There’s only one reason you hit the road: to be slapped round the face by the full force of Mother Nature. Mountains, rainforests, waterfalls, ‘roos, wombats, the birds, the bees. You’ll take it all.
Heads up! Travel may be affected by COVID-19 restrictions and flood damage. Head to the Visit NSW Travel Alerts page for the latest information.
In fact, nothing gets your pulse racing like being fully immersed in the sounds, smells, and soothing sights of the great outdoors. You’ll hug a tree if no one’s looking (or even if they are).
Luckily for you Nature Frothers, NSW has more than enough to go round. Birds make you flustered? The Rainforest Way has hundreds of native bird species hidden in its canopies. Not to mention extinct volcanoes, fern-filled hikes and picturesque towns.
Say hello to the Waterfall Way, where plunge pools and powerful cascades are begging you to take a dip. If you’re lucky you might even get to see some of the state’s shy koalas, elusive platypus or critically-endangered snapping turtles along the way.
For the geology lovers out there, the Greater Blue Mountains will have you frozen in awe with its striking sandstone cliffs, 340 million-year-old caves and World-Heritage-worthy forests.
Find some friends who love a dose of nature as much as you do, pack your camera, tripod and binoculars, download a plant identification app, and get ready to see NSW in all its biodiverse glory.
1. Greater Blue Mountains Drive
Stretching 220km across four days, the Greater Blue Mountains Drive has everything a Nature Frother’s heart desires. Diverse Aussie wildlife, heart-burning bush walks, native flora and fauna, and some of the world’s most ancient geological formations.
Although the Greater Blue Mountains Drive starts just 1.5 hours from Sydney, you’re gonna feel as though you’re light-years away. A World Heritage site due to its biodiversity, travelling through here is like a David Attenborough doco.
Wentworth Falls Track, Blue Mountains National Park
Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains
There’s over 1,500 flora species, 100 different mammals and reptiles, 30 frog species, 365 bird species and 120 butterfly species. It’s also home to one of the world’s largest forests of eucalyptus with over 95 different species.
Katoomba comes a callin’ for your first stop; home to the famous Three Sisters and the breathtaking Jamison Valley.
Say hello to the Three Sister, Blue Mountains National Park
Whether you want an easy cliff top stroll or a thigh-destroying descent into the valleys below, there’s something for everyone. And no matter how difficult the hike, you’ll soon become addicted to the lush rainforests and dramatic sandstone peaks.
Dating back 340 million years, Jenolan Caves are the next ‘I-gotta-stop-here-right-now’ moment. An important site for the Gundungurra People, Jenolan Caves are the most ancient caverns in the world. Pre-book a tour to find out more about their formation and history.
Back above ground, head to the botanic gardens in Mount Tomah which have over 6,000 cool-climate plant species. You can even stock up on seedlings while you’re there!
If you fancy getting up-close-and-personal with more of NSW flora and fauna then Dharug National Park to the north is well worth a stretch of the legs or a cycle along one of the myriad tracks.
All that nature is bound to make you hungry. Luckily, the Greater Blue Mountains Drive has got that ticked too. Bilpin is kind of like Sydney’s fruit bowl, with orchards packed with pick-your-own stone fruit and apples. This area was pretty badly hit by the fires, so make sure you stock up!
Last stop on the list – the Hawkesbury region – try the Hawkesbury Harvest Farm Gate Trail App for plenty of local culinary delights.
2. Rainforest Way
If you’re short on time but still want to get those ‘I’ve-left-it-all-behind’ warm and fuzzies from your road trip then the 270km Rainforest Way is just what you need. Spend a few days cruising through luscious rainforests and admiring waterfalls.
From the lush Byron Hinterlands to the inland village of Tabulam, this route takes in spectacular rainforests, expansive lookouts and ‘brrr-it’s-cold-but-worth-it’ waterfalls.
While Byron is best known for its surf breaks and boho culture, for those who are willing to go a little further its bio-diverse bushland will leave your head spinning.
Broken Head Beach, Byron Bay
Rising 1,157m above sea level in the caldera of an extinct volcano, is Wollumbin (Mount Warning). It’s the highest point in the region and well worth a stop to admire.
No climbing though (yep, we mean it). Wollumbin is a place of great spiritual significance to the Bundjalung People and visitors are asked to respect their wishes not climb the summit track.
Need more of a nature fix? Hells yeah you do. For the twitchers amongst you, head to Tooloom National Park or Mebbin National Park where there are hundreds of native bird species for you to geek out on.
Want to spend the night out in the soothing sounds of the rainforest? Richmond Range National Park is perfect for those of you who are craving tranquil campgrounds for a true back-to-nature experience.
Ever seen a koala in the wild? These sneaky ‘lil so-and-sos are seriously hard to spot in their natural habitat. But if you’re ever gonna have a chance then Lismore or Casino might just be where the magic happens. Try one of the hikes or walks in the area for the best chance to see their thriving koala population.
No matter what type of nature gets you going, a trip along the Rainforest Way isn’t complete without a stop at Nightcap National Park and a visit to the huuuuge Protesters Falls and its dense surrounding forest.
Protesters Falls, Nightcap National Park=
Nightcap National Park
3. Waterfall Way
Take a long weekend to make the most of the spectacular Waterfall Way on the Mid NSW North Coast. From coastal Coffs Harbour to inland Armidale, the Waterfall Way is 210km long and is packed with wildlife, birdlife, and, er, waterfalls.
Dangar Falls, Dorrigo
Kicking off in Coffs Harbour, for your first nature fix head to Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve (Giidany Miirlarl), a place of Aboriginal significance and a nesting ground for migratory shearwaters.
Birders rejoice! You’ll find feathered friends on both ends of the trip. In Bongil Bongil National Park there are 165 bird species waiting to be discovered, and in Wollomombi (if you’re lucky) you’ll find wedge-tailed eagles and peregrine falcons.
If birds ain’t your thing though no worries. At the start of the trip – in Bongil Bongil – you might be lucky to spot a koala. Fingers crossed the luck continues because the elusive platypus can be found at one of the trip’s last stops, the Wollomombi River.
Of course, you’ll see plenty of waterfalls too. From Ebor Falls near New England National Park to Chandler Falls near Wollomombi there are cascades on every corner of the Waterfall Way route (funny that).
Crystal Shower Falls
But one you definitely can’t miss is Dangar Falls near the township of Dorrigo. This 30m cascade is one we know you’ll fall for, especially if you take the plunge and go for a cheeky dip.
While you’re there, the Dorrigo Forest Skywalk is a must-do too, suspended 21m above the forest floor and giving a birds-eye view to the most extensive strip of diverse rainforest on the planet.
Dorrigo Skywalk, Dorrigo
If you prefer your nature with a side of adrenaline-covered thrill-seeking, give Coffs Skydivers a shout, try TreeTops adventure park, or go for a kayak on the Bellinger River where you might be lucky enough to glimpse one of the river’s critically endangered snapping turtles.
After all that hard work, celebrate the end of your trip with a pale ale at Armidale’s microbrewery, The Welders Dog.
In NSW, we do go chasing waterfalls. And we love every damn minute of it.
For more epic NSW road trip ideas head to the Visit NSW website!