Are you ready to travel yet? Our NSW destination guide

Travel after Covid-19 lockdown is going to be a confusing, worrying yet incredibly exciting and happy experience. With the prospect of authorised travel within our own states, here’s our guide to exploring New South Wales when the doors open.

NSW destination guide

As countries like Italy begin to relax their rules on travel after lockdown, travel insiders in Australia are looking at whether our government will follow suit.

Italy is allowing people to travel again (from May 4th 2020), but only domestically and only within the region. So people in Lombardy – one of Italy’s worst affected regions – won’t be able to travel to Venice for example, which is in Veneto region.

But don’t feel too sorry for Lombardians; after all, they have Milan, Bergamo, Lake Como and Lake Iseo within the limits of their travel scope.

Ultimate Guide to Lake Como, Italy - Spectacular view of Lake Como down from the mountains behind the Grand Hotel Tremezzo

But like Italy, the people in the know here believe we’ll be able to travel intra-state quite soon – so if you live in New South Wales, here are some ideas for where you’ll be able to go when the boom gate lifts on Australia’s First State.

Where to travel in New South Wales after Covid lockdown

Of course, travel after the epidemic probably won’t be the same again for a long time. And even when travel restrictions lift, we’ll have to maintain precautions against the virus and act sensibly. So please stay safe whether you’re on the road or staying close to home.

Go north

The Hunter Valley

Who guessed I’d start this guide with wine? No, I’m not surprised either! And the Hunter Valley certainly deserves as much credit as it always gets.

The oldest wine region in Australia, the Hunter has some incredible places to visit with astounding countryside and cellar doors to match.

NSW destination guide - Hunter Valley

NSW destination guide - Jerome Scarborough, Hunter Valley winery

If you don’t believe me, check out these tips on wineries recommended by long-time local and winemaster, Ian ‘Scarbie’ Scarborough of Scarborough Wines fame. These guys make the best Chardonnay you’ll ever taste by the way, and their cellar door experience is incredible.

We have a host of other reasons (not just wine… but mostly!) to visit the Hunter Valley. Check out our other reasons to visit this beautiful part of the state.

Port Stephens

Right next the Hunter Valley on the coast, Port Stephens is still (amazingly) a gem hiding in plain sight and not far from Sydney.

We’ve been coming to this pretty peninsula for years now and know the area well. Not only are there plenty of places to eat and drink, the beaches in Port Stephens are astounding. What better way to unwind after a long lockdown?

Here’s our essential guide to Port Stephens to give you a taste of what you’ll find here.

Maitland

Caught between the Hunter Valley to the south and Newcastle to the east, Maitland has long had the reputation as a ’30-minute town’ – in that it’s half an hour’s drive from both its bookend destinations.

But back in the mid-1800s, Maitland and its even smaller neighbour Morpeth were an epicentre of the colony.

There are still vestiges of those thriving times still to see now, but the real joy of this town isn’t its history; it’s the food.

Weekend escape Maitland - Heritage Gardens Cafe

Coquun, Maitland - banana pudding

There are so many remarkable places to eat here, we left after a weekend barely able to fit into our car, let alone our clothes!

Here’s where to eat in Maitland, plus our other stories on this fascinating part of NSW, whose history we’ve all but forgotten.

Weekend escape Maitland - MRAG Maitland Regional Art Gallery

Byron Bay

Perhaps the biggest punctuation on the northern NSW coastline is Byron Bay. And justly so. Not just the town, but the whole area is brimming with beauty… and superb food.

You’ll find eating here very satisfying with so many venues offering local produce grown and crafted with love.

NSW destination guide - Byron Bay light house

NSW destination guide - Byron Bay burrata

There’s a whole host of places to try here, as you’ll see from our compilation of where to eat in Byron, but there’s also so much to do here.

And of course, the whole area is so pretty – check out our Postcards story if you don’t believe me

Head south

Southern Highlands

Southwest of Wollongong, the Southern Highlands makes for a perfect escape from the city and a wonderful place to get away from the long lockdown.

Each little town in the highlands offers something different, as well as a burgeoning wine-making culture, though all are connected by one wonderful filament of gold: pies.

Southern Highlands Winery rabbit pie

And every year, the Southern Highlands has Pie Time – a celebration of everything pastry.

Pie Time – a wonderful week in June of pie glory in the Southern ‘Pielands’ – is has this region at its best.

2020’s Pie Time is going virtual, with 1-7 June going for ‘Pie-solation’ celebrations, encouraging Aussies far and wide to pie up at home and share their pastry yarns online with #pietime and #piesolations. 

Berry

On the other side of the mountains to the highlands, this wealthy country town has been a popular stop for motorists for many years – though now the bypass misses Berry, it’s mercifully a lot quieter.

You’ll find pies to die for here too and Mt Hay Retreat up in the hills is a superb place to rest your head.

South Coast and Mollymook

The NSW South Coast has long been a popular haunt for Sydney holidaymakers, and rightly so. It’s absolutely stunning here. Pristine beaches, delightful food options, friendly locals… it’s hard not to like the South Coast.

One of the highlights of our time in the South Coast was when we stayed at Bannisters by the Sea at Mollymook. It’s a pretty little retreat in a quaint little seaside town with the other obvious asset of Rick Stein’s famed restaurant.

Bannisters by the Sea, Mollymook - Mollymook beach

This iconic eatery aside, there are so many excellent food options in this part of the Shoalhaven to try. 

Other parts of southern NSW

Our last roadtrip before Covid-19 struck was down through the southern parts of NSW and into Victoria. We had decided to do our own Empty Esky in aid of the terrible bushfires that ravaged so much of the state.

That all seems so long ago now – even though it’s only a few months back as I write this.

It was, however, a blessing, as we were able to experience some amazing parts of the state that hopefully will still be the same the next time we visit.

Places like Batemans Bay and Moruya, Tumut and its wonderful brewery, the bakery at Howlong and Corowa’s distillery – you can find them all detailed here in our Empty Esky story… and you’ll find them all in person as you enjoy the beauty of New South Wales.

Enjoy the Central West

Travelling west of Sydney is such a different experience to going north or south along the coast. The landscape is so different, and the locals even more so.

Orange

One of the first places west of the Blue Mountains we ever visited, Orange is packed with truly superb food and wine. It’s a mountainous area, with a cool climate and high elevation, which makes the produce here even better.

Here’s our essential guide to Orange, NSW to get you started. 

Mudgee

Another wonderful western town that’s even friendlier than Orange and with perhaps even better wine and produce is Mudgee. There’s something about this place that really kept our hearts. We can’t wait to go back.

NSW destination guide - Mudgee Homestead

NSW destination guide - Mudgee Homestead

Here’s a hit list of where we’ll be eating when we go back plus our top tip for where to stay while you’re there. Honestly the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in… and I’m really picky!

The Blue Mountains

Arguably the most famous inland landmark of New South Wales are the Blue Mountains. This little section of the Great Dividing Range, which runs north to south some 3,500km, has so much history and beauty to it.

NSW destination guide - Blue Mountains

Here are seven ways to experience the grandeur of this landscape, which we highly recommend if you haven’t been here for a few years (it’s all been updated). And here’s where stay in the Blue Mountains too.

For more of our stories of the Blue Mountains, click here. 

The City

Of course, there’s no need to go too far if you don’t want to – or if you don’t have enough time. Sydney has so much to offer visitors and locals alike. We love a staycation here in the city, and we’ve written so much about our times here.

You’ll find everything from Sydney hotels and restaurants in the city to things to do and places to see.

But if you’re only in town for a short while, here’s what you can do in 24 hours.

NSW destination guide - Sydney

And for more ideas for easy Sydney weekend getaways, check out this champion story!

If you’ve got more time on your hands and want to deep-dive into the research, here is our complete library for stories on places we’ve explored in New South Wales

Of course, we haven’t been everywhere in New South Wales… though we’re working on it. We’d love to go west and see what it’s like further inland. The farthest west we’ve been in NSW is Mendooran – a tiny town near Dubbo, where a particularly good whisky is made.

But every town between Sydney and Broken Hill has its story. And there’s time to hear them all.

Do you have a place of priority you want to visit as soon as travel restrictions lift? Tell us in the comments.

Pool Bar at Bannisters by the Sea Mollymook - us

4 Comments

  • Reply May 12, 2020

    Kere

    If you haven’t visited Broken Hill yet, make sure you do! It’s such a charming place. Lots of houses and fences are made from corregated iron, it’s so quaint. There are famous artists that have made their mark there including Pro Hart. There are the pinnacles and the sculptures to see and also the ghost town of Silverton. There’s so much to love there!

    • Reply May 13, 2020

      Mr Romance

      Hi Kere. We’ve heard a lot about Broken Hill recently actually. Some fascinating things – including Bell’s Milk Bar. Perhaps when travel opens up again, we should start west and work our way to the coast! Broken Hill here we come!

  • Reply May 16, 2020

    Emma Kelly

    NSW is our lockdown state. We are making the most of it and revisit to support some of favourite places like the far north coast, the hunter and blue mountains. We are also visiting family in NSW now that it’s allowed. Definitely looking forward to being back on the road properly… eventually.

    • Reply May 17, 2020

      Mr Romance

      There’s so much to see in NSW, isn’t there, Emma? Such a great opportunity to focus on the fantastic travel opportunities available closer to home for a while… but we’ve always got an eye on the furthest horizon!

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