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”.
Capital Country (NSW & ACT)
Canberra & Australian Capital Territory
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.
Broken Hill & Silverton
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 & Bourke
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.
Country & Outback NSW
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.
South of Eden
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.
New South Wales South Coast
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.
Byron Bay is located at the top of New South Wales, next to neighbouring state Queensland. The country’s easternmost point is marked by a lighthouse that for many years protected seafarers from treacherous shallows and rocks. A whole bunch of liberal bohemians, alternative eccentrics and long-haired hippies live in Byron Bay. It’s hard not to be inspired by their relaxed lifestyle and positive attitude. During the 1960s, Byron was an obvious place for barefoot people. More recently, tourism has become an important source of income and contributed to a more urban feel that made the place somewhat more mainstream. But Byron Bay is still surrounded by an unmistakable atmosphere that is young and relaxed. And there is still a significant percentage of flower power supporters left. Colourful personalities thrive in Byron, where it is perfectly okay to break norms and dare to be different. Both in terms of appearance and living. Many artists are happy to settle here, where forested mountaintops meet the beaches. Of course, surfers too are fond of the surroundings. With beaches in almost all directions, the wind is always suitable for surfing somewhere. And the waves rarely become too high. In Byron, there are several companies that happily teach you how to surf. With a bit of work, soon you will be able stand on a surfboard yourself. But you can also try bodyboarding or kayaking.
Port Macquarie is located along the country’s east coast in New South Wales, between Sydney and Brisbane. The town is surrounded by magnificent nature. Open sea in the east and lush national parks in the north, west and south. Port Macquarie was founded as a penal colony in 1821. Sixty prisoners who had not behaved since they arrived in the new country were sent here. They were immediately put to work, struggling to weed out trees and vegetation in order to cultivate the soil to become self-sufficient. A prisoner from the Caribbean sown what is believed to be Australia’s first sugarcane plant. A sugar mill was soon built. In the 1830s, immigrants started arriving to Port Macquarie and the town grew. In 1910, the coastal railroad was built which became the last nail in the coffin for the port’s freight traffic.
Today, Port Macquarie has around 45,000 inhabitants and is known as a quiet resort. The town, located on the river Hastings estuary, has not yet been exploited by tourism. It is mainly families with children and older Australians who come here, many backpackers instead choose only to make a short stop on their way up or down the east coast by bus. But here are some sights that are worth a longer stay. In Port Macquarie, you’ll find the world’s only koala hospital where injured and sick animals are cared for by a dedicated team of volunteers. As a visitor, you can apply to volunteer in the hospital, but the waiting time is several months long. Port Macquarie has seventeen beaches, many of which can be reached on foot from the city centre. The far-stretched beaches also contribute to the town’s quiet holiday feeling. Here, you have all the chances in the world to find your own favourite non-crowded spot. The ocean winds create good waves for surfers to enjoy. Some of the beaches are protected by large boulders, which makes the waves smaller and better suited for beginners or families. If you want to learn the basics of the sport, there is a surf school that can help you.
New South Wales North Coast
All travellers know that the road northward holds high promises. No one escapes the stories about bustling cities and enticing beaches on the north coast. Learn why New South Wales is the premier state among tourists by embarking on a promising beautiful car journey with the Pacific Ocean as a fond along the way.
The heat rises the farther north you travel. And as the climate becomes more tropical, banana plantations and sugar cane plantations are glimpsed along the side of the road. You will see sheltered bays, crashing waves and certainly some wacky people on your trip. From Byron Bays’ hippie community and its ecological supporters to Newcastle where residents brush away the coal dust while the city slowly undergoes a transformation from a grey industrial town to a hip place. The transition is not particularly painful, with idyllic sandy beaches only a stone’s throw away.
Two hours north of Sydney lies Hunter Valley, the country’s oldest wine district. The first seeds were sown in the fertile soil in 1828 by George Wyndham who, after some strenuous attempts, managed to grow vines with juicy grapes. Soon, he planted the peppery grape-variety Shiraz, which was the starting point for the first commercial vineyard in Australia. George Wyndham is, perhaps not surprisingly, called the father of Australian Shiraz. Even today, there are vineyards in the area dating back to this time. Since the mid-1800s, the valley has evolved to become the wine-testers’ wet dream. First-Class restaurants are never far from rustic wine cellars, and after a long day among rolling vine-draped hills you can treat yourself with a relaxing spa visit. A weekend to Hunter Valley adds that extra spark to your Australia trip. And it gives you a taste of living the good life.
Only one and a half hours west of Sydney is one of UNESCO: s World Heritage- listed areas to protect and preserve. For the adventurous, the nature lover and the historian, or for those who just want to get away from the big city life, Blue Mountains National Park is the perfect destination. The area is easily accessible with several transportation options and it offers a lot to see and do. The mountains have been named after the bluish haze that occurs when the Eucalyptus trees’ oil evaporates. The jagged mountains are embedded in soft tones of blue, which create a dramatic backdrop of the hilly national park.
The 1million-hectare sized area is dominated by forest. There are plenty of cascading waterfalls and high sandstone cliffs and rock formations. But also, deep ravines and a dense wilderness. It is particularly well suited for those who want to challenge themselves to test a new activity. You can learn the basics of rock climbing and swim through the ravines. Or follow a hiking trail and swim in one of the waterfalls. The possibilities are many, it is entirely up to you.
A half-hour journey by ferry from central Sydney will take you to Manly. The ferry has transported people since the middle of the 1850s. And the journey itself is certainly part of the experience. You get a beautiful view of Sydney as you travel towards the resort Manly 17 km to the north. The small surfer town is located on a narrow peninsula along the east coast. Manly is an obvious choice for those who want a close escape from Sydney’s high-rise buildings, but who are not attracted by the upbeat tempo of Bondi. Manly’s proximity to the big city allows you to visit for just the day. The beach town has its very own character. It is a small suburb that is shaped by its connection to the Tasman Sea. More and more Europeans are attracted to this place, a significant part of these coming from Scandinavia. There are fine sandy beaches to relax on, and the most popular beach stretching along the east coast is divided into Queenscliff Beach, North Steyne Beach and Manly Beach. If you want a more secluded and quieter day at the beach, continue further east and you will get to Shell Beach which is perfect for snorkelling and diving. Water activities is big in Manly. Not least surfing, which is a part of many people’s everyday lives. With roaming winds and swelling high waves, the waters are well suited for surfing.
Newly arrived Backpackers barely have time to get through customs at Sydney Airport before they head to Bondi. The bustling suburb east of the million city is a safe card. Here, suntanned thirty-something hipsters in life crisis and native surfers are intermingled with pale tourists. Bondi is well-known for one thing. The beach. The cream-coloured kilometre-long Bondi Beach is world famous. It shows up on TV screens and postcards all around the world. And the people visiting it is doing a great job of impersonating Australia’s dreamy beach culture. Come here for a roasting summers day and you’ll see some of Sydney’s most beautiful and trendiest people, confidently sashaying in minimalist garments. All equipped with a generous bottle of sunscreen and a pair of dark sunglasses.
The beach lies only a few miles from the Sydney centre and is easy to get to by train or bus. The waves are not too high, and the sand is just as smooth as you imagined. But you pay a high price, for here is packed with people on hot days. And as not to deceive you, the heat too is a frequent visitor. It is especially popular to celebrate Christmas Day at Bondi Beach. Each year, a crowd of North European backpackers take over the beach to celebrate an exotic Christmas. After recurring problems with drunk people getting into fights, it is now prohibited to consume alcohol on the beach. But that does not turn many off.
City of Cities, Sydney. In the middle of New South Wales’ coast awaits a seductive mix of shiny skyscrapers and sun-drenched sandy beaches. Sydney is bombastic and stylish. Confident and innovative. With its tranquil parks and lush penthouses, the city has retained a connection to nature. One can’t deny that Sydney has it all. Australia’s self-proclaimed capital is proof that you don’t have to be born a star to become one. The city has gone from rugged swampland to urban jungle. But the road to success hasn’t been beautiful. In 1788, the British Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with the First Fleet to turn the country into a penal colony. With him he had British prisoners to realize the vision. And the captain would not let the indigenous people stop him. The Aboriginals who had lived in Australia for thousands of years were pushed away, used and murdered for this purpose. This brutal treatment was just the beginning of a painful story.