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How to Spend a Week in New South Wales

by Travelbag on 04 December 2019, 11:12AM

Blue Mountains

Home to iconic Sydney, New South Wales is a must-visit on any trip Down Under. A south-eastern pocket of Australia, this vast state covers a whopping 800,000 square kilometres – so, unsurprisingly, there’s plenty to see. The glittering cities might be the most famous attractions but, beyond the urban jungles, you’ll find green-clad mountains, pin-striped vineyards and knockout beaches.

One of our Australia experts, Katie, recently visited New South Wales. She said: “New South Wales is such a diverse state – you definitely need to venture out of Sydney to explore all the region has to offer, including the wine lands and adventurous activities.”

Find out what she got up to, so you can start planning your own holiday to New South Wales.

 

Day 1 – The Blue Mountains

After landing in Sydney the night before, we’d left the city behind as AEA Luxury Tours drove us straight to the Blue Mountains. This World Heritage-listed area is filled with eucalyptus forests, dramatic peaks and waterfalls, and it’s just an hour’s drive from Sydney.

Keen to make the most of our time in New South Wales – and beat the crowds – we got up early on our first day and headed to Scenic World. We hopped straight on the scenic railway and travelled down the mountain – it’s the steepest railway journey in the world! After we’d soaked up the views, we took a gentle stroll through the rich forest, before riding the cable car back up the mountain. But you could easily spend a whole day walking along the mountain trails, searching for the best angle from which to admire the Three Sisters – an iconic rock formation in the Blue Mountains.

In the afternoon, we hiked from Evans Lookout to Govetts Leap. The trail meanders to a waterfall viewing point, where you can look out over the spectacular scenery. The valley was enormous and had a faint blue tint – hence the name – thanks to all the eucalyptus trees.

After a day of hiking, we’d worked up an appetite! We travelled to the town of Leura, one of the larger towns in the area, and tucked into a wonderful three-course dinner at Echoes Restaurant and Bar, which had stunning views of the Blue Mountains.

 

Day 2 – Hunter Valley

Next, we travelled from the Blue Mountains to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region. Our first stop was Brokenwood Wines, where we had a cellar door wine-tasting experience and learned the history of the winery, followed by a feast at one of the onsite restaurants.

Then we visited Two Fat Blokes for a wine and cheese pairing, featuring wines from the Hunter Valley and cheeses from around the world. Our final stop of the day was Hunter Valley Resort. This beautiful family-owned lodge offers accommodation, activities and – of course – wine tasting. We heard all about the winery’s history, including how they make their wine. We were even allowed to get involved with a grape stomp, where we stood in large buckets and squashed the grapes with our bare feet!

In the evening we went to Spicers Vineyard Estate for dinner. This boutique-style hotel has a fantastic restaurant, Botanica, overlooking their vineyard, which serves seasonal dishes made with fresh ingredients – the food was delicious. 

Hunter Valley

Day 3 – Port Stephens

We started our day with a Segway tour around Hunter Valley Resort, which was a great way to see some of the sites. We even saw a group of kangaroos and roos, right by the trail we were on.

After the tour, we said goodbye to the Hunter Valley and headed to the coastal region of Port Stephens. We had lunch at the beautiful Little Beach Boathouse overlooking Nelson Bay before heading out on a Moonshadow dolphin cruise, which took us around the bay searching for pods of dolphins. And, before heading back to shore, they put the boom net down so we could relax in the water and go down the waterslide.

Our next activity was quad biking with Sand Dune Adventures. We rumbled out to the largest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere and, once we’d got used to the bikes, we split into groups and zoomed off into the dunes. The sands stretch for miles and, with forest on one side and the ocean on the other, it was some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. This was a real highlight of my time in New South Wales, and something not to be missed.

After an action-packed day, we had dinner at the elegant Anchorage Port Stephens. This hidden gem is tucked off the main road and opens out on to its own marina, with amazing views out to sea.

 

Day 4 – Lake Macquarie and on to Sydney

We enjoyed a leisurely morning before heading to Newcastle for a coastal sightseeing cruise, which took us up the coastline to Lake Macquarie. This was definitely more of an adrenaline-pumping boat trip than a relaxing sail, but we learned all about the marine life and rock formations along the way. After refuelling with lunch on Honeysuckle Wharf, we drove the 90-minute route to Australia’s most famous city: Sydney.

We checked in to the newly opened Vibe Hotel Darling Harbour. Fresh from the wrapper, this hotel has stylish rooms and a rooftop bar. It’s in a very convenient location too, so you can easily explore Darling Harbour or the botanical gardens.

Dinner this evening was at Angus Steakhouse on Darling Harbour. As one of Sydney’s most awarded steakhouses, it’s definitely worth a visit. We rounded off the night in O Bar. If you want drinks with a view, this is the place to come. Up on the 47th floor, this revolving restaurant and bar has uninterrupted vistas of Sydney and truly fabulous cocktails.

Sydney Harbour

Day 5 – Sydney Sightseeing

You can’t come to Sydney and not step inside the incredible Opera House, so we got up early for a backstage guided tour. This immersive tour takes you behind the scenes, so you can see how the productions come together – we saw how the set is brought in, visited the dressing rooms, and learned about the lighting and stage management. It was fascinating, and a must-do for anyone who has the Sydney Opera House on their bucket list.

Then it was time for a change of pace – and altitude. We went to BridgeClimb Sydney, got suited up, had a safety briefing, and headed out on the Summit Express tour. We travelled up to the top of the bridge via the lower bridge arch, rather than the top arch. This is a slightly quicker way to reach the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge, but you still get amazing aerial views of the Opera House, Port Jackson and Sydney’s Central Business District.

After a busy morning, we grabbed a quick bite to eat in the heart of The Rocks – the historic neighbourhood home to some of Sydney’s oldest pubs – before driving to Taronga Zoo to experience the newly opened Wilderness Retreat. The Retreat is an eco-friendly sanctuary at the top of the zoo, with incredible views of Sydney’s skyline. The Wildlife Retreat was actually my highlight of the whole trip, because it was such a unique experience. Every room looks out on to the sanctuary, and I saw koalas in the trees right outside my room. The keepers gave us a tour of the sanctuary and introduced us to resident snakes, echidnas, wallabies and, of course, koalas.

We enjoyed dinner at the restaurant – the food was superb, but the view was the star of the show. You’d never tire of looking at it!

 

Day 6 – Cricket and Beaches

This morning we had a tour of a different part of the sanctuary – it’s only accessible for people staying at the Retreat, and isn’t included in general admission tickets to Taronga Zoo. We saw bird life, kangaroos and Tasmanian devils before we had to leave. But, if you were staying at the Wildlife Retreat, you could certainly spend the rest of your day exploring the zoo – entrance is included with the accommodation.

We set off from Taronga and went to Sydney Cricket Ground, where we had a private tour of the players’ areas, media rooms and grandstand, while our guide told us entertaining stories about the players and the history of the iconic venue.

Our final stop was the famous Bondi Beach. We strolled along the beautiful coastal path from Bondi to Coogee, which takes you all along the seafront past hidden bays and beaches. This is a must-do for anyone visiting Sydney, as the scenery is truly amazing. When you reach Coogee, you can stop for some grub and relax on the beach, before either walking back to Bondi or catching the bus.

Sydney Bondi Beach

Day 7 – Surfing in Sydney

Our last day in New South Wales! We checked out and had breakfast at Bills – but this isn’t the restaurant we’re familiar with in the UK. Bill Granger is an Australian Restaurateur and food writer, whose Sydney restaurants are famous for their legendary breakfast.

Once we’d filled up, we went for a surfing lesson at Let’s Go Surfing – the cherry on top of our Aussie experience. The instructors were friendly and taught us the techniques on the sand, before we hit the waves. It was exhausting but really fun! After two hours, we headed back to dry land and had lunch at Speedos Café. Offering beautiful brunches and colour-filled healthy dishes, this place prides itself on being “the world’s most Instagrammable café” – and it didn’t disappoint! It was a brilliant end to our incredible week in New South Wales.

 

Dreaming of Down Under? Take a look at our tours of Sydney and New South Wales.

Or, if you’re planning a longer trip, read about how to spend 40 days in Australia and New Zealand. 


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