Inspire

The Ultimate Summer Guide To Exploring New South Wales, For Every Kind Of Traveller

After a long year, you’re probably planning a bunch of fun adventures for the summer. But now that travel restrictions are easing and places are opening up, we’re once again given a lot of epic choices.

When it comes to planning a domestic trip in Australia, New South Wales has to be your best bet, just based on the sheer diversity of things you can do here. There are the foodie regions, the show-stopping coastal walks, and endless national parks waiting to be explored.

Let us help you narrow it down a little. Here are some ideas of things to add to your ultimate NSW bucket list, based on what you actually like doing on holiday.

Eating

Truly, one of the main reasons to travel anywhere is to try new food. And after a year where hospitality and tourism were bbadly affected by bushfires and COVID, now is the best time to get out and support rural cafes, restaurants, bars and food businesses.

#1 Southern Highlands

If you’re in Sydney, this is a no-brainer. Find a cozy Airbnb in a cute town like Berry, then spend a couple of days treating your stomach. There’s really no shortage of places to check out, but here are some suggestions: Flour Water Salt for picnic goodies, Gumnut Patisserie for the best pies you’ve ever tasted, Centennial Vineyards for wine tasting with a view, or The Garden Berry for brunch. And when in doubt, just go for fish ‘n’ chips on the beach in Kiama or Gerroa.

#2 Byron Bay area

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Harvest (@harvestnewrybar)

Now this place is a foodie’s dream. You’ve got the hip Byron cafes like Folk and Bayleaf, famous lunch spots like The Farm and Karkalla, and more bougie brunch places than you can throw a rock at. Newrybar is a cute town with a great weekend market – while you’re there, stop in at Harvest for cocktails on the verandah.

#3 Orange

Orange has been trying to convince us for a while that it’s pretty cool, and we have to admit they’re kinda right. It has great cafes and bars, and of course it’s surrounded by wine country – always a win! Ferment bar acts as a cellar door for the wineries of the region, which is a good way to “tour” them all without needing a designated driver. Mudgee Brewing Company has great beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips if you need to line your stomach, and there are heaps of great brunch places for the morning after – like the bacon rolls at Byng Street Cafe are legit.

Hiking

If you’re sick of doing Bondi to Bronte or the Spit to Manly every weekend and are ready to get out of the city, here are some ideas for the best hiking locations in NSW. (Let’s assume you already know about the Blue Mountains, so we can skip that one.) 

#1 Coffs Coast

Coffs Harbour is a cool little city on its own, but the area surrounding it is also very much worth checking out. There’s Dorrigo National Park up in the mountains, where you can walk through rainforest to waterfalls and deep sparkling pools. Moonee Beach Nature Reserve has great rocky coastal walks with sweeping views of the ocean – keep an eye out for dolphins and whales. If you want to really dive into hiking, the Green Gully Track is a four-day hut-to-hut walk following a cute little forest creek.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Harleigh Reimer (@harleighreimer)

#2 Byron Hinterland

Everyone goes to Byron for the beaches and the vibes, but if you head up into the hinterland just above the city, it’s like a whole other world. The environment is lush and green, with heaps of waterfalls to go chasin’. The trail to Killen Falls is a short-but-sweet jaunt through the forest, or you could tackle the 13km Minyon Falls loop. If you want to stay on the coast but escape the crowds, the Coastal Recreational Path from Ballina to Lennox Head is way more chill than Byron’s headland walk.

#3 Lord Howe Island

This isn’t an easy or cheap one to get to, but Lord Howe Island is one of those bucket-list places that you’ve got to get to someday. The eight-hour hike to the top of Mount Gower is widely considered one of the best in Australia – it’s long and hard but oh boy are the views from the top worth it. The island, 600km out to sea from Port Macquarie, is best accessed by plane.

Camping

If you’re keen on camping, we’ve got great news for you. NSW has plenty of excellent places to pitch a tent, from beachfront grounds that are visited by kangaroos, to secluded mountain spots near epic hikes.

#1 Pebbly Beach

This is probably the most Instagrammed campground in the state, thanks to the many kangaroos who hang out here and are very chill around humans. Each tent spot has its own fire pit, and it’s right on the beach inside Murramarang National Park. Be sure to wake up for sunrise each morning as they’re usually spectacular.

#2 Trial Bay Gaol

This campsite is also home to a herd of kangaroos who love to hop along the beach at sunset, making for a pretty epic view. Because the camp area is perched on a bit of land that curves around into the bay, it means you can watch the sun set over the water right from your tent – a pretty rare occurrence on the east coast.

#3 Dingo Tops

If you’re less of a beach bum, head north to Tapin Tops National Park. The Dingo Tops campground is nestled in the rainforest, the perfect place for a quiet getaway. The park has heaps of great hikes and swimming holes to keep you busy during the day. At night, expect wildlife like wallabies and pademelons to roam through the campsite.

Beaches

We’re pretty spoiled here in NSW. Hundreds of kilometres of uninterrupted coastline, with everything from pristine white beaches to rocky bays and giant surf breaks. Throw a dart at a map of the state and you’ll likely hit an excellent beach holiday spot.

#1 Mimosa Rocks National Park

Down on the south coast near Bega is this wonderful coastal park that shares its name with everyone’s favourite bottomless brunch drink. If you’re after a low-key trip, this is certainly the place for you. It’s got wonderful beaches to chill on, as well as a rainforest, lagoon and lookouts to explore. Pitch a tent at the beachfront campground, and enjoy the good vibes.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tyler Brown (@byler.trown)

#2 Sawtell

If you’re more keen on a beach holiday that involves a roof and barista coffee, there are plenty of coastal towns that fit the bill. Sawtell, on the north coast, is a sleepy town that still has a couple of bars and restaurants. In the mornings a coffee van sets up at the Bonville Head Lookout, the best place to watch the sunrise and morning surfers. You’re right next to Bongil Bongil National Park if you want to go exploring, or you can just plop yourself on the town’s long beach and chill the hell out.

#3 Merimbula

This town is pretty far south from Sydney, so it often gets forgotten, but we promise it’s worth the drive. It’s famous for the sapphire blue water, and is one of those places that just awes you with its natural beauty. The snorkelling at Bar Beach is top-notch, while the surf is consistently good over at Short Point. There are some great lookouts for sunset picnics, and you’ll leave feeling relaxed and recharged.

(Lead Image: Destination NSW / Jordan Robins)