Sydney Harbour Bridge with a yellow and blue sunset.

A beginner’s guide to New South Wales

The Australian state of New South Wales boasts many accolades. Not only is it home to Australia’s biggest and busiest city – iconic Sydney – but it’s also home to the country’s highest peak, its very first winery, and is the birthplace of Australia’s obsession with surfing.

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The Australian state of New South Wales boasts many accolades. Not only is it home to Australia’s biggest and busiest city – iconic Sydney – but it’s also home to the country’s highest peak, its very first winery, and is the birthplace of Australia’s obsession with surfing.

Covering an area of 809,444 km² in south-east Australia, there’s a lot of ground to cover on a New South Wales itinerary. So it’s worth saving up your holiday leave for, or embarking on a trip as a retirement holiday. To make the most of your time in this incredible part of the world, we’ve compiled this mini-guide that includes things to do, attractions to see, where to stay, and how to get there.

Things to do in New South Wales

As we’ve mentioned, New South Wales is expansive and it’s difficult to tick everywhere off your list – but we recommend that the following five things make your final itinerary.

Organise a road trip

Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

Here are three of the incredible road trips on offer in New South Wales: The Grand Pacific Drive (on the South Coast from Sydney to Shoalhaven); The Legendary Pacific Coast (up the North Coast from Sydney); and the Greater Blue Mountains Drive (through the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains). The drives vary in length and we recommend taking a few days to enjoy them and to explore the towns along the way.

Whale Watching

Credit: Destination NSW

Whales migrate in their thousands along the New South Wales coast, with Humpback and Southern right whales a common sight. You can book yourself onto an organised boat tour from towns including Jervis Bay and Port Stephens, but there are many vantage points along the coastline where you might be lucky enough to spot whales in the distance. There are 38 vantage points in Sydney and in the surrounding area, including two spots near popular beaches such as Bondi Beach and North Head lookout near Manly.

Seek out an adrenaline rush

Credit: Destination Port Stephens

Adrenaline-seekers are in for a treat in New South Wales. Try hang-gliding and skydiving in Wollongong, snorkelling in Byron Bay, quad-biking in Port Stephens or abseiling in the Blue Mountains. You can even try white-water rafting on an Olympic course in Penrith Whitewater Stadium in Sydney’s west.

Catch some surf

Credit: Destination NSW

The home of Australian surf culture is Freshwater, on Sydney’s northern beaches, where Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku popularised surfboarding in the summer of 1914-15. Surfing tours depart from Sydney to world-famous surf breaks on both the South Coast and North Coast of New South Wales.

Explore the Outback

Credit: Destination NSW

Broken Hill, a remote mining town, is a good place to start an outback adventure, where you can take part in a heritage trail of the town’s mining history. Nearby you can also admire Aboriginal rock art – dating back thousands of years – in Mutawintji National Park.

Then there’s the town of Silverton, which has been attracting filmmakers for decades. The tiny township and the surrounding areas have featured in many popular movies, including Mad Max 2, Mission Impossible 2, Razorback and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Food and Wine in New South Wales

Credit: Destination NSW

Australia is famed for its wineries and New South Wales is no exception. The Hunter Valley (north of Sydney) is Australia’s oldest winegrowing region; offering both historic family-owned businesses and up-and-coming wineries. Mudgee (northwest of Sydney), the Southern Highlands and Orange (west of Sydney) are the other wine regions that are popular with visitors.

To explore the best produce in New South Wales we recommend a journey along a dedicated food and wine touring route. You can join an organised tour or rent a car to follow them at your own leisure. Popular trails include Hawkesbury Harvest Farm Gate, the Hunter Valley’s Around Hermitage Food and Wine Trail, the Southern Highlands to South Coast trail, and the Poachers Way in the Canberra district.

Accommodation in New South Wales

A luxury glamping text with white and light brown textiles.
Credit: Paperbark Camp

New South Wales boasts a variety of accommodation types to suit all styles and budgets. If you are seeking something special, a self-contained apartment or spa resort might suit your plans more. You can also spoil yourself with a spot of glamping.

Getting there and getting around

Credit: Destination NSW

Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport is the usual starting point for people embarking on a New South Wales adventure. There are no direct flights between the UK and Sydney, however, there are dozens of ways to reach the city via one-stop connecting flights – with some key
changeover locations including Singapore, Dubai and Los Angeles (the perfect excuse for two holidays in one!).

Sydney Airport is about 10km from the city centre and easily accessible by train, bus or car. Trains depart frequently from underground stations in the airport’s domestic and international terminals, while public buses depart from bus stops outside T1 and T3 (but not T2). There is also a taxi rank outside, and at the T1 and T3 information desks you can book a Shuttle Bus that takes you directly to your hotel.

When it’s time to explore regional New South Wales, it’s best to opt for a rental car or an escorted tour. These are best booked in advance through your Travel Consultant, who can help you get the best price.

Etc

  • January is the warmest month, with an average temperature of 18.6–25.8°C and the coldest month is July, with an average range of 8–16.2°C (46–61°F).
  • Popular shopping precincts in Sydney are open seven days a week, from 9am-10am to 5.30pm. On Thursdays, stores open until 9pm. City supermarkets are open for up to 24 hours.
  • The currency is the Australian dollar (AUD).
  • There are two time zones in NSW: Australian Central Standard Time and Australian Eastern Standard Time.
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Best cities for the most spectacular Fireworks Celebrations

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It’s that time of year again when the UK skies are lit up with mesmerising light shows for Guy Fawkes Night.

Like a lot of the British population, you might wish firework displays were more common throughout the year. But we see that as an excuse for a holiday. Here are seven world-famous cities that are famous for their firework displays (including somewhere in the UK).

Sydney

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Sydney is one of the first cities in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and we witness their spectacular fireworks display every year on TV. Then on the 26th of January, Darling Harbour lights up again for Australia Day along with a boat parade. Between the spellbinding light shows and the terrific weather – January is a great time to visit this iconic city.

Dubai

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Dubai never does things by half measures, and that includes its fireworks displays. Every New Year, revellers gather around the Burj Khalifa to witness the world’s tallest building light up with fireworks. Other areas of the city that light up with fireworks include Jumeirah Beach and Atlantis the Palm.

Montreal

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Montreal loves fireworks so much, there’s an official competition. Going strong since 1985, the Montreal International Fireworks Competition is held every summer and features synchronised music. Tickets are pricey (usually $52 to $70 plus taxes) but there are plenty of places to view them throughout the city for free.

London

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Since its Guy Fawkes Night we can’t not mention London . While many UK cities put on their own amazing firework displays, London’s are a step above the rest. You’ll find firework displays at Crystal Palace Park, Battersea Park, Alexandra Palace and Wembley Park (to name a few).

Paris

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You know what makes every fireworks display better? The silhouette of the Eiffel Tower. Every year on the 14th of July, fireworks are set off from the gardens of Trocadéro for about 30 minutes and the public are welcome to watch from the Champ de Mars.

Rio de Janeiro

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Watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks in the UK might be a chilly affair, but in Rio de Janeiro it’s a warm and tropical experience. At the start of every New Year, thousands of people gather on the sands of Copacabana Beach for a 15-minute fireworks display.  

Washington, DC

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The USA dazzles every 4th of July – but nowhere does it better than Washington DC. Fireworks are set off from National Mall, and they are viewable from a plethora of places around DC. Including the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial and numerous rooftop bars.

Where have you witnessed an amazing fireworks display? Let us know in the comments.

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Sydney Harbour Bridge with a yellow and blue sunset.

Must Do Sydney

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Sydney is undoubtedly Australia’s most iconic city. It is hugely versatile with many natural beauties in addition to the man-made attractions in and around the city. It is the perfect place to relax, explore and enjoy. Here are some of our top recommendations for your visit to Sydney.

The Sydney Opera House

Beginning with the obvious, the Sydney Opera House should definitely be on your list of places to visit. Take a walk around Circular Quay to admire it, or book one of the many tours available to explore from the inside.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Staying within Circular Quay, you can view this incredible structure that spans the length of the Sydney Harbour. You can walk and cycle across the bridge, or for the more adventurous, you can take a tour and climb to the top. This makes for an amazing photo opportunity and you have the option to climb during the day, evening or at twilight to watch the sunset.

Bondi Beach

No trip to Sydney would be complete without a visit to Bondi Beach. A great place to watch the world go by in the many bars and cafes, or even try your hand at surfing. After relaxing on the beach, continue on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk to truly appreciate the beaches in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

Sail Sydney Harbour

The ultimate way to view the sights of Sydney is from the water. There are plenty of options to cater for everyone’s taste. Take a scenic cruise with dinner in the evening, or opt to take a ferry to nearby Manly or Watsons Bay for great views and the chance to explore another one of Sydney’s suburbs.

Explore the Rocks

A historical area of Sydney, the Rocks are home to many bars and restaurants, hidden amongst the quaintly cobbled laneways. We recommend taking a walking tour of the area to learn more about its history. It is also a great place to shop and hosts a variety of weekly markets ranging from fresh food markets to art, jewellery and souvenir stalls.

Visit Darling Harbour

Not Sydney’s most famous harbour, but definitely worth a visit. Darling Harbour has so much to offer and is a brilliant place to unwind in the heart of the city. It is a hub of entertainment with many tourist attractions, waterfront restaurants and trendy bars just a short stroll from the CBD.

Brunch

Sydney has breakfast down to a tee and the city offers plenty of popular brunch spots. With a huge coffee culture and a love of eggs and avocado, the Aussie’s know how to brunch.

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Ultimate Bucket List Ideas for Sydney

Ultimate Bucket List Ideas for Sydney Sydney is a city that has it all. Lively metropolitan streets, a thriving cultural scene (including the world’s most recognisable opera house), spectacular shopping, glimmering beaches, a plethora of sunshine and beautiful natural scenery framing the city’s edges. There are not many cities that can boast the same amount […]

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