New South Wales, Australia (Sydney, Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley...)

New South Wales is located in the eastern part of Australia and is the home of Australia's largest city, and the home of the 2000 Olympics, Sydney. New South Wales has the most dense population because of Sydney and other coastal towns that lie within the state borders. The national capital, Canberra, and the Australian Capital Territory also lie within the New South Wales borders.

New South Wales is a diverse area with mountainous areas such as the Blue Mountains and the Snowy Mountains.

The Sydney Opera House at Night
The Sydney Opera House at Night
Sydney From the Air
Sydney City - Courtesy of Dramatic Photographic

To the west the land is dry and arrid and the east coast is lush and green with farmlands in between.

The New South Wales winters are mild and the summers warm which make this a very favorable climate to live in. Many feel that the best time to visit is in the Fall and Spring which occurs in March-April and October-November respectively.

Some Key Attractions:

Sydney is the oldest settlement in Australia, established in 1788 as a penal colony by Captain Phillip.

Originally the colony was to be established by the English at Botany Bay, but this was ignored and the settlement is where it is today. Faced with the native aboriginals and “strange” animals such as kangaroos, it must have been an unusual experience for those early British colonists.

Today, Sydney hugs the beautiful Sydney Harbour and the Australian coastline. The harbour and the beaches give Sydney a magnificent natural beauty. The harbour's many natural inlets make it possible for many people to live on the water or within site of the water. Sydney Harbour has 188 miles of shoreline and 35 miles of city beaches. One of the main methods of getting around Sydney is via the Harbour. This makes the waterways a busy venue for traffic with commuters and tourists making there way around the city. Sydney is packed with excellent hotels, restaurants, shopping and offers music and the arts to rival any city in the world.

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The Rocks (Sydney): The new meets the old near Sydney's central business district. The Rocks, which is area of the first settlement, is full of old buildings that remind you of the early days in Sydney. Nearby you will find tall modern skyscrapers similar to many U.S. cities and other wonderful original structures such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Today, The Rocks is a great place to explore Sydney's past, shop for Australian merchandise or to just sit at a harbourside restaurant where you can try the local food and a glass of the local wine.

Sydney Opera House (Sydney): Opposite The Rocks, you will find the Sydney Opera House. It is situated on Benelong Point and was designed by a Danish architect, Joern Utzon. The project was budgeted at A$7.5 million but the project cost grew to the final A$100 million. The pressure from officials eventually caused Utzon to flee back to Denmark. Today the Opera House is open for tours and obviously for the performing arts. It is an easy walk from The Rocks.

Sydney Harbour (Sydney): Sydney Harbour is a site to see in itself. We recommend that you take a tour on one of the many cruise providers such as Captain Cook Cruises. If you like something more exclusive, try one of the many yacht charter services. Another fun way is to just rent one of the water taxis. The water taxis are Sydney's equivalent to the New York Yellow Cab or the London Cab.

Darling Harbour (Sydney): Not far from the Sydney central business district and The Rocks, you will find a modern section of Sydney called Darling Harbour. It was once a derelict area of rotting wharfs and wharehouses but is now a totally redeveloped area full of places to shop, museums and restaurants. It's the place where Sydneysiders go to stroll the harbour foreshores, meet for a coffee or a meal at one of the many waterside cafes and restaurants, visit one of the unique attractions or enjoy the many events and festivals held throughout the year. Some of the attractions include the Sydney Aquarium, Cockle Bay Wharf, the Powerhouse Museum and the National Maritime Museum.

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Sydney Olympic Park (Sydney): The Olympic Park is located in an area called Homebush. It is too far to walk and you can best get there by taxi, train or a car rental. Bus tours are also available on the Olympic Explorer, where you will visit the major sites in the Homebush area and be able to listen to a commentary. Some of the major sites visited are Stadium Australia, the Aquatic Centre and the Superdome.

AMP Tower (Sydney): The AMP Tower is the tallest building in Sydney and the observation deck is the highest in the southern hemisphere. From the observation deck, you can enjoy a 360° view of Sydney. Also located in this building is the Skytour which is a basic but entertaining view of Australian life. If you have a busy schedule, you can easily miss the Skytour.

Sydney Beaches (Sydney): The Sydney beaches are a wonderful way to break up your site seeing and just relax in the sun. Bondi and Manly are probably the two most famous. Manly, the first of Sydney's Northern Beaches, sits on an isthmus that separates the calm waters of Sydney Harbour from the ocean swells of the South Pacific and is easily accessible from downtown Sydney by ferry. Bondi Beach is located in the Municipality of Waverley in east Sydney. The beach, roughly a kilometre long, is enclosed at the north and south by headlands. Every day of the year lifeguards patrol the beach between the yellow and red flags. Take a stroll along the beachside promenade. Away from the beach there are numerous cafes and restaurants, as well as hostels, hotels and a great variety of shops.

Learn some trivia facts about the City of Sydney.

The Blue Mountains are west of Sydney. Its is a relative short drive to the central hub, Katoomba, which is 110km (69miles) west from Sydney and takes approximately two hours. From Parramatta Road, take the Western Motorway (M4) at Strathfield.

Or, for a more scenic route divert from the Great Western Highway north-west onto the Cumberland Highway to Windsor Road. From Windsor, take the Richmond Rd, which becomes the Bells Line Road.

This makes the Blue Mountains easy to see on a day trip or you can stay longer at one of the many lodgings such as bed and breakfasts. The scenery is often a majestic collection of rocky outcrops, ravines and rugged cliffs that are said to be 250 million years old. This area was home to the local aboriginals for 14,000 years before the arrival of the English. The mountains get their name from the eucalyptus forests which produce an oil that gives a blue haze to the mountains.

There are several towns such as Katoomba, Leura, Blackheath and Springwood along the way or in the Blue Mountains where to you can look for accommodation or just find a meal and take a break. Some of the key sites to see are the Three Sisters, Jenolan Caves and Wentworth Falls. The Three Sisters is a spectacular rock formation formed by years of erosion and Jenolan Caves are nine spectacular limestone caves that are open to the public.

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The Hunter Valley Wine Country: As the NAPA Valley is to the U.S., the Hunter Valley is to Australia. A mere two hour drive north west of Sydney, Hunter Valley Wine Country is much more than just wine. There are vineyards, bed and breakfasts, hotels, tours and more. This is the site of Australia's first vineyards which were started in the 1830's producing fortified wines. Today, the Hunter Valley is the home of some of the world's best and most famous wines such as Lindemans, Rothbury Estates and Tyrells vineyards. The town of Cessnock is the gateway to the Hunter Valley and is home to the Hunter Valley major visitor center. There are many cafes and restaurants in the town of Pokolbin and many of the wineries have restaurants as well.

The Snowy Mountains stretch from the Canberra area to Victoria for approximately 300 miles. They are the home to Australia's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko and Australia's ski resorts such as Thredbo and Perisher.

The South Coast of New South Wales runs north for approximately 250 miles from the border of Victoria. It consists of a collection of beautiful beaches, small seaside towns and fishing villages. This makes this coastal area a good place to access whale watching cruises, to camp and to hike in the national parks or to just take a long walk along the unspoiled beaches. Some of the more popular locations include Eden, Jervis Bay, Batemans Bay, Pebbly Beach, Merimbula Beach and Ben Boyd National Park.

Eden (South Coast): Eden is set in rugged beauty with golden sandy beaches and crystal waters to the east and forests and parklands to the west. Eden is a popular town to fish or begin a whale watching cruise.

Jervis Bay (South Coast): Jervis Bay is just 2.5 hours from Sydney and 3 hours from Canberra. Its is famous for it's beautiful sandy beaches and clear blue waters. These waters are home to bottlenose dolphins and the opportunity to sight the dolphins is one of the major features that make this area a popular spot for nature lovers. Whale sightings are also possible in and around Jervis Bay.

Batemans Bay (South Coast): Batemans Bay and its neighbouring area boast some of the most spectacular and unspoiled coastline in New South Wales.

The North Coast of New South Wales is one of our favorite areas of Australia. The further you drive north the more topical the country becomes. This coast runs approximately 560 miles north from Sydney to the Queensland border. Some key towns along the way are Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay.

Port Macquarie (North Coast): Located on the New South Wales Holiday Coast at the mouth of the Hastings River, Port Macquarie boasts some of the most pristine waterways and magnificent beaches in Australia. With an abundance of things to do, beautiful nature reserves, and a colourful history, Port Macquarie is a coastal resort town that has something for everyone. The climate is noted for being one of the best in Australia with average temperatures ranging from 20C - 32C in Summer, and from 8C - 21C in Winter.

Coffs Harbour (North Coast): A major coastal resort town which is also famous for its bananas and fishing. Its located on Australia's holiday coast, where the mountains meet the sea some 570kms north of Sydney and about 350kms south of Brisbane. The town of Coffs Harbour has a population of over 20,000 people with average summer temperatures of 26C and an average winter temperatures of 18C.

Byron Bay (North Coast): Byron Bay is located on the far north coast of New South Wales and is Australia's most easterly town. Situated between the major Australian cities of Brisbane (175 km to the north) and Sydney (800 km to the south) the region is recognised as an international travel destination. Byron Bay enjoys a year-round subtropical climate with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius.

Lord Howe Island: Lord Howe Island is a little known paradise to many visitors to Australia and to many Australians also. Rising out of the sea off the NSW coast is one of Australia's tiniest treasures – the dreamy, crescent-shaped Lord Howe Island. Just 11 kms long and 2 kms wide curved round an aquamarine lagoon, the island was World Heritage listed in 1982 for its unique beauty and rare collection of flora, fauna and marine life.

So, you can see that New South Wales offers a wide range of sites and activities from the cosmopolitan city of Sydney to the beautiful coastal beaches and the rugged Blue Mountains. Sydney is an ideal starting point to spend a few days and there are many places to visit outside of Sydney that are just a short drive away or, if you feel ambitious, you can drive all the way to Melbourne or Brisbane.

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