There is so much to do in New South Wales, but a week will surely persuade you to come back for more. You could easily spend the whole seven days in sunny Sydney, but you can squeeze many of the city’s highlights into a two-day-stay.
After breakfast head down to Circular Quay to see two Sydney icons at once the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the white-sailed Sydney Opera House. You could take a tour of the Opera House, or simply walk around the outside.
Next, stroll across to The Rocks area to see where European Sydney started out. The compact waterside area is criss-crossed with alleyways and crammed with terraced houses, old pubs, and former maritime storehouses. Make the most of the experience by going on a guided walk with an operator such as The Rocks Walking Tours.
Nearby are some steps that take you up to the walkway that spans the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can walk right across the bridge and take a local commuter train back to the city centre. Or, you could actually climb the Harbour Bridge with Bridge Climb. It’s a truly memorable experience, and the views from the top of the arch are magnificent.
Afterwards, head back to Circular Quay and take a boat trip on Sydney’s glorious harbour. There are lots of tour boats to choose from. One that gives an Aboriginal perspective on things is the Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Culture Cruise. If you are the adventurous sort you could even take zip around the Harbour at break-neck speed on a jet boat.
From here you could walk past the Opera House and into the Royal Botanic Gardens. You might then want to pop into the Art Gallery of New South Wales, before heading towards the city again.
Ahead of you is Sydney Tower, the tallest building in Sydney. The tower offers stunning 360-degree views across the city, and beyond to The Blue Mountains. Daredevils can walk around the outside of the tower on a Skywalk.
Spend the morning in Darling Harbour, Sydney’s main entertainment precinct. There are plenty of bars and restaurants around here with outdoor seating, and lots of major attractions.
Among these is Sydney Aquarium. Highlights include the stunning Barrier Reef exhibit, its new dugong habitat, and an underwater walkway through an enormous tank full of giant sharks and rays. You can feed the sharks from a glass bottom boat.
If you have time check out Australian animals at the nearby Sydney Wildlife World, or clamber over real ships and a submarine at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
In the afternoon you could check out the animals at Taronga Zoo or make your way to one of Sydney’s many golden beaches. The most famous is Bondi Beach, but Manly Beach – reached by ferry – should be high on a must-do list too. You can learn to surf at both beaches.
Today it’s time to head to the hills. The World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains are less than two hours from Sydney. You can get there by train and join a tour, take a tour from Sydney, or wander around alone.
On the way, you could stop off to see the kangaroos and other creatures at Featherdale Wildlife Park.
In the Blue Mountains you can ride the world’s steepest incline railway and enjoy spectacular rainforest views from a cable car at Scenic World. There are lots of incredible bushwalks, majestic waterfalls, and the sandstone escarpments and canyons are awesome.
Stay the night if you wish to extend your trip, and immerse yourself in the amazing scenery again the next day.
Travel back to Sydney and head north to the Hunter Valley wine country. Most of the area’s 120 wineries offer tastings at the cellar door. There are plenty of great restaurants, romantic retreats, quality eateries, galleries, and producers selling handmade cheese and olive oil.
You can roam around the beautiful farming countryside on hired bicycles, in a horse and carriage, or even in a hot air balloon.
From the Hunter Valley make your way to Port Stephens. The pristine waters of the harbour here are home to two large pods of bottlenose dolphins. You are almost guaranteed to see them on a dolphin-watch cruise. This is a perfect place to spot whales during their annual migration too.
If you want to see koalas in the wild then Port Stephen’s Tilligerry Habitat State Reserve offers a good opportunity.
Drive south from Sydney via the Royal National Park on the new Grand Pacific Drive. A focal point of the trip is the dramatic 665-metre (2,181-foot) Sea Cliff Bridge, which was opened in December 2005.
From here, the unspoilt natural beauty of the southern coastline of New South Wales unfolds in a series of bays, harbours, beaches and small townships.
You could stop off at Jervis Bay and the Aboriginal-managed Booderee National Park. The park is known for its kangaroos and other wildlife, fascinating bushwalks, sparkling green water, and pristine beaches. One of these is Hyams Beach, which has some of the world’s whitest and noisiest sands – it makes a loud squeaking sound when you walk on it.
You can go on a dolphin spotting cruise here, or take an adventurous dive among underwater arches, caves and rock stacks. Camp among the kangaroos overnight, or stay in a local hotel.
You might want to keep heading south along the coastal route all the way to Melbourne or beyond – or you can slowly head back to Sydney. This time head inland, and call into the Southern Highlands.
This gorgeous rural area offers quaint towns, historic pubs and hotels, orchards and wineries, antiques, Devonshire teas, and a gentrified way of existence.