New South Wales
| (NSW) is one of Australia's south-eastern states, lying to the east of South Australia, to the south of Queensland and to the north of Victoria. With a population of 6.7 million, it is the country's most populous state. As the core territory of the first British colony on the Australian continent (settled in 1788) which was gradually made smaller as the other states and territories formed, New South Wales is home to the country's oldest and largest city, the state capital of Sydney. New South Wales also encloses the Australian Capital Territory, the location of the Australian national capital of Canberra, in its south-east. Lord Howe Island, a subtropical island 550km east of the mainland, is also part of the state.
Many tourists come to New South Wales to visit the city of Sydney and its attractions. While much tourism is focused on Sydney and the coastal areas, the whole of New South Wales offers a multitude of experiences, with plenty of things to see and do which suit all tastes and interests, whether that be natural wonders, white sandy beaches to relax on, historical sites, or friendly country communities. From the busyness of Sydney, to the unspoilt beaches and sleepy communities of the South Coast, to the rugged Snowy Mountains, to the wineries of Mudgee and the Hunter Valley, to the red outback, to the rainforests of the North Coast and New England, wherever you spend time in New South Wales you are bound to enjoy yourself immensely.
New South Wales is a diverse state with many different types of climate, scenery and communities. The first list of regions are all within 3 hours' drive or train trip from Sydney; the rest will take more time (unless you choose to fly).
Sydney and surrounds
Other regional cities include:
The home of a large number of Aboriginal tribes for thousands of years, New South Wales was only settled by Europeans in 1788 - spreading outwards from Sydney. The name was given by Captain Cook 18 years earlier during his first voyage of discovery, after the country of Wales. It is unknown whether he intended to name it after South Wales, or whether this new land was the Wales of the South, but the cliffs he was passing to the south of Sydney bear a striking resemblance to the cliffs along the Welsh Cambrian Coast.
The first settlers were dependent of farming and fresh water, and the major settlements grew around Parramatta and Windsor, at the limit of navigation of the Parramatta and Hawkesbury rivers, inland from Sydney. Inland settlement was at first impeded by the rugged Blue Mountains for a time and settlers did not cross the mountains until 1813. However, once crossed settlement spread west rapidly, with the first road across the mountains finished in 1815, leading to the first inland town of Bathurst. Further regional and rural expansion occurred in the late 19th century as a result of the Gold Rush, although it did not have as much of an impact as in neighbouring Victoria.
From its inception until the time of federation in 1901, New South Wales was dependent largely on its agricultural resources; however, over the early 20th century this largely changed to a point where New South Wales led Australia in heavy industry. This was, and continues to be dominated by industries such as coal mining in the Hunter Valley and Illawarra regions.
From the 1970s, industries such as steel and shipbuilding began to diminish, and although agriculture remains important its share of the state's income is smaller than at any other time in the state's history. NSW, and in particular Sydney, have developed significant service industries in finance, information technology and tourism.
New South Wales is the most populous state in Australia. Most of that population is concentrated in Sydney, which has 4.2 million of the state's 6.7 million inhabitants. The next largest cities are (in order) Newcastle and Wollongong. After that the larger cities and towns in the state are merely moderately-sized regional centres of 40,000-50,000 people. Many of the cultural sights are concentrated in Sydney and nearby. However, this isn't true of historical or natural sights. Many of the state's most beautiful natural sights, obviously enough, lie well outside the Sydney metropolitan area. Australian history and identity is to some extent tied up with rural settlement and lifestyle, and thus you will find many of the outlying regions of New South Wales base their tourism industry around pioneer and rural history.
New South Wales' climate varies considerably depending on the area in the state.
In winter the Snowy Mountains can receive significant snowfalls, with an extensive ski fields operating between July and September. During cold snaps in mid-winter snow can fall down to 800 metres in inland New South Wales, giving a light snow cover to large areas of the state. The desert areas of inland New South Wales struggle to reach 15ºC, and southern coastal areas including Sydney range between 9-17ºC in July, the coldest month. However the north coast of New South Wales, towards Tweed Heads and Byron Bay, averages above 20ºC even during mid-winter. Winter generally isn't the time for beach swimming in New South Wales, with the season generally being between October and March - maybe a little earlier up north, and maybe a little later down south.
In summer most head for coastal regions, with New South Wales having literally hundreds of clean patrolled beaches and coastal towns. The inland towns can be hot, with many averaging over 30ºC in summer, often peaking above 40ºC. After Christmas until the end of January can be difficult to find any available accommodation near the coast at short notice.
The best time to visit New South Wales depends on your interest. Most activities, transport, restaurants and other facilities operate year-round. For the beach holiday summer December to February is perfect. It can be hot, but if you are the beach, that is the way you want it. The best months for reliable snowfalls are August to September, although you are always at the whim of Mother Nature on the ski fields. Spring and Autumn are good for walking, and for country driving holiday.
If you are exploring Sydney and the cities, avoiding the summer period will reduce the crowds and peak accommodation costs. If you are used to the dry heat, then heading inland in the summer period is also an off-peak experience, with few crowds and accommodation hassles.
In common with most Australians, the people of New South Wales have a tradition of great sporting rivalry with neighbouring states. This is expressed each year, for example, in the State of Origin Series of Rugby League matches between NSW and Queensland (NB: Rugby League, somewhat distantly followed by Rugby Union, is the winter ball sport of choice in NSW and Queensland, as opposed to the rest of Australia which follows Australian Rules football). The word footy usually refers to Rugby League and not to soccer or Australian Rules Football. As you get down to the southern New South Wales border town of Albury, the Victorian Aussie Rules influence becomes stronger. If you go to see the Albury Football club play, they will be scoring goals and behinds rather than trys and conversions.
Sydney, in particular, is ethnically diverse. You will encounter people with many different cultural influences and language groups.
New South Wales people use some particular regional words which are not used in other states. The word cossie or swimmers (short for swimming costume) refer to a bathing suit - don't call them "togs" as used in Queensland or "bathers" as used in Victoria. Swimsuit for women or Speedos for men are universally understood.
New South Wales is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 18 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Daylight Saving is observed from the first Sunday of October to the first Sunday of April the following year.
AEST - Australian Eastern Standard Time UTC+10
AEDT - Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time UTC+11
The area around the city of Broken Hill in the far west of New South Wales is on Australian Central Standard Time (the same as South Australia), UTC+9.5 or UTC+10.5 during daylight savings time.
Part of New South Wales is covered by the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone . This zone also covers parts of South Australia and Victoria, but the area covered in New South Wales encompasses most of the Riverina area in the southwest of the state, stretching north as far as Broken Hill and as far east as the town of Narrandera. Don't take fruit or vegetables into the Riverina area, including the cities of Broken Hill and Griffith and the town of Hay. Fines apply of up to $20,000. A tougher restriction zone, the Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area applies to some areas around the Victorian border near Mildura.
Motorists using highways to access New South Wales which pass through the area, including the Sturt Highway from Victoria and Barrier Highway from South Australia, and all plane travellers to the area should not take any fruit or vegetables with them. If you accidentally enter the zone with fruit or vegetables, there are amnesty bins at the entrances to the zone and at airports. Although there are not the permanent checkpoints in New South Wales like those used in other states, roadblocks and spot checks at airports can and do get set up from time to time, and if you are carrying prohibited produce, you will be fined.
Most air travellers to New South Wales arrive at Kingsford Smith International Airport , 8km from the Sydney central business district, which is Australia's largest international and domestic airport. It is the only international airport in New South Wales. It is likely to offer the cheapest flights into the state.
Seven other airports in New South Wales have interstate flights:
Note that flights from some of these destinations do not operate every day.
International and domestic visitors to the Northern Rivers including Byron Bay should consider the Gold Coast Airport , which is only minutes from the New South Wales northern border, and has many domestic and some international flights. Similarly, interstate travellers visiting the south of New South Wales may choose to fly through Canberra Airport , to access the Snowy Mountains, South Coast or Riverina areas.
Travellers arriving overland will usually pass through the (near) border towns of Broken Hill from South Australia, Albury-Wodonga or Eden from Victoria and Tweed Heads from Queensland. New South Wales is linked by sealed highways to the three surrounding states. The main routes used by motorists into New South Wales are as follows:
Sydney is one of the major hubs of rail services in Australia, and trains run from every mainland capital city in Australia (except Darwin) directly to Sydney. (Connecting services from Darwin are available in Adelaide.) The interstate rail providers are as follows:
Both providers stop at intermediate stations on their way to and from Sydney, where it may be possible to change to bus services if you are not travelling direct to Sydney. Countrylink pricing is generally competitive with plane or bus travel. GSR offers a premium service, and will is only cost effective if you consider the train trip as more than a utilitarian means of transport.
60% of the state's population lives in Sydney and much of the inter-city transport infrastructure is dedicated to taking travellers to and from Sydney.
Transport connections between other New South Wales towns are often much less convenient. There is usually a reasonably direct road route between any two New South Wales towns, but public transport links are likely to be abysmal or non-existent, unless the two towns are on the same route to Sydney. As in the rest of Australia, there is very much a culture of making your own way by car.
It is common for travellers to make their way up or down the coast from Sydney by bus. Buses traverse these coastal routes several times a day, and it is quite possible to stop off at a few of the coastal towns of your choosing.
Expect public transport within cities or towns to be basic or non-existent outside Sydney. Much of the public transport there is largely designed for school children. There are some exceptions. The northeast corner of New South Wales including Tweed Heads and Kingscliff is reasonably well serviced by an extension of the Gold Coast transport network. Newcastle, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains have passable bus and train networks. In other New South Wales cities expect taxis, and an irregular bus services at best.
Travellers who wish to tour the regions of NSW have little option other than to travel by car or take a tour when travelling beyond the main transport routes in and out of Sydney.
Road signage and visitor radio
There is standardised road signage for attractions in NSW, that is a white text on a brown sign. All attractions signposted this way within the road reservation have to be approved have to meet a minimum standard of facilities for visitors. Similarly tourist information centres signposted within the road reservation must be official centres. They are indicated by the italic i on a blue background, in contrast to shops, etc, that display the sign in their window.
Visitor radio is available in many towns as you drive through. There will be a signpost with the frequency near the entry to the town. If the radio is signposted in the road reservation it is an approved service, and must carry at least 50% of content unpaid, so there must be some information between the advertisements.
Information bays are often located just outside of towns, where you can pull over a see the attractions of a region or a town before entering.
Most New South Wales cities are within a day's drive of each other, there are a number of airlines that connect cities in the state:
Flying within New South Wales is more typically far more expensive than flying between capital cities, particularly those cities only services by a single airline. The routes serviced by Virgin Blue to Albury, Ballina and Port Macquarie, and Jetstar's service to Ballina are more competitive and offer comparable airfares to interstate fares.
To reach the Northern New South Wales towns, consider the Gold Coast airport as a cheaper alternative.
Close to Sydney, there are dual carriageways and motorways linking Sydney with the cities to the North, South and West. The Hume Highway heading towards Albury and Melbourne is mostly dual carriageway for its entire length. The Pacific Highway towards Coffs Harbour changes rapidly between new sections of high quality freeway, and older sections of winding, two lane road. Most roads to major centres are reasonable quality, with a single lane in each direction. It isn't uncommon when accessing smaller towns, or national parks to end up on gravel and dirt roads. You usually don't need a 4 wheel drive to use them, just be sure to drive to conditions. See Driving in Australia for more information.
The State speed limit is 100 km/h outside of built-up areas unless otherwise signposted.
Roads are generally signposted to the next major town or city along the route. It pays to have at least a high level map of the state showing major towns along the route. If you are using a GPS, it pays to follow the signs through towns rather than following a short-cut suggested by the GPS. The GPS suggested shortcut along a minor or unpaved road won't save you any time.
Some popular NSW roadtrips:
Some road trips are about getting to where you are going, others are about the towns along the way, and others are just about the drive.
Countrylink  runs a network of trains to major destinations, and a network of connecting buses to offer a service to most New South Wales towns. It isn't exactly quick, or frequent, however some sort of service is generally offered to most towns once a day.
Countrylink trains are air-conditioned and equipped with comfortable seats. The overnight interstate trains to Melbourne and Brisbane have limited sleeping room available at a surcharge over a first class ticket.
Food, including hot meals, are available from a buffet car on board.
It is usual to book Countrylink tickets in advance. Tickets can be bought online, from agents, stations, or by phone. Some stations have very limited hours or no facilities for selling Countrylink tickets. Discounts are often available for advance purchase. You can buy tickets up until the time of departure, and services rarely run completely full outside of peak periods. It is essential to book Countrylink tickets in advance in some country towns as the stations do not open until the train is due. Some country towns are some distance from a rail station and a shuttle bus does the final stretch. The details are available when you book your ticket. Examples is of this are at Port Macquarie and Walcha.
Cityrail trains run a surprisingly long distance from the Sydney city centre, even overlapping with the routes of some Countrylink services. Where they do overlap, it is usual for the Cityrail service to be cheaper, more flexible (in that no bookings are required), and to allow luggage and bikes in the carriage. They are, however, a little slower. See destination articles for details and alternatives. You will not get an assigned seat, but that is never a problem except for peak hour for the first 30 minutes away from the city during peak commuter period. Locals don't often use the Cityrall trains for holiday travel, so you won't see any evidence of crowds on holidays and weekends.
See the Sydney article for more information on Cityrail and Cityrail ticketing.
The bus routes in New South Wales are more extensive than the train routes but share the same fundamental design: they take travellers to and from Sydney, or to the region's major hub. Many towns have a bus service especially to meet the trains to and from Sydney in a nearby town.
There are some exceptions to the rule, and some long distance cross country bus services do run, often to provide connections to other state capitals, or between state major centres. These services can be run only a few times a week, and you will have to be lucky to make connections.
There is no official trip planner for bus and train journeys throughout the state. The tripfinder service  will find journeys about around Sydney, and for around an hour or so beyond, up through Newcastle the Hunter Valley, Illawarra and Southern Highlands. Travel further afield, particularly between complex destinations is left as an exercise for the traveller. See the local guides.
Boxed bicycles can be taken on Countrylink trains as baggage for a small extra charge. Many New South Wales towns then have wide roads that enable them to be easily explored by bike.
In the wild
Many coastal towns offer whale watching cruises during the season, including Sydney. Alternatively, there are many coastal vantage points where you can catch a glimpse if you are lucky.
The city of Sydney, unsurprisingly, represents the main food lovers' haven in New South Wales. It's the best place in the state to seek out both gourmet food and international cuisine. Particular highlights are Sydney's growing wave of Thai and fusion restaurants, and those top end restaurants whose chefs were often trained in some of the best international kitchens. Sydney's cosmopolitan population guarantees that just about every major cuisine on the planet is authentically and easily available - and generally at a great price.
Most coastal regions, including the Mid-North Coast, Northern Rivers, Central Coast, Sydney and the South Coast are a good place for seafood lovers to eat. Inland the catch may be a little less fresh.
Parts of the Central West specialise in meals made from local produce. Several of these restaurants feature regularly in the Sydney restaurant reviews, and they are beginning to have prices to match.
Vegetarians should be able to find a meal or two to suit them in almost every restaurant in the state, but are best catered for in Sydney and after that, on the somewhat "alternative" Northern Rivers.
Pubs, Clubs and Bars
Wines are grown in many parts of New South Wales.
Although tasting at the cellar door has a certain appeal, the wines themselves will certainly be cheaper at the bottle shop down the road.
Tooheys New (Lion) and Victoria Bitter (Carlton United) are the two big brands that will be on tap in most pubs around the state. Tooheys being the traditional New South Wales brand. Beer is served in schooners (smaller than a pint), or middies (about half a pint), so it is entirely reasonable to walk into most pubs and ask for 'schooner of new', and one will appear on bar. Beer glass sizes have different names and sizes in other states. On a hot day in a hot pub in the country, you will find more people drinking middles, as they stay colder. James Squire is a now premium brand of Lion, generally making richer beers, and commonly available by the bottle and sometimes on tap, much awarded a better quality beer than the mainstream, with a consistent flavour.
Bluetongue is a New South Wales independent brewer also commonly available, with a taste remarkably similar to the major brewers.
There are around a dozen other independent microbreweries in New South Wales. The beers aren't hard to find if you look, but you'll have to seek them out rather than relying on the local pub to serve them. Outside of Sydney, try Scharers Little Brewery, in Picton for a high alcohol content Bock guaranteed by the brewer to leave you hangover free the next day.
These are many hotels in New South Wales. Consult the sleep entries for the particular city you wish to visit.
Outside of weekends and school holidays it is usually possible to just drive and find accommodation along the road. Most towns of any size will have a motel or two on the road into town. Sometimes in low season they will display discounted standby rates at the gate as your drive past. If not, sometimes if they are not busy, a little discount can be negotiated at the counter. Generally expect motels to be cheaper the smaller the town, and the further away from the coast, the mountains, and Sydney that you are. Expect to pay a steep premium on weekends for those motels that are a "weekend away", for Sydneysiders.
Some of the chains covering many centres across New South Wales are:
Just about every town has a pub offering accommodation. The standard varies from newly renovated to run-down, with many quaint places in-between. In winter it can even be an idea to take a small heater, as the heating in some can often be a little inadequate.
Serviced apartments are alternative to traditional hotel accommodation with more space, and cooking facilities.
There are no box jellyfish or crocodiles in New South Wales.
There can be sharks along the beaches, but shark attacks are rare, especially on patrolled beaches.
There are no tropical cyclones or hurricanes, and tornados are very rare in New South Wales.
Some areas are prone to flooding, but it is highly unusual for the major transport routes to be closed.
Please see destination articles for any areas epecific advice.
Some police will randomly stop vehicles and accuse the driver of speeding, and hence give them a lecture on road safety. Most of the time they are not even sure if the driver was actually speeding. If you are certain that you had not been driving over the speed limit, challenge the police by asking for a radar reading. Usually, if they were bluffing, they will let you go after a breath test (provided you have not been drinking over the limit of course). But other ruthless police may still issue a fine regardless of having no radar reading. Locals who have taken the case to court generally lose because the judges are confident that police have the expertise of judging speed with their naked eyes.
As in the rest of Australia, Smoking is banned indoors in all public buildings, bars, restaurants and transport, and in private cars with children.