Destinations / Travel

15 NSW holiday destinations you’ll want to visit if you’re looking for a last-minute getaway

nsw holiday destinations

Australia is one of the most broad and diverse landscapes in the world. With scorching desert, white coastlines, snow-capped mountains and lush rainforest sometimes all within just a few hundred kilometres of each other.

New South Wales is certainly a brilliant example of Australia's wonderful and diverse ecosystems. If you're looking to holiday locally, you're absolutely spoilt for choice. Here are some of the top holiday destinations in New South Wales.

And if you're looking to holiday west, make sure you read our guide to Western Australian holiday destinations.


1. The Blue Mountains


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This region is named for the grey-blue tinge these mountains take on when you look our across the valley. A short one to two hour drive from Sydney, depending on where you live, this is an easy escape for city folk. This region has plenty to offer for couple's weekends and family holidays. From great food to visual beauty, there's plenty to see and do.

Scenic World gives you an exciting look at the aesthetics of this region from the temperate rainforests to the Three Sisters rock formations – plus you can ride the steepest train in the world. High tea at the beautifully restored Hydro Majestic Hotel is a must. There are countless trails to choose from, whether you're a seasoned hiker or trail-runner, or prefer a short walk with a stunning view. Stay a night at One & Only Wolgan Valley for the fanciest of hotels. Stop in at Logan Brae orchard for the best apple pie you'll each. Hunt for antiques in Blackheath, discover art in Katoomba and please stop in at Josophan's Chocolate in Leura. You won't regret it.


2. The Hunter Valley


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This rich and internationally renowned wine region had plenty to offer. Even after four or five visits, you're unlikely to have even made your way through half of the wonderful vineyards you'll find here. Make sure you come with an empty stomach because the restaurants here are world class. Try Éremo or Botanica if you're looking for lunch with a view. And if beer is more your thing, head to Hope Estate for the best sour tinnies and a side of live music.

While you're here, try stopping in at the Hunter Valley Gardens. If you go around Christmas, you'll see a wonderful light show come nighttime.


3. Byron Bay


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A stunning location that still hasn't managed to lose its bohemian charm, even though it's now an international hotspot. There's something just so magnetic about Byron Bay. And it's not something you'll understand until you venture there yourself. So take this guide from a local.

The town is filled to the brim with fabulous restaurants for all palates; while the hottest spots change often, you can never go wrong with cafes like Folk, Bayleaf or Topshop or staples like Roadhouse, Bang Bang, Belongil Beach Italian Food, and Kouzina. Venture further out for a memorable meal at La Casita, Ciao, Mate! Harvest, Federal Doma Cafe, Pipit, Bistro Livi, and Fleet. There are plenty of shops that house boutiques and local designers. For beaches, there are a few. Main beach is a convenient pick, but Wategos is very pretty and much more secluded, while Tallows is long, wilder and scenic with usually fewer people.

Venture inland when the cabin fever sets in, or up to Brunswick heads for a quieter example of beachside living, where you'll find the best ice cream at Natural Icecream Australia.


4. The Sapphire Coast


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Looking for a path less travelled? Try the Sapphire Coast. This is still a popular holiday spot, but doesn't quite have the crowds you'll find in the Northern beachside destinations.

This region got its name from the spectacular colour of the ocean in the area. It's a sight to behold. If you're into whale watching, this area has some of the best whale spotting in the entire state and there are plenty of stunning walking tracks to keep you occupied. A great pick for those that want to get outdoors. Also, if you love oysters, be sure to stop at Tathra, Wapengo and Merimbula. They're some of the best.


5. Perisher


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In the same way people shop at either Coles or Woolies, the politics of the ski fields is equally as polarising. But whether you're a Thredbo stalwart or standby Perisher, you're in for a great time. Nestled near each other along the Snowy River and sharing a frigid microclimate, they both have reputations as New South Wales' top skiing and snowboarding locations. This destination is all about snow sports and enjoying a white winter. You can stay in the Perisher Valley, Thredbo or find cheaper options in the nearby Jindabyne. A perfect spot for skiers of all levels.


6. Coffs Harbour


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Coffs Harbour is all about getting outside and enjoying the scenery. This Northern coastal destination has whale watching, bird watching, plenty of coastal walks, some fabulous beaches and even rainforest. If you want to get adventurous, try one of the rainforest walks, it's unbelievably pretty. This is another destination that is best appreciated outdoors. And let's not forget the Big Banana – a must stop destination for any self-respecting roadtripper.


7. Lord Howe Island


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Did you say tropical island getaway? No need to head to Bali or even Queensland, our very own Lord Howe Island has everything you'd want from a lush island vacation.

This is not your destination for restaurants and plenty of shopping, this is where you go if you love to snorkel, lay on the beach and enjoy the scenery. And it's pretty incredible scenery. You won't want to leave. Especially if you manage to get accommodation at Capella Lodge, which overlooks the island's twin peaks and dreamy coastline.


8. Bowral


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Foodies and winer lovers will want to head straight to Bowral. Nestled in the Southern Highlands, Bowral is a quaint town with plenty of old-world charm. Get ready to eat, because there are more than a few fabulous restaurants here. Harry's at Green Lane is wonderful, San Fior is lovely and you'll want to try breakfast at the Post Office cafe in nearby Moss Vale.

Bowral is about 10-15 minutes from the Southern Highlands wine region, so put a few wineries (including Bendooley Estate and its well-appointed book barn) on your to do list. Also make sure to check out Dirty Jane's, a huge antiques market. If you're in the area, you won't want to miss Ngununggula, an incredible gallery. Before you leave, you'll want to pick up something from the multi-award-winning Gumnut Bakery – just be prepared to wait in the hour-long line. A vintage and antique lovers mecca.


9. Port Stephens


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Back up on the North side, there's Port Stephens. Great food, great views and plenty of things to do. Walk up to the top of Shoal Bay for epic views of the entire coastline, swim at Fingal Bay, ride camels at Anna Bay and go whale and dolphin watching – and we promise you'll see more than a few. Port Stephens is known for having loads of dolphins. You usually spot them swimming around the marina. Feeling a little intrepid? Take out your 4WD or hire some quad bikes to ride along Stockton Sand Dunes, and pretend to be Paul Atreides in Dune.

This is great spot for luxe vacationers because you'll have your pick of high-end hotels. Try the Anchorage or Bannisters. And make sure you stop in at the wonderful Shoal Bay Country Club restaurant and bar.


10. Dubbo


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A slice of the countryside and perfect for a trip with the children. Probably Dubbo's most well-known attraction is it's zoo. The wide, open country mimics the plains of Africa so it's the perfect home for elephants, giraffes and more. A little bit like a safari but in our own backyard. Hire a bike and explore the zoo at your own, geared-up, pace. Stop by Western Plains Cultural Centre for a dose of art and a better understanding of the area and its Wiradjuri custodians.

Of course, there are a few other things to do like exploring the historic town, strolling through the farmer's markets and hitting up some of the scenic walking tracks.


11. Shoalhaven


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A wonderful region of the South Coast on Yuin Country that comprises Jervis Bay, Berry, Huskisson, Mollymook, Gerringong, Berrara and countless other must-see holiday spots. If you love beaches, you'll have more beautiful choices down here than almost anywhere else in the whole state – including Hyams Beach which claims to have the whitest sand in the world, you be the judge.

Stop by Berry to load up on delicious food, including pastries from Milkwood Bakery, donuts from its famous Donut Van, a little something from its well-appointed bottle shop, step in for a counter meal at Berry pub or keep driving to experience other hidden gems of the area. We love Bundanon Art Museum, which sits on the Shoalhaven River and was formerly owned by Arthur Boyd, and the smaller but no less remarkable SevenMarks Gallery in Kiama – where you'll also find the blowhole.

Hotel lovers can opt for Bannisters at Mollymook, but the region also welcomes campers and those who prefer Airbnbs. Bring your swimsuit and fishing rod – this is the place to cast a line.


12. Canberra


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Our nation's capital is definitely a bucket list destination, technically in another state, but still within NSW for all intents and purposes. Explore the wonderful gardens, see Parliament House and then there's Questacon. There is no discussion here, this place is a whole heap of fun even as an adult.

But aside from those listed off, Canberra is home to a vibrant dining scene. There's the much-loved Akiba, as well as newcomer Onzieme and Such and Such. Stop by Molly or Bar Rochford for a nightcap. While you're here, you might as well check out the National Gallery of Australia, which is home to Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles and has a selection of Diane Arbus photographs, along with many significant Australian works. There's also the National Portrait Gallery which is always good for a thrill.

If you manage to go during March, you'll witness Canberra's wonderful Enlighten Festival which illuminates the whole city at night. And if you're an early riser, you can catch the Balloon Spectacular and watch hundreds of hot air balloons decorate the rising sun skyscape.


13. Mudgee


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Come with an empty stomach, Mudgee is a foodie and wine destination. A great one for couples or groups that are looking to do some serious wine tasting. This gorgeous, little regional town is filled with character and charm. It's a great place for a sleepy and restful retreat while sampling some of the best eats NSW has to offer.


14. Bellingen


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Bellingen is a truly magical place around five hours north of Sydney. It's sort've how I imagine Byron Bay would've been without all the development. The town is based around the Bellinger river, and on a summer's day you can find the townsfolk launching into it like a scene from a fairytale. With beaches to the right and mountains to the left, it's truly the best of both worlds.

Pack your hiking boots and plan a walk in nearby Dorrigo National Park or swim in the Never Never at Promised Land swimming hole. No trip is complete without a meal at Bellingen Qudo Cafe.


15. Yamba

Yamba sits halfway between Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour both geographically and in spirit. There's more to hold your attention than Coffs, but less of the rat race than can be found in Byron. It's a rise early, sleep early sort of town, but there's still a growing restaurants and bar scene. Beachwood cafe is a highlight, where its owner dishes up fresh, authentic Turkish food with hawkeyed care. Catch the ferry to Iluka and be sure to get your fix of Clarence River prawns.

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