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WANT TO KNOW WHICH NSW COUNTRY TOWNS ARE THE BEST TO VISIT?
New South Wales is the most populous and visited state in Australia. While many people tend to stick to the coastline and explore the pristine beaches and idyllical seaside cities and towns, they are only a tiny part of what this endlessly intriguing and expansive state has to showcase.
Those prepared to explore what exists beyond these magnetically beautiful places will discover, amongst so many other things, breathtaking landscapes, wide open spaces, incredible campgrounds and intriguing heritage sites.
And here are some of the best country towns in NSW to find them.
Some of the best destinations in New South Wales worth exploring are beyond the big cities!
Thankfully New South Wales is a relatively small state, so a day trip to explore the charming main street, national parks, most beautiful beaches and classic country pubs are all within reach, even for a short stay in NSW!
Best NSW Country Towns In Greater Sydney
Sydney is a world-renowned city and capital of New South Wales, famous for its gorgeous natural harbour, iconic landmarks and incredible coastline.
As the gateway to Australia, it’s the most visited destination in the country.
So while you could easily spend all your time hanging around the harbour before jet-setting off somewhere else, not including Greater Sydney in your NSW itinerary means missing out on seeing some of the most beautiful places in the state.
One of the most spectacular NSW country towns is Katoomba. While the name itself won’t ring a bell, the place it resides will.
That’s because the historic town of Katoomba sits right in the heart of the magnificent Blue Mountains, a massive 2690 km national park, home to a spectacular array of rugged escarpments surrounding the deep and historically impenetrable Jamison Valley.
What makes this beautiful cliffside town such a drawcard is how easily accessible it is from Sydney and how many incredible vantage points there are overlooking the unforgettable landscape.
While you can head straight to Echo Point Lookout and see the national park’s most famous landmark, the Three Sisters, this is only a brief sampler of what’s on offer!
I highly recommend, if you only have one day to spend in the Blue Mountains, visiting the iconic Scenic World.
Take the Skyway past Katoomba Falls, walk the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Echo Point, then down the Giant Stairway to the first sister, then return and explore the Jamison Valley floor.
Scenic World is home to the steepest passenger train in the world and the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. They aren’t nearly as scary as they sound!
It’s an incredible way to get the best of both worlds in a short amount of time. This Blue Mountains itinerary is also family-friendly if you are visiting with kids.
Don’t miss the chance to explore the neighbouring little town of Leura with quaint shops to explore and the Leura Cascades.
One of the bigger towns in this region is the Southern Highlands town of Bowral.
Bowral is an incredibly charming town in the Southern Highlands with a thriving main street full of boutique shops, cafes and pubs. It’s also home to some incredible gardens, gorgeous countryside walking trails and one of the oldest golf courses in Australia.
It’s especially beautiful in the Autumn when trees change colour and create an incredible backdrop for drives around this region.
And just 20 minutes out of Bowral, you’ll find the incredible Fitzroy Falls.
In fact, this is just one of the beautiful waterfalls in the Kangaroo Valley area of the Southern Highlands. The perfect spot for nature trails and outdoor activities.
Plus a visit to the region means you get to explore several quaint country towns while you’re here – Mittagon, Robertson, Sutton Forest (where Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban sometimes call home).
Must-Visit Country NSW Towns In The Central West & Orana
Further out west, past the Blue Mountains on the other side of the Great Dividing Range, lies the Central West and Orana regions of New South Wales.
This vast part of the state is home to gorgeous towns steeped in history, technological ingenuity and unforgettable natural beauty.
Although it doesn’t quite come under the definition of a town, one place not to miss is Jenolan.
This gorgeous, tiny locality in the region’s rugged east has adapted for people coming to see the famous Jenolan Caves, a spectacular series of limestone karst caves, including one you drive through!
While there, you can explore the two self-guided caverns and arches available for the public for free or join an excursion and see the wide range of magnificently delicate formations on display with one of the many guided show cave tours available.
Furthermore, there are also opportunities to go adventure caving and experience the exhilaration of squeezing your way through the network of naturally formed subterranean tunnels.
For all these reasons and much more, this tiny village, complete with a cafe and accommodation, is one of New South Wales’s best natural, underground attractions.
If you enjoy discovering heritage sites from days gone by, Lithgow is one of NSW’s best country towns to do it. Just a two-hour drive from Sydney, here you will find places of various historical significance and historical buildings.
The most notable is the Zig Zag Railway. Opened on the 19th of October 1869, this iconic train line connected Sydney with the countryside and is considered one of the greatest civil engineering feats of its time.
It was closed for many years but has recently reopened for historical train rides up and down the scenic Blue Mountains.
Other historic sites in and around Lithgow that make it such a dynamic place to visit include the State Mine Heritage Park and Railway, Lithgow Blast Furnace, Small Arms Factory, Eumskbank House Museum and Hartley Historic Village.
One of the most fascinating country towns to visit in NSW is Cowra.
This picturesque place surrounded by rolling hills and vibrant seasonal canola blooms has a dark history as it was where Australia’s largest World War II POW camp breakout occurred.
During the uprising, 231 Japanese prisoners of various ranks and 4 Australian soldiers died.
The tragic event was a turning point in the relationship between the two countries, and many of the town’s most notable attractions are poignant memorials of what happened that fateful night and the enduring friendship that resulted after.
Canowindra is one of the lesser-known small towns on this list, but if you’re travelling around the Central West, this is a fantastic town to add to your New South Wales itinerary.
Firstly, it’s home to one of the country’s most significant fossil discoveries.
Before the more commonly known dinosaurs and megafauna creatures roamed the earth, the oceans were abundant with fish life. And nearby, a massive slab of their densely-packed fossils was discovered immortalised in stone.
Smaller sections of it now reside at the Age Of Fishes Museum (in the same building as the Information Centre), which is, impressively, only one of two museums of its kind in the world!
Canowindra is also known as the Balloon Capital of Australia. That is attributed to its consistently mild weather meaning the conditions are excellent for year-round ballooning.
Plus, the region is famous for its canola fields blooming in Spring, transforming areas of the landscape into a bright, vivid and unforgettable yellow (mid-August and late September), so if you ever wanted to go hot air ballooning, this is a pretty unbeatable place to do it.
Wellington is another place many people won’t be familiar with, but this tiny town, a short drive from the country capital of Dubbo, is well worth a visit, thanks to the Wellington Caves.
The Wellington Caves is significant because of its notable megafauna fossil findings, including the diprotodon and, more recently, the affectionately termed Megachonk skink.
While you won’t be able to see the discovery sites, you can go on a guided tour inside one of the three show caves and discover incredible subterranean landscapes and formations crafted over millions of years.
For more natural spaces to explore, head to the nearby Mt Archer reserve, where numerous picturesque walking trails, natural landscape and lookouts await.
Did you know Australia has contributed to some of the world’s greatest space achievements?
It’s not something many people know, but in numerous places across the country are installations such as telescopes and observatories that help map the sky, discover new phenomena, aid in communications with spaceships, missions and more.
One of those places is Parkes, which has the largest single-dish telescope in the southern hemisphere and is responsible for the historical broadcast of the first images of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon to the world in 1969.
You can visit and see the famous ‘dish’ up close, a must-see for all those interested in space exploration and astronomy.
You will love this if you loved the Aussie film ‘The Dish’ – a quirky, dramatised historical retelling of the famous satellite dish.
Coonabarabran is another rural town in New South Wales with powerful equipment looking deep into the night sky.
It’s known as the Astronomy Capital Of Australia thanks to Siding Springs Observatory, which resides on a peak in the middle of Warrumbungles National Park.
You can visit, tour and even snap a photo of the galaxy with your camera.
As for those who enjoy spending time in nature, the national park is a great spot as it has many incredible walking trails of varying distances and difficulties.
But no trip to the Wurrungbungles is complete without spending a magical night under the stars at the campground because this is a Dark Sky Park. This means the stargazing is phenomenal, as you’d expect from somewhere home to the country’s largest observatory.
Top NSW Country Towns To Explore Along The North Coast
New South Wales North Coast is well-known for its incredible seaside cities and towns. The NSW North Coast is home to many of the state’s idyllic beachside destinations, and rightfully so.
But head inland, and you’ll discover some unforgettable places.
Nimbin is the alternative lifestyle capital of Australia, so it goes without saying that it has a vastly different feel to any other town in New South Wales.
From the moment you arrive in town, you’ll think you’ve somehow teleported back to the 70s during Woodstock.
It proudly leans into the iconic representation of the hippie lifestyle with the signs and artworks on the buildings and with the wares that are sold.
Here you will see the notable leaf motif, psychedelic colours and patterns, and all sorts of other handmade and hand-done goods associated with that peaceful and harmonious way of life.
It’s fair to say the place distinctively has its own culture from the rest of Australia, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a town so unique and oddly memorable.
One of the best country towns in NSW’s North Coast for nature is Dorrigo.
Lying in the hinterland behind the beautiful coastal city of Coffs Harbour, this picturesque place has its own easily accessible waterfall nearby. And it’s not just a small one either.
Dangar Falls is an impressive 30m cascade waterfall with a huge plunge pool perfect for wild swimming on those hot summer days.
Furthermore, it’s on the doorsteps of spectacular Dorrigo National Park, home of the breathtaking Skywalk, a short, wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and viewing platform that overlooks the pristine mountain range.
Walking trails inside the national park lead to more waterfalls, most spectacularly Crystal Shower Falls, which you can walk behind!
While Dorrigo is a magnificent place to visit by itself, what makes it even greater is it is part of Waterfall Way, a scenic drive full of stunning falls between Coffs Harbour and Armidale.
If you’re looking for the prettiest beach towns without the big coastal town crowds and prices, Yamba is the perfect destination, right in the heart of the Clarence Valley
The town itself is small but it’s close to plenty of much larger North Coast towns so it doesn’t feel quite as isolated as some of these other small country towns. But it’s a beautiful spot.
Yamba is great to visit with kids. They will love the ocean pool during summer and exploring the rock pools. There is also a great brewery in nearby Townsend – Sanctus Brewery.
Don’t miss the chance to explore nearby Woolgoolga. You might be lucky enough to see the shipwreck on the beach. Or take a longer drive to Iluka or Coffs Harbour.
We did this trip down the coast in a Jucy Campervan. It was perfect for a short coastal road trip! For longer trips, check out Star RV
Must-See Country Towns In NSW South East Tablelands
The bottom corner of New South Wales is known as the South East Tablelands. This gorgeous region is home to many beautiful towns, the state’s only alpine region and the country’s tallest mountain.
On the northern highway into the ACT lies Yass, a picturesque country town with historical ties to one of the country’s greatest pioneering explorers.
Hamilton Hume was famous for being the first Australian-born expeditionist known for discovering the route between Sydney and Melbourne with fellow explorer William Hovell with substantial help from his Aboriginal friends.
Yass is also close to Wee Jasper, a gorgeous hamlet with incredible camping reserves and a spectacular cave open to the public for guided tours.
On the southern side of the ACT is Cooma, home of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
This monumental feat of engineering to provide a sustainable water source for the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers and produce renewable hydroelectricity for a significant portion of the state took 25 years to construct and connect 16 individual lakes across the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.
Because many of the 100,000 workers came from war-torn countries following World War II, the scheme gets credited with forging Australia into the proud multicultural nation it is today, which are both things you can learn about more at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre.
Other things to discover at Cooma include the fascinating Crime Through Time Museum and the breathtaking Kosciuszko National Park.
If it’s adventure you’re seeking, there is no better little country town to visit than Jindabyne.
It sits on the banks of one lake and near to another, so there’s no shortage of space to enjoy a wide variety of water sports.
It’s also the closest town to Kosciuszko National Park, home to the state’s only alpine region, the tallest mountains in the country, including Mt Kosciuszko and numerous ski resorts.
This makes it an exciting adventure playground for all sorts of summer and winter activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, trail bike riding and backcountry snowshoeing.
Country New South Wales Towns To Visit In New England
Between the lush North Coast and the arid Far West lies the New England region of New South Wales, home to beautiful tunes, picturesque towns, breathtaking landscapes and powerful space technology.
Those who love the distinctively croony melodies about the ups and downs of living in rural areas will love Tamworth, the country music capital of Australia.
The town comes alive when its annual Country Music Festival is on during January as it showcases the most famous artists of that genre in Australia for revellers to enjoy.
Even when it’s not this time of year, there are numerous attractions showcasing Tamworth’s status, such as the Big Golden Guitar, the Australian Country Music Hall Of Fame, and the Hands Of Fame.
Tamworth is definitely one of the best regional towns in Australia to enjoy live music!
Where To Stay: Stockmans Motel: Family-friendly but book early if you’re visiting during the Country Music Festival
Just south of the Queensland border in New England lies Tenterfield, a small country town big on nature.
The walking trails around this place are magnificent as it’s smack bang in the middle of what’s known as the Granite Belt. Dotted throughout the area are giant granite boulders.
This is such an unusual landscape to break up your NSW road trips.
Four national parks within driving distance of Tenterfield offer incredible hiking tracks incorporating the best of this natural phenomenon with Bald Rock National Park and Girraween National Park having the most impressive boulder-strewn landscapes.
You can also explore nearby Glen Innes, just an hour’s drive or head 2 hours to the major town of Armidale – Australia’s highest city.
Another outstanding NSW country town with plenty of fantastic things to do is Narrabri.
It’s one of the handful of places in Australia with powerful space equipment for unravelling the mysteries of the universe.
The Australia Telescope Compact Array is an impressive series of six 22m wide telescopes that work together to simulate a much larger telescope and capture photographs of space in exquisite detail.
That’s not the only thing to discover at Narrabri. Close by is Mt Kaputar National Park which has many excellent hiking trails. But if you only have time for one, make it Sawn Rocks, a sheer cliff face with impressive hexagonal “organ pipes” columns running up and down it.
The national park and the nearby Piliga Forest also have some lovely campgrounds that you know are top-notch for stargazing, given its proximity to the telescope array and Coonabarabran’s Siding Springs Observatory.
Beautiful Country Towns In Riverina To Discover
The Riverina region of New South Wales is known for being one of the largest wine-producing areas in the country for cold-climate wines, so if you love wine tasting and visiting the cellar doors of boutique wineries, this is a must-visit region for you (along with the Hunter Valley).
But it’s not all about fermented grape juice in this part of the state.
Way out in the middle of southern New South Wales lies Griffith. While it is only a small town, it’s one of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia.
It is also home to some incredible natural landscapes. Cocoparra National Park has some spectacularly rugged landscapes that change dramatically throughout the seasons.
It’s particularly picturesque when heavy rainfall turns trickles of water into powerful waterfalls that tumble down the cliff face.
Other places to discover around Griffith are Hermit’s Cave, which was a former miner’s home for many years and Lake Wyangan, a former gypsum mine and a great place for relaxing by the water and enjoying a picnic.
Way out in the western part of the state is officially Outback country.
It’s hot and dry in these parts, and the distance between places is vast, but that doesn’t mean this part of Australia, with its wide open spaces and no one to see for miles, doesn’t have some fantastic things to discover.
Quite the contrary.
20. Broken Hill
When it comes to the Australian Outback, there is no NSW country town more synonymous with the iconic desert than Broken Hill.
This dusty destination near the South Australia border is miles from anywhere, but with many fantastic things to see and experience. It is well worth the long drive to the middle of nowhere.
Broken Hill is a large mining town because it has one of the world’s richest deposits of lead, silver and zinc ores.
For this reason, visiting the Mining Museum and White Mineral Art Gallery and seeing the poignant Line Of Lode Memorial with the names of all the miners who tragically died on the job is a must.
The nearby national parks are also exciting places to visit while in the area, particularly Mutawinji National Park and its rugged gorges and Aboriginal Rock art site, and Kinchega National Park for Minindee Lake.
Meanwhile, anyone with a penchant for art will love the Living Desert and Sculpture Symposium.
You can also see some of the many locations used in various films, such as the village of Silverton, featured in Mad Max 2 and The Palace Hotel in Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert.
If Broken Hill is way too far out back and beyond, but you still want a taste of the Outback lifestyle, Bourke is one of the most fantastic rural towns to do so.
Some of the best things to do and attractions to see in and around town include taking a cruise down the Darling River on the iconic Jandra Paddleboat, exploring the trails at the rugged Gundabooka National Park.
This also has the Mulgowan (Yappa) Aboriginal Art Site and visiting the Fred Hollows Grave and Memorial.
Conclusion: Best Country Towns NSW To Visit
Between the lush rainforests, rugged mountain ranges, underground caves, and dry deserts lie prehistoric fossils, ancient Aboriginal artworks, remnants of explorers and pioneers, and advanced space-age technology. That’s just some of what you’ll find when visiting the best NSW country towns.
Hey there, my name is Belinda Antonenko. I am the owner, author and photographer of Journey.Discover., a travel website dedicated to showcasing the places I visit, especially Australia, which I love road-tripping through.