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New South Wales: Australia’s First State

New South Wales is a land of contrasts. Lush rainforests, pristine beaches, snowfields and the rugged beauty of the outback all vie for visitors’ attention. Sydney, the state’s capital is its major drawcard.

New South Wales is an amazing place, as diverse as it is beautiful. From the subtropical climes of the far north coast, which nurtures an emerald tangle of World Heritage-listed rainforest, to the snow-dusted peaks of Mt Kosciuszko and the red-earth moonscapes of the outback, the state is a wonderful amalgam of plants, animals, natural landscapes, and indigenous and European heritage. Marry that with Sydney, one of the world’s most recognisable cities – with its glittering harbour, sun-soaked beaches, iconic bridge and ‘sailing’ Opera House – and it’s near perfect. In the southern half of the state, New South Wales encircles the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), home to the nation’s well-ordered capital, Canberra.

For many travellers, Sydney is New South Wales, and they look to the other, less populous states for Australia’s famous wilderness experiences. However, New South Wales contains many of Australia’s natural wonders. High on the list are the subtropical rainforests of the North Coast, lush river valleys, warm seas, golden beaches, the World Heritage areas of Lord Howe Island, and some of Australia’s finest vineyards. Many travellers overlook Canberra, but history buffs and art aficionados love its selection of galleries and museums, which rank among the nation’s finest.

New South Wales invites exploration. Inland from the state’s stretch of coastline there’s richness aplenty to discover. Hundreds of walking trails wind through the incomparable Blue Mountains region, which protects soaring escarpments, majestic waterfalls, eucalypt-lined gorges and babbling rivers. To the south, the Snowy Mountains are a year-round playground of winter snow and summer hiking.

Country New South Wales is renowned for its rich agricultural lands, sprawling plains and inspiring landscapes. Further west, the outback is a mix of vast national parks, idiosyncratic towns, enduring Aboriginal heritage and mesmerising red desert.

Classic Aussie surf adventures, complete with the perfect barrel wave, endless beaches and a laid-back lifestyle, are just some of the attractions of the state’s north coast.

The south coast’s natural treasures include more than 30 national and marine parks, the latter inhabited by an astounding array of wildlife – from Australian fur seals and colour-changing cuttlefish to dolphins and migratory whales.

Top Reasons to Visit New South Wales Australia


New South Wales’ parks range from rainforests, spectacular waterfalls and rugged bushland to marine wonderlands and outback deserts including World Heritage areas.

There are over 800 exceptionally diverse national parks and reserves in New South Wales, from the subtropical rainforest of the Border Ranges and white peaks of the Snowy Mountains to the haunting, fragile landscapes of the outback. Some parks include designated wilderness areas that offer outstanding bushwalking opportunities. Exotic birds are prolific in the Blue Mountains and North Coast regions, and Canberra isn’t known as the “Bush Capital” for nothing.

Top national parks to visit:

  • Kosciuszko National Park – wildlife, glacial lakes, bushwalks
  • Sydney Harbour National Park – walking tracks, Aboriginal engravings
  • Dharug National Park – Aboriginal rock art
  • Dorrigo National Park – rainforest, waterfalls, walking tracks
  • Morton National Park – sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, wildflowers
  • Mt Kaputar National Park – bushwalking, rock climbing, mountain biking
  • Mungo National Park – lakes, sand dunes, moon-landscapes
  • Nightcap National Park – wildlife, waterfalls, walking tracks
  • Royal National Park – cliffs, beaches, rainforest
  • Warrumbungle National Park – volcanic landforms, walking tracks


The oldest and best-known wine region in New South Wales is the Hunter Valley, which is known for its Semillon and Shiraz.

The Hunter Valley has an international reputation for producing excellent Chardonnay, Shiraz, and a dry Semillon. Though it has long held the reputation as the state’s premier wine-growing area, its claim to this accolade has been seriously challenged in recent decades by the Central Ranges Region, which comprises Cowra, known for its Chardonnay; Mudgee, for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz; and Orange, for a number of varietals including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Best wine regions to visit:

  • Hunter Valley
  • Cowra
  • Orange
  • Gundagai
  • Hilltops
  • Tumbarumba


Boasting a beguiling landscape and a diverse terrain and climate, New South Wales is an activity-addict’s playground.

The variety of pursuits in New South Wales and Canberra will tempt even hardened exercise-phobes to get a little more intimate with the beaches, rocks, wilderness trails, mountains, slopes and hills. New South Wales’ mountains and national parks offer opportunities for walks and hikes, horseback riding, rappelling, canyoning, and rock climbing. Outdoorsy folks will enjoy Canberra’s wide-open spaces and cycling or walking around the city’s Lake Burley Griffin.

Top outdoor activities & adventures:

  • Rockclimbing & abseiling, Blue Mountains
  • Canoeing, Bellingen River
  • Bushwalking, Barrington Tops National Park
  • Mountain biking, Tumut State Forest
  • Skiing & snowboarding, Thredbo
  • Surfing, Bondi Beach
  • Sailing, Sydney Harbour


New South Wales’ growing reputation as an international culinary hot spot owes much to the stellar quality of the local produce.

From ‘hatted’ restaurants to farmers markets, New South Wales is a foodie’s destination. Fine restaurants are scattered throughout the state from the capital Sydney to the gourmet wine regions. Farmers markets with their organic, locally grown produce are fast becoming a popular activity for locals and visitors alike. Seafood can be excellent, and don’t miss fish-and-chips on the beach.

Must-visit culinary destinations:

  • Sydney Fish Market
  • Eveleigh Market, Sydney
  • Hunter Valley
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Byron Bay

New South Wales History

Aboriginal people have lived in New South Wales for more than 40,000 years. The coastal area around Sydney is the ancestral home of the Eora people. The state’s settled history began in 1770, when Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay and declared the area New South Wales. In 1788 the British returned with 751 convicts and children and around 250 soldiers, officials and their wives. The early days of settlement were difficult, with famine and lawlessness threatening the population, but by the early 1800s Sydney was a bustling port with new houses, warehouses and streets. Over the next 70 years or so, the rapid expansion of the New South Wales economy resulted in good wages, social mobility and increasingly strong unions. In recent decades, immigration from Europe, Middle East and Asia have made New South Wales one of the world’s great multicultural societies.

New South Wales Weather

Australia’s seasons are the antithesis for those in Europe and the USA. Summer starts in December (when the weather and longer daylight hours are perfect for swimming and other outdoor activities), autumn in March, winter in June and spring in September. The climate in New South Wales varies depending on the location, but the rule of thumb is that the further north you go the warmer and more humid it’ll be. It’s also hotter and drier the further west you go.

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Sydney is lovely for much of the year. The temperature rarely falls below 10°C except overnight in winter, and although temperatures can hit 40°C during summer, the average summer maximum is 25°C. The average monthly rainfall ranges from 75mm to 130mm. Much the same can be said for the climate on the coast, although the swimming season starts earlier by a month or more towards Byron Bay.

Canberra is cold in winter and scorching in summer, so spring and autumn are the best times to visit the Australian Capital Territory.

Inland, it gets hot soon after winter and just keeps getting hotter the further you get from the coast and highlands. The outback regularly stays above 40°C.

This temperature variation equates to varying high seasons throughout the state. Along the coast, summer and school and public holidays equals high season. During the Christmas period in particular you’ll find yourself competing with hordes of determined Aussie holidaymakers.

In the southeast snowfields, July to October encompasses high season. Similarly winter is the best (and high) season to visit the Back O’ Bourke.


New South Wales Map

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