I love to explore the great outdoors. Most weekends you’ll find me searching for a waterfall, taking a hike, uncovering caves, climbing boulders, or swimming in a waterhole.
I’ve found some truly great spots across New South Wales – and many of these are off the beaten track.
Here’s a guide to the best scenic destinations in New South Wales.
Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains
The most popular spot on my list in Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park. You can simply take a short walk to the falls itself, but I found the Valley of the Waters/National Pass trail to be a stunning way to reach the cascading waterfall.
The Valley of the Waters trail starts from the Conservation Hut at the Valley of the Waters carpark off Fletcher Street, Wentworth Falls. After a downhill stretch taking you past cliff overhangs and stepping stones over creeks, you’ll find yourself in front of Empress Falls. Heading further down into the valley, you’ll pass waterfall after waterfall. Every spot is beautiful. When there’s been recent rain, the roar of the waterfalls can be heard on most parts of the walk.
After a series of waterfalls, you’ll come to a junction where you can continue following the Valley of the Waters trail but there’s lots of stairs and ladders on this route. The day I went was a bit drizzly, so I opted instead to head onto the National Pass trail.
Walking along the National Pass is fascinating. Built into the side of a cliff, the trail was made in the early 1900s using hand tools and dynamite. There are several information signs along the way explaining how it was built.
After reaching the base of Wentworth Falls, you’ll be challenged by the steep Grand Stairway, but amazed that it was carved out of rock in the early 1900s. But there are plenty of spots to catch your breath and enjoy the views from cliff sides.
The hike I did covered 7km and took about three hours. There are many other paths in the Blue Mountains to discover. Check out the NSW National Parks and Wildlife website for more information.
Wedding Cake Rock, Sydney
If you’ve travelled to Sydney, you’ve undoubtedly seen the Harbour Bridge and walked around the Opera House, but if you venture south of the city, you’ll come across another local gem.
The 16,000 hectare Royal National Park was established in 1879 and is one of the oldest national parks in the world.
There’s many walks in the park and among the most popular is the trail to Wedding Cake Rock, and the Figure 8 Pools.
Wedding Cake Rock is popular due to the smooth square shape of the rock in addition to its unusual white surface.
These days, the rock itself is so unstable that it’s fenced off, but the walk to the rock is just as special.
To reach the start of the walk, head into Royal National Park and follow the signs to Bundeena. There is a park access fee to enter the park of $12 per day per car.
You’ll find the closest parking area to access Wedding Cake Rock at the end of Beachcomber Avenue. There are a couple of formalised parking spaces here or you can park on the side of the road.
From the carpark, it’s a 3km mostly sand and rock trail to Wedding Cake Rock past cliff plateaus, spectacular sea views and through sandy scrub.
Take the time to appreciate the colourful wind and water weathered rock faces and the views of the coastal cliffs.
Forty Foot Falls, Mittagong
Forty Foot Falls can be accessed from the Box Vale Tramway Trail, located near Mittagong about an hour’s drive south of Sydney.
The trail is located off Boxvale Road, accessible from the Mittagong exit off the Hume Highway. To reach the falls, head down the Box Vale Tramway Trail then follow the signs to Forty Foot Falls.
The falls are a special spot because you can walk around the back of the falls and stand under them. Not many people seem to know about this spot either, so you’re likely to have it to yourself like I did. In the summer months, it’s a good spot for a swim.
From the waterfall, you can loop back to continue on the Box Vale Tramway Trail. This trail takes you through a series of cuttings made through the rock for a rail tunnel. The railway started operation in 1888 to haul coal extracted from the Nattai River Gorge to the Great Southern Railway at Mittagong. The operation ceased in 1896.
When coal extraction ceased, bush grew over the railway and bushfires destroyed the railway trestle bridges. The Boxvale Tramway Trail was opened in 1986, making use of the rock cuttings and railway tunnel.
The highlight of this section of the walk is the 100 metre railway tunnel carved into the rock. You might want a torch to walk through the tunnel as the ground is uneven from the sleepers that once lay there. Not far from the tunnel is a lookout over the gorge and the end of the walk.
Carrington Falls, Robertson
Carrington Falls is located in the scenic Kangaroo Valley in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. It’s a great spot for solo travelers or families alike, especially during the summer months when you can go for a swim in the waterhole, have a picnic on the rocks, and then walk a few hundred metres to admire the falls from the lookout as it plunges 50 metres to the waterhole below.
Kanangra Walls, Oberon
On the western side of the Blue Mountains is the lesser known Kanangra-Boyd National Park. There are several scenic spots to choose from at the Kanangra Walls section of the park. There’s the lookout point, which even on the foggy day I visited, offered beautiful views along the cliffs and down into the valley.
Then you can head down to Kanangra Falls, before heading over to walk along the plateau. On the way up to the plateau, don’t miss the short detour to the Dance Floor Cave. This cave was once on a stock route and became a meeting place. Its name comes from the dance platform that was built into the cave in the late 1800s. After this detour, head up the rock steps to the plateau. The walk isn’t difficult, and it has great views of the surrounding cliffs.
Depending on how far around the plateau you want to walk, allow at least 45 minutes to an hour each way. The walk isn’t difficult, and has great views of the surrounding cliffs.
None of the cliffs in this national park are fenced so be careful if you have small children, but if you’re like me and not scared of heights, you’ll enjoy being able to get close to the edge.
Yarrangobilly Caves & Thermal Pool, Snowy Mountains
You can reach the Yarrangobilly Caves by taking the Snowy Mountains Highway. It’s near the ski fields and Mt Kosciousko. You’ll see signs for the caves which will take you onto a 6km gravel road. But don’t worry, the gravel road is also in great condition – you just have to take it slow if you’re not in a 4WD.
Entry into the site is $3 per car and then you can choose to take a guided tour of Jillabenan or Jersey caves, or choose to walk through South Glory Cave on your own.
The guided tours are $22 per person or $55 for a family. To go through South Glory Cave, it’s $18 per person or $45 for a family.
I had a look through the South Glory Cave. There’s a concrete path throughout, but there’s a few steps. It was pretty wet in there to so enclosed shoes might be a good idea, plus at least a jumper as it got quite cool in there.
From there, you can drive or walk down to the Thermal Pool. It’s set among trees and by a river, so it’s an ideal spot for a picnic and to spend a few hours relaxing in the pool or under the trees.
The pool stays at a steady 27 degrees year round. According the signs in the area, this is due to rainwater seeping hundreds of metres below the ground surface where it is heated and then forced back through porous rock to the surface.
From here, you can make a weekend of it in the Snowy Mountains and go on a hike up Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciousko.
The Big Hole, Deua National Park
This is a great little walk but it’s a little bit hidden. It has everything though, good views, a swimming hole, fascinating sinkhole and rock arches – and it will also get your heart pumping with some steep sections.
The trail starts from the Berlang Camping Area in Deua National Park. It’s accessible from Braidwood – in between Sydney and Canberra.
To reach the sinkhole – known as The Big Hole – be warned that you’ll probably going to get your feet wet.
After about 100 metres on the trail, you need to cross the Shoalhaven River. There are stepping stones but I slipped off them after a couple of steps and decided the only way across was to take off my shoes and wade across the river.
After reaching the sinkhole, which you can look down into from a viewing platform, I continued on through woodland areas for another four kilometres, past a fire trail and through a small gully where kangaroos were grazing.
Then the hard bit begins, at least when you realise you what goes down has to come up. It’s about 350 steps down to reach the Marble Arch cave, but if you’re able to go up and down lots of stairs, it’s worth a look at the caves and canyons.
Once you get down the stairs, go to your right over some rocks and explore the caves.
This trail takes about three hours return.