A Foodie’s Guide to New South Wales

25 July 2013

History-washed city facades, heritage listed hinterland and golden ribbons of beachfront are the trademarks of New South Wales – a state where past crashes into present, creating an alluring form of chaos. Adding to the state's iconic delights are hatted restaurants resting against the harbour, lauded vineyards snaking their way through the valleys and cafe upon cafe clustered in coastal centres.

Just as it was the original port of call for our British forebears, Sydney is often the first choice for travellers operating under the command of their all-embracing hunger, but New South Wales' epicurean wonders do not end at the city limits. Beyond savouring Sydney, expand your appetite for travel by following this foodie's guide to Australia's most populous (and ravenous) state.

For the Shiraz savant: Hunter Valley

 Pokolbin, Hunter Valley. Image courtesy of Destination NSW, Anson Smart.

Deserving of a little indulgence? Start your News South Wales food holiday in the Hunter Valley, where fine wine is sipped from the comfort of a sparkling spa bath and tiny bubbles gently ease your stress out of existence. With more than 150 wineries growing, crushing and bottling drops loved locally and abroad, the Hunter region pours on the country charm by the barrel. A weekend retreat for Sydneysiders, Australia's oldest wine region is equally as welcoming to those with Semillon flowing through their veins and visitors who are yet to develop a palate for this nectar of the Gods – the latter may prefer to use their tipple for alternate purposes such as a hands-on cooking class.

For the new age aficionado: Byron Bay

 Byron Beach Cafe. Image courtesy of Destination NSW, Sharyn Cairns.

Populated by New South Welshmen living the lifestyle typical of Queenslanders, Byron Bay is a coastal paradise where time slows down and the only thing that isn't totally Zen is the pounding surf. With lush natural surrounds, you can almost feel the holistic energy resounding throughout this North Coast township. Drag yourself away from the panoramic Cape Byron outlook and enjoy lunch with a clean social conscience at one of Byron Bay's hippy-chic eateries. If you've subscribed to a new age eating plan or suffer from food-related allergies, many menus displayed on Johnson and Lawson Streets boast vegan, gluten-free, clean eating, sugarless and organic offerings.

For the master chef maestro: Sydney CBD

 The Oyster Bar, Sydney. Image courtesy of Destination NSW, James Horan.

The envy of other capital cities and the birthplace of Australiana; what's not to love about the Harbour City? Having grown dramatically too big for its britches but managing to hold onto its charisma, Sydney proves you can never have too much of a good thing - especially when it comes to gourmet dining. Many internationally acclaimed chefs set up their flagship Australian restaurants in Sydney, earning handfuls of Chef Hats from the Australian Good Food Guide in the process (our equivalent of the Michelin Star). Take in an unbeatable Opera House view at Peter Gilmore's Quay - home of the infamous snow egg – or Matt Moran's ARIA. Still hungry for the master chef experience? Try Neil Perry's Spice Temple, Justin Hemmes' Est or David Chang's Momofuku Seiobo.

For the tea-and-scones sort: Blue Mountains

 Solitary Kiosk, Leura Falls. Image courtesy of Destination NSW, James Horan.

Watch the commotion of the city slip away in the rear-view mirror as you venture west to the majestic Blue Mountains and be greeted by a softer side of New South Wales food travel. Whatever the season, the Blue Mountains are always on show – brilliantly bathed in blue haze, glowing in autumn orange or adopting an alpine atmosphere come winter. Easy living abounds in the main township of Katoomba, with main-street Art Deco dwellings playing host to saloon-style bars and cosy cafes where people merrily meet, eat, chat and cuddle up over home-made scones with lashings of jam and cream. A little further on, you'd be hard pressed to find a lovelier town than Leura, lined with antiques, boutiques and cafes wrapped in the aroma of Earl Grey and eucalyptus.

For the cafe crawler: Sydney's Surry Hills

 Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills. Image courtesy of Destination NSW, James Horan.

Sidestep the CBD and prepare to stroll-and-savour Surry Hills. This inner-Sydney pocket just south of the city centre is a hot spot for the artistically inclined, who can usually be found filling the gastro pubs, tapas bars and coffee nooks on and off Crown Street. With a good book or an armful of shopping bags in tow, settle in for a New York-style bagel, a hot brew and haircut at one of the sundry establishments, or a French pastry and Italian espresso at a melange of hip designed brunch spaces. While you're scurrying around Surry, why not hop over to Pyrmont and say hello to the Dark Lord of Pastry himself, Adriano Zumbo?

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg