New South Wales travel guide and things to do: Your essential guide to NSW

With many other states still closed it's the perfect time to re-engage New South Wales, all 801,150 glorious, and lately elusive, square kilometres of it. Whether you live here or are able to visit from interstate (hello, Victorians), there's much to see in Sydney and beyond.

Traveller's writers and editors have compiled this essential guide to inspire you and help you on your way. It's based on their firsthand, favourite wanderings in every direction from north, south, east and west, in this incredibly diverse and dynamic state.

CONTRIBUTORS

Ben Groundwater, Ute Junker, Brian Johnston, Catherine Marshall, Rob McFarland, Sheriden Rhodes, Craig Tansley, Sue Williams and Anthony Dennis

NEW (SOUTH) SOUTH WALES

Spectacular outback landscapes showcasing the Walls of China in the World Heritage Mungo National Park. australia's best outback sights. David Whitley. One time use for Traveller only.

The Walls of China in the World Heritage Mungo National Park. Photo: Dee Kramer

CYCLE: POLISH YOUR BIKING SKILLS ON THE SAPPHIRE COAST

For many, the Sapphire Coast is all about water-based activities but it's also a destination for mountain-biking and cycling. Head to the Tathra region for a choice of roller coaster tracks, catering to all experience levels, through forest and across scenic coastal bushland. For the fit (or foolhardy), a 50-kilometre trail leads south to Kalaru. Hundreds of kilometres of fire and national-park trails are also open to bikers. See sapphirecoast.com.au

DRIVE: MOTOR ALL THE WAY FROM THE MURRAY TO THE MURRUMBIDGEE

This road trip along the bottom end of NSW from Wellington to Gundagai takes you from the Murray River and flat red outback to rolling wheat fields and settler towns. It also takes in Mungo National Park, bird-haunted wetlands, pastoral homesteads, bushranger history and the Australian Shearers' Hall of Fame. True-blue Australia is brought to life, with red river gums, koalas, sheep sheds and much more piling on the welcome cliches. See visitnsw.com

EAT: HEAD OFF THE HUME FOR A GRAND GOURMET PITSTOP

By now many savvy NSW travellers are familiar with the Sir George, the hotel and pub that has almost single-handedly revitalised the tiny town of Jugiong. However, there's another reason to stop here: to stock up on gourmet ingredients – some of which you won't even find in the city – from the hotel's store. Items range from Spanish anchovies to local salami to high-end dried pasta to excellent wine. See sirgeorge.com.au

EXPLORE: LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE AT BEAUTIFUL BEN BOYD NATIONAL PARK

This ruggedly beautiful and wild coastline near Eden in NSW's south-east corner has great hiking tracks that range from easy to challenging. A highlight is the three-day Light to Light walk from historic monument Boyds Tower to Green Cape Light Station, where battered red rocks and sapphire ocean collide. Whales huff and puff as they migrate past and, if you camp, expect to see wombats trundle and wallabies hop. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

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CYCLE: HIKE, BIKE AND JIVE AT THREDBO

Not content with being named Australia's best ski resort for the last four years running, Thredbo has its sights set on summer supremacy too. Visitors can scale Australia's highest peak, the 2228-metre Mount Kosciuszko; hurtle down 35 kilometres of bike trails or find inner peace on a three-day yoga and wellness retreat. There's also a busy schedule of festivals, from blues and biking to kids camps and fly fishing. See thredbo.com.au

DRIVE: MAKE YOUR WAY ALONG THE PRETTY POACHER'S WAY

The slow charms and petite pleasures of this food and wine route near Murrumbateman provide an unexpectedly seductive weekend away or mid-week break among the vineyards of the cool-climate Canberra wine region (not in the ACT but NSW). Meander from restaurant to craft shop, cellar door to providore, chocolate shop to colonial-era pub. See visitnsw.com

EXPLORE: HOT FOOT IT TO THE SNOWY FOOTHILLS

Tumbarumba may be a sleepy hamlet of barely 2000 people in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains but it offers much to see and do. Begin with hiking on one of the myriad pathways through Kosciuszko National Park; take a gentle cycle on the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail; go canoeing on the Tumut River; try fly-fishing in Tumbarumba Creek and sample some exciting cool-climate wines at Courabyra. See visitsnowyvalleys.com.au

EAT: MAKE HASTE TO PASTE IN THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS

When you score a Michelin star for your first restaurant (Paste in Bangkok) and get named best female chef in Asia in 2018, what do you do for your next trick? In the case of Bee Satongun, she opened a restaurant in the Southern Highlands. From the tapioca dumpling stuffed with smoked Snowy River trout to slipper lobster and pomelo, the food is outstanding. See pasteaustralia.com

NEW NORTH WALES

Aerial overlooking the scenic waters off Number One Beach, Seal Rocks. 25oct-coveradd

The scenic waters off Number One Beach, Seal Rocks. Photo: Guy Williment

LEARN: EXPLORE THE MUSEUM PIECE THAT IS MURWILLUMBAH

Murwillumbah's skyline is embellished with the chevrons, sunburst ceilings, ziggurats and decorative fonts so characteristic of Art Deco design. Grab a copy of the Facade brochure from the Tweed Regional Museum or Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre and follow the map on a self-guided exploration of the CBD's architectural eye candy. See museum.tweed.nsw.gov.au; visitnsw.com

DRIVE: GO WITH THE FLOW ALONG THE WATERFALL WAY

Head inland from Coffs Harbour, through the funky town of Bellingen, up the snaking Waterfall Way drive and eventually you'll arrive at a World Heritage-listed swathe of ancient Gondwana Rainforest called Dorrigo National Park. Admire the epic views over the Dorrigo Plateau but don't leave without tackling one of the park's guided trails like the six-kilometre Wonga Walk, a magical meander past two towering waterfalls. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

EAT: EXPERIENCE LIFE IN THE RAW IN FEDERAL

Tucked away in the rolling hills of Byron's hinterland, this foodie gem even had The New York Times raving. Doma at Federal serves up rustic Japanese fare from a farmhouse-style store where diners eat in a pretty outdoor setting with flower beds and wandering chooks. The house-made temaki-style sushi and nigiri always hits the spot while signature specials sell out in a flash. No website

DISCOVER: SEAL THE DEAL AT SEAL ROCKS

Take yourself to any lighthouse in NSW for exhilarating views. Seal Rocks Lighthouse, in the Myall Lakes National Park, and its charming heritage accommodation looks over damp headlands frothing with forest, huge sand dunes, and wild beaches barely marked by a footprint. The wind pummels your stress away as you're rinsed in magnificent blue. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

EAT: HEAD TO THE STIX FOR THE TRUE TASTE OF SYDNEY

Discover the provenance of popular Sydney dishes at Stix Farm in the Hawkesbury region. Here on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, chef and owner David Allison grows organic produce for notable Sydney eateries Firedoor, Rockpool, Saint Peter, Nomad and Ester, as well as his Marrickville cafe and catering business. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the farm followed by a farm-fresh lunch or riverside picnic. See stix.com.au

DRIVE: DISCOVER THE JEWELS ALONG THE LEGENDARY PACIFIC COAST

Calling yourself "legendary" is a bold move. Thankfully, the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive delivers. This epic 820-kilometre road trip from Sydney to Tweed Heads snakes along the NSW coast, serving up a parade of pristine beaches, lush hinterland and sparkling lakes. Enroute, it skirts popular hubs like Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay, plus lesser-known jewels such as South West Rocks and Yamba. See visitnsw.com

EAT: CHOW DOWN ON THE FARM IN BYRON

Located 10 kilometres from Bangalow, you'll find the Byron Shire's coolest new eatery in a converted barn within a cattle farm in a place no-one's heard of (Nashua). The concept of farm-to-table dining gets an overhaul (this is farm-to-farm dining) with patrons served long-table-style beside cattle in pastures. Former head chef at the ritzy Whitsunday resort Qualia, Alastair Waddell, creates a sharing menu that changes with the seasons. See fridasfield.com

QUAFF: SAMPLE THE NEW WINE REGION OF NEW ENGLAND

Everyone's gone crazy about the Orange wine region, and rightly so, but the New England wine region still flies under the radar. The youngest wine region in the state shouldn't be ignored, with its best winery being Merilba Estate. Sample their semillon and chardonnay at a tasting room (and restaurant) inside a 150-year-old restored stable with floor-to-ceiling windows looking across a pretty green valley. See merilbaestatewines.com.au

LEARN: GO MANGROVES GO - ON A TWEED RIVER ECO-CRUISE

Take a four-hour pot-to-plate adventure up the Tweed River (near Tweed Heads) with a local Indigenous elder and a professional crabber. You'll follow local Bundjalung man Luther Cora into mangroves to catch mud crabs, and help spear fish and stingrays with a traditional bamboo spear. When you're done, gather round the bonfire for an al fresco feast as Cora cooks your catch the way it's been done for thousands of years. See tweedecocruises.com

EAT: HEAD TO A RESTAURANT YOU CAN BANK ON

A newcomer it may be but already Murwillumbah's Tweed River House is earning a reputation as one of regional NSW's best new eateries. Set inside a restored 1907 residence, dine under oversized chandeliers looking over the Tweed River and Mount Warning (Wollumbin). Head chef Joseph McGrattan (who trained in Michelin-starred restaurants) makes the best use of the bounty of local farmers and fishermen in a region recently recognised as having the best produce in NSW. See tweedriverhouse.com.au

REJUVENATE: WHERE THE BLISS IS TOO GOOD TO MISS

The retreat  can hold functions for up to 100 guests. Its facilities a naturopathic clinic, a day spa, a salt water heated swimming pool, sauna and spa, a yoga room, a fitness centre, and tennis court.

Gaia Retreat & Spa.

At Gaia Retreat & Spa in the Byron hinterland, the relaxation starts long before your first massage. Arrive at the Samoan-style long house that's at the heart of the spa – decked out with daybeds and floaty fabrics – and you can feel the tension start leaching from your body. Dial the relief up another notch with one of the two complimentary morning yoga classes (timed for early and late risers respectively). See gaiaretreat.com.au

DRIVE: SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW ON THE RAINFOREST WAY

One of Australia's best day (or if you fancy, multiple-day) drives, The Rainforest Way is a 270-kilometre drive through the Rainbow Region of Australia, beside World-Heritage listed national parks, home to the oldest rainforest left on Earth. It starts in Byron Bay, and takes in Murwillumbah, Lismore and Mullumbimby. See therainforestway.com.au

DISCOVER: CHILL OUT TO THE MAX IN UKI

Uki is a dot in the north-east corner of NSW, just where the Tweed River wiggles between emerald hills, Mount Warning looms and whipbirds call from surrounding Wollumbin National Park. There's nothing to do but wander the bush trails, kayak, fish, encounter lyrebirds, take pretty drives through dairy-farm country towards Murwillumbah, and sit on scenic restaurant verandas. With landscapes this ridiculously beautiful, why would you want to do anything else? See visitthetweed.com.au

RELAX: SAVOUR THE SCENIC SECLUSION OF SEVEN MILE BEACH

There are some beaches great for walking; others for swimming, surfing, fishing or just sitting in the shade and reading a book. This stretch of relatively secluded beautiful sand delivers them all. It's perfect at sunrise, exquisite at sunset and damned wonderful in between. Backing onto the Booti Booti National Park, it's picnic and barbecue-friendly but never crowded with dolphins and whales cruising by. See barringtoncoast.com.au; visitnsw.com

NEW EAST WALES

Friends enjoying a warm sunrise from Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie. Traveller, best lakes Australia

Caves Beach near Lake Macquarie.

EXPLORE: CAVES BY NAME, CAVES BY NATURE AT CAVES BEACH

What differentiates Caves Beach from the other sublime sweeps of sand that fringe the Central Coast? A yawning sea cave in the sandstone headland at its southern end. Only accessible at low tide, the cave is the entry point to a maze of tunnels that leads to a secluded cove of rock pools. Leave the iPad at home as this intriguing labyrinth will keep the kids entertained for hours. See visitnsw.com

EAT: TAKE A CAKE WALK IN NEWCASTLE

Former MasterChef contestant Reece Hignell has opened an old school bakery in his hometown of Newcastle. Inspired by his late nan, Hignell's nostalgic creations are based on his grandmother's recipes and draw cake lovers from as far afield as Sydney and Mudgee. The lemon tart and carrot cake walk out the door. See cakeboitakeaway.square.site

DRINK: GET RIGHT INTO THE NEWCASTLE SPIRIT

Become a distiller for the day at this new gin blending class at Earp Bros Distillery in Newcastle's harbourside village of Carrington. Start with a gin tasting, learn about gin's fascinating history before blending two of your own custom-made gins from a vast selection of Australian and international botanicals. Participants even get to label and name their blends. See earpdistillingco.com

EAT: EXPERIENCE A SYDNEY WOOL STORE WITH MORE

Grains from around NSW are milled onsite at Grana, near Circular Quay. The heritage location – a former wool store – is suffused with the scent of baked bread, decorated in hues complementing the sandstone walls, and is warmed by earthy hospitality. The emporium encompasses an open-plan restaurant, bakery, pasta room and pastry kitchen (upstairs is the more formal Lana restaurant and in the basement the Apollonia bar). See grana.sydney

RELAX: PALM YOURSELF OFF TO PACIFIC PALMS

Imagine you had to design the perfect coastal hamlet. Odds are you'd position it on a quiet, out-of-the-way peninsula, pepper it with glorious beaches, create a vast lake for water sports and surround it with spectacular national parks. And, of course, you'd throw in a laidback village with cute cafes and excellent coffee. Well, this mythical place exists. It's called Pacific Palms and it's 20 minutes south of Forster. See visitnsw.com

EAT: VIVA ESPANA ON THE CENTRAL COAST

Whimsical pastry wonderland Bouffant is found in Gosford's formerly down-at-heel CBD. Based on the hugely popular Spanish bakery, Granier, rows of Instagrammable goodness including doughnuts, classic buttery croissants, house-made breads and pretty cakes tempt customers in a restored heritage building. The salted caramel doughnuts are worth the trip to the Central Coast alone (there are branches at Terrigal and Umina Beach). See bouffant.com

EXPLORE: ESCAPE THE WINERY CROWDS AT BROKE-FORDWICH

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Tinonee Vineyard Estate. Photo: Adam Obradovic & Joseph Hammond

This lesser-known Hunter Valley sub-region is a welcoming tranquil respite compared with the busy tourist hub of Pokolbin. Framed by gently rolling hills and the striking Brokenback Mountain Range, it's also more scenic. Stay in style at Tinonee Estate, sample wines from nearby vineyards Winmark, Whispering Brook and Running Horse and feast at the hatted, seasonally-driven Margan restaurant. See brokefordwich.com.au; tinoneevineyardestate.com.au

TOUR: VISIT A "SHELLAR DOOR" IN THE HAWKESBURY

There are only two places in Australia where pearls are farmed: the far north of Western Australia, and… just north of Sydney. Who knew there was a pearl farm in Broken Bay, just across the Hawkesbury? Here, visitors can join pearl farmers to discover all there is to know about the business, from a quick tour of the oysters out on the water, to a lesson in pearl grading at the "shellar door". And of course, maybe buy a few items. See brokenbaypearlfarm.com.au

EXPLORE: THE CHASE IS ON AT KU-RING-GAI

In Sydney's north, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park spans multiple suburbs and many waterways – perfect for boating, kayaking and paddle-boarding – and a lattice of walking tracks. The park is also a rich trove of native plants and wildlife. Jazz up your visit by camping at The Basin, taking an oyster tour on the Hawkesbury River or joining a Welcome to Country guide on an Aboriginal rock art tour. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au; welcometocountry.com

COMMUNE: STROLL THE SPECTACULAR COAST AT BOUDDI

Scenic coastal views from Bouddi National Park, Bouddi. tra20centralcoast

Bouddi National Park, Bouddi. Photo: David Ross

Stretching from Putty Beach to MacMasters Beach in the heart of Bouddi National Park, the eight- kilometre Bouddi coastal walk delivers a dramatic procession of secluded coves, colourful sandstone headlands and dense thickets of rainforest. Keep your eyes peeled for migrating whales between April and November plus the remains of the shipwrecked PS Maitland at low tide. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

DISCOVER: TAKE A DEEP DIVE TO SYDNEY'S UNDERWORLD

What a way to explore your city: underwater. Even for residents of Sydney it's a surprise to find that the city with so much going for it above the water has as much to discover below. Arm yourself with a mask, snorkel and fins and explore one of Sydney's 10 aquatic reserves, from Cabbage Tree Bay, Long Reef and Narrabeen in the north, to Gordons Bay, Towra Point and Shiprock in the south. Spot rays, gropers, dolphins, seals, sharks and more. See sydney.com

EAT: SAVOUR THE ECLECTIC RESTAURANTS OF ENMORE AND NEWTOWN

The dilemma in two of Sydney's best foodie hubs is exactly where to start? Is it cheap and cheerful (Cairo Takeaway), a social enterprise (Colombo Social), a scoop or two of artisan gelato (Cow and The Moon) or vegan (Vandal Taqueria and Golden Lotus)? Imbibers are equally spoiled with breweries (Young Henry's) and natural wine shops (P&Vmerchants). See colombosocial.com.au; cowandthemoon.com.au; vandalsydney.com.au; goldenlotus-vegan.com; younghenrys.com; pnvmerchants.com

INDULGE: FLOAT YOUR LUXURY BOAT IN SYDNEY

Enjoy the millionaire lifestyle for an afternoon when you charter a sports cruiser with My Sydney Yacht. Choose your destination or let the crew show you their favourite spots, including isolated beaches accessible only by boat. You may even get lucky and have dolphins accompany you as you cut through the waves. BYO food and drinks, or let the crew cater with a picnic or a seafood platter. See mysydneyboat.com.au

EAT: WINE AND DINE AT THE PARRA EATERIES THAT MATTER

This city at the geographical heart of Sydney has emerged as a vibrant restaurant destination, particularly notable for Middle Eastern, Taiwanese and south-east Asian cuisines – though it has everything from Cuban to Texan. Adjacent Harris Park has an entire street (Wigram Road) of Indian eateries. The nightlife rocks too thanks to beer gardens, pubs, cocktail lounges and speakeasies – not to mention a dive bar (Uncle Kurt's) beneath a carpark. See atparramatta.com

LEARN: EXPLORE THE OTHER SIDE OF SYDNEY'S BEACH CULTURE

We see the beach, the ocean, the views; Indigenous people also see a rich source of abalone and lobsters, bush tucker, bush medicine, wildlife, textiles and the lives that passed before. Grant Hyde and his group of local Koori guides run walks around the eastern beaches, exploring Indigenous, colonial and convict histories, telling ancestral stories, holding ceremony and interpreting the local flora and fauna. See historicsydney.com

EAT: SAVOUR A SQUARE MEAL AT THE BOX ON THE WATER

A stunning place to breakfast, lunch or dinner in an area that has precious few of them is the glass-walled The Box On The Water, perched on the foreshore of Ettalong Beach, looking straight out across Broken Bay. Don't miss their paperbark hot smoked salmon with lemon myrtle beurre blanc, sweet potato puree and silverbeet, finished off with dark chocolate brulee and berries. See theboxonthewater.com

DISCOVER: ACQUIRE AN ITCH TO TWITCH AT LAKE MACQUARIE

Lake Macquarie, more than twice the size of Sydney Harbour, attracts a huge variety of birds, over 299 species at the last count. Idle away a weekend than watching a white-bellied sea eagle swooping down to snatch fish with its talons from the lake's surface, an osprey diving underwater for its lunch or the speediest bird in the sky, the peregrine falcon, flashing past. See visitlakemac.com.au; visitnsw.com

EAT: FROM SAND TO SANDWICHES AT MEREWETHER SURFHOUSE, NEWCASTLE

Waves crashing on rocks below, but above it's a picture of calm amid the tangle of fettuccine, rigatoni and gnocchi of the modern Italian at the Merewether Surfhouse with its 270-degree views up and down the coast. Or stay on ground level for their fabulous coffee, cafe fare, or wood-fired pizzas. Too often something for everyone ends up not much at all of note, but this is the exception. The ultimate crowd-pleaser that's a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. See surfhouse.com.au

NEW WEST WALES

Dryridge Estate - Blue Mountains Winery - Megalong Valley
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Dryridge Estate in the Megalong Valley.

DISCOVER: UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF THE SECRET GARDEN

Colour bursts across the dun plains near Oberon at Mayfield Garden, one of the world's largest privately-owned cool climate gardens. Stroll through 16 hectares of orchards, arbours, coppices, thickets and meadows and glory in their showers of seasonal colour. Around each corner lies some folly – a lacquered Japanese bridge here, an obelisk pond there. Visit during a seasonal festival time and access to the owners' private garden. See mayfieldgarden.com.au

LEARN: TUCK INTO AUTHENTIC BUSH TUCKER IN ORANGE

Gerald Power learned about the healing – and nourishing – properties of bush tucker from his grandmother while growing up in Queensland. The now Orange-based founder of Indigenous Cultural Adventures shares this knowledge (with the blessing of Wiradjuri elders) while the signature scoop at Spilt Milt, a cool Orange gelateria, is flavoured with Power's home-grown lemon myrtle. See indigenousculturaladventures.com.au

DRIVE: ENCOUNTER COWRA'S FIELDS OF DREAMS DURING CANOLA SEASON

The hills come alive around Cowra in spring, when the canola flowers are blooming, and it's an incredible sight. The rolling hills that surround this central NSW town are covered in buttery yellow blankets after winter, fields that often stretch as far as the eye can see, making for fantastic photos and beautiful drives. Take the roads from Cowra to Gooloogong via Canowindra, or Cowra to Grenfell via Greenethorpe and Landra. See visitcowra.com.au; visitnsw.com

LEARN: VISIT THE BACK O' BOURKE EXHIBITION CENTRE

Bourke sits at the hinge between outback and agricultural land and was crucial to the opening-up of inland NSW. Henry Lawson once said: "If you know Bourke, you know Australia", and this exhibition centre sets out to tell you about both through displays on Indigenous history, early European exploration and settlement, outback transportation, the development of the wool industry and much more. Talking holograms add to the storytelling.

See visitbourke.com.au; visitnsw.com

DISCOVER: MEET AND MIX WITH THE CHARACTERS OF WHITE CLIFFS

Dick Wagner moved to the middle of nowhere and declared it paradise. He got to White Cliffs, the former opal-mining boom town with a population nowadays of 103, and thought, this is the spot for me. Someone else in White Cliffs has parked a yacht in their front yard – the nearest body of water must be hundreds of kilometres away. People here still mine opals, despite the slim chance of finding anything. See visitnsw.com

QUAFF: MAKE YOUR WAY ALONG TO A WINERY IN THE MEGALONG VALLEY

Pop quiz: where is Sydney's closet wine region? If you answered anything other than "Blue Mountains", you're in for a surprise. Take a left at Blackheath and head down into the Megalong Valley to find Dryridge Estate, and its neighbour, Megalong Creek Estate. Even if the wines weren't any good – and they are – the amazing views would be worth the drive. Order a cheese and charcuterie board and settle in. See dryridge.com.au; visitnsw.com

DISCOVER: GET THE PULSE RACING AT AN OUTBACK MEETING

Horses bolt out of their gates, red dust flies, and beer and outback camaraderie flows. Some spectators at this August event in Louth, a smidge under a 100 kilometres from Bourke are frocked and high-heeled, others wear green wigs or cow suits. You couldn't get more Australian – and that's before the sausage sizzles and campfire yarns. See louthraces.com

EAT: FROM FARM TO FORK AT PIPECLAY PUMPHOUSE IN MUDGEE

Andy Crestani, former chef at city celebrity haunt Otto Ristorante, now helms this rustic restaurant at Robert Stein Winery, and elevates farm-to-fork dining to elegant levels. The wine-paired, six-course set menu can include truffle tuna tartare with Jerusalem artichoke, pumpkin ravioli, and wagyu beef, and finish with an unusual (but scrumptious) dark chocolate panna cotta with beetroot. See pipeclaypumphouse.com.au; visitnsw.com

EXPERIENCE: MAKE MORE THAN A FLYING VISIT TO THE RFDS IN DUBBO

Trace the history of the remarkable Royal Flying Doctor Service since its founding in 1928 at this excellent visitor centre, where the kids will enjoy the simulated flight take-off, augmented-reality displays and chance to clamber through emergency aircraft. Giant screens show the real-time location of RFDS planes. The centre also does a great job in bringing the personal stories of doctors, pilots and outback characters to life. See dubbo.experience.flyingdoctor.org.au

INDIGENOUS: BE ROCKED BY THE ART OF MUTAWINTJI NATIONAL PARK

Book an Indigenous guide and head out into Mutawintji near Broken Hill, where you'll find one of the best collections of Indigenous rock art in NSW. Rock shelters are splattered with the ceremonial paintings, engravings and stencils of the Malyankapa and Pandjikali people who have camped here for 8000 years. The red gorges of the national park are home to rare yellow-footed rock wallabies and abundant birds. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au; visitnsw.com

WINE: MAKE SOME SPACE FOR LOGAN WINES IN MUDGEE

If an alien spacecraft landed amid the Central West's rolling hills it may look like the cellar door at Logan Wines, angular in steel and glass. Winemaker Peter Logan's adventurous architectural spirit translates to his wines: he was an early Australian adopter of Pinot Gris and is a current champion of the still-overlooked Gewürztraminer. His two Ridge of Tears Shirazes from Orange and Mudgee provide a nice lesson in terroir. See loganwines.com.au

FIVE CLASSIC NSW CITY EXPERIENCES

NEWCASTLE DINING

Wander from bakery to brewery, bar to bistro in blossoming foodie districts such as Cooks Hill, Hamilton and Mayfield. See visitnewcastle.com.au

DARLING HARBOUR DELIGHTS

Excellent maritime museum, family-friendly attractions, Chinese garden, restaurants and a roster of festivals: urban Sydney fun for everyone. See darlingharbour.com

WOLLONGONG INDUSTRY

Tour the working port or steelworks for an insight into the grittier side of Australian life. See insideindustry.org.au

SURRY HILLS BREAKFAST

Nothing quite as inner-city as smashed avocado and fair-trade coffee in this lively shabby-chic enclave. See sydney.com

SYDNEY FERRIES

No matter how cliched it is, a ferry ride to Manly or Mosman through scintillating urban scenes never disappoints. See transportnsw.info

FIVE CLASSIC NSW OUTBACK EXPERIENCES

Glamourous hosts Philmah Bocks and Art Simone roll through Main Street, Broken Hill during the Broken Heel Street Parade. sunjan19takeoff

The Broken Heel Street Parade. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

BROKEN HEEL FESTIVAL

Three days of drag-queen shenanigans at the outrageously kitsch Palace Hotel for a slice of Priscilla in outback Broken Hill. See thepalacehotelbrokenhill.com.au

MUNGO NATIONAL PARK

Evidence of human activity 20,000 years ago in an evocative desert setting, best experienced on an Indigenous tour. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

A BEER IN TIBOOBURRA

The 1882 Family Hotel is one of NSW's most isolated pubs and has a sandstone verandah, lurid murals, friendly locals and talkative passing travellers. See tibooburra.com.au

SHEEP SHEARING IN HAY

Demonstrations in the woolshed at the Australian Shearers Hall of Fame, and an insight into the shearing life. See visithay.com.au

LIGHTNING RIDGE

The sizzling opal-mining town provides a chance to fossick, and is an entertaining gathering place of outback eccentrics. See visitnsw.com

FIVE CLASSIC NSW NATURE ENCOUNTERS

Coral gardens surrounding Lord Howe Island with views of Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower. traxxsouthpacific
Lord Howe 
Credit: Destination NSW 

Coral gardens surrounding Lord Howe Island with views of Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower. Photo: Jordan Robins

LORD HOWE ISLAND

Though known for handsome landscapes, Lord Howe shelters over 200 bird species. Shearwaters, tropicbirds and petrels darken the sky. See lordhoweisland.info

MONTAGUE ISLAND

Move over South Australia: you can swim, snorkel or scuba dive with seals (and occasional turtles) off the NSW South Coast. See underwatersafaris.com.au

GONDWANA RAINFOREST

Some 30 national parks preserve rainforest created before dinosaurs roamed, which rank among the world's oldest landscapes. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

MURRUMBIDGEE VALLEY

No shortage of koalas at Narrandera, where over 200 decorate the red gums like Christmas baubles. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

MENINDEE LAKES

These once drought-ravaged waterways have hit maximum floodwater capacity, luring in spectacular birdlife and abundant marsupials. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

FIVE CLASSIC NSW HIGHWAYS

Sea Cliff Bridge on sunrise with beautiful pink and purple, violet sky and ocean shore on the background. The Bridge is part of  Grand Pacific highway and is scenic route along coastal NSW, Australia sunmar22cover
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Sunrise on Sea Cliff Bridge on the Pacific Highway. Photo: iStock

PACIFIC HIGHWAY

The road-tripping highway we love to hate has finished its upgrade, offering easier access to magnificent coastline. See pacificcoast.com.au

KIDMAN WAY

Linking Albury and Bourke, this 820-kilometre route reveals inland Australia through mines, wines, colonial towns and contemporary art. See kidmanway.org.au

NEWELL HIGHWAY

The state's longest highway (1060 kilometres) features wool and wheat country but also outstanding astronomical sites and observatories. See newellhighway.org.au

COBB HIGHWAY

Retrace the original Long Paddock stock route from Echuca on the Murray to Wilcannia in the deep outback. See thelongpaddock.com.au

FOSSICKERS WAY

A meander around New England's historic country towns and discover lesser-known gems such as Emmaville, Uralla and Nundle. See visitnsw.com

FIVE CLASSIC NSW TOWNS

Supplied PR image for Traveller. Traveller 10 mining towns by Brian Johnston tra22-online-mining
Outback Art Gallery, Silverton (Destination NSW)

The Outback Art Gallery, Silverton.

SOUTH WEST ROCKS

Sleepy, old-fashioned coastal town spared concrete development and flanked by lovely beaches, headlands and national park. See macleayvalleycoast.com.au

GULGONG

Childhood home of Henry Lawson and gold-rush time capsule with a terrific Pioneer's Museum, but also a thriving dining scene. See visitmudgeeregion.com.au

SILVERTON

Every stereotype of the outback town: red earth, old mines, abandoned buildings, pub, Mad Max memorabilia, eccentric characters and great sunsets. See silverton.org.au

MILTON

The definitive country town: historic but trendy, crammed with eateries and quirky shops, surrounded by cow-chewed hills and vineyards. See shoalhaven.com

CANOWINDRA

Classical colonial streetscapes and bushranger heritage are a delight; top hot-air ballooning is a bonus. See orange360.com.au

QUINTESSENTIALLY NSW

HOTELS - WhiteCliffs str19-goplaces

White Cliffs Underground Motel. Photo: Glen Parker

Is there anything as beautiful as watching the sunset over the desert? In White Cliffs, way out in western NSW, all of the guests at the Underground Hotel gather on the top of the hill each evening to crack open a drink and toast the end of another great day. It's a moment of perfection. See visitnsw.com; undergroundmotel.com.au

Watch the sun sink behind the Opera House from the dramatic open-air lounge at the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga. Offering sweeping harbour views and an exotic soundtrack of bird and animal calls, this stylish resort in the heart of Taronga Zoo is a uniquely Sydney experience. There's nothing like it anywhere. See taronga.org.au

 

Catch the Palm Beach to Patonga ferry and alight through the Brisbane Water National Park. At walk's end feast on prawns and beer at the Boathouse Patonga Check into one of the coastal chic apartments upstairs or the new beach house. See palmbeachrivercruises.com.au; theboathousehotelpatonga.com.au; visitnsw.com

 

Sydney reveals herself to you anew when you walk along the coast from Watsons Bay to Rose Bay, a route encompassing the Hermitage Foreshore Track. From here pause and admire the heart-stopping skyline from secretive lookouts with names like Milk Beach, Sunset Place and Hermit Bay. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

 

Ride your last wave of the day at The Pass in Byron Bay as the setting sun sinks into the mountains of the region's hinterland where Mount Warning (Wollumbin) stands tallest of all. The first star's about ready to twinkle, but the water's still as warm as your bath-tub. See visitnsw.com

 

Big things, large attractions by the side of the highway meant to honour local produce or customs find their true and droll home in NSW. Don't miss Nyngan's Big Bogan, with its singlet and Esky; the Big Potato, in Robertson, which looks like… something else; Ballina's Big Prawn; and of course the Big Beer Can, proudly displayed in Cobar. See visitnsw.com

 

Some people love a sunset over the sea but at the other end of the day, the sight of the sun rising out of the water starts your day with a feeling of wonder. There are plenty of perfect vantage points right along the coast, from Byron Bay to Sydney and down south to Batemans Bay. See visitnsw.com

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