10 Alternative Destinations to Visit in NSW, Australia
It’s safe to say that the backpacker trail on the East Coast of Australia is tired.
No more so than in the state of New South Wales, where many travel down the coast. They start from Cairns in Queensland, they inevitably end up in Sydney. Everyone sees and does the same thing.
While these are often experiences worth doing, it doesn’t ever hurt to meander off the beaten path from time to time.
As Australia’s biggest state in terms of population, New South Wales has a lot to offer. As it also happens to be my “state of origin”, I’ve travelled around (and lived in) it extensively.
You could be told to “GO TO SYDNEY AND THE HUNTER VALLEY TO DRINK ALL THE WINE AND OMG BYRON BAY IS SO BEAUUUUTIFUL!!!” These would be fun experiences, for sure.
Yet, there’s a lot more on offer in Australia’s first state – sometimes you have to head a little further inland to experience all it truly has on show.
Here are some alternative destinations to visit in the state of NSW.
Nestled in-between Newcastle and the Central Coast and a 1.5 hour drive from Sydney, the Lake Macquarie region covers an expanse of land and a plethora of mostly-nature based activities to do.
Go for a walk along many of the region’s nature trails, swim at one of the essentially empty beaches, or at the Toronto Jetty. Go kayaking on the lake, antique hunting in Teralba or visit the Dobell house for a bit of local history.
There is a tonne of things to do in this underrated pocket of NSW.
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A five hour drive inland from Sydney, Tamworth is best known for being Australia’s country music capital.
Every January, country music enthusiasts gather in town to celebrate and commiserate (as, did you know that if you play a country music song backwards, you’ll find what you’ve lost?).
I haven’t attended the festival since I were a wee nipper, but I remember it being a lot of fun. I hope to one day return as an adult.
There’s still plenty to see and do year round (although Austraian comedian Tom Gleeson doesn’t agree).
You can tour the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame, or check out the Powerstation Museum and visit the Rocky Creek Gorge (if you fancy a drive). And yeah. Maybe pop into Gunnedah, while you’re at it.
Looking for a place to stay in Tamworth? Click here for prices and availability.
Only a two hour drive inland from Sydney, Goulburn makes for an ideal weekend trip, or a stopover at the very least on the drive from the NSW capital to Melbourne.
You can visit the town’s Gold Trails, to learn more about the goldrush period in NSW, grab a meal in plenty of cafés and restaurants in town, check out some of the historic homes and poke around the antiques shops. There are also weekend markets and the opportunity to go hunting for truffles.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Goulburn is the local “lighthouse”. If you drive in at night, you’ll see a beacon of light sweeping across the city, from the top of a hill.
Your first thought will be “A lighthouse? Um, aren’t we 100kms from the coast?”
Turns out it’s the town’s war memorial (the Rocky Hill War Memorial is its official title), doing its part in guiding residents home.
Looking for a place to stay in Goulburn? Click here for prices and availability.
Orange is the place to head to in NSW if you’re a fan of wine, food and beautiful scenery.
There are plenty of vineyards to choose from if you fancy a tipple or twelve, with Philip Shaw Winery probably being the best known, operating out of the area.
The town’s food scene is pretty off the hook as well – Lolli Redini Restaurant is the best in the area, earning a tonne of Sydney Morning Herald Chef’s Hat (our equivalent of a Michelin, I guess). I’ve eaten at Racine – the food was brill and the views weren’t half bad either.
Mount Canobolas is the place to head to for views over Orange and in the warmer months, you can swim in the nearby Lake Canobolas.
And to be honest, it’s just nice to walk around the town centre. Many of the buildings there are from the last 1800s/early 1900s – there’s a lot of history packed into a pretty small space.
Looking for a place to stay in Orange? Click here for prices and availability.
You can knock Dubbo and Orange off in one trip, as they’re less than two hours apart by car, or bus.
Dubbo is a particularly historic town – my hands down favourite thing to do, is to visit the Old Dubbo Gaol. The 19th Century building was nearly demolished by the State Government when closed, with locals protesting and saving it, leading to its revival as a museum and tourist attraction.
The town is also home to Dundullimal Homestead, Australia’s oldest standing timber slab homestead and houses important Aboriginal artefacts at the Western Plains Cultural Centre.
The area is popular for bird-watching, bike riding, canoeing and SUP-ing. If you’re super keen on the great outdoors, visit the Dubbo Regional Botanic Gardens, which feature traditional Japanese gardens.
My favourite attraction is the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Not only is it incredibly fun for a day trip, you can spend the night sleeping in the local Zoofari, paying much less than you would to do similarly at Taronga’s other zoo in Sydney.
Looking for a place to stay in Dubbo? Click here for prices and availability.
Oh, Broken Hill. Where do I start?
Full disclosure – this is an area of NSW I’ve ever been to and there’s no other corner of the state that I wish to visit more.
Broken Hill and surrounds is rife with history. The town was once a traditional mining settlement – now it operates as a mecca for artists and tourists alike.
There’s so much to see, so I’m just going to list the things I want to experience the most. The Living Desert and Sculptures, Silverton Tea Rooms, the Mundi Mundi Plains and iconic Line of Lode Lookout and Miners Memorial, just to name a few.
Any film buffs will be salivating over the area – Broken Hill and surrounds have been featured in many Australian movies, such as Pricilla, Queen of the Desert and Mad Max. The Max Max Museum or the famous Silverton Hotel are good places to start.
If you’re keen to see the Australian outback for yourself but don’t have the time to travel any further than the state border, then this will be a win-win situation for you.
Take off your shoes, sink your toes into the red sand and let the songlines of the earth reverberate throughout your being.
Or not. It’s your experience, after all.
Looking for a place to stay in Broken Hill? Click here for prices and availability.
If you want to holiday like the locals do, pick a place like Forster, in the mid-north coast of New South Wales.
The town is home to many beautiful beaches and an ideal fishing spot. It’s basically the perfect place to just chill – go for walks, camp in the great outdoors, swim in the ocean, have a BBQ for dinner every night. Sometimes, these make for the best breaks or holidays.
Forster is also a short (in Australian terms) drive to many beautiful lookout spots, such as Crowdy Head or Bennets Head Lookout. The town is a stone’s throw from the local Booti Booti National Park, a popular camping spot.
What I like best about this area is that it’s big… and empty. I’ve found myself to be the only person on the beach (Seven Mile, for those of you playing at home) even in the middle of summer.
That’s the joy of living in a country that’s home to 10,000 beaches, I guess!
Looking for a place to stay in Forster? Click here for prices and availability.
When you ask most Australian’s what Coffs is known for, it’ll inevitably be the Big Banana, one of the most well-known of Australia’s “Big Things”. Yet, there’s plenty more to see in this beautiful part of the NSW north coast.
As is a running theme with most of this post, there are some gorgeous beaches up this way. The Marina is worth exploring, as is Muttonbird Island, name for eponymous birds that call the island home (Coffs is aces for birding, just in case you’re wondering!).
For a view of the city, make a trip out to Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout – just 15 minutes outside the CBD, it juts out over the forest floor below.
And if you fancy getting a bit further out of the city for a day trip, head to Dorrigo National Park. There you’ll find native birds, some great rainforest walks and a local waterfall.
Looking for a place to stay in Coffs? Click here for prices and availability.
Maitland is essentially the gateway to the Upper Hunter Valley, around half an hour away from the famous vineyards of Pokolbin and a place worth exploring in its own right.
Visit the Maitland Regional Art Gallery for a taste of local art (and make sure you sample a meal or at least a hot bev at the local restaurant), stroll along the High Street and admire the historic buildings in the centre of town and East Maitland.
One of my favourite points of interest is the suburb of Morpeth. It’s full of cute buildings and Miss Lily’s Lollies is worth a visit for some old time sweets and delicious fudge (and it’s definitely worth popping into the nearby Ducks in the Field High Tea, if you’re a fan of decently cooked treats).
It’s also worth making a visit to Maitland Gaol. Once Australia’s most notorious gaol, it now exists as a local museum. You can wander around at your own pace, do a guided tour or even stay the night!
Looking for a place to stay in Maito? Click here for prices and availability.
Wollongong, or the “the Gong” as it’s affectionately known, is only 80kms away from Sydney as you head down the south coast, making it ideal for a day-trip or stopover.
The city is home to two lighthouses and beautiful baths and beaches. There are paths to be cycled and bush walks to be had and plenty of scenic drives on offer.
Or perhaps time your visit during the Wonderwalls Street Art Festival, where the town is painted from head to toe in urban street art.
The Gong is only a half hour drive away from Kiama, which features the largest Blowhole in the world (formed when sea caves turn into vertical shafts and the power from the waves hitting the land’s edge blasts water through the openings in high-pressure releases).
Related: 48 Hours in Wollongong, Australia
Looking for a place to stay in The Gong? Click here for prices and availability.
Have you visited any of these regional towns or cities? What did you enjoy most about them?
Oops, I pinned it again.
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