After driving through some of the most scenic parts of Victoria, the next stage of my Round the World in 50 Days trip took me to Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, visiting Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory along the way.
It is easy to forget quite how huge Australia is; what looks like a relatively short distance on a map can turn out to be a very long drive. So it was with this New South Wales journey.
In ten days I covered over 1,600 miles in my hire car, including deviations along the way to visit various attractions.
After leaving Lakes Entrance in Victoria, I headed north up to Cooma and used this as a base for touring the Snowy Mountains area. This was followed by a couple of days in Canberra, before heading to Sydney.
After three nights at Rooty Hill, I headed up to Newcastle, an attractive seaside city not far from the Hunter Valley wineries. Our plan then was to follow the coast up to Brisbane, past Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.
However, heavy rain the previous week had made the road impassable, and so the inland road via Tamworth was the only way. This however proved to be both a scenically attractive and pleasantly quiet route up to Queensland and Brisbane.
Although some of the distances travelled through New South Wales were quite long, the ever-changing scenery and attractive towns and cities along the way, meant that it never became arduous.
It was quite difficult to pick out ten highlights, but the following list covers the most memorable, in the order in which I visited them.
1. Kosciuszko National Park, one of the eleven parks and reserves comprising the Australian Alps National Parks. The park is dominated by Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak in the Snowy Mountains and, at 7,310 ft, the highest in mainland Australia.
I travelled from Thredbo to over 6,000 ft on the chairlift and enjoyed the great views from the Eagles Nest Restaurant. If you are feeling fit, then from there it is a relatively gentle 8 mile walk to Kosciuszko’s summit.
Seniors 65+ get a 30% discount on the summer scenic chairlift prices.
2. Snowy Mountain circular drive. This is a 200 mile drive from Cooma to Jindabyne, then along the Alpine Way via Thredbo to Khancoban, followed by the Tooma Road (closed June to November) and the Snowy Mountain Highway back to Cooma.
It took me 5 hours, with plenty of stops to admire the incredible views, but worth every minute of it. The Tooma Road was very quiet and care has to be taken to avoid the kangaroos along the way.
3. Canberra city centre and Parliament House. The attractive pedestrianized centre was hosting a range of market stalls and entertainment when I visited. Either like or hate the modern Parliament House, you certainly can’t ignore it. I quite like it!
4. Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra. Sited on the slopes of the Black Mountain overlooking the city, these gardens are devoted to Australian flora. I was so impressed with these gardens that I’ve included them in my list of Top Ten Gardens of the world.
5. Parramatta to Sydney ferry ride. A great way to travel in to the city centre, arriving after 75 minutes, to the Circular Quay just by the Opera House.
6. Sydney Harbour and Royal Botanic Gardens. I include Sydney in my list of Top Ten Cities of the world, in part because of the iconic riverfront walk from the Opera House, through the Royal Botanic Gardens, along to Woolloomooloo Bay.
7. Taronga Zoo, Sydney. This world-renowned zoo contains 340 species including all the Australian favourites such as tree kangaroos and kookaburras. Don’t miss the Free-flight Bird Show, with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the background.
Seniors 60+ get a 30% discount on entry charge, although you need ID to show you are a Commonwealth citizen.
8. The Blue Mountains. This impressive series of ridges and gorges starts just 30 miles west of Sydney. Of particular note are the Wentworth Falls and the Three Sisters rock formations, but best to avoid the busiest tourist times.
9. Newcastle. A great example of how an industrial port can be made into an attractive tourist destination. In 2011 it was included in Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Cities of the world. I was intrigued to see the Bogey Hole open air swimming pool, built by convicts in 1819.
10. Hunter Valley wineries. Over 100 wineries, many of which have wine tasting. My visit to the small Vinden Estate Winery & Vineyard was particularly pleasant and informative.
In Canberra I stayed at the excellent, centrally-sited Crowne Plaza hotel. In Rooty Hill (near Sydney) I stayed at the Holiday Inn (now a Novotel). This is owned by the RSL (Returned & Services League) so guests can use many of the RSL Club facilities, including the bars and restaurants and, if they wish, the massive Las Vegas-style gaming room!
I particularly enjoyed staying at the Crowne Plaza on the quayside in Newcastle, with great ocean views and easy access to the beaches.
Both Crowne Plaza hotels give a 25% discount for Seniors 62+; see my Hotel Deals for Seniors to find out how to get Senior discounts at a wide range of hotels.
At Cooma and Tamworth I stayed at two high standard motels, booked just a day or so in advance.