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Six Energising NSW Destinations to Visit

Main Beach, Wollongong
People enjoying the sand and surf at Main Beach, Wollongong.

We’ve spent months dreaming about our next holiday in NSW and it’s almost time to start exploring our beautiful state again. Feel the exhilaration of going on a road trip along one of NSW’s great coastal routes. Reconnect with nature as you stand under thundering waterfalls in ancient rainforests. Rekindle romance with a decadent lunch at an award-winning restaurant. Here are six energising destinations to visit on your next NSW holiday.   

Immerse yourself in nature on the Sapphire Coast

Looking to escape to unspoilt wilderness? NSW’s far South Coast offers some truly spectacular experiences in nature; the Light to Light Walk in Ben Boyd National Park is one of them. Complete a small section or embark on the full 30 kilometres, which will take you from tea tree groves to banksia woodlands, where you can stop to swim at sheltered coves and spots seals and seabirds.  

For more animal-spotting, Montague Island is home to hundreds of fur seals, as well as dolphins, little penguins and many varieties of sea birds. Spring is the peak time for seal spotting — a unique feature of the Australian fur seal is they don’t care much about personal space — often even sitting on top of each other. Snorkel and dive with these playful creatures through a tour with Underwater Safaris and Montague Island Discovery Tours.  

The South Coast is also famed for its oysters — discover the Pambula Lake environment on Captain Sponge’s Magical Oyster Tour. You’ll learn about the cultural and ecological significance of the estuary and visit the area’s oyster farms for a tasting.   

Relax at the recently refurbished Hillcrest Motel in Merimbula, which has kept the character of its 1970s bones and added a new pool, outdoor fire pit and native garden. Every room looks out onto the sparkling coastline and features In Bed linen and specially commissioned artworks.

Chase waterfalls on a scenic road trip on the Mid North Coast 

Hit the road for an unforgettable adventure on the Mid North Coast. Spend a few days unwinding on the many stunning beaches that make up the Coffs Coast — pop up to Woolgoolga for fish and chips by Woopi Beach; if you have kids with you, take them swimming in the calmer Emerald Beach; and watch the dogs frolic on Sawtell Beach. Explore the Solitary Islands on a paddle board tour with Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours where you’ll learn about the homelands of the Gumbaynggirr tribal nation and taste seasonal bush tucker.  

A day on the Waterfall Way scenic drive will leave you refreshed and in awe of the lush hinterland of the Mid North Coast. From Coffs Harbour, stop off at TreeTops for some monkey-like fun, an adventure park with ziplining and trapezes, where you can see across Ulidarra National Park all the way to the coast. Next, stop at Dorrigo National Park, home to subtropical rainforest, with ferns, orchids, palms and figs as well as many birds, such as the brilliant wompoo fruit dove. The Crystal Shower Falls Walk is a 3.5-kilometre loop that will take you over a suspension bridge and behind a thundering waterfall. Get back on the road to stop at the gorgeous Dangar Falls, Ebor Falls and Wollomombi Falls – packing in as many hikes as you can to erase those lockdown blues.  

Rekindle the romance with an indulgent trip to Newcastle

For a weekend of gastronomy, make sure a visit to Newcastle is on the cards. The city’s dining scene has come into its own in the past few years. Try Flotilla in the up-and-coming Wickham neighbourhood for elegantly plated dishes and inventive cocktails (start with the Local Highball). Signal Box is all about made-from-scratch ingredients and premium wine in a bright and breezy wharfside locale. If you’re in the mood to kick on, try MoneyPenny for slushies, good music and rainbow paper lanterns.  

Get a room a Crystalbrook Kingsley – Newcastle’s first five-star hotel has a rooftop bar and restaurant with 360-degree views of the city and a sustainable leaning. 

Unwind on one of NSW’s great coastal drives on the South Coast

TheGrand Pacific Drive is one of Australia’s prettiest routes, winding through rainforests and seaside villages along a curvaceous coastline. From Sydney, stop at Stanwell Tops to stare out at the sea as you feel your shoulders drop and breath slow down. Release endorphins by cuddling some of your favourite native animals at Symbio Wildlife Park, which is set among six hectares of gardens for picnics.  

Back on the coast, motor along the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge, which extends over the ocean as it sketches around the escarpment. Explore the sweet seaside towns of Austinmer, Coledale and Thirroul, boasting boutiques, coffee shops and antique centres. Make sure to have a sunset drink at Thirroul Beach Pavilion – located on the promenade, it basically feels like you’re dining on the beach.  

Spend a day or two in Wollongong, relaxing on scenic beaches, dining in beachside cafes and exploring the region’s galleries. Dine at the newly opened Restaurant Santino, a modern Italian trattoria with pink and cream tiled floor, leather stools and a pasta-focused menu.  

Travel another 30 minutes south to the beachside hamlet of Kiama, famous for coastal walks, sophisticated seaside dining and the extraordinary Kiama Blowhole. Book a night at Crooked River Winery near Gerringong: the Willowvale Estate House overlooking the vineyards sleeps eight people, and there’s a fantastic cellar door and restaurant to get to know their premium wines.  

Ride horses and relax in lodges in the high country 

Feel alive again by getting out of your comfort zone: try a spot of fly fishing, or horse riding alongside wild brumbies. Spring transforms the Snowy Mountains into an adventure playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Experience the spectacular scenery on foot and follow a scenic walking trail through Kosciuszko National Park, one of the largest national parks in the state.  

The pristine waters of the lakes, rivers and water catchments of the Snowy Mountains are great fishing spots for recreational anglers. Fishing in most rivers and streams is allowed between October and the June long weekend, when melting snow creates crystal-clear waterways teeming with rainbow trout, Murray cod and golden perch. Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa’s fishing ambassador Matt Trippet offers beginner lessons in fly fishing as well as full-day guided experiences that include gourmet meals and local beer. At Lake Eucumbene, anglers can hook a rainbow trout, brown trout or fine Atlantic salmon. Visit Eucumbene Trout Farm and Gaden Trout Hatchery to see how these cold-water sport fish are bred.  

Reconnect with your wild side with a horse-riding tour in the stunning back country. At the Snowy Wilderness Resort, take part in a one-day trek with lunch on the trail and sleep in a secluded stone cottage or luxury lodge. If you’re a more experienced rider, a five-day trek with Cochran Horse Treks is an unforgettable experience; you’ll camp in the Kosciuszko National Park and ride out among the brumbies on Currango Plain or to the top of the mountain to discover secret swimming spots.   

Sip your way around an emerging wine region in Country NSW 

One of NSW’s most exciting up-and-coming wine regions, the Cowra wine region has more than 30 vineyards planted around the historic towns and villages of Cowra, Grenfell, Billimari and Canowindra. Spend a week touring acclaimed organic wineries and tasting wine at boutique cellar doors, and dine at classic country pubs and restaurants where the menus feature local produce grown on innovative eco-agricultural farms.  

Rosnay Organic Wines is Canowindra’s first organic vineyard and farm, just eight kilometres from town. The Statham family began their organic farming journey 20 years ago and have been recognised as one of the organic pioneers in NSW. Keep an eye out for olives and figs on your way in — you can pick your own when they are in season. Windowrie is one of the region’s founding winemakers, located in Cowra, and is certified organic. The family grow a wide variety of varietals but the cabernet, shiraz and merlot as well as the verdelho are the ones to try. The Quarry Cellar Door offers tastings of some of the region’s best wines, some of which don’t have a cellar door. There is a gorgeous restaurant on site with seating in the garden and a menu showcasing local produce.  

For more information on things to see and do in NSW go to www.visitnsw.com