The oldest and most heavily populated state in the country, New South Wales gives many travellers their first taste of Australia. It tends to be a potent one. Sydney’s ravishing waterside setting and cultural vibrancy makes it one of the great world cities and its overall package – beaches, skyscrapers, Opera House and all – means it remains very much the centrepiece of the state (even, some might argue, the entire country).
It’s a city to enjoy on your own terms. Lose yourself in the markets and coffee houses of the outer suburbs, laze in the open parklands of the centre, catch one of the ferries criss-crossing the water or tick off the big sights, from Bondi to the Harbour Bridge. History is a big draw here too, with much of the architecture harking back to the early days of settlement.
Heading out of town, meanwhile, one of the state’s biggest natural draws lies just an hour or two away: the eucalyptus-hazed spectacle of the Blue Mountains. And there’s more – much more – to enjoy once you travel further afield, from the country music vibe of Tamworth and the surfing outpost of Byron Bay to the winelands of the Hunter Valley and the under-visited national parks of the interior.
Whether you remain in NSW throughout your trip or using it as a springboard to travel elsewhere in the country, the state makes for an absorbing place to explore. And in Sydney, it lays claim to one of those heady, multi-layered cities that draw people back time and time again.