Beach each February so you’ll also find seasoned surfers here getting some practice in. For something a little gentler, try Cronulla Beach, 50 minutes south by train from the centre of Sydney, to go Stand-up Paddleboarding or bodyboarding.
When you’re not riding the waves, spend time getting to know Sydney’s seafood scene. You can come straight out of the water and into a restaurant at Bondi Beach to sample freshly-prepared dishes. Try the four-course seafood menu at Bondi Icebergs Club Bistro. Also, don’t miss the Sydney Fish Market to understand more about what the local fishermen catch from the nearby oceans.
Kanangra Walls, Blue Mountains (Chris Jones / Destination NSW)
Blue Mountains National Park is one of the most beautiful parts of New South Wales. As it’s less than two hours from Sydney, it’s a must-visit if you’re in the region. Here, you’ll find some of NSW’s most captivating scenery, including giant canyons, shimmering waterfalls, and mysterious caves. One of the most interesting sides to the Blue Mountains though is the link with Aboriginal culture.
Get to know more about this community of Australian people on an Aboriginal Blue Mountains Walkabout Tour. On this spiritual experience, an Aboriginal guide will take you on a journey through the forest, telling you Dreamtime stories as you follow a songline and stop by ceremonial sites, pieces of artwork and sandstone caves.
The walkabout takes six hours in total, with two hours of walking and the rest of the time filled with visiting key sites, sampling bush food and relaxing by a rock pool and waterfall. This essential Aussie experience connects you with the way Aboriginal people see this landscape, just as they have for centuries.
Clarkes Beach, Byron Bay (Kate Nutt / Destination NSW)
A visit to New South Wales would be incomplete without experiencing its incredible coastal scenery. One of the best ways to see as much of it as possible is by hitting the road and taking on the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive.
Starting in Sydney and ending right up at the end of the state past Byron Bay, the journey takes around a week to complete if taken at a leisurely pace.
Along the way, you’ll pass through the Hunter Valley, the state’s primary wine region where you can sample varieties from over 100 wineries. Stop at Port Macquarie to go whale-watching and dolphin-spotting. Humpbacks and southern rights are among the regulars here.
The full Aussie experience calls for burying your toes in the sand at least once a day. On the Pacific Coast Drive, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. Don’t miss the shores at Coffs Harbour, Yamba and, of course, Byron Bay. If you’re a water baby, make time for a surf lesson or two, and join the locals in the world-class waves.
Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, Pokolbin (Destination NSW)
Hunter Valley is just a two hour drive north of Sydney, a lush paradise of rolling hills and immaculately straight vines. New South Wales’ wine country is one of the oldest in Australia and world-famous for the wide range of varieties the fertile soil produces.
There are many different options for tours here, ranging from day trips from Sydney up to stylish breaks in luxury accommodation for that perfect, blissful getaway.
There are hundreds of cellar doors to choose from, but one of the must-visits is Audrey Wilkinson. The vines here were originally planted in 1866, making them among the oldest in Australia, and the winery is set atop the dramatic Brokenback Mountain Range.
Tulloch Winery is also one of the oldest and most renowned producers in the Hunter Valley, having been running since 1895. Join a wine and chocolate tasting here, or a Wine Flights tasting where you can sample six top-tier wines along with a cheese and charcuterie board.
Main image: Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach (DestinationNSW.com)