The New South Wales Bucket List

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

#40 - Drive "Waterfall Way" near Armidale

Where is it? Armidale to Coffs Harbour, NSW

This surprisingly beautiful and under-recognised scenic drive spans 185km and derives its name from the series of spectacular falls that can be seen along its expanse. Highlighted by the dual-tiered Ebor Falls, there are numerous optional diversions to hidden scenic spots that can be explored via a number of safe walking tracks. Many of the stops along the drive come well equipped with clean toilets and well-maintained barbecue areas, making for many wonderful opportunities for picnics, scenic outlooks, and even a dedicated bird walk designed to take you through the mid-tier of the treetops and get up close with various colourful avian species. It's a curvy and narrow road that is best done in a series of short bursts and brings with it many visual rewards.

#39 - Cycle through the Ourimbah State Forest

Where is it? 1.5 hours' drive north of Sydney, NSW

Offering a cavalcade of adventures on two wheels for the intrepid mountain biker, the Ourimbah State Forest features both enough nature to remain scenic and an extensive downhill run to keep the experienced rider challenged and more than occupied. Accessed via a 90-minute drive from Sydney, this is a veritable maze of fast-flowing single tracks that is well-signed and consistently hilly throughout, providing enough technicality to keep things interesting without being overly dangerous or frustrating. Blasting your way through dense and deep rainforest gullies intermingled with windy and tight trail is the name of the game here, and Ourimbah State Forest has plenty of variety so that the run never gets monotonous - and is widely regarded as one of NSW's best rides for this reason.

#38 - Go Hang Gliding at Byron Bay headland

Where is it? Cape Byron, Byron Bay, NSW

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One of the most common sights when visiting Byron Bay's renowned coastline is the spectacle of hang gliders soaring their way through the skies above, as the spectacular views over Cape Byron's headland are an obvious drawcard for gliding enthusiasts. Couple this with the ability to see marine life such as whales, dolphins and turtles in the surrounding water - along with the majesty of the cliff faces and golden beachfront - and it's not hard to see why. As a result, there are plenty of chances for first-timers to take part in hang gliding, with multiple companies such as Byron Airwaves that offer tandem glides of varying lengths - fear of heights optional.

#37 - Take in the views from Sydney Tower

Where is it? 100 Market St, Sydney, NSW

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In terms of starting points for any trip to Sydney for first-timers, Sydney Tower comes easy to recommend due to its central location and excellent way to get your bearings and orientation in the city. Measuring 250m high, Sydney Tower Eye as it's now known provides a vantage point that no other location in the city can match, with 360° views of everything from Sydney Harbour, to the city skyline, to the Blue Mountains in the distance. While it's open all day for viewing, we recommend timing your visit to coincide with sunset as you'll get the best of both worlds - seeing Sydney both in daylight and as the city lights flicker on one by one.

#36 - Visit and unwind at Kangaroo Valley

Where is it? 2 hours south of Sydney, NSW

This verdant slice of scenic countryside is as visually spectacular as it is peaceful, full of rolling hills and boasting a sleepy, old-world feel that makes for an idyllic destination to truly unwind. This is a part of New South wales where "stopping to smell the roses" is key - merely enjoying the clash of its rocky mountains and vast fields, indulging in fresh produce such as rich cheeses and a range of excellent local wines, or lazily casting a fishing line while soaking in nature are all enhanced by the region's inherent beauty. The Kangaroo Valley and its namesake town are a relatively unknown - and criminally underrated - getaway spot where nature comes to the forefront and that can be easily reached from both Sydney and Canberra.

#35 - Absorb the scenery and history at Botany Bay

Where is it? South Sydney, NSW

This is where it all began for European colonisation of Australia - the original landing point for British navigator James Cook back in 1770, Botany Bay now boasts a heritage-listed status and thus has plenty of history to absorb alongside its inherent natural beauty. Offering wonderful views of Sydney city in the distance, an outstanding scenic cycleway and a prominent fortress to explore on Bare Island (with tours available for further insight), there's plenty to keep visitors occupied here. Add in many secluded beaches and coves, and a sprawling national park to explore and it's a site that caters to many interest types all just a 20 minute drive to the south of Sydney. Grab the picnic blanket, and enjoy.

#34 - Explore the Sand Dunes at Port Stephens

Where is it? Port Stephens, NSW

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One of the Port Stephens region's most obvious and distinctive features, the Stockton Sand Dunes (or the Worimi Conservation Lands) are Australia's largest and as a result serve as one of the focal points for various unique activities in the region. Reaching up to 40 metres in height at some points, these sprawling expanses of sand offer the chance to take part in a range of experiences for travellers - sand boarding down their slopes is one of the most visible (and fun) means for doing so, however quad biking with Sand Dune Adventures, 4WD tours with Moonshadow, and even simple exploration of the area's indigenous history are all viable ways to spend your time here. There are a number of sites of Aboriginal cultural significance that remain here today, adding an extra layer of intrigue.

#33 - Camp on Cockatoo Island

Where is it? Sydney Harbour, NSW

Looking for an escapist camping getaway without the necessity of leaving the greater Sydney area? Cockatoo Island, which lies in the heart of Sydney Harbour, provides the perfect venue to do so, with numerous levels of accommodation available - from basic camping to historic heritage houses - in which to lay your head. The island's campsites sit at the water's edge and offer panoramic views of Sydney Harbour's highlights, while providing multiple BBQ facilities for self-catering. Toasting a marshmallow over a fire while witnessing the city lights of Sydney's most famed spectacles turn on of an evening is magical, and despite its proximity manages to feel a world away from the bustle of the city's CBD.

#32 - Hot Air Ballooning over the Hunter Valley

Where is it? Hunter Valley, NSW

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Hot air ballooning is an inherently tranquil activity in and of itself, but blend it with the rolling and verdant scenery of New South Wales' Hunter Valley region and you've got a venue that's conducive to a picturesque aerial adventure conducted by operator Balloon Aloft. The Valley's rolling hills and expansive vineyards form an idyllic backdrop to the serenity of floating peacefully through the air at several thousand feet. As the sunrise casts its glow over the regions of Pokolbin, Lovedale and Rothbury below, you'll be presented with outstanding photo opportunities as the combination of altitude, smoothness and uninhibited views that ballooning offers make for some wonderful snapshots.

#31 - Swim with Seals at Narooma

Where is it? Narooma, NSW

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Situated on New South Wales' south coast, the waters off the coast of Narooma are a prime breeding ground for fur seal colonies, with its stalwart Montague Island serving as a haven for these cute and inquisitive creatures. Visitors to the region can join tour operators such as Island Charters Narooma and Lighthouse Charters and be taken to the waters of the island' s nature reserve, don snorkel or scuba equipment, and come face to face with the seals - their inherent curiosity means they'll often approach swimmers of their own free will, and it's hard to not to fall in love with the whisker-lined faces of these "dogs of the ocean". As an added bonus, dolphins, whales and innumerable sea birds can often be spotted in the area, as well.

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!

The New South Wales Bucket List Map

The Best of New South Wales on Instagram

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