Liam Barret is a guest contributor – and an American living in Sydney.
From the Harbour Bridge to the Opera House, New South Wales, Australia, is loved for its urban appeal. In particular, visitors are drawn to Sydney’s sprawling metropolis and it’s exuberant attractions. But the state is brimming with natural features that rival even the best of the human-made. From hippie beaches to snowcapped mountains, this is a guide to some New South Wales’ best.
Just an hour and a half’s drive from Sydney CBD is one of Australia’s most ancient and memorable sites. The Blue Mountains spread over more than 11km and are packed with adventures. If you love a good walk, head to the mountains during October so you can attend the Festival of Walking. This event promotes the benefits of exercise while celebrating the cultural history of the mountains. But if the majestic heights are a turn off, you can still enjoy the Jenolan Caves. These are estimated to date back at least 340 million years, and are one of the largest and most complex cave systems in the world.
There are few better ways to relax than with a glass of wine, which makes the Hunter Valley a perfect place to escape. Rolling hills and neat vineyards have made the Hunter Valley a favorite retreat for Sydney-siders and overseas visitors. Horse riding, hot air ballooning and more mean you’ll never be lacking in ways to unwind and enjoy the serenity of the valley. Families particularly enjoy the Hunter Valley Gardens, which offer 10 themed gardens for exploration. 8km of walking paths over 24 hectares ensures you can enjoy the Gardens’ peace at your own pace.
Lord Howe Island
Measuring less than 11km long and barely 3km across, Lord Howe Island is one of New South Wales’ best kept secrets. This island is a haven for all those that love seeing wildlife in its natural state. There are a number of bird watching tours to help view the 130 species of birds that inhabit the island, with snorkeling and scuba diving available to see the flourishing marine life. If you love a challenge, the famed Mt. Gower climb is one of the best day walks in Australia and stands at 875m tall. The island is also easy to get to, with flights from Port Macquarie operating from February to June, and September to December.
Mt Kosciuszko National Park
Australia may be loved for its sunshine and sand, but its snowy areas are just as much of a marvel. Mt. Kosciuszko is renowned for being Australia’s tallest mountain and is one of the rare places where you can experience Australian snow. A 15 minute chairlift will take you to the highest access point of the mountain, followed by a leisurely 6km walk to the summit. Alternatively, you can enjoy activities such as skiing and snowboarding that are available across the region.
Byron Bay has become a top destination for all holidaymakers in New South Wales. The area is lined with a number of famous beaches, with Wategos Beach and Main Beach being two of the best known. The Bay is home to an infectious hippie lifestyle that makes it a rejuvenating retreat from city life. Byron Bay is also a great place to go whale watching, with kayaking available for a closer look at the whales. If you need a break from the beach, take a stroll along the Cape Byron walking track. This track is an easy 3.7km loop that offers stunning ocean views and fresh air.