11 of New South Wales’ unmissable ‘hidden gems’
1: Bungonia National Park
Bungonia Gorge (Sara Fife / Capital Country Tourism)
This beautiful limestone strip of the Southern Tablelands is home to some of the deepest caves in the country, making it a magnet for climbers and cave explorers.
The national park is just a couple of hours from Sydney and Canberra and also has some excellent bush walks and a good campsite.
The caves in the park have been under protection since 1872.
2: Shelly Beach
Shelly Beach (Dreamtime)
The coastal suburb of Manly on the Sydney coast draws beach lovers in droves, most of whom are drawn to the sprawling Manly Beach itself.
However, take a short walk to the southern tip of the bay and you will arrive at this charming, tree-sheltered little spot. It’s especially popular with snorkelers thanks to the diversity of marine life in the shallow spots offshore, and it has a full range of facilities. You can even enjoy Sydney’s best fish and chips at Beach House.
Windsurfer in Merimbula, Sapphire Coast District (Nick Rains / Destination NSW)
Located on the so-called Sapphire Coast, around 450 kilometers south of Sydney, Merimbula is bordered by national parks and offers an overwhelming selection of sparkling lakes and golden beaches.
However, it is perhaps best known for its seafood and, in particular, for its rock oysters. Wheelers Oyster Farm offers special tours that give a complete look at the city’s oyster farming past, with an on-site restaurant that showcases the oysters themselves.
Mollymook Beach, South Coast (Adam Taylor; Destination NSW)
The pleasantly named Mollymook is another getaway on the long south coast of New South Wales with good surf, a beachfront golf course, and a backdrop of wooded mountains. It is a well known place among the locals.
The fact that Rick Stein has an Asian-influenced fish restaurant here tells its own story. However, the city is often overlooked by most foreign travelers. The beach here has also hosted international volleyball.
5: lightning comb
Water baths at Lightning Ridge (Nick Rains / Destination NSW)
The New South Wales outback is a land of barren plains and wide horizons, so it serves as the natural home of Lightning Ridge.
The township’s appropriately dramatic name is just the beginning. It also calls itself the world capital of black opal and offers opportunities for exploration (in search of gold) and mine tours.
Don’t miss the unique Black Queen Theater, which is made up of 14,000 glass bottles and still has theatrical performances every day.
“Courthouse Coffee” café in the Armidale shopping center (Paul Foley / Destination NSW)
Surrounded by an abundance of vineyards, canyons, waterfalls, and national parks, Armidale town in the Northern Tablelands can never be blamed for a lack of activity.
In fact, it is the highest city in Australia, although it is not a metropolis with fewer than 25,000 inhabitants. Instead, you’ll find rustic pubs, an excellent local art museum, and an Aboriginal cultural center.
7: Wollongong Eat Street Markets
North Beach, Wollongong (Dee Kramer Photography / Destination NSW)
The vibrant street food scene of New South Wales is not limited to Sydney. In the coastal town of Wollongong, known in typical Australian fashion as “The Gong”, the Eat Street Market takes place in the Crown Street Mall every Thursday between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
Expect everything from truffle burgers and pulled pork to banana crepes, with a penchant for organic and seasonal produce. There is also live entertainment.
8: Easy walk
Rock formation near Boyd’s Tower at Red Point (Nick Rains / Destination NSW)
This two- to three-day walk through Ben Boyd National Park reveals the rugged, sea-eaten landscape of the extreme south coast and takes its name from the points that mark the beginning and end of the trail: Boyds Tower and the Green Cape Lightstation.
There is very good whale watching potential here, especially during the southern migration months between September and November, while the landscape on land varies from heathland and bays to red rock formations.
9: Kakadu Island
Kakadu Island, Sydney (destination NSW)
Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to the west of Sydney Harbor, was once a prison for convicts and later became the site of one of Australia’s largest shipyards.
It is a fascinating attraction from a historical point of view and has also become a remarkable place to eat and sleep. The Marina Café and Bar serves a fine selection of food, coffee, and wine, while accommodations range from glamping to historic houses. There are regular ferries to the island.
Bowral streetscape, Southern Highlands (James Horan / Destination NSW)
This small town is best known as the former home of legendary cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, widely considered to be the best batsman of all time.
There is a good Bradman-related museum, as well as various flower gardens and restaurants, and the town’s location in the Southern Highlands makes it a convenient base from which to explore the region.
Bowral’s other claim to fame is that writer PL Travers reportedly wrote her Mary Poppins books here.
11: Jenolan Caves
Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains (Jenolan Caves)
The Jenolan Caves are less touted than visitor magnets like the Three Sisters and Wentworth Falls and show a different, but no less spectacular, side of the Blue Mountains.
The underground network of nine caves features some breathtaking rock formations and underground rivers and maintains a constant 15 degrees Celsius all year round. Choose between guided, self-guided and themed tours. There is even a night option. Adventure cave exploration is of course also offered.
This article is sponsored by Destination NSW (Sydney.com) and Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) but it is impartial and independent, like all Wanderlust editorial offices.
Main picture: Merimbula Beach, Sapphire Coast District (Nick Rains / Destination NSW)