The diverse landscapes of New South Wales lend themselves to incredible coastal and aquatic experiences—beginning in Sydney, the state capital and entry point for most travelers. It makes quite a first impression. A cruise on famous Sydney Harbour, for instance, is a fantastic way to admire landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For spectacular views with an adrenaline rush, climb to the summit of the bridge, more than 400 feet above the sparkling water. Surfing at Bondi Beach is another favorite way to experience the outdoors right in cosmopolitan Sydney.
We could go on about Sydney, but that wouldn’t do justice to the state of New South Wales overall. It entices with a rich variety of experiences accessible within two hours, from wine country to a true island paradise. Here are four of our favorite reasons to get out of town.
From Sydney, you can get to know New South Wales at your own pace by driving one of the scenic coastal routes. In fact, it’s hard to pick just one. The Grand Pacific Coast drive takes you south through rainforests and past seaside villages. A highlight is Sea Cliff Bridge, which swerves out of the cliffs and over the ocean. Australia's Oyster Coast route extends for 186 miles along the state’s south coast, with plenty of opportunities to stop and sample premium oysters from artisan growers. The Legendary Pacific Coast drive to Byron Bay, meanwhile, veers north from Sydney. You’ll see amazing scenery along the way, from rolling green hinterland, dotted with macadamia farms and banana plantations, to rugged national parks and great surf beaches.
Lord Howe Island
It’s less than a two-hour flight from Sydney to Lord Howe Island, bordered by a reef-fringed lagoon in the Tasman Sea. Featuring pristine rolling surf and the world’s southernmost coral reef, the picturesque island—considered Australia’s lost paradise—is perfect for scuba divers and fishing enthusiasts alike. It’s a calm escape that will appeal to all types of travelers. Whether pedaling on a bike or traveling on foot, you will enjoy the island’s famous twin peaks, magnificent views, and natural forest. The island's premium boutique accommodation, Capella Lodge, offers stunning ocean and mountain views, first-name service, and an intimate stay that’s both sophisticated and relaxed.
Soak up the sun while touring the streams, waterfalls, forested valleys, and cliffs of the Blue Mountains along with many marked walking trails. Take a guided tour by cable car or board a scenic railway through the wilderness and sandstone tablelands. Explore ancient caverns and discover limestone crystal and rivers that run deep in the underground of the mountains. All these adventures are accessible within a two-hour drive west from Sydney. You’ll also find quaint small towns with boutiques for browsing, cafes for indulging, and galleries for admiring folk art. After a day out, the incredible Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley welcomes you with unmatched hospitality in a dramatic setting.
A two-hour drive north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley has a wine-growing history dating back to the early 1800s. It now counts more than 80 wineries, from world-renowned brands to family-run boutique operations. Most offer wine tastings as well as vineyard tours that cover everything from grape-growing methods to the wine-producing process and wine appreciation tips. The Hunter Valley is also known for its gourmet cuisine. Dine at award-winning restaurants where you’ll enjoy seasonably prepared dishes paired with vintage wines.