The early European history of Australia is also the history of NSW – British explorer Captain James Cook named his 'discovery' New South Wales in 1770 when he sailed up the east coast and landed at Botany Bay. The Aborigines, however, had been leading a peaceful, bountiful existence on the coast and the ranges long before. For the traveller, Australia's original convict settlement is still the most popular international gateway. Cosmopolitan Sydney, with its beautiful harbour setting and easy-going lifestyle, is one of the world's great cities. Within easy reach are many beaches and forests, the spectacular Blue Mountains and the wineries of the Hunter Valley.
The coastal route from Sydney to Queensland is deservedly popular and firmly entrenched on the backpacker trail. It passes through resort towns like Byron Bay and an endless string of superb, often deserted beaches, and offers access to the national parks of the Great Dividing Range. Australia's largest ski fields are in the Kosciuszko National Park, but this is also a superb place in summer for walking, mountain biking, fishing and horse riding. The south coast is just as scenic as the north coast but less developed.
On the Great Dividing Range is a series of high tablelands, including New England, with its spectacular gorges and waterfalls. West of the range you'll meet rural Australia. There are some fine old towns in the rich farmlands of the western slopes and another winery area around Mudgee. Further west are the vast landscapes of the great plains, merging into the baking outback in the northwest. South of the plains is the Riverina with its lazy rivers, fruit-growing areas and red gum forests.
From ancient Aboriginal sites to atmospheric country pubs, practically everything that's considered 'typically Australian' can be found in NSW.