NSW is home to nearly a thousand amazing national parks, all teeming with unique wildlife and natural wonders such as UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, ancient caves, and secluded golden beaches, but as Adam Bishop discovers, you don’t have to venture too far from Sydney to immerse yourself in nature.
Royal National Park
Located in Sydney’s south, the expansive Royal National Park provides adventurous travellers with countless reasons to come and visit, from its prehistoric sandstone cliffs, micro-rainforests, rocky coves and salty marshes. But it’s the park’s wildlife that many find is the irresistible reason to trek the trails in this part of the world, especially for birdwatchers, who have the opportunity to spot a number of rare species of feathered friends, such as the endangered Far Eastern curlew. Weirdly enough however, it’s the wildlife that lurks off the coast of this fertile paradise that so often takes top billing for nature-lovers. The Royal National Park coastal park provides hundreds of amazing vantage points to watch for whales breaching in the open seas, and with more than 30,000 whales migrating along the NSW coastline each year, there is ample opportunity to spot one of these giant majestic marine mammals playfully enjoying their journey.
If you want a touch of luxury when venturing through the Royal National Park, then AEA Luxury Tours is one operator that offers a private tour including a 2.5 hour trek taking in part of one of Australia’s most famous coastal walks, the Coast Track which includes long sandy beaches and dramatic sea cliffs. Having a tour guide in tow will also increase your chances of finding a bunch of hidden gems on your hike, from secret waterfalls to meeting and greeting the forest’s most sought-after spikey local resident, the echidna, along with learning about the area’s rich Aboriginal history. Prices for the tour start from $515 for adults and includes a tea or coffee, a gourmet picnic lunch, park fees and air-conditioned transport to Sydney.
The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is home to a huge array of challenging hiking trails and cliff tracks, from the 45km Kanangra Walls to Katoomba walk, to the Prince Henry Cliff walk.
If walking longer trails is not your cup of tea, then the Blue Mountains is also home to one of the widest selection of adrenaline and adventure activities in the country. One of the popular tour operators servicing the ranges is High and Wild Australian Adventures, offering abseiling, rock climbing, canyoning and bush survival courses. Highlights include a half-day abseiling package in a group of less than 14 people, which starts out with a small five metre wall for those who have never undertaken the activity before. Once adventurers get into the swing of things and learn the best techniques from the experts, instructors take you to the 15 metre before graduating to some genuinely lofty heights on the 30-metres cliff faces. The sessions typically start in the morning at 9am and finish at lunchtime, with prices for the lessons leading in at $150 per adult, and $95 for kids.
All of the traditional relaxing Aussie outdoor activities are on offer in the Bouddi National Park, with an abundance of places to camp, go lake swimming or throw the rod in the water to fish. For something a little bit more up tempo, visitors can also use the Bouddi Ridge Explorer mountain biking trail, a 10km path looping together a collection of four smaller bike tracks — Strom loop, the Rocky Point trail, Daleys Point trail and the MacMasters Ridge trail. The cost of accessing the circuit is free and it is recommended you take plenty of water and a puncture repair kit with you just in case.
If Bouddi National Park isn’t enough to get your heart pumping, then head to TreeTops. There are number of locations on the Central Coast that offer a range of high ropes adventures to suit anyone from three years old and up, including flying foxes, Tarzan swings, suspended rafts, ziplines and more.
If you want to get up close and personal with some of the local wildlife, head to the Entrance waterfront for the daily Pelican Feed, or else try the Australian Reptile Park, whose residents include Tasmanian devils and a huge saltwater crocodile. Take a private VIP Behind the Scenes tour at the park, where you’ll meet and feed reptiles with an experienced animal keeper. Don’t fret if cold-blooded creatures aren’t your favourite — the tour also includes the chance to meet the more cuddly koalas and kangaroos. Prices for the tour start at $150 for adults and $100 for children.
Nearby Glenworth Valley also offers animal encounters of a different kind: the chance to take in the scenery of the area on horseback, with a range of horse-riding activities suitable for ages three and up.
After a day adventuring, travellers can put their feet up at the luxurious Pretty Beach House, with its four private pavilions and beautifully appointed main house, located in Bouddi National Park.
Head to Macquarie Pass National Park, near Wollongong on the south coast, where visitors can wander along the towering eucalyptus trees and lush greenery at a leisurely pace, stopping from time to time to admire the numerous cascading water flows and tranquil shallow river systems that sprinkle their way through most of its area. There’s a certain European quality to this nature reserve when compared to most others in the state, with its mossy green rocks and lush green canopy dominating the landscape and presenting bushwalkers with a decidedly cooler temperate atmosphere.
For those who are here to relax and not hike, the Cascades Picnic area would be one of the best places to visit. Here you can stop for lunch not far from the Illawarra Highway and enjoy the open grassy area surrounded by the ambience of the tall timber.
Just a stone’s throw (or a 25 minute drive) away is the Illawarra Fly. The attraction offers a range of experiences, with the Treetop Walk and Zipline Tours our top picks. The TreeTop Walk takes travellers 20 metres above the floor of the Illawarra Rainforest, and extends 1.5km. The TreeTop Walk is suitable for all ages, and for early risers, there is a Sunrise Walk Tour, which also includes coffee on arrival and a delicious hot buffet breakfast to entice those for whom stunning sunrise views aren’t enough. For the more adventurous souls, there’s the Zipline Tour which includes the TreeTop Walk as well as a chance to experience the highest zipline tour in Australia.
Even in the city there’s plenty of nature to soak up. The newly opened Bondi to Manly Walk links all the existing coastal and harbourside walking tracks together, creating a memorable journey between the city’s two most famous beaches and taking in iconic landmarks along the way, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. The 80km path can be done in 15 hours if you really want a challenge, but the best way to enjoy the walk is breaking it up into smaller sections.
Luckily, selling NSW is even easier now, with all the experiences featured ready to work with the trade. For full details of experiences, see Destination NSW’s Trade Toolkit, which includes on-demand trade training tools and resources. Travel distributors based in Australia and overseas are invited to access this free resource via Destination NSW’s dedicated landing page for the trade. CLICK HERE to the trade toolkit.