An Introduction to New South Wales Australia

New South Wales is the most populous state in Australia.  Its name dates back to the time when the British were expanding their empire so named every new territory they decided to settle after some familiar landmark back home in the old dart.  Having visited Wales, I have no idea how the coast of New South Wales is in any way reminiscent of the original Wales so can only assume that those months of loneliness and hardship on board a leaking sailing ship must have muddied the crew’s memories of home.  New South Wales was the first place in Australia to be officially settled by Europeans when the British decided to turn it into a penal colony and export the worst detritus from Britain’s overcrowded gaols to Australia’s pristine shores.

Captain James Cook was the first European explorer to map New South Wales and it was largely through his descriptions of the region around Botany Bay that the British decided New South Wales would be a great place in which to abandon some its many prisoners.  When the First Fleet did arrive in 1788 they decided that Botany Bay was unsuitable for the establishment of a settlement, but discovered that Port Jackson, just north of Botany Bay, was the perfect place to land, and so Sydney was born.

Today, Sydney, the Capital of New South Wales, is one of the world’s great cities.  When you consider its humble beginnings, and the fact that there was, literally, no development at all when those first settlers arrived, you realize that Britain’s scum were indeed very industrious people and remarkable survivors.

New South Wales has a population of over 7 million, and its three biggest cities are Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.  There is a great diversity in New South Wales, ranging from stunning coastal bays, beaches and townships to the high country in the Snowy Mountains, one of the few regions in Australia to experience regular snow falls.  The great spine of Eastern Australia known as the Great Dividing Range runs the total north south length of New South Wales, and it too constantly changes, being subject to heavy snowfalls during winter in the south and forming dense tropical rainforests in the north.  Just inland from Sydney, that part of the Great Dividing Range is known as the Blue Mountains, simply because the eucalyptus in the trees that cover the mountains give off a blue hue when observed from a distance.  The Blue Mountains are very rugged, and proved to be a barrier to the early settlers until they were finally broached in 1813.  These days The Blue Mountains attract many visitors who walk the many bush trails and caves or are simply there to enjoy the magnificent vistas of pristine valleys to be seen from the many lookouts in the area.

Once over the Great Dividing Range you enter and area known as the Western Slopes and Plains, which get steadily drier and less agriculturally productive the further west that you go.  This is also the area where you find Australia’s biggest river systems, namely the Darling, Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers.  Although these river systems are quite extensive, they are not mighty rivers such as the Amazon, Nile or Mississippi.  Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent (Antarctica is drier, but is not inhabited by a permanent population), and the rivers reflect the fact that for much of the year, or, during periods of drought, for many years, they do not receive adequate rainfall.  These rivers are long, but tend to be narrow and quite shallow.  Like much of the Australian outback, our rivers struggle to survive.  To add to their woes, many of these rivers have been dammed and the resulting water channeled off into canals to water otherwise arid farmland, so that the massive floods which used to occur during periods of abundant rain now occur very rarely.

Apart from skiing in winter, tourism is mostly confined to the coastal areas.  The South Coast, from the border of the State of Victoria, to Wollongong in the north, is popular for sailing, surfing, fishing and camping.  The weather here tends to be cooler and somewhat more predictable than conditions further north.  Travelling north from Wollongong to Port Hacking, just south of Sydney, is the Royal National Park, the second oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone; this is a picturesque area with many beaches and coves, bushwalking and picnic spots.  Leaping over Sydney, from the mouth of the Hawkesbury River to Newcastle is called the Central Coast, and this too is an area where you’ll find magnificent bays, lakes and beaches, but it is also where the Hunter Valley is situated, which is renowned for being one of Australia’s best wine growing regions.

Heading north you travel through the North Coast and the Northern Rivers until you meet the Queensland border.  The further north you go, the warmer it gets, so that swimming and other aquatic pursuits begin to be comfortable all year round.  There are many fantastic holiday destinations north of Newcastle including Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay, and some beautiful scenic regions inland.

Without a doubt, the most popular destination in New South Wales is Sydney, but it is a State that is worth exploring in great detail.  New South Wales affords you a great introduction to Australia.  Distances between major attractions are not as vast as in Queensland or Western Australia and tourist facilities are plentiful.  It’s even possible to have a ski in the morning then surf in the afternoon, or vice versa, should you wish.  Getting around NSW is fairly simple as there are regional flights to many airports, and the State has efficient rail and coach services. Plus, booking a tour or hiring a car is easy.

The State of New South Wales is unique in that it has many hundreds of registered clubs which gladly welcome visitors.  These clubs are usually not-for-profit businesses that were formed for the benefit of members and comprise sporting clubs, worker’s clubs and RSL (Returned Services League) clubs that were originally formed to benefit those members of the armed forces who returned from war. These clubs are mainly financed through the use of poker machines by members and their guests (poker machines are similar to what Americans call slot machines), and as a result drinks, food, entertainment and sporting facilities are usually subsidized by the profits made from poker machines.  International and interstate visitors are welcomed at these clubs, you just need to show proof of your non-resident status (such as a passport or interstate driver’s license) to gain entry.  Usually a club member will sign visitors into the club so that you can enjoy the facilities.  Some of these clubs are monstrous and feature international entertainers and fine dining, but even the smallest towns will have a club of some sort, where you can meet the locals and have a good meal and a good time.


New South Wales

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