New South Wales packs the best of what Australia has to offer into one stunning state. Take your pick of endless sandy beaches, lively cities, a wild Outback, and snow-capped mountains for the holiday of a lifetime. From the glitter of Sydney to the eerie landscapes of Mungo National Park and the crisp powder of the Snowy Mountains to the surfer kingdom of Byron Bay, New South Wales has it all.
Mungo National Park
The desolate yet heartbreakingly beautiful landscape of Mungo is home to one of the world's oldest human settlements. Extending over 27,850 hectares of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area, it contains traces of our ancestors that date back more than four millennia. Human skeletons and artefacts found at Lake Mungo are at least 46, 000 years old, with a relentless westerly wind constantly revealing more incredibly ancient remains among the ghostly white sand dunes (the "Walls of China"). Situated 110km from Mildura and 150km from Balranald (the closest towns for fuel), Mungo is accessible via good, unsealed roads that are totally impassable following rain.
Think of Australia and images of surfers and arid landscapes usually spring to mind. "Snow"Â and "Australia"Â are two words you generally don't see together, but the Snowy Mountains ("the Snowies") are aptly named in winter, when eager snow bunnies head for Thredbo and Perisher Blue. The mountains belong to the Great Dividing Range and are dominated by Kosciuszko National Park, a wilderness of twisting mountain roads and dramatic scenery. Outdoor enthusiasts will find much to do up here in summer too, as the extensive bushland, rich wildlife, waterfalls, and limestone caves attract adventurers all-year round.
The infamous Byron is a wonderful town where the subtropical hinterland meets the crystalline Pacific in a magnificent encounter. The beauty is mind-blowing, but the town's main draw is its hedonistic vibe. Pleasure-seekers often come here to sample the signature hippie, laid-back lifestyle - and some never go home. It's easy to see why: Gorgeous weather, stunning beaches, wonderful food, and wild nightlife create a charisma that is hard to resist.
First planted in the 1820s, Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia. It is most famous for its Semillon and Shiraz varieties, but its reputation is eclipsed by that of South Australia's Barossa Valley. There is little snobbery associated with wine production here, however, and these wineries welcome both experts and novices. With more than 140 wineries in the total area, you may not know where to start. If you don't want to trust your gut, arm yourself with a copy of the Hunter Valley Wine Country Visitor Guide, available at the visitor centre or online.
Broken Hill - Gateway to the Outback
Site of the richest deposit of silver, lead, and zinc the world has ever seen, Broken Hill is also known as the Silver City, creating an oasis of arts and culture in the middle of the NSW Outback. The area contains some of the state's best national parks, as well as fascinating old towns where the Australian identity was forged and elements of traditional culture can still be found. Access to the wild, unpeopled Outback has inspired a significant arts centre, with writers, artists, filmmakers, and sculptors presenting their varied and surprising interpretations.