During my semester abroad in Sydney, I traveled to many places near the city and in New South Wales, and quickly I learned that the East Coast of Australia has many extraordinary places to visit. While I could easily name more than ten highlights, these stood out to me and my study abroad friends. From our adventures, I learned that nature is beautiful and that sometimes the best experiences happen in places not frequently talked about on the other side of the world.
- Manly Beach. From an international surfing competition to great food and wine festivals, Manly has something for all. There’s an amazing coastal walk from Manly to the Spit Bridge. Even the ferry ride from Sydney to Manly is incredible, with views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Bridge.
- The Whitsunday Islands. Airlie Beach is a cool little town. Hamilton Island has no cars; people get around in go karts. Daydream Island is super relaxing. The highlight is Whitehaven Beach in Whitsunday Islands National Park on Whitsunday Island. One of the best beaches in the world, this pristine paradise is a must-see.
- The Great Barrier Reef. Find a way to get there. Enough said.
- Port Stephens. Murray’s Brewing Company is a highlight with great food, local beers, wine tours, and samples. While in Port Stephens, you might as well go sand boarding and drive ATVs on the largest moving coastal sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Royal National Park. Full of beauty that can be appreciated even by those who are not nature lovers. Highlights are Wedding Cake Rock and the iconic Three Sisters formations—getting there is just as spectacular as the icons themselves.
- Fraser Island. Considered the largest sand island in the Southern Hemisphere. Take a four-wheel drive tour to get the full picture of this beautiful island. (There are many different tour operators. Pick one that best fits your itinerary.)
- Byron Bay. Snorkeling with seat turtles and amazing food.
- Gelato Messina, Cow Moon, and Anita’s. I know gelato stores might seem odd on this list, but I’m confident you will agree they are well worth a visit.
- The Baxter Inn and Shady Pines Saloon. Ranked in the top 50 of the world’s best bars as I write this, and both owned by Anton Forte and Jason Scott. Expensive, but the experience is worth it.
- Bondi to Coogee Walk. The best coastal walk in Sydney. Along the 6K route are great beaches and even a good snorkeling spot. Just watch out for the rocks in Gordon’s Bay, as a couple of my friends learned the hard way.
Other places to check out: Lord Howe Island, the Grounds of Alexandria restaurant, Great Ocean Road, and Jervis Bay to see the bioluminescent algae.
—Eric A., Sydney, Australia