New South Wales Travel Guide

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Blue Mountains - The Blue Mountains are a prime example of Australian bush, with gum trees and excellent hikes through deep gorges and up majestic peaks. The blue haze that hangs over the region is a fine mist of volatile oil, given off by eucalyptus trees. The air is fresh and, among the locals, reputed to be restorative. This is a good location for serious hikers and people who just like to walk, and enjoy, a fresh and healthy environment.

Katoomba - This is a major tourist centre, and a cheerful relic of another era. From Echo Point, in Katoomba, visitors can see the Three Sisters, a legendary rock formation named after three young women who changed into stone to protect them from the advances of three sleazy men by a sorcerer. Unfortunately for the sisters, the sorcerer died before he could change them back into humans. The foothills of the Blue Mountains start just 65km outside Sydney, so visitors and locals often catch the train out for a day trip.

Hunter Valley - With over 60 vineyards, and just as many wine tasting opportunities, Hunter Valley is a wine-lover's wonderland. Situated an easy 110km drive from Sydney, this is the locals' weekend spot and it is regularly frequented by visitors and local alike. There is also some lovely beaches in the area, including the tranquil Myall Lakes National Park or popular Port Stephens, famous for its great surf and resident pod of dolphins. Hunter Valley has an excellent rail and bus link if you want someone else to do the driving.

Byron Bay - Byron is one of the most popular stops on the Australia's east coast, with year-round warm weather, stunningly beautiful beaches, and a laid-back population. While many make the pilgrimage to surf the swell south of Cape Byron, the town has become the center of alternative culture, with plenty of chakra aligning, didgeridoo making and flotation tanks. Over the Easter long-weekend, the town hosts a massive East Coast Blues and Roots Festival that draws in people from across the country.

Sydney - Sydney is Australia's oldest city, and the economic powerhouse of the nation. It is blessed with sun-drenched natural attractions, high skyscrapers, delicious and daring restaurants, superb shopping and friendly people. Sydney Harbour's sandstone headlands, dramatic cliffs and stunning beaches define the city. From the white sails of the harbour, to the arc of The Coathanger, to the toned flesh on Bondi, Sydney is a seriously attractive place, and well worth a visit.

Beaches

Hyams Beach - Located at Jervis Bay, this beach in off-the-beaten-path. Jervis Bay is said to have the whitest sand in the world. You need to wear sun block if you decide to stroll along it, because the reflection from the sun, even on a cloudy day, can give you a nasty sunburn. The beach also squeaks as you walk.

Beach Resorts - There is a number of beach resorts all along the coastline and visitors are guaranteed a spot that will suit their particular taste. Most of the beaches are perfect for swimming and the water temperature is comfortably warm and pleasant.

Outdoors

Mungo National Park - Echoing more than 400 centuries of human civilisation, this remote, stunning national park is set in a field of dunes. The spectacular walls of the sand dunes hold spectacularly well-preserved campfires, cooking hearths and eerie burials. Compressed sand has been worn into shimmering white cliffs called the Walls of China. The Mungo National Park is way out west and is best reached from Broken Hill.

Snowy Mountains - The Snowy Mountains are the highest section of Australia's Great Dividing Range. Kosciusko National Park covers most of the mountains and includes all of the state's ski resorts, rugged alpine scenery, caves, glacial lakes and forests. Although renowned as a winter playground, the park is also popular with bushwalkers in summer. The ski resorts include Thredbo, Perisher Valley, Smiggins Hole and Mt Blue Cow. Mt Kosciusko is the highest peak at 2228m. The main town in the region is Jindabyne, situated just outside the park boundary on the edge of a beautiful lake.

Tamworth - This is Australia's country music capital, with the largest population of bootscooters in the Southern Hemisphere. This antipodean Nashville annually celebrates the best country music by awarding the glitteringly named Golden Guitars. If you arrive out of ceremony season, a 12m replica is on display at the Country Collection just outside of town. Check out also the collection of country stars commemorated at the Hands of Fame, or see even more of the luminaries at the Noses of Fame at Tattersall's Hotel. If you like the sound of your own voice, have a go at yodelling your lungs out at one of the city's four recording studios.

Moving around

Major bus lines run services into and out of most of New South Wales. Most lines offer discounts for students, and Greyhound Pioneer/McCafferty's has a good bus pass deal. Interstate and regional trains run from Sydney's Central station, and will take you to most other Australian capitals, as well as cities and towns throughout New South Wales.

Major roads from Sydney go north to Newcastle, west to the Blue Mountains, south to Melbourne and Canberra, and down the south coast to Wollongong. If you are headed for New South Wales from outside Australia, you are probably flying into Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney's international airport. There are plenty of connections to Asia, Europe and the USA, but Australia's remoteness makes flights relatively expensive and long. Many flights are heavily booked, so make plans well in advance. Departure tax is usually included with the price of your airline ticket.

National festival and holidays

Australia Day - It is the first big celebration of the year, commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove. Aboriginal people celebrate an alternative occasion, Survival Day, or Invasion Day, on the same day, with a festival of music, dance and arts. The festival takes place on the 26th of January each year.

Tamworth's Country Music Festival - In February, this festival sends a loud 'yee-ha' out of the state's west and has the whole city boot scooting.

Surfest - Held each March in Newcastle, it is Australia's longest-running professional surf carnival.

Coast Blues and Roots Festival - Byron Bay gets down and dirty in April, with the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival.

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