It’s the home state of some of Australia,s most iconic sights in Sydney, but the rest of NSW has plenty of sparkling gems - plus a few desert and sand dune delights.
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
This stunning destination was a popular choice as a family outing, and is one of the few places that I became quite familiar with in my childhood. Lovers of outdoor trails and activities are spoilt for choice in this region, with the only problem deciding which hike to do! There’s more than a few top picks, but one walk that keeps me trudging back for more is Blue Gum Forest. Situated on the outskirts of Blackheath, Govetts Leap is my choice of descent into the renowned and beautiful Grose Valley. After what feels like a never-ending decline you are welcomed into the valley by the delightful Bridal Veil Falls. Walk through the spectacular tree shaded forest, pass pool after pool of potential swimming holes (only in the warmer months, the water is numbingly cold in winter), and arrive at your free campsite at Acacia Flat after two to three hours of moving time. You will be tempted to drop your heavy pack and set up camp straight away, but don’t be too hasty. The area has some tent spots that are beyond compare – have a little wander towards the river and thank me later! The better part of the afternoon can then be spent dipping into the cool water and relaxing with friends and family. Rest easy for the night, your walk back up through to Perrys Lookdown will need a lot of your preserved energy. The 3km steep stair ascent has definitely earned its Grade 4 rating. TIP Wander beyond the river at Acacia Flat for the best camp sites
KANANGRA-BOYD NATIONAL PARK
We discovered this new favourite a couple of years back during a trip to the Blue Mountains National Park. It’s about an hour’s drive west of the Blue Mountains, with dramatic sheer cliffs that serve as a reminder of just how small we are in comparison to Mother Nature. Get used to the feeling though, because your hike to Kanangra Walls is full of this type of scenery. A short but difficult 414m climb will take you to the best view, where there are a few flat dirt patches big enough for a tent. Camping atop these walls makes for a unique experience and you can be sure your night will be uninterrupted. Watching the morning mist roll through the valley is a magnificent sight, as you stand way above the dense clouds, forgetting just how high the fall is beneath your feet.
TIP Conquer your fear of heights and camp atop the cliffs for incredible morning views
A lot of our time travelling on the road is spent along the coastline of NSW and most of my favourite go-to destinations can be found here. Before committing to a life of adventure on the road we familiarised ourselves with the lifestyle with frequent smaller trips up and down the coast. This is when I first discovered Stockton Sand Dunes in Port Stephens, two hours north of Sydney. Running along the coastline, the 32km dunes are anything but ordinary, and viewing these at sunset from Anna Bay is a must-do – watching the sun light up the mountainous landscape, changing colour as it dips behind the horizon is something else. TIP Make sure you’ve got your camera at the ready to capture the sunset over the dunes from Anna Bay
JERVIS BAY – HONEYMOON BAY CAMPGROUND
A short 10km drive from Jervis Bay is where you will find the ultimate camp sight, Honeymoon Bay. As it's only open on most weekends and during school holidays and sites are limited, there is a slim chance of ensuring you have an opportunity, so make sure you get in early! It’s also worth remembering that it is BYO water and cooking equipment, so make sure you’re not left stranded without supplies.
NEW DEPOT BEACH
107km further down south is the quintessential Australian, Depot Beach. Gum trees hug the shore and kangaroos hop on by as you lay yourself on the sand – this coastal region comes complete with all the Australian landscape stereotypes, so it’s a great one to show your international friends.
Heading further north, four hours to be exact, is another favourite swimming spot, this time slightly different. About an hour west from the coast, south of Coffs Harbour, is where you will find the extraordinary Ebor Falls – definitely my number one waterfall in Australia. If you plan to visit after a bit of rain you won’t be disappointed, as the enormity and mass of the water flowing is strikingly beautiful and powerful. Walk past the not-so-exciting look out, further down the path and through some spiky shrubs to reach the base of the falls, which is the real view. You won’t be able to stop yourself from taking photos, it’s too good to resist. TIP Go past the lookout point at Ebor Falls for the real viewing reward
PACIFIC PALMS – SHELLEY BEACH
However if you’re seeking more, jump in the car and take the short drive to Shelley Beach. It may not have an overly exciting name, but this isn’t your regular run-of-the-mill strip of sand and water. On more than one occasion, this beach has left me speechless. It’s hard to believe it’s just a three hour drive from the bustle of Sydney. The kilometre walk from the car park deters many from heading to Shelley, instead opting for beaches that are easier to access. They might be missing out, but if you take the stroll, it’s a bonus for you. Make sure you take everything with you though. The 2km walk to your car and back to the beach may be rewarded by a refreshing swim, but it can be a real pain! The swell at Shelley is always small, making the ocean feel more like a crystal-clear pool. It’s the perfect spot to relax. TIP Do a quick check to make sure you’ve got all your gear when walking from your car to Shelley Beach – and get to that swim faster!
With my love of the coast, travelling west is a rare occurrence for me but discovering the delights of the Murray River meant it was well worth the venture when I did. Fed by the Australian Alps, the Murray meanders across the inland plains forming the border between NSW and Vic. It’s title of ‘The Longest River in Australia’ is enough reason to witness its beauty and surrounds. Inside the small country town of Mulwala, sits one of my favourite camp spots and landscapes alongside this river, Lake Mulwala. Formed by damming the Murray, dead River Red Gums stand tall, scattered throughout the entirety of the lake, creating an eerie but stunning vista. All along this incredible river are a multitude of free camp spots, all offering several water activities including kayaking and canoeing. TIP Don’t forget your kayak or canoe when visiting Lake Mulwala – there’s plenty of opportunities for a paddle
BOOTI BOOTI NATIONAL PARK SUNSET
Another great discovery during one of these early trips was north of Sydney, about an hour on from Forster. Just south of here you will find Pacific Palms – a strip of coast akin to tropical oasis. With Booti Booti National Park in close reach, camping is not a problem at all and there are quite a few campgrounds to choose from and most are within walking distance from a picturesque beach.
MUNGO NATIONAL PARK
Much further west, on the way to Broken Hill, lies the breathtaking and unforgettable Mungo National Park. Landscapes that feel out-of-this-world and are rich with Aboriginal culture, comprised of ancient dried-up lake beds and sand dunes. Just witnessing these incredible sand formations alone makes it worth adding to your list, but with several camping options close by, it increases its attractiveness as a place to visit. TIP Discover Aboriginal culture at the ancient site of Mungo National Park, and learn about the discovery of ‘Mungo Man’
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