The New South Wales Bucket List

You haven’t truly “done” NSW unless you’ve done these 100 experiences.

#100 - Witness the cascading Ellenborough Falls

Where is it? north west of Taree, NSW

Kicking off the list is one of Australia's tragically least-known yet dramatically impressive and largest single-drop waterfalls - the spectacular Ellenborough Falls located on the Bulga Plateau at Elands, roughly 1 hour's drive from Taree. The relatively unknown fall is the major reason why this site is one of the most popular day trip areas on the mid-north coast of NSW, all augmented by its incredibly lush and peaceful surrounds. Visitors travelling to see the falls can make a day of it as the surrounding area is surprisingly well-equipped; a series of walks and wooden viewing platforms allow for opportunities for exploration, with a dedicated walkway that takes walkers to the bottom of the falls (takes around 1 hour). Add in a pleasant undercover picnic area, barbecue and toilet facilities, and you've got a wonderful backdrop for one of the state's best picnics.

#99 - Browse the Arts and crafts at Bangalow Market

Where is it? Bangalow, NSW

The alternative nature of the greater Byron Bay region on the NSW north coast has been ingrained in this part of the state for decades, and its bent towards all things creative and artistic is reflected in its inclination towards arts and crafts. The small and historic town of Bangalow around 20 minutes from Byron Bay is home to regular markets that showcase these handcrafted goods to the fullest, with visitors able to browse a huge range of stalls peddling everything from ceramics, to jewellery, to freshly baked goods and ground coffee. The markets take place on the 4th Sunday of the month and typically sees nearly 300 individual stalls in operation, with some of the talent on display truly surprising. It's a joy to simply wander around and witness the variety while sampling the range of food from various international cultures all while soaking up Bangalow's characteristically weird-and-wonderful demographic.

#98 - Visit the Museum of Fire

Where is it? Penrith, NSW

Some of the true unsung heroes of Australian society, our fire fighters are a silent yet essential example of bravery and their full history is documented in an interesting and well-curated - yet still fun - way at the Museum of Fire in the outer Sydney suburb of Penrith. One of the few museums that children can truly enjoy, the attraction places an emphasis on interactivity and encourages children to learn while still being able to "be kids" and play, touch and otherwise enjoy absorbing the history of fire fighting. The museum has a number of historic and surprisingly old fire engines that are still kept in immaculate condition which are augmented by a number of additional displays including steam pumps, fire fighting equipment and even horse-drawn vehicles. Those attending the museum can take part in a guided tour to learn more about the historic aspect as well as practical knowledge on dealing with fires - so it's not only interesting, it may actually save your life.

#97 - Tour the "Haunted" remains of Joadja

Where is it? Southern Highlands, NSW

This former mining town situated in a beautiful valley in regional New South Wales was abandoned over 100 years ago, yet its crumbling ruins still remain as a reminder of the fickle nature of pioneer economies. The skeleton of the town that visitors can see today still contains its former hybrid church/school, mine, refinery and cemetery, and the eerie atmosphere of the empty site is further enhanced by its legendary hauntings by two murdered miners in days past. Those who stay the night are said to have the best chance for a paranormal sighting! Current conservation efforts are underway to preserve the ruins from the effects of both the elements and tourists, and plans are in motion to rebuild the area around the heritage site to accommodate visitors. Those looking for further insight can take a guided tour with Joadja Creek Heritage Tours for an in-depth look at its history.

#96 - Enjoy watersports at Lake Macquarie

Where is it? Hunter Region, NSW

In terms of hidden Aussie destinations that are a delight for those interested in all things marine looking to avoid the crowds, the central NSW coastal region of Lake Macquarie - both the actual lake and its surrounding townships - is hard to beat. Located under 1 hour's drive to the south of Newcastle, it's one of Australia's premier spots for boating and sailing enthusiasts; the Lake is the country's largest coastal saltwater lagoon clocking in at an impressive 110 square kilometres and that features a great sheltered bay for overnight anchoring. In addition, the surrounding beaches offer ample opportunity for swimming, snorkelling & diving, surfing and simple relaxation, while plenty of purpose-built bike tracks populate the area for those wanting to explore from the land. The lake itself is also strikingly beautiful, with a panorama that changes from a wonderful azure to indigo with the passage of the sun and serve as an impressive backdrop for any of the aforementioned activities.

#95 - Explore the Sandstone Caves at Coonabarabran

Where is it? Coonabarabran, NSW

This surprisingly extensive hive of caves to the north of Coonabarabran in NSW's north-west blend an intriguing mix of colours and shapes due to the effects of thousands of years of weathering and erosion. Comprised mostly of sandstone, the caves can be explored via a roughly 1.7 kilometre loop walk during which you'll encounter enough unique formations in each cave that it remains continually interesting - with the varied gradients of colours making for some excellent snapshots for the aspiring photographer. The caves are also steeped in indigenous Aboriginal history and are considered a sacred site by their original inhabitants, however visitors are permitted to explore and can stumble across the likes of spear sharpening grooves and artistic scrapings that still remain visible thousands of years later. All of this lies amongst some peaceful and untouched Australian bush, making for a serene and spiritual atmosphere.

#94 - Whales, wildlife & waterfront at Merimbula Marina

Where is it? Merimbula, Far South Coast, NSW

One of the standout gems of New South Wales' ostensible Sapphire Coast, Merimbula mixes a lovely climate with marine life-rich waters to make for a sunny spot for enjoying all things aquatic. The main central hub of this is the town's marina from which a variety of adventures can be embarked upon, with whale watching being the region's signature experience but that extends to the likes of sightseeing tours, dolphin watching and fishing expeditions as well. This is a favoured NSW destination for anglers due to the quantities of fish that can be caught offshore, with species such as marlin, kingfish, yellowfin tuna and other good-eating types all here in abundance. Friendly and knowledgeable crew members help round out the experience, and the ability to take in sights of the extensive beaches that dot the region from the water makes for some of NSW's best coastal views.

#93 - Explore the history of Hawkesbury

Where is it? Hawkesbury, NSW

The Hawkesbury region to the north of Sydney offers one of NSW's best blends of history and greenery, as the various towns and heritage buildings are all dotted throughout vast expanses of green national park (numbering 6 in total). Perhaps most known for its large and winding river that dissects the various surrounding ranges, it's the architecture that separates Hawkesbury from some of its peers, as the area is home to numerous colonial-era buildings that still remain in good condition to this day. First inhabited back in 1794, townships such as Windsor, Richmond and various others pull visitors back to yesteryear with a range of Victorian buildings that have been remarkably well-maintained. Those looking for an enjoyable encapsulation of this era can pay a visit to the popular Australiana Pioneer Village that emulates a living country town entrenched in this historic period of Australia.

#92 - Stroll through Red Cow Farm Garden

Where is it? Sutton Forest, NSW

This expertly crafted tribute to the art of botany is a charming and beautiful series of gardens that's a testament to the creativity of its owners; featuring a range of different garden rooms each emphasising a different aspect of the floral world, the diversity and intermingling of colour at Red Cow Farm Garden is delightful. Set out over a picturesque 2.5 hectares, the garden allows visitors to follow a serene pathway to immerse themselves amongst the various layouts, with each new individual garden within a wonderful surprise. Perfectly-groomed hedges, a pristine lake, and innumerable flower species including roses, perennials, clematis, dahlias and more each, with each garden taking on a different degree of colouration and bloom dependent on the season. There are even a number of intricate statues that break up the greenery, making of an overall enchanting and magical experience roughly 1.5 hour's drive from Sydney.

#91 - Pose with the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour

Where is it? Coffs Harbour, NSW

Perhaps the most well-known of Australia's "big" inanimate landmarks (avacado, prawn, guitar et al), the Big Banana has become synonymous with the Coffs Harbour region as a whole since its construction in 1964. Originally built in order to draw roadside traffic in to a local banana stall, the Big Banana complex has expanded since to include a surrounding plantation, shop, cafe, and even an amusement/water park in the modern day. This mixture of sub-attractions at the one location makes it an ideal spot to visit for those with families as various activities are suited specifically for children - kids can take part in the likes of tobogganing, ice skating, laser tag and more - however without a doubt the most bucket-list-worthy drawcard for the majority of visitors is simply grabbing a snapshot in front of the 12m-long fruity icon.

nswmapNew South Wales is a state that’s far more than simply home to Australia’s most famous city, Sydney – it’s a large and varied state that offers stark contrasts between its coastal, central and inner regions, with a diversity of both landscapes and people that makes for some impressive variety in travel opportunities.

From its often wild and beautiful coastline dotted with some of the country’s best beaches to its inner reaches that transition from lush greenery draped in national parkland and eventually give way to the harshness of the Australian outback, New South Wales’ diversity is remarkable. It’s this variety that make for such an extensive range of experiences, and due to popular demand and frequent requests by our customers – and as the result of years of both feedback and extensive polling – we’ve put together this list of the “Top 100 NSW Experiences to do before you die”.

There is so much to see and do in the whole of New South Wales but we managed to cut the seemingly never ending list down to 100. We’ve covered the gamut of experience types here – from free, to paid, to natural, to man-made – and from both urban centres through to more hidden regional treasures.

So go through the top picks to see what experiences you have already ticked off your list and what New South Wales sights, activities and attractions are next!

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