Australia’s most populous state is also the country’s most diverse, from sparkling Sydney and Bohemian Byron Bay to scenic snowfields and rugged outback towns. Still not convinced? Here are 11 irresistible reasons to visit NSW.
One word: Sydney
The NSW capital is Australia’s biggest drawcard, attracting millions of visitors every year to gawk at its glittering harbour and waterfront landmarks like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. With almost six million inhabitants, Sydney is a truly global city, boasting museums, beaches, galleries, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and attractions that befit its mighty reputation.
Sydney Harbour | © Jon Westra / Flickr
Three words: everything outside Sydney
Don’t limit your NSW visit to the Harbour City, with a long list of destinations to see in the rest of the state. Hippie haven Byron Bay, up-and-coming Newcastle, the genteel Southern Highlands, the pristine Blue Mountains, serene seaside regions South Coast and Central Coast, wine regions like the Hunter Valley and Orange, historic outback towns like Broken Hill and Tamworth – reckon you can squeeze all that into an itinerary?
Three Sisters, Blue Mountains | © Kim / Flickr
The history is long
NSW was the first part of Australia to be colonised by the British in the late 18th century, and there are captivating convict sites to be seen in cities like Sydney and Newcastle. The Indigenous history, of course, stretches back much further — Aboriginal groups have inhabited the area for more than 60,000 years, which is spectacularly on display at places like Lake Mungo and the Worimi Conservation Lands.
Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour | © Peter L Johnson / Wikimedia Commons
The beaches are beautiful
Sydney’s beaches — Bondi, Manly, Coogee, Cronulla, Bronte, Watsons Bay, Balmoral, the list goes on — are renowned around the world, but the spectacular strips of sand don’t end there. From the whale-watching hub of Eden near the Victorian border all the way north to the Tweed on Queensland’s doorstep, the NSW coast is blessed with beautiful beaches the whole way.
Humpback breaches in Twofold Bay, Eden | © Thomas Williams / Flickr
The weather is amazing
NSW enjoys Goldilocks weather: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Sydney is pretty much bang on perfect with average highs of 26°C in summer and lows of 17°C in winter, while the rest of the country either swelters or shivers. Yamba, an idyllic surf town in the north of the state, has even been crowned the best climate on Earth by scientists at Stanford University and the CSIRO.
Coastline at Yamba | © Graham Cook / Flickr
The coffee is just as good as Melbourne’s
Victorians are obsessed with their cafe culture but those in the know will confirm that Sydney’s specialty coffee scene is every bit as good. Neighbourhoods like Surry Hills and Marrickville in the NSW capital are brimming with brilliantly brewed beans, while the old mining port of Newcastle two hours up the road has enjoyed a cultural renaissance in recent years on the back of its cutting-edge cafes.
Paramount Coffee Project interior | © PCP
And so is the sport
If Victorians aren’t nattering about coffee, they’re bragging about how Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia. Well, NSW has plenty to say about that — the state is the heartland of Australian cricket, rugby, tennis and netball, contains two AFL clubs that routinely flog the Vics at their own game, is home to 10 of the 16 NRL sides and four of the 10 A-League football clubs, and hosts Australia’s flagship motorsport (Bathurst 1000) and sailing (Sydney to Hobart) events. Visit the gorgeous Sydney Cricket Ground or the modern Sydney Olympic Park for a taste.
Cricket fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground | © Tom Smith
The wildlife is everywhere
NSW is a veritable smorgasbord of animal experiences. Spot dolphins in Port Stephens, watch whales in Coffs Harbour, catch kangaroos at Pebbly Beach on the South Coast, see the dazzling array of birds on Lord Howe Island, admire local and exotic animals at Taronga Zoo on Sydney Harbour and the open-range nature reserve in Dubbo in the west of the state.
Kangaroo on Pebbly Beach | © Kyle Taylor / Flickr
The pubs are the best in Australia
Puritanical lock-out laws have crippled NSW’s nightclubs but pub culture is still thriving throughout the state. Sydney’s diverse neighbourhoods are particularly well populated with great watering holes, from the small bars of Darlinghurst and the upmarket bars of the Eastern Suburbs, to the sun-drenched beer gardens of the inner-west and the craft breweries of the Northern Beaches.
The Grainstore in Newcastle | © Emily Jane Photographer / Grainstore
The cultural calendar is crowded with events
You’ll never be short of something to see or do when you visit NSW, with the calendar peppered with festivals 12 months of the year. Highlights include Sydney’s Mardi Gras in March, the Vivid Sydney light festival in May and June, Splendour in the Grass each July in Byron, the Broken Heel Festival and the Deni Ute Muster in the bush each September, Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi in Spring and even the Parkes Elvis Festival every summer.
Float at the Mardi Gras parade | © Ann-Marie Calilhanna / Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
The diversity is eye-opening
No other state in Australia offers the variety of landscapes and experiences that NSW does. Nowhere else contains the ski fields of the Snowy Mountains alongside the white sand of Hyams Beach, the red dust of the Outback and the turquoise ocean pools of Bondi, the untouched forest of the Blue Mountains and the tumbling green vineyards of the Hunter – all within its state borders. Surely that’s worth a visit.
Snow on Mount Kosciuszko | © Andrew Fysh / Flickr