Canberra is the capital of Australia and is located around 280 km southwest or a three-hour drive from Sydney. The city lies in the Australian Capital Territory, ACT, and has a population of about 380,000 inhabitants. It is Australia’s largest inland state and is the centre of the country’s political leadership with Parliament and embassies. The city, which in 2013 celebrated 100 years, became the capital as a result of the rivalry and conflict that existed between the two major cities Melbourne and Sydney. Both cities opposed the other to become the nation’s capital. It all ended with a compromise which meant that Canberra was built between the two and was declared the country’s capital. The city’s name is said to have derived from an old native spoken language, claimed to mean “meeting place”.
Australian Capital Territory, ACT, is an inland area located 150 km southwest of Sydney. ACT is positioned inside New South Wales. The area was established in 1908 to make room for the Australian capital, Canberra, which is also the capital of the region. Canberra was no more than a few modest sheds when the city was designed and planned. In the east, the ACT is surrounded by Australia’s largest mountain range, the Great Dividing Range, and in the west lies Australia’s highest mountain range, the Australian Alps, known for its popular ski resorts that comes to life during winter.
With its 2,400 square kilometres, Australian Capital Territory is small when measured in Australian standards, no bigger than a dot on the map, but it has a rich content. What distinguishes the territory is the vast areas of beautiful nature and the many historical remains. Over half of the area lies within the Namadgi National Park, and people have lived in different parts of ACT for more than 20,000 years. For those who like to hike and camp there is a variety of marked hiking trails and campsites, and in some places, you can swim in Murrumbidgee River. To try the locally produced wines, it is easy to do an excursion to any of the several vineyards scattered in the area.
Snow and powder-white mountain tops are not what one usually associates with Australia. The fact that the temperature could drop below zero might feel absurd. But think again. Because in the south-eastern part of the state of New South Wales lies the Australian Alps and the Snowy Mountains. The contrasts are striking. During winter, the eucalyptus trees are embedded in a soft snowy blanket and the sun is glistening over the mountains. This is one of two alpine areas in the country. And skiing is great in these regions. The Snowies are part of the Great Dividing Range and are located right on the border of the southern state Victoria. With barren mountains and expected snowfall every year, there are several ski-resorts scattered around the area. The resorts Thredbo and Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snowfields live up during the winter, attracting adventurous tourists and skiers from all over. The season is short but intense. Between the beginning of June to the end of August, the ski-lopes are open, and the snow cannons are working non-stop when needed to ensure powder-white pistes. High season also means job opportunities. Young people flock to the resorts to work there during winter. After spending long days among the crowds in stiff ski-boots, take a breather in one of the local restaurants. Relax with some good food and listen to live music filling the air. But, make sure you have enough money to spend. A ski holiday here is far from cheap.
A taste of Australia’s isolated hinterland can be found at Broken Hill. It lies 1,144 km west of Sydney but only half as far east of Adelaide. Getting here takes its time, it requires at least a full day behind the wheel unless you happen to be nearby. Broken Hill is located just off the dead-straight borders that separate South Australia and New South Wales. Although the city belongs to the latter of the two, Broken Hill follows a different time zone due to an ancient feud.
Aboriginal people are believed to have lived in the area for over 40,000 years and called it Willyama. Europeans came much later. In 1844, the explorer Charles Sturt named the mountain range Barrier Range around what is now known as Broken Hill. The city itself was founded in 1883 thanks to the discovery of silver ore by Charles Rasp. Silver, zinc and lead in large quantities have since been extracted in the area. Parts of the city’s architecture testify of good economic times. Once in a time, one third of the world’s silver was extracted here. Today, Broken Hill has about 18,000 inhabitants. Although the mines are still in use, tourism is an equally important mainstay of the town’s economy.
Lightning Ridge is a mining town in north-eastern New South Wales, bordering Queensland. According to legend, the name originated after a shepherd and his sheep and dog was killed during a heavy lightning-storm in the area. Since opals where found in the area during the 1870s, this has been a place to count on. With its scarred moonscape, Lightning Ridge doesn’t look like much. In fact, one might think of a large Swiss cheese when visiting the area. But the holes in the ground are signs of hard work, a result of sweat, blood and tons of patience. In the past, everything was done by hand. Pickaxe and shovels were used. It could go many hours, days and weeks before you found anything of value. But all the workers nourished a dream of one day being richly rewarded.
Australia is the largest producer of opal, of which the black variant is particularly sought-after. And this is exactly what Lightning Ridge is known for. These specimens have a black base-colour and shimmer in all the colours of the rainbow. You can try digging yourself, but make sure to stay within marked areas. Territories are taken seriously, and one overstep can end badly. Nevertheless, Lightning Ridge is an open town that welcomes visitors, something that is not entirely obvious among other mining cities.
Orange is a different part of Australia. The city of 40,000 inhabitants is nestled among the Great Dividing Range’s rolling hills, three hours from Sydney. Surrounded by green leafy parks and wild shrubbery, it is an unusually lush city. Orange rests at a high altitude which contributes to the city’s favourable climate. Higher altitude means cooler temperatures. There are four different seasons. Spring, summer, autumn and winter. Every season transforms Orange. Autumn presents a spectacular play of colours, with foliage that glows in shades of copper and gold. It can get cold in winter, and occasional a glistening quilt of snow embeds the city. The high altitude along with abundant sunshine makes the region exemplary for viticulture. This is evident during a trip through, with about forty vineyards scattered across the fields of Orange. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is grown here. Also, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Merlot. Many vineyards welcome visitors to their wine cellar. So do not miss an opportunity to try something new and learn about the craftsmanship that lies behind the worldwide popular wines.
A genuine Australian adventure awaits in New South Wales’ west. Beyond Sydney’s urban concrete jungle and the coastal strip’s rolling waves lies the country’s inner core. Here, barren and jagged wilderness dominates the landscape. A bit offhandedly, the Great Dividing Range is used as a landmark of where the desert begins in the state. But it is not until you travel another few hundred kilometres that the desert hit you with its full force. The country is desolate, you are surrounded by vast, dusty plains. The deep-blue sky is a strong contrast to the orange-red sand and it beautifully frames in the ominous landscape. Dried desert shrubs break away from their roots and tumble around in the wind.
Midway between Melbourne and Sydney along the southern coast of New South Wales, called the Sapphire Coast, lies Eden. Despite being a postcard-beautiful area, few find their way to Eden. Which is good for you. Who wants to be crowded when you can have everything to yourself? After a short stay, it is easy to understand where Eden got its name from. The area is a true garden for all types of nature lovers. The coast is rocky with sharp lines. Far down, the water is rolling in, foamy and creamy white. Eden is located at the Great Dividing Ranges and the nature is spectacular and serene.
Jervis Bay does not even need to try. No special effort is required to get people to fall for the bay. It comes quite naturally. The area has an abundance of true beauty that appeals to most with a weakness for forest, beach and sea. Jervis Bay lies on the east coast of New South Wales and is less than a three-hour drive east of Canberra and three hours south of Sydney. It may not be a place you heard of, but for the Australians it is an obvious choice. With its long powder-white beaches surrounded by two national parks, Jervis Bay is a holiday favourite among city dwellers who want to unwind on the countryside. In this far-stretched coastal area, there are several small towns to visit. Huskisson in the middle of the bay is the largest town. There are a handful of high-quality restaurants to choose from and a lot of nice accommodation options. This is also a good base to start your activities on. For example, you can rent your own kayak to explore coves and sandy beaches or challenge your balance on a stand-up paddle board. Jervis Bay is suitable for everyone, from families with children to pensioners and backpackers.
The coastline south of Sydney is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. This part of New South Wales is not visited to the same extent as its northern counterpart. Most visitors are set on reaching Queensland and its tropical latitudes. And they don’t have time to turn back south. It is a pity, because there are some places in the south just as beautiful as the ones in the north. The best about going south is that the crowds are not as big. If you are tired of intermingling with thousands of backpackers wherever you go, south is the place to go. The 400-kilometer-long coastline from Wollongong to Eden is legendary road-trip-material. Imagine sun-drenched holiday resorts, winding roads that follow the sea’s curve and frothy waves that swell. You are never far from the sea and the view along the road is magical.