If Sydney, Australia isn’t on your bucket list, honestly, why not? It’s one of our most popular destinations for students. Whether you’re traveling for fun, taking a gap year, or studying abroad, New South Wales is the perfect place to spend your time away from the States.
But if you’ve never been to Sydney, Australia before, you might feel overwhelmed by how many things there are to do and feel stumped on where to begin. That’s where we come in! If you’re heading to Australia, Sydney and New South Wales is the perfect place to spend your trip. We’ve got the ultimate guide to planning your trip so you’ll know all the best places to stay, eat, explore and more. Get ready to get some major wanderlust, Aussie-style.
Where is New South Wales, exactly?
New South Wales is the region of southeastern Australia that is home to Sydney, Newcastle, Byron Bay, the Blue Mountains and more. Sydney alone has some of Australia’s most iconic destinations—the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach and the Taronga Zoo, just to name a few.
But there’s a ton more to New South Wales. Head to the Blue Mountains or Royal National Park for some amazing hiking and outdoor adventures. Go sandboarding or camel riding in Port Stephens. Check out the hundreds of miles of beaches and coastline by swimming, diving, kayaking or surfing (Manly Beach is one of our favorites). If you’re a surfer, Bryon Bay and Lord Howe Island are can’t-miss stops for you.
Best time to visit Sydney and New South Wales
First step of planning any trip is deciding when you want to go, right? Of course, there’s not really a bad time to visit Australia. But the best times to visit Sydney and New South Wales are in the October, November and March. That’s when you’ll find the best weather (not too hot, not too cold) and the smallest crowds.
Remember that seasons are reversed in the Land Down Under. If you’re visiting during American summer break, you’ll be hitting Australian winter. Visiting during a Northern hemisphere winter means summer temps in Australia. December to February can be a great time to visit Sydney, Australia for this very reason. Just keep in mind that it can be really hot (read: lots of beach days!) and it tends to be a bit more crowded.
Where to stay in New South Wales
Obviously, Sydney is a great place to stay—you’ll be close to the big city, close to the beach and close to outdoor adventures like the Blue Mountains. But where to stay in Sydney? Stay close to the Harbour and you’ll be right in all the action, but you’ll also pay more. The Rocks and Circular Quay or Newtown can be great options.
Hoping to hang out on the beach all day? Bondi Beach is a great place to stay and you’ll save some money too by staying further outside of town. (We love the Bondi Beach Backpackers Surfside hostel. It’s steps from the beach, is great for a budget and offers tons of free stuff for surfing, snorkeling and exploring town.)
If you’re staying outside of Sydney, check out Newcastle. Or consider staying along the Central Coast, where you’ll be close to some of New South Wales’ amazing beaches.
Best Food in New South Wales
One of the best parts of Aussie food is the experience: enjoying a barbie outside or lounging at a beachfront bar or cafe. It’s pretty easy to guess that two of Sydney’s must-try foods are seafood—there’s a lot of local options to choose from—and some solid barbie food. There’s no shortage of delicious places to stop for a burger or some fish and chips. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even try some really Aussie specialties like grilled kangaroo or, of course, vegemite.
Where to eat? A few of our favorite places to eat in New South Wales: The Bucket List at Bondi Beach, Coogee Pavilion (which a rooftop terrace!), Flying Fish (near the Sydney Harbour) and Cafe Sydney.
You could honestly spend years in New South Wales and never see it all. If you just have a few weeks or a few months, here are some of our bucket-list items:
Have breakfast with koalas. Who doesn’t want to start their day with breakfast and koalas? Check out the Featherdale Wildlife Park or the Wild Life Sydney Zoo for more details on how to chill with the koalas. If koalas aren’t your thing, you can visit a kangaroo feeding instead!
Go scuba diving. This is a bucket list item for everyone, so why not do it in New South Wales where you’ll find some of the best coastlines and marine life in the world? See nurse sharks, seals, sea turtles, tons of fish and more! Looking for something more low-key? Snorkeling is a great option.
Sightsee in Sydney. Do we even need to mention this? The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge, Bondi Beach, the Circular Quay and Taronga Zoo—definitely spend at least a day or two exploring some of Sydney’s most iconic spots.
Go hiking in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are only about an hour and a half away from the city. Once there, it feels like a world away, though! Go hiking, rock climbing or biking and enjoy waterfalls, the “Three Sisters” peaks and caves.
Sunbathe. If there’s one thing Australia’s known for, it’s their laid-back vibes and absolutely amazing coastline. Take advantage of both with some solid beach days! And with beaches like Bondi, Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Lord Howe Island and more, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is simply where to begin.
Take a coastal walk. What better way to spend an afternoon that enjoying a walk along Australia’s coastline? Blue skies, sweeping beaches and sunshine galore: it’s pretty dream. While there’s plenty of walking to choose from, the walk from Bondi to Coogee or from Spit Bridge to Manly are two of the most famous (and most beautiful).
Go to a festival. From music to food to art, New South Wales really knows how to throw a celebration. There are tons of festivals and events every month. Whether you’re into cricket or local food or country music, there’s something for everyone.
We’ve got even better news for you! We’ve got cheap flights to Sydney all year long, so whenever you’re ready, we’ll be here with a deal.