“Bushwalking,” the uniquely Australian term for what other nationalities call hiking, trekking, tramping, and rambling, originated in New South Wales, where the First Fleet landed its predominantly involuntary “settlers” in 1788 and the country’s first national park was gazetted 91 years later. So bushwalking New South Wales is a perfect match.
Combine the state’s pedigree with Australia’s iconic Blue Mountains and you’ve got a destination that tempts residents and visitors alike to lace up walking boots time and time again and clock up more fabulous kilometres on foot.
The first “white fellas” to hike the Blue Mountains – Aboriginal Australians had travelled in and through these rugged sandstone ranges for millennia – sought a route to the western plains beyond. Their failures fuelled public opinion that this “formidable barrier” was “impassable to man”. A passage was found, however, in 1811, and rail followed road, bringing wealthy tourists from Sydney to take the mountain air and go for walks.
These days, hundreds of kilometres of hiking track await those who drive or train to the World Heritage-listed mountains. For a tasting plate of their offerings, tread the historic National Pass on a loop to Wentworth Falls. Then venture off the escarpment into coal mining history on route to Ruined Castle and make a pilgrimage of sorts to Pulpit Rock, on the edge of a precipitous cliff.
You’ll probably be planning your next Blue Mountains walks as you head north, through country NSW to Warrumbungle National Park to explore the state’s volcanic history.
Then it’s back to Sydney, via the Old Great North Road, Australia’s most impressive colonial engineering feat, at Wiseman’s Ferry on the Hawkesbury River, and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Continuing towards the coast, resist the temptation of Sydney’s famous beaches, for a few hours, and drive north to Bouddi National Park for a promontory-tip view of Broken Bay and the city. Then follow the Manly Scenic Walkway to flashy delights and hidden treasures along Sydney Harbour’s shoreline.
Sticking with the beach theme – it is Sydney, after all! – get salt spray on your lips and wind in your hair walking south from the even more famous Bondi Beach to Coogee. Or save your energy for an overnight, or all-day, celebration of sandstone sea cliffs hiking the Coast Track in Royal National Park, an hour south of the city.
For an all-over work out, though, with views to boot, you’ll need to head off shore. The guided climb up Mt Gower, on World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, is one of the country’s best adventure day walks.
Now, the coast explored and the temperature rising, escape to the cooler Australian alps, and summit Australia’s highest mountain. Mt Kosciuszko is no Everest, however, and hard-core hikers might prefer a real challenge.
Extending 650km from Gippsland, in Victoria, to the outskirts of Canberra, the national capital, the Australian Alps Walking Track is an epic hike.
Whether you need a break or want to push your limits, stick to the coast or venture inland, NSW has a walk for you. What are you waiting for?
Check out my other state-by-state itineraries which include lots of specific walks:
For a general introduction to bushwalking Down Under, please see my ‘Bushwalking in Australia: everything you need to know.’