Immerse yourself in ferns, falls and flowers and feel a connection with land and life – in all its forms – at six of NSW’s most treasured natural wonderlands.
Being amid nature makes you feel good. We’ve known it for centuries, and science now proves it. Dozens of studies reveal the healing benefits of being in the great outdoors.
The smell of moss and eucalypt leaves, the sound of the rain and wind, the feeling of sand beneath your feet – such experiences have the power to reduce stress, boost spirits and remind you just how immense the world around you really is.
From the thrumming of waterfalls to the absolute silence of the outback, here are ways to connect with nature in NSW.
The view from here
You’re not at the top of the world when you summit Mount Kosciuszko via the trail to its peak. But you’ll feel like Sir Edmund Hillary when you reach 2,228m – Australia’s highest point – and take in the dreamy summits and ravines of the Snowy Mountains. Many come here in winter to ski the surrounding slopes.
But few make it to this lofty perch after the snow melts, which means you’ll likely have mirrored alpine lakes, jagged rock formations, weathered snow gums and fields of wildflowers to yourself. When the wind whips across the peaks, scattering remaining ice like a handful of diamonds thrown skyward, you’ll begin to understand why the trek is a rite of passage among nature lovers.
Where the sand dunes meet the sea
There’s nothing quite as soothing or grounding as the sound of the ocean, whether you’re falling asleep to its meditative, lapping lullaby, or diving into it, surfacing with salty hair and a refreshed outlook. Take your pick among any of NSW’s beaches. But for one that goes on – and on, and on – sink into the sand at Stockton.
The state’s longest swathe of powder curves from Birubi Point for close to 32km towards the Hunter River at Newcastle. The sand doesn’t stop there – it forms enormous moving dunes (the largest such in the Southern Hemisphere) that dwarf everything and anyone who attempt to climb them. But you’ll want to, because you’ll never feel more alive than sliding effortlessly down toward the sea.
Hey there gorges
Few landscapes are as immense – or as ancient – as the Capertee Valley, the second-largest canyon in the world, and a place where nature humbles. Here, just a 2.5hr drive west of Sydney, soaring sandstone cliffs plunge into a vast chasm, one that has been forming for millions of years. And the Wiradjuri people have called it home for tens of thousands of those years, alongside a cacophony of birds – more than 200 species, including the rare and endangered regent honeyeater.
Gazing over the endless expanse of ochre and green from 900m-high Pearsons Lookout, with those colourful wings flapping around you, reminds you just how small you are in the world – in the best possible way. It’s the ideal spot to feel a deep connection to the Australian landscape.
The sounds of silence
You could scream at the top of your lungs from a sand dune in Mungo National Park in the state’s far west and few would hear you. But you won’t want to – the only thing to do when you reach this jaw-dropping World Heritage area is join the silence. No highways run nearby. No street lights. No mass tour groups. Just you and this astounding landscape, pocked with dried lakes and carved by crescent-shaped clay dunes.
You’ll want to take your hike slowly, appreciating the striations of the earth, the windswept pinnacles piercing the blue sky, the soft tinkle of sand as it moves across the sun-scorched ground. You can’t help but have a spiritual connection with the country here – made even more moving by the fact the region reveals evidence of more than 400 centuries of continuous human habitation.
Turn back time
There’s a moment, as you enter Nightcap National ParkNorthern Rivers , when time seems to stand still. Coachwood trees and blueberry ash are shaded by giant ferns, some so immense it looks like they’ve been growing here for millennia. Perhaps because they have.
This is part of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, a necklace of protected parks in northern NSW and Queensland that defies the imagination in both history and scope – picture yourself amid the largest area of the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, offering glimpses into life when Gondwana was a supercontinent, some 180 million years ago.
Your soul-stirring soundtrack? A chorus of rare frogs, accompanied by the swoosh of gin-clear streams they call home. Each sight, sound and smell speaks to you of pre-history.
What better way to feel the full force of nature than standing beside (or under) a waterfall? And what better place to do so than among the numerous cascades on offer in the Blue Mountains, 90min west of Sydney.
Not only because this epic World Heritage-listed area thrills with its precipitous escarpments, perfect for water to topple over. But also because you can often experience its myriad dreamy drops with nary a soul in sight. Like at the Valley of the Waters, a fairytale grove where delicate ferns cling to steep rock walls and water mists over the trail’s head, creating a coquettish veil to the surrounding rainforest.
And then you reach the series of thundering falls, spaced out along the track as if on purpose – to provide a cooling spray as your heart picks up pace during your climb.