Early morning at Mystery Bay on the Sapphire Coast in New South Wales, Australia

9 unforgettable experiences in New South Wales

Josh Band

Contributing writer

New South Wales (NSW), lies on the east coast of Australia and is famous around the world for its beautiful beaches and, of course, Sydney.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot to keep you busy in New South Wales – it is a whole state, after all. However, many of the best-known activities are focused on Sydney: see the opera house, walk across the Sydney Harbour bridge etc.

Here are some things to do in New South Wales, beyond visiting Sydney. These activities are a bit different and may not have been on your trip itinerary, but are well worth adding!

An aerial view of Sea Cliff Bridge and the stunning coastline in New South Wales, Australia

1. Take a road trip along the Grand Pacific Drive

Australia is renowned for its road trips. There are several within NSW alone, and the Grand Pacific Drive is arguably the most interesting as the route takes you from rainforests to the beaches in a relatively short distance.

Starting in the Royal National Park, the 140km drive follows the coast through the Southern Highlands before emerging in the stunning Sapphire Coast. Highlights include the 16 white sand beaches of Jervis Bay, driving over the Sea Cliff Bridge and visiting beautiful and wild Kiama.

Take a few days to complete the journey, stopping along the way to hike, try the local food and wine, and simply rest and unwind. It's guaranteed to be a memorable experience, and this trip is worth doing if you are spending some time in New South Wales. 

Snow covering the ground on a beautiful, winter's day in Perisher, Australia

2. Ski in the Snowy Mountains

Did you know that sometimes there is snow in Australia? You'll have the best chance of seeing snow in New South Wales in July and August, and Kosciuszko National Park is a great place to take advantage of it.

Less than three hours' drive from Canberra, the national park has four resorts, including Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snow Resort. Thredbo and Perisher are the largest resorts, and Perisher has hotels and a range of lodges dotted around Perisher and Smiggin Holes.

You can also stay in the nearby towns of Jindabyne or Berridale, where you'll find restaurants, lakes and lovely views of Lake Jindabyne. During winter, skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and other snowy activities are a great thing to do in NSW, and unusual too - snow isn't exactly the first thing you think of when someone says "Australia". 

A seal pup at Montague Island in Australia

3. See the wildlife at Montague Island

When you think of Australian wildlife, you think of kangaroos, koalas and maybe even drop bears... but did penguins come to mind? Well, you can see them along with seals, dolphins and sometimes whales, at Montague Island.

Situated just 9km from Narooma on the southern coast of New South Wales, Montague Island is a unique nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary. It's home to a permanent seal colony, over 90 species of birds and, of course, penguins.

You can book a tour to the island year-round, go whale watching between September and November and visit at sunset to see the little penguins return to shore from September to January.

The entrance to the underground mine tour in Lightning Ridge, Australia

4. Go down an opal mine

Ever wanted to know what's it like to go down a mine? Well, this is your chance! Opal Mining tours in New South Wales are becoming more popular, giving visitors some insight into the industry.

Lightning Ridge is a historic mining town and one of the biggest opal mining sites in the world. Tours to the mine usually include a guided underground tour, seeing old miners' camps, and an opal-cutting demonstration. You'll also have a chance to explore the town and surrounding opal fields.

It's something not everyone who visits New South Wales can claim to have done. However, it's also a lot of fun and a great way to better understand the industry on which NSW was built. 

An aerial vie of Cameron Corner, where three Australian states meet.

5. Stand in three states at once

Cameron Corner, located in the outback, with a whopping population of five, allows you to stand in three states: New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

It's a long drive to get there (about 15 hours from Sydney), but the journey is a great way to experience the Australian Outback with views of blue skies and endless plains. The stretch of road from the western NSW mining city of Broken Hill to Cameron Corner is the ultimate desert adventure.

All roads to Cameron Corner are gravel. You'll probably be fine in a 2WD in dry weather, otherwise, opt for a 4WD.

Australian South Sea pearl inside an oyster

6. Visit a pearl farm

The world is your oyster, so why not take the phrase literally and explore a pearl farm? Luckily, NSW is home to several excellent pearl farms.

Spend a day visiting one and gaining insight into pearl farming as you explore the local wilderness in the hunt for pearls, and then analyse your harvest and learn how pearls are graded.

Head to Broken Bay Pearl Farm for a full tour, including a scenic cruise of the Hawkesbury River, learning about the history of pearl farming, and a grazing lunch. Upgrade your tour to take a pearl home with you or fly on a seaplane.

A platypus swimming in the water

7. Spot a platypus

Australia is famous for its interesting animals and you'll probably want to see a platypus for yourself. Unfortunately, spotting a platypus in the wild is incredibly difficult, and many travellers never manage to see one.

Luckily, New South Wales is home to Bombala Platypus Reserve, which is the perfect place to spot these elusive animals.

Raised platforms make seeing a platypus a bit easier - look for the "V" shape in the water to see when one may pop up. They usually only stay underwater for a couple of minutes, so be patient, and you may spot one.

These animals are so rare in the real world, and even a quick glimpse of one makes the trip to the reserve worth it. Head there in the early morning or late afternoon to have the greatest chance of seeing a platypus in the flesh.

Hot air balloons floating over Hunter Valley, Australia

8. Float in a hot air balloon over Hunter Valley

To see Australia from a different perspective, take a trip in a hot air balloon. Just two hours north of Sydney and forty-five minutes from Newcastle, you'll find the stunning Hunter Valley.

While it's best known for its excellent wine, the region is an amazing backdrop for a hot air balloon flight. Watch the sunrise over the valley and marvel at the sweeping views of rolling vineyards, picturesque farmland, mountain ranges and national parks.

Enjoy a champagne breakfast when you land, then spend the day visiting the wineries with both feet on the ground. It's a truly remarkable experience and well worth the price tag.

Trails and bridges through Dorrigo National Park

9. Walk behind a waterfall at Dorrigo National Park

Dorrigo National Park is an unmissable gem for anyone seeking a unique blend of nature's splendour and rich biodiversity. It's not just a park; it's an immersion into Australia's raw beauty.

Firstly, the park is home to the awe-inspiring Dorrigo Rainforest, a World Heritage site. Walking amid the ancient trees and listening to the symphony of the birds, you feel transported to a world that has remained largely untouched for millennia. The Wonga Walk, which culminates at the Crystal Shower Falls, allows visitors to walk behind a waterfall, a surreal experience that leaves a lasting memory.

A highlight of the park is the Skywalk Lookout. Hovering over the rainforest canopy, it offers panoramic views of the verdant valleys and the distant Pacific Ocean. This treetop perspective gives one a bird’s-eye view of the forest’s magnitude and grandeur.

Additionally, Dorrigo National Park is a sanctuary for numerous species of flora and fauna. Birdwatchers, in particular, will be thrilled with the diverse avian life, including the vibrant regent bowerbird and the rare rufous scrub-bird.

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Josh Band

Author - Josh Band

Josh loves to write about countries in Asia like Taiwan and Thailand and other popular backpacking routes around the world. Who doesn’t love budget travelling, right?! 

Last Updated 13 February 2024

Uluru at sunset


Straddling the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean, Australia has diverse landscapes, a fascinating indigenous culture and uncommon wildlife.