Attractions

New South Wales is most celebrated for Sydney, which draws hordes of tourists with its many urban attractions. The city's most famous landmarks include the Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Tower, but the city is also renowned for its stunning beaches, fun nightlife and great restaurant scene. Although Sydney is Australia's premier tourist destination, travellers would do well to investigate the state as a whole, as New South Wales certainly has a lot to offer beyond vibrant Sydney.

New South Wales is an outdoor adventurer's dream, with varied mountainous, coastal and desert landscapes providing a playing field for hiking, surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, whitewater rafting and even skiing. Popular New South Wales destinations for adventurers, and those simply in search of natural beauty, include the Blue Mountains, the Snowy Mountains, Lord Howe Island, Hunter Valley, Barrington Tops National Park, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, Jervis Bay, Jindabyne and Hawkesbury Valley.

Harbour Bridge photo

Harbour Bridge

One of Sydney's most famous landmarks, the Harbour Bridge (known locally as the 'Coat Hanger') was completed in 1932 after claiming 16 lives during its construction. The bridge spa…

Harbour Bridge

One of Sydney's most famous landmarks, the Harbour Bridge (known locally as the 'Coat Hanger') was completed in 1932 after claiming 16 lives during its construction. The bridge spans the 1,600-foot (500m) gap from the north to the south shore, which was previously only accessible by ferry, and accommodates pedestrian walkways, two railway lines and an eight-lane road. Visitors can experience the bridge in an adventurous way by climbing to the top as part of an organised group for breath-taking views and a feeling of personal achievement. For the less daring, 200 steps lead to the Pylon Lookout for equally fantastic views at 285 feet (87m) above the water, with three levels of exhibits on the way up depicting the history and construction of the bridge. The Pylon option is better for those afraid of heights, although stomachs will still drop!

Address 3 Cumberland St, The Rocks

Website www.bridgeclimb.com

Admission

Prices vary according to activity, time of day and season. Check the official website for details.

The Rocks photo

The Rocks

The best place to start exploring Australia's oldest city is at The Rocks, a restored 19th-century village at the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which was the site of A…

The Rocks

The best place to start exploring Australia's oldest city is at The Rocks, a restored 19th-century village at the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which was the site of Australia's first European settlement in 1788, and is therefore considered to be the birthplace of the nation of Australia. The area features cobbled streets and squares, gas lamps, craft shops and small restaurants. Here too are several historic buildings, including one of the city's oldest, Cadman's Cottage, built in 1816, and two of Sydney's oldest pubs, the Lord Nelson and the Hero of Waterloo.

It is recommended that visitors seek information and a map from The Rocks Visitor's Centre (in George Street) in order to make the most of the neighbourhood and its many attractions, which include museums, viewing sites, markets, monuments and buildings. From The Rocks it is also possible to access the Pylon Lookout on the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge for an amazing view of the harbour and beyond.

Website www.therocks.com

Sydney Opera House photo

Sydney Opera House

It may not be an ancient monument, but the architecturally distinctive Sydney Opera House epitomises the city as much as the Great Pyramid in Cairo or the Acropolis in Athens. Situ…

Sydney Opera House

It may not be an ancient monument, but the architecturally distinctive Sydney Opera House epitomises the city as much as the Great Pyramid in Cairo or the Acropolis in Athens. Situated on Sydney's harbour at Bennelong Point, this intriguing, white-sailed landmark is no white elephant. It is a fully functional performing arts centre in constant use. The complex consists of a massive Concert Hall that seats more than 2,500 people and has some of the finest acoustics in the world; a smaller Opera Theatre, also used for ballet performances; a Drama Theatre, seating about 500 people; the smaller Playhouse; and the Boardwalk dance and music venue. The building, designed by Joørn Utzon, was completed in 1973 and cost over A$100 million, most of which was raised with a series of national lotteries. There was so much controversy involved in its construction that the Danish architect returned home without ever seeing his finished product. Free performances of various types are given outside on the boardwalks around the Opera House on Sunday afternoons. A variety of tours are available.

Address Bennelong Point, Sydney Harbour

Website www.sydneyoperahouse.com

Transport

Buses, trains and ferries go to Circular Quay, which is a five-minute walk from the Opera House

Admission

Tours and shows vary in cost - check the official website for details.

Royal Botanic Gardens photo

Royal Botanic Gardens

Sydney's 'green lung' is a 30-hectare botanical garden, established in 1816 and containing more than 7,500 species of plant. Australia's very first farm was on the site where the g…

Royal Botanic Gardens

Sydney's 'green lung' is a 30-hectare botanical garden, established in 1816 and containing more than 7,500 species of plant. Australia's very first farm was on the site where the garden now flourishes, southeast of the Sydney Opera House. Paths criss-cross the gardens, leading strollers past two sets of ponds, garden sculptures and numerous horticultural areas. Don't miss the Sydney Tropical Centre; the rose, herb and succulent gardens; the First Farm; the Fernery; and the palm grove. Watch out for a young specimen of the rare Wollemi Pine (only about 38 adult trees exist in the world) in the Pioneer Garden.

The gardens also offer some of the best views of Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The path that skirts the harbour starting at the Opera House and leading around to Mrs Maquarie's Chair provides magnificent views of the harbour, particularly at sunset. The gardens also have a visitor's centre, shop, restaurants and kiosks. Free guided walks are offered at about 10.30am every day, except public holidays. Visitors who prefer not to walk can take a scenic train tour. Inside the gardens you can also admire Government House, formerly the residence of the New South Wales Governor, which sits atop a hillock overlooking the Opera House and Farm Cove. It is open to the public for tours.

Address Mrs Macquaries Road

Website www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

Opens Daily from 7am. Closes at various hours depending on the month, from 5pm in winter to 8pm in summer.

Admission

Free

Darling Harbour photo

Darling Harbour

The waterside tourist precinct of Darling Harbour, close to the central business district, is crossed by a monorail and offers plenty of entertaining diversions, museums, carnival …

Darling Harbour

The waterside tourist precinct of Darling Harbour, close to the central business district, is crossed by a monorail and offers plenty of entertaining diversions, museums, carnival rides, restaurants and shops. For example, there is the Imax Theatre, with Australia's largest cinema screen; the huge Star City Casino and Sydney Entertainment Centre; and the magnificent Chinese Garden, with its serpentine paths and placid pools. Established in 1988 by the local Chinese community, to celebrate their heritage and to cement the bond between Sydney and the city of Guangzhou, the Chinese Garden of Friendship is styled along Classical lines, combining the four elements of water, plants, stone and architecture to create a perfect balance. Reminiscent of the gardens of the Shang dynasty from 3,000 years ago, and a popular tourist attraction, the Garden is a wonderful place to relax and rejuvenate with the whole family - picnicking, or just walking the meandering paths, enjoying the pagoda-style structures, the expert landscaping, and the tranquil courtyards.

An absolute must-see is the Sydney Aquarium, one of the most popular attractions at Darling Harbour, and also one of the biggest and most impressive aquariums in the world. More than 5,000 Australian fish are displayed in their natural habitats, along with sharks, rays, platypus, seals, penguins, crocodiles and much more. Underwater walkways give visitors an intimate view of the unique aquatic environment. The Great Barrier Reef exhibit has live coral and many tropical fish, and visitors can take a glass-bottomed boat ride to see some dangerous sharks from up close.

Also look out for the Powerhouse Museum and the National Maritime Museum. Children will go mad for the Powerhouse Museum, where all things scientific abound and exhibits include those that will boggle the mind, and astound the senses.

Website www.darlingharbour.com

Transport

Darling Harbour is easily accessible by bus, train, monorail, light rail or ferry.

Sydney Beaches photo

Sydney Beaches

One thing that is not in short supply in Sydney is beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches. Anywhere in the city, except perhaps in the far west suburbs, you will never be more than half a…

Sydney Beaches

One thing that is not in short supply in Sydney is beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches. Anywhere in the city, except perhaps in the far west suburbs, you will never be more than half an hour away from one. Starting from popular Palm Beach to the north, you can take your pick along the coast: there is Whale, Avalon, Bilgola, Newport, Bungan, Mona Vale, Warriewood, Narrabeen-Collaroy, Long Reef, Curl Curl, Freshwater, North Steyne, Manly and Shelly! There are several small beaches around Sydney Harbour, and moving southwards one reaches the famous Bondi Beach, with its magnificent sweep of golden sand lined with an eclectic mix of ice-cream parlours, designer cafes and surf shops. The list goes on and on: a beach for everyone, all equipped with kiosks, white sand and golden bodies.

Eight miles (13km) from the city centre, Manly is perhaps the most famous of the northern beaches; it was here, in 1902, that newspaper editor William Gocher first defied the state law against public bathing and today the white sand of the south beaches and the golden sand of the north beaches are crowded with swimmers, sunbathers and surfers. Manly can be reached by ferry from Circular Quay or by foot via the Manly Scenic Walkway from Spit Bridge in the city. This walk can take three or four hours but offers some of Sydney's most breath-taking views, as well as skirting some of its most exclusive neighbourhoods. Another spectacular but much shorter walk is along the cliffs from Bondi to Bronte Beach, which takes walkers past the famous Tamarama Beach and is very popular with joggers and, at the weekend, with families.

Blue Mountains photo

Blue Mountains

The entrance to the richly forested hills of the Blue Mountains is at Glenbrook/Lapstone, only about 50 minutes' drive from Sydney. Many coach companies offer day trips, usually fr…

Blue Mountains

The entrance to the richly forested hills of the Blue Mountains is at Glenbrook/Lapstone, only about 50 minutes' drive from Sydney. Many coach companies offer day trips, usually from Circular Quay in Sydney. Alternatively, City Rail offers an efficient service to the Blue Mountains, or you can travel there direct from Sydney Airport. Once there, visitors can delight in one of the most spectacular wilderness parks in Australia. Cliff top vistas stretch across gum tree-lined valleys and craggy outcrops. It is superb walking country and adventure activities, from horse riding, caving and abseiling to tubing down mountain rivers, abound.

The region is dotted with historic towns, most built from timber and stone, connected by scenic drives. Katoomba is the most visited town in the Blue Mountains, and the amazing rock formation of the Three Sisters at Echo Point is a must-see in the area. A great drawcard is the Blue Mountains 'Yulefest'. Visitors flock to the mountaintops in July and August to experience a mid-year Christmas and to revel in the occasional snowfall. Many of the region's guesthouses, hotels, motels, resorts and restaurants put on all the trappings of a traditional Christmas, complete with turkey, Christmas pudding and a great deal of fun.

Website www.bluemts.com.au