Australia is a country full of amazing things to do and places to explore. However, the southeastern state of New South Wales is arguably the crown jewel of Australia’s natural and man-made wonders. A picturesque and populous state with a thriving culture, NSW offers tourists plenty of scenic views, iconic landmarks, and thrilling adventures.
NSW is renowned for its east coast beach towns and the beautiful port city of Sydney. Yet, there is a lot more to explore in NSW including snowy mountains, limestone caves, vast bushlands, numerous national parks, and six UNESCO World Heritage sites. There is no bad time to visit NSW, but the seasons of spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) are best.
If you are planning a trip to NSW, and are seeking advice and insider tips to give you an idea of what type of vacation would best suit your travel style, you have come to the right place. This travel guide will walk you through all you need to know about NSW and what makes it such an excellent tourist destination.
What Is The Most Popular Region To Visit In NSW?
While there are numerous places to explore in NSW, where you can spend weeks on end and never get bored, the most popular region visited by tourists is the South Coast region of NSW.
This coastal region stretches from the southern fringes of the sparkling city of Sydney to the fishing town of Eden, which is famous for being Australia’s most popular Humpback whale-watching location.
Just exploring the South Coast can in itself be a two-week vacation as it contains so many things to do and adventures to be had.
The South Coast
As most people who visit NSW, land in Sydney, it makes sense that this would be the most popular region for tourists. Sydney is the capital of NSW and one of the world’s most alluring and iconic cities famous for its incredible architecture, endless golden and white sand beaches, and world-famous landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It is also famed for its world-class restaurants, annual festivals, art galleries, museums, shopping districts, and tourist sites such as the Royal Botanic Gardens and Darling Harbour.
There is a reason why few travellers ever go beyond exploring the South Coast of NSW. Even though Eden is just a 6-7 hour drive away, along the way there is just so much to do and experience. From encounters with wild kangaroos at Murramarang National Park to spending nights at luxurious resorts in the lazy coastal towns of Jervis Bay, Narooma, and Merimbula, the South Coast has it all.
Along the way, you will also find rolling green hills, white sand beaches, inlets, rainforests, bushwalking trails, and charming small towns.
It is no wonder then that this region is NSW’s most popular tourist destination if not one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia.
When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit NSW?
Most of NSW experiences a humid subtropical climate that isn’t too hot or too cool. Around the South Coast region of NSW, sporadic rainfall occurs throughout the year with no one season being drier or wetter than the other. This is why there is “as such” no bad season or bad time to travel to NSW.
Summers in NSW last from December to February, with January being the hottest month. You can expect mildly hot but very humid days with balmy evenings and warm nights. Average daily temperatures are generally within the low 20℃ (~70℉) range. Light rainfall is also to be expected during the summer months.
Summer is the perfect time of the year to enjoy NSW’s abundant beaches and surf and swim in its pristine waters. However, it is also peak season for tourism in NSW, especially in places like the South Coast. This can raise travel costs and make for a less enjoyable experience
Winters, on the other hand, are cool and wet. The month of June tends to be the coldest and wettest month of the year. Average temperatures in the South Coast region are in the 12℃ (~55℉) range while in areas of the Blue Mountains and Snowy Mountains temperatures can drop well below freezing.
Coastal waters are also too cold for swimming and surfing. So, if possible, avoid travelling during peak winter unless you are wanting to visit places like the Snowy Mountains.
Spring & Autumn
The seasons of Autumn and Spring are the best time to visit NSW.
Spring starts in September and lasts until the end of November. Average temperatures are in the high teens and you generally get sunny days and blue skies.
The season of autumn, which lasts from March to May is also much the same with the weather being perfect for enjoying coastal walks, swimming, surfing, climbing, hiking, and much more.
Tourism is also steady during these months and tourist hotspots are less crowded and more accessible.
What Are Some Of The Best Things To Do In NSW?
NSW is the oldest and one of the most culturally diverse states in Australia. While the South Coast is more popular amongst tourists, as you venture away from the coastal regions you will find NSW to be a state full of surprises.
NSW’s geology and topography reflect the diverse landscapes of Australia. The great dividing range cuts through the centre of the state with the eastern side being a coastal tropical paradise and the western side offering the stark desert beauty of the great Australian outback.
Luckily, exploring the diversity of NSW’s offerings is easy thanks to its excellent road, air, and railroad network and affordable public transport. So, if you plan on travelling here, don’t miss out on a chance to experience the following hidden gems and deserving tourist hotspots.
Lord Howe Island
Picture a lush tropical island on the Pacific Ocean surrounded by blue waters and an untouched coral reef teeming with aquatic life. You are likely picturing the World Heritage listed, Lord Howe Island.
Home to the world’s most southerly coral reef, this paradise island off the north coast of NSW is unique in many ways, none more so than the fact that it only allows a maximum of 400 guests at a time. This makes it one of the most sought-after destinations for serenity seekers and nature lovers as you won’t even find any cell phone reception here.
Some of the highlights of Lord Howe Island are its white sand beaches, pristine forests, volcanic islets, Mount Gower, and the diversity of its flora and fauna.
With two-thirds of the island being a protected zone, its aquamarine waters are also teeming with marine life that can be experienced by diving and snorkelling.
Other popular activities on the island include swimming, fishing, surfing, boating, kayaking, and hiking the many walking trails.
The best way to visit the island is to catch a two-hour flight from either Sydney or Brisbane.
The Blue Mountains
Considered one of the most scenic locations in NSW, the Blue Mountains is a popular getaway destination for nature lovers. It gets its name due to the blue haze created by eucalyptus trees that are plentiful in the region.
Located just an hour’s drive from Sydney, this World Heritage Site offers visitors the chance to explore natural gorges, rock formations, waterfalls, and sacred aboriginal sites. Thrill seekers can also partake in a range of adventure activities including rock climbing, hiking, abseiling, and mountain biking.
Some of Blue Mountain’s top highlights include Wentworth Falls, The Three Sisters (a towering sandstone rock formation), the beautiful botanic gardens of Mount Tomar, and the Jenolan caves (the oldest open cave system in the world).
Those of you that enjoy a more relaxing and laid-back travel style will love visiting Hunter Valley. Located a couple of hour’s drive north of Sydney, Hunter Valley is Australia’s most popular grape-growing region and home to many gourmet restaurants and wineries.
Some of the highlights of Hunter Valley include the spectacular Hunter Valley Gardens, several art galleries, and Barrington Top National Park.
The city of New Castle, NSW’s second-largest city, is also not too far away and worth the visit for its many famous museums, art galleries, cafes, lively nightlife scene, and the must-do Bathers Way coastal walk.
The Snowy Mountains & Mount Kosciuszko
Winter is the best time of the year to visit “the Snowies” as the locals like to call it. Part of the great dividing range, the Snowy Mountains are home to the continent’s highest mountains, including Mount Kosciuszko – Australia’s highest peak.
Kosciuszko National Park is the Snowy Mountain’s top attraction and is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that offers year-round recreational activities. During winters the park is a skiers’ paradise and during summers the rugged forest, dramatic cliffs, and glacier lakes attract bushwalkers, anglers, climbers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers from all over the world.
Which Is Better? East NSW, Central NSW, Or West NSW?
The great dividing range splits NSW into three parts; the eastern division, the central division, and the western division. The eastern half is dominated by NSW’s coastal and mountainous regions and is significantly more populated and popular than other parts of NSW.
The central part is the agricultural hub of the state and is referred to as the Riverina. The western half comprises the Outbacks which is sparsely populated and consists of mainly arid desert landscapes.
The table below helps showcase some of the key differences in each division.
|Geography & Landscape:||Coastal beaches, tropical forests, and rugged mountains||Fertile agricultural plains||Stark desert landscape home to the great Australian Outbacks|
|Known For:||Pristine beaches, surfing, diverse cultures, iconic landmarks, islands, ski resorts, national parks and much more.||Farmlands, nature walks, country lifestyle festivals, food and wine, gold mining, and wildlife||Vast open spaces, rolling dunes, rich indigenous history and culture, and abundance of wildlife|
|Top Attractions:||Sydney, The Blue Mountains, Snowy Mountains, Jervis Bay, Kangaroo Valley, Byron Bay, Newcastle, Royal National Park||The quaint towns of Orange, Mudgee, Bathurst, Cowra, and Dubbo, Wellington Caves, Western Plains Zoo||Broken Hill, Barrier Ranges, Darling River, Mutawintji National Park, Mungo National Park|
|Population Density:||Over 30 persons per sq. km||5.68 persons per sq. km||1 person per sq. km|
|Climate:||Temperate – warm, humid, and subtropical in the north and oceanic in the south||Mildly warm with abundant rainfall||Hot and dry|
Choosing which region is best depends on your travel style and personal preferences. If you are into beaches and touristy destinations, nothing beats enjoying a holiday in NSW’s eastern division.
If you are a foodie who loves fresh agricultural produce and fine wine you are bound to fall in love with central NSW. And, if you love bushwalking, camping in remote wilderness regions, the wild west, and movies like Mad Max, west NSW might just be your calling.
Frequently Asked Questions?
- What Are Some Things Unique Only To NSW?
NSW is one of Australia’s most unique states as it consists of four completely different geographical areas – mountains, coast, flat fertile plains, and arid desert. It is also home to the world’s southernmost coral reef and many native species of flora and fauna.
- What Is The Best Food In NSW?
Being one of Australia’s most culturally diverse states, food choices are endless for those vacationing in NSW. However, some native delicacies that you have to try, include Barramundi (a quintessential NSW seafood dish), chicken parmigiana, rock oysters, and BBQ snags (Aussie-style sausages).
- Is Traveling To NSW Worth It?
Home to over 200 national parks, numerous golden sand beaches, tropical islands, snow-capped mountains, jaw-dropping natural beauty, delectable food and wine, a temperate climate, and the iconic city of Sydney, traveling to NSW is most definitely worth it.
NSW is an explorer’s dream destination and will never cease to amaze and entertain. Even though it is considered one of Australia’s top tourist destinations, it doesn’t ever feel crowded or overly touristy. You can still find plenty of hidden gems and unique national treasures ripe for exploration. Happy travels!
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