So you’ve seen the sights of Sydney, gone on a skiing trip to Thredbo, wined and dined in the Hunter Valley and blissed out in Byron Bay – now what? New South Wales is chock full of interesting regions, from the Pacific Coast to the Outback and from the Snowy Mountains to country NSW. There’s so much more than Sydney to explore with 12 destination regions across the state, each with their own festivals, events and must-see sights. Pop these quirky things to do in NSW on your bucket list.
Parkes Elvis Festival 2014 (Image: Lawrence Furzey; Destination NSW)
1. Party with the King
Boasting more rhinestones than Sydney Mardi Gras, every January over 20,000 Elvis impersonators and fans descend on the town of Parkes (population: 12,000) in central New South Wales. Next year, Parkes Elvis Festival will be held from January 6 to 10, and will have a ‘Fun in Acapulco’ theme based on the Elvis Presley movie of the same name. There’s over 150 events including a look-a-like contest.
The Jetty, Lord Howe Island (Image: Don Fuchs; Destination NSW)
2. Swim with the fishes
No, not in a TheGodfather sense – on World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island you can hand-feed fish on Neds Beach. The entire area is designated a Marine Park and the limited human contact means the diverse variety of large and colourful fish are curious and approachable. Wade into the water at Neds and you’ll soon be surrounded by schools of mullet, wrasse, garfish, silver-drummer, spangled emperor and king fish.
Bakery Patisserie Schwarz, Blue Mountains (Image: James Horan; Destination NSW)
3. Do Christmas in July
Christmas falls smack bang in the middle of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere, so take advantage of cooler climes mid-year to have a cool Yule. Throughout winter, Lithgow celebrates Yulefest in the Blue Mountains when you can toast marshmallows and sup egg nog by a roaring fire, enjoy a roast dinner and enjoy Christmas in July festivities, just like the movies.
Ballooning, Hunter Valley (Image: Destination NSW; Murray Vanderveer)
4. Take a hot-air balloon ride
Soaring over the vineyards of the picturesque Hunter Valley is a great way to survey the scenery. It’s an early start to watch the inflation of the giant balloon, but well worth it for the gentle ride over the neat rows of vines, ascending until the ground looks like a verdant patchwork quilt. You’ll spot livestock and wildlife in the stillness of the morning and then return for a glass of sparkling.
The Big Merino, Goulburn (Image: Sara Fife; Capital Country Tourism
5. The Big Stuff
New South Wales is no slouch in the big attractions stakes, so why not map out a route for an Instagram tour of the state’s best? There’s well over 50 iconic pieces of novelty architecture to snap. Start with the Big Avocado at the entrance of Tropical Fruit World at Duranbah, then make your way to Ballina for the Big Prawn, see the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, Big Oyster in Taree, Big Golden Guitar in Tamsworth, Big Merino in Goulburn and Big Potato in Robertson for starters.
Kiama, South Coast (Image: Destination NSW; Murray Vanderveer)
6. Yar she blows!
Kiama is famous for its blowhole, a natural rock formation near Kiama Lighthouse at Blowhole Point. Water spouts over 20 metres into the air, and is best viewed when the seas run from the southeast. The area is also floodlit at night until 1am, which makes for great evening viewing. If the show is a little lacklustre here, there’s also Little Blowhole - a 10-minute drive from Kiama Blowhole.