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Highlights of New South Wales (Australia)

Updated on September 25, 2010

New South Wales (NSW) is the province where the new settlers first set foot on land way back when. Captain James Cook was the first one to arrive in New South Wales, and therefore named the area. Later, the English came back in 1788, under the command of Captain Arthur Philip, shiploads of English convicts were unloaded on the shores. As Australia was to be home to the banned English prisoners. Camps and prisons were set up, and a whole community in the form of guards, soldiers and officials and their families developed around the prisons.

Nowadays, this is the Australian province with the most inhabitants, and that is because it also holds Australia’s largest city, Sydney. It will be no surprise then, that Sydney is one my New South Wales highlights. The other places I will discuss here are Byron Bay, the Hunter Valley, and the Blue Mountains.

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Sydney

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and the biggest city in Australia, it currently has 4 million citizens. Sydney is a very hip city with heaps of things to do. Of course you have the visit the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, two national symbols of Australia. But there are also beautiful parks (The Royal Botanic Gardens), great beaches (Bondi and Manly), and a thrilling nightlife. They have the biggest cinema screen of the southern hemisphere, with many 3D films. Darling harbour is picturesque and a great place full of shops and great restaurants. There are many markets all over the city which will sell you whatever you need, and even more things you never knew you needed. Also read these articles:

-       Top five things to do in Sydney

-     Three days in Sydney

-       Sydney on a budget

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are located to the west of Sydney, and the mountains start to come up around 65 km inland from Sydney. Their name is derived from a blue mist that seems to hang over them. This blue colour is caused by a fine mist of oil that is exuded by the eucalyptus trees in the region. The highest mountains in the region reach a height of up to 1100 metres. The views are amazing, and the scenery is spectacular.

Katoomba is the biggest and nicest town in the region, and very easy to reach by car. This is a great base from which to explore the Blue Mountains. There are plenty of nice little hotels and backpacker hostels, great Art Deco cafes and an active night life. There are three national parks in the area, the most accessible and most famous being the Blue Mountains National Park. The other two are the Kanangra Boyd National Park and the Wollemi National Park. The views are amazing and there are some great walks to be done. You don’t have to be particularly fit or trained to do some of the smaller walks, and there are some great tours which will take you to the best viewpoints by bus. There are some great hikes for more experienced hikers as well. When you go for a walk or hike, always make sure you have enough water and sunscreen with you. Bring enough suitable clothes, also a warmer jacket, as the weather can change quickly and unexpectedly. And always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. 

Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia, and it is most famous for its semillon and shiraz varieties. But of course they produce many other tyopes of wine as well. And it likes to promote itself in many ways. Wineries are scattered all over the valley, and give it a very picturesque look. All wineries are open for wine tastings, and you can spend a great day or weekend here. Most little hotels will offer free bikes, so you ride around from winery to winery during the day. Just make sure you spit out the wine, because riding a bike under the influence of too much alcohol can prove to be difficult.

If you have had enough of all the wine, the Hunter Valley is also home to several cheese factories and the Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory which do cheese and chocolate tastings. And for the beer lovers there is also a beer brewery, with a very enthusiastic staff. They will tell you all about their beer and let you try a few experimental flavours (when I was there we tried a beer that tasted like smoked ham, a bit weird but nice nonetheless).

You can just go out and explore Hunter Valley on your own (which I would highly recommend), either by car or by bike. Or you can join a tour. The tour guide will usually take you to several wineries, and if you are lucky also a cheese factory, the chocolate factory or the beer brewery. Some tour guides will have lots of information to tell you about the wines and the region, but others merely function as your driver and take you around to all the different wineries. Decide what you want and make sure you know what your tour consists of before you book it.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay is a lovely town a little hippie town on the east coast. It is a very popular holiday destination, so in the public holidays it is very busy and you need to make sure you have reservations for your accommodation. The town is very pretty and colourful. It has a lot of vegetarian and organic restaurants, but also a lot of fresh fish and tasty meat can be found in the restaurants. The nightlife is fantastic, with something to suit every taste in music and style.

The beach is amazing, and it is great for surfing. If you want to see some more of the aquatic life, you can do guided kayak or snorkeling tours. They will take you out to see sea turtles, many colourful fish, and if you are lucky, some dolphins as well.

The walk up to the light house is pretty amazing. It will take you about an hour for the walk. Go early, in the morning, as the sunrise is amazing to watch from up there.

On Sundays there are some markets, where locals sell all kinds of handicrafts. There is some amazing handmade jewellery, interesting and unique clothes from local designers, woodcrafts and much more.

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    • HunterGiftBaskets profile image

      HunterGiftBaskets 

      8 years ago from Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Australia

      Original and rich with detailed experiences and some insights about the Hunter Valley Wine region that ring true. Informative, helpful and original, a pleasure to read, Mieka

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