For most overseas visitors, Sydney is the place through which they enter and leave Australia, and there is a reason for that. Sydney is geared towards tourism, and more so than any other capital city except perhaps Darwin. The city is built on one of the most beautiful harbours in the world; throughout its suburbs and outlying areas are pockets of virgin bushland which not only means you don't have to drive great distances to see its natural attractions because they are right there, just a short walk or drive away.
The Hunter Valley
Like its coastal neighbour, the Central Coast, the Hunter Valley has become a favourite weekend destination for Sydneysiders, offering not only wine tasting, but also fine dining and boutique accommodation, bushland and hillside walks, as well as gardens and historic towns to explore. On a drive through the valley, an every changing variety of scenery unfolds, from rugged mountains at its head, past horse stud farms and grazing cattle, to one of Australia's leading wine regions where vineyards have been planted close to power stations and coal mines.
The Illawarra Region
The Illawarra region is conveniently located to the south of Sydney and offers the best of everything - dramatic landscapes, pristine beaches, scenic drives and towns full of character. The Illawarra is overlooked from the spectacular lookouts at the top of the Eastern Escarpment as you approach Wollongong from Sydney. The Illawarra's attractions include fine surfing beaches and magnificent panoramic views along the whole coastline, water sports, and prawning and fishing in many inlets including Lake Illawarra.
The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains begin about 64 kms west of Sydney and contain some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in eastern Australia - tremendous sandstone precipices ringing densely wooded valleys which, when viewed from a distance, are of an intense cobalt blue, hence the range's name. It has been extensively developed for tourism and is now criss-crossed by more than 1,100 kms of roads. The terrain, however, is so broken by deep gorges that considerable areas are still rarely visited, except by skilled bush walkers or mountain climbers. The Blue Mountains by Rail
The Southern Highlands
The Southern Highlands has long been the perfect weekend escape for jaded Sydneysiders looking to get away and unwind for a while. There is something for everyone - markets, antiques books and speciality shops, Cellar Doors Sales, Road Side Farm Produce Stalls, all surrounded by rolling green hills, rain forest and national parks. One of the many special things about the Southern Highlands is that you don't have to travel far to discover the many picturesque towns and villages, each with its own history and identity.
The Hawkesbury Valley
Few would argue that, after the blazingly spectacular gorges of the far north, the Hawkesbury River is the most beautiful reach of river on the Australian continent. The entire Hawkesbury River system is around 600 kms long, its tributaries virtually encircle the metropolitan region of Sydney to the north and east, making it a perfect recreational playground for the city of Sydney. The country through which the lower tidal reaches of the river pass is particularly beautiful.
The Central Coast
Though it is the third largest urban area in New South Wales, the Central Coast is a very popular destination for holidays and day trips, particularly for families from Sydney who are drawn here by the region's closeness, its facilities and its natural beauty. Being set among broad sandy beaches, scenic national parks, deepwater inlets and coastal lakes, an endless array of water activities including boating, fishing, surfing, scuba diving and water skiing are possible and facilities have been developed.
Billed as one of the seven wonders of New South Wales, Monaro High Country and The Snowy Mountains stretches the length of the South Coast region, its main feature being the Snowy Mountains. Winter is renowned for its picturesque snow fields, Spring is a multitude of rural shows and festivals, a time the mountains are painted with wildflowers and blossoms. Summer provides for relaxing fishing and bush walking activities with Autumn portraying the region's brilliant colours as the Autumn leaves fall.
The North Coast of NSW has a seemingly endless ribbon of beaches - some busy with holidaymakers, other totally deserted - offering surfing, whale-watching, frolicking dolphins and flocks of seabirds. In between the beaches are lakes and ocean lagoons that are ideal for fishing and boating. Up in the Great Dividing Range behind the coastal plains, there are many National Parks, where walking tracks lead through rainforests to mountain-top lookouts, and waterfalls fed by crystal clear streams.
Mid North Coast
Hemmed in by majestic mountains forged from ancient volcanoes on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other, the long but relatively narrow coastal strip between the port city of Newcastle north of Sydney and the Gold Coast in South East Queensland has rightly been called the Holiday Coast. For those who want to laze around and unwind on a ribbon of beach under the summer sun, the Mid North Coast is the perfect destination. The further north one travels, the more tropical everthing becomes.
Set against a backdrop of craggy mountains, gentle hills, lakes and forests, the coastline to the south of Sydney is varied, with ribbons of white sandy beaches punctuated by rocky head lands, bays and inlets. Quaint fishing villages, urban residential areas and holiday resorts, many of which triple their population during school holidays and the peak summer months, provide a range of accommodation options. Fishing, boating, swimming and bushwalking are the main leisure activities on the south coast.
The Central West is an area which gradually changes from rolling agricultural land into the harsh, roughness of the arid western region of New South Wales. It is home to the earliest inland towns of mainland Australia, with many significant historic places relating to the gold rush days to be found here. The eastern section not only showcases Australia's pioneering past, but also the food, wine and hospitality for which the region has earned it enviable reputation for quality and abundance.
For travellers to and from Queensland, the New England region is an inland alternative to the coast road, however it is much more than just a place to travel through on the way from Point A to point B. New England is known as the Big Sky Country. Not only for its clear night skies but for the panoramic vistas of the countryside. Some of Australia's most beautiful National Parks are in New England region, offering world renowned trout fishing, cross country hiking, camping, nature tours, kayaking and bushwalking.
The Riverina agricultural region, in south-western New South Wales, is bordered on the south by the state of Victoria and on the east by the Great Dividing Range. Its ample supply of water for irrigation is taken from the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. Consequently it is one of the most productive and agriculturally diverse areas of Australia. In the Riverina, the local industry is geared towards growing fruit. You are never far from a winery and the food served here is equal in excellence.
Outback New South Wales is a land of rugged natural beauty with iconic red earth, enormous, wide-open spaces under bright blue skies and ancient and spectacular landforms. Visitors are invariably awestruck by the profound impact of space, the myriad of stars in the night sky and the ever-present wildlife. Once the backbone and focal point of Australia's mining industry, Broken Hill today draws film makers, artists and visitors alike to experience the vibrant yet subtle colours and magical light of the outback.