Search the internet for New South Wales travel destinations and you’ll get lots of very similar lists. Hyams Beach, Berry Donut Van, Brunswick Heads and the Grand Canyon track aren’t hidden gems any more; everyone knows about them, and everyone goes there. So where do you go to avoid the crowds?
The Guardian asked a musician, a food writer, a band manager and more for their tips.
Jingellic and the Upper Murray
When I was little, I spent every school holiday running rampant across my grandparents’ property in the Upper Murray. They lived just outside a small town called Jingellic (east of Albury), still some of the most beautiful, poetic, idyllic country I have ever visited. The most magical part of that area is definitely the Murray River. We spent much time swimming, kayaking, riding our horses and camping next to that river, and it’s a peace and quiet I will never forget.
I would recommend visiting the Upper Murray to anyone who is travelling through NSW. Although the Upper Murray is the main area where I got to know the river, there are hundreds of beautiful spots all along the Victoria-NSW border. It is very special country. This is Walgalu country. The meaning of Jingellic (Gingellick) isn’t clear, although the word may mean “bald hill”.
– Beatrice Lewis, musician with indie dance band Haiku Hands and solo artist.
Bertoldo’s and Zecca, Griffith
Griffith has strong Italian roots – almost two-thirds of the population has Italian heritage and many of the town’s establishments reflect this cultural history. Bertoldo’s pasticceria has been run by the same Italian-Australian family for four generations and sells coffee and cannoli, of course, but also more than 15 kinds of biscotti, which come from a recipe that’s over 100 years old and was passed down from family in Italy.
Zecca is run by a team with Italian roots and the menu features local Riverina wheat that’s been fashioned into artisanal pasta.
– Lee Tran Lam, food writer and podcaster at The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry.
Lucky’s Seafood, Ulladulla
Lucky’s is a little seafood supplier in Ulladulla that exclusively supplies Rick Stein’s restaurant in nearby Mollymook. I always head there, grab a bag of 36 oysters and head to a quiet spot down in Mollymook with a shucking knife and a bottle of chilled rosé. Followed by a lazy nap in the shade of a big old tree, it’s the best road trip picnic ever. If you don’t have a shucking knife at hand, pick one up at Bunnings just around the corner.
– John Fink, creative director of the restaurant group Fink.
Tilba Tilba Sweet Spot
Central Tilba is like the Disneyland of regional coastal towns. The sweet shop there is definitely worth a visit as it does old-school (and new-school) lollies like I’ve never seen before. I’m not huge into desserts, ice cream or baked goods, and I feel like a child saying this, but I am absolutely into lollies, and this spot fulfills the kind of fantasy sugar high that I got from watching the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka on repeat when I was a child.
– Amrita Hepi, dancer and choreographer.
Putty Beach, Bouddi National Park
I just picked it out randomly and we drove up there. There’s a main beach and, separated by a short walk (maybe 700 metres), there’s a more secluded beach, a beautiful spot, with no one there. There are amazing rock formations there too. It’s an amazing backdrop, it just takes a bit of curiosity to get there.
I’ve really been taking the opportunity to explore NSW. We’re blessed to have such places to go, some just an hour away from our home. Look at the UK – they all run away to Dubai.
Whatever your views are, Invasion Day or Australia Day, the first step to appreciating Aboriginal culture should be appreciating the land. [Aboriginal people] are here to protect that land, and you should understand why they want to protect it, and why they have so many stories. If there’s a time to explore this country it’s now.
– Ricky Simandjuntak, manager of rap group OneFour.
Berrylicious Strawberries, Thirlmere
Just before the holidays I drove down to Picton to go strawberry picking. It was so wholesome. You can stay there for as long as you want – you pay for entry, but you can eat whatever fruit you pick while you’re there, and then it’s like $20 a kilo takeaway.
OMG, these strawberries were so much better than supermarket strawberries. It was great – we ended up making jam that day. And I learnt so much. Never wash strawberries; strawberries suck in water. I used to wash them after I unpacked my groceries. We need to talk more about this.
Anyway, strawberries usually grow on the ground but they raise them so they’re shoulder height. Your knees are looked after. Just make sure you wear shoes that you’re happy to get dirty.
– Moreblessing Maturure, actor and founder of FOLK Magazine.
Yarrangobilly Caves thermal pool, Snowy Mountains
Nestled amongst the wild beauty of the Snowy Mountains is a crystal-clear, 20-metre thermal pool. No matter the weather or time of year, the pool will always be 27C – just enough to cool you in summer or warm you in winter.
This glistening green pool is incredibly clean, spring-fed at a rate of 100,000 litres per hour, and is surrounded by wild blackberry bushes. There is an undeniable feeling of lightness up here, ripe for a meditative dip on your way through the mountains.
– Caroline Clements, author of Places We Swim.
My dad is a flower grower specialising in Australian native wildflowers. A few times a year we pick special eucalyptus at some farms in western NSW, and on our way there we love to stop at Boorowa. It’s a small town nestled amongst undulating wheat crops and canola fields in the Hilltops region, and is famous for its wool and hospitality. We stop at the Marsden St General for coffee, toasties and to refill the pantry with local olive oil and preserves. The surrounding region also produces great cool-climate wine and cherries.
The town has a paved walking track that winds along the river and highlights the rural charm of the village, including the blue stone church and primary school. You might even see a platypus if you’re lucky! Boorowa is definitely worth a stop next time you’re on the road.
– Bess Paddington, florist.
It’s super underrated, I reckon. Chef Joel Humphreys is doing some really great work at Scotties. There’s also Subo – I had a very good meal there. The coffee and pub scene is pretty cool, with lots of young people, and it’s close to the Hunter Valley.
I went to a wedding in the Hunter not long ago and flew in to Newcastle. I’d been before but the vibe in the city has changed a bit since. It’s a good getaway.
– Victor Liong, head chef and restaurateur at Melbourne’s Lee Ho Fook.
On the way to: Maitland and Morpeth
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