Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, is one of the world's most alluring cities. Graced by the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, the sparkling blue harbor is the city's crown jewel. Hop aboard a ferry or harbor cruise to really appreciate Sydney's stunning waterfront location. In addition to world-class restaurants, festivals, galleries, and museums, visitors will find plenty of things to see and do here. Stroll along the cobblestone streets of the historic Rocks area, wander through the Royal Botanic Gardens, climb the Harbour Bridge, browse the shops and restaurants at Darling Harbor, or surf the breaks at Bondi Beach. Stretching northwest from Sydney, the picturesque Hawkesbury River and surrounding National Parks are great daytrip destinations with excellent opportunities for bushwalking, birding, and boating.
2 Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park
For more than a hundred years the Blue Mountains have been a favorite holiday resort for Sydneysiders. About 65 km west of the city, the mountains rise steeply out of the coastal plain, combining magnificent gorges, waterfalls, rock formations, and sacred aboriginal sites with excellent tourist facilities. Named for the blue haze created by the many eucalyptus trees, the Blue Mountains region is a World Heritage Site and a haven for nature lovers with excellent hiking, rock climbing, abseiling, and mountain biking. Top attractions in the area include Wentworth Falls; the towering sandstone rock formations called the Three Sisters; the Katoomba Scenic World with a Skyway, elevated walkway, and one of the world's steepest railways; Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah; and the Zig Zag Railway. At Jenolan Caves, the world's oldest known open cave system, visitors can view glittering stalactites and stalagmites.
3 Snowy Mountains
Forming part of the Great Dividing Range, the Snowy Mountains are home to the continent's highest mountains, including 2, 228 m Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest peak. Kosciuszko National Park here is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a popular year-round recreational area. Snowy winters lure skiers, while, in the summer, the easily accessible alpine terrain of snow gum forests and glacial lakes attracts hordes of bush walkers, climbers, anglers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and water sports enthusiasts. Famous for its excellent trout fishing, Jindabyne is a great base for adventures into the Snowy Mountains. Perisher Blue Ski Resort incorporates the popular Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Guthega, and Mount Blue Cow, while Thredbo Village, at the foot of the Crackenback Range, boasts a year-round chair lift. Near the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, Charlotte Pass is a great base for ski tours to the highest peaks in the Australian Alps.
4 Hunter Valley
Dotted with vineyards and farms, the picturesque Hunter Valley, about a 2-hour drive north of Sydney and an hour from Newcastle, is a popular weekend escape. Apart from the many vineyards, highlights of the region include the beautiful Hunter Valley Gardens, galleries, gourmet foods, cooking schools, and vast stretches of unspoiled bushland. At World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park, visitors can hike through ancient rainforest and see picturesque waterfalls and a diversity of wildlife. Also in the region, Wollemi National Park, is one of the largest national parks in New South Wales. It's home to the famous Wollemi pine and offers excellent bushwalking, rock climbing, and canoeing. Accommodations in the Hunter region range from luxury spa resorts and boutique hotels to rustic cabins.