The name New South Wales was devised by the explorer Captain Cook who apparently was inspired to name this newly discovered land after Wales in the United Kingdom. I am not sure if you can really find resemblance between these two very different countries, but one thing is for sure: New South Wales is a land of spectacular beauty, blessed with vast areas that have been protected in National Parks, dramatic coastlines and fascinating arid landscapes.
Many people will fail to see the bigger context that New South Wales provides Sydney with. In fact, it is more than just the surrounding countryside of a bigger city. Speaking in terms of geographical area, NSW is a country in its own right.
Broadly speaking you can divide the area into a handful of bigger sections, from the outback in the far west, to the Far North Coast, the Central Coast, the South Coast along the coast (from top to bottom). Inland you will find the Hunter Region, the Southern Highlands and the fertile farming regions on the other side of the Great Dividing Range in convenient driving distance to Sydney. The Blue Mountains and the Snowy Mountains are great for skiing and hiking, and there is even a remote island 600km out at see that beckons to be explored, Lord Howe Island.
If you live in Sydney or if you are planning to visit not just Sydney but also the countryside surrounding it, you will find a handful of rewarding destinations nearby. The wine producing region of Hunter Valley is perfect for romantic couple stays and exciting culinary experiences. The Blue Mountains with the amazing Three Sisters rock formation is fun for young and old. And the Southern Highlands charm with quaint rural living, Australian wildlife and luxury country escapes.
New South Wales is a country for adventurers. The variety of landscapes lend itself to some of the most exciting experiences, including kayaking, paragliding, horse riding, boating, surfing, fishing, skydiving, caving, fossicking and hiking. Due to the vast distances, road trips and camping are a great way to make the most of the experience, perfect for budget family vacations all your round.
As one of the first areas to be settled by white people, New South Wales’ country towns have a wealth of historic materials and stories to show for. Pioneer settlers, explorers, convict constructions, the gold rush, bush rangers, and sheep farming are just some of the reoccurring themes found in rural country towns. But of course there is also the rich Aboriginal heritage to can be explored here, with reminders including rock carvings, middens and sacred places.
When it comes to wildlife experiences, you will be spoilt for choice. During the whale migration season, NSW offers a multitude of vantage points up and down the coast. Kangaroos can not only be found in the Kangaroo Valley but in most rural areas, and dolphin cruises are just one of the many popular activities you can undertake in Port Stephens.
To get here, fly either to Sydney or to any of the regional airports around the country, depending on where you want to start your journey. While there is rail servicing great parts of NSW, consider a car or camper van your best option to fully enjoy the country. Most people will stick to the coast (resulting in giant traffic jams on the Pacific Highway during the peak travel season in summer), but consider the towns and areas on the other side of the Great Dividing range another worthwhile holiday destination.