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Hilltops region
Photograph: Destination NSW

The most underrated holiday destinations that you should be visiting in NSW

For those willing to take the road less travelled, these underdog getaways are well worth the trip

By Maxim Boon and Divya Venkataraman
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International borders look set to remain sealed until at least next year and restrictions on interstate travel are still in effect for much of the country. Fortunately, there's a wealth of great getaway options right here in New South Wales ready and waiting to receive eager holidaymakers.

There's just one catch. With so many people already flocking up and down the state to visit those perennially popular go-to destinations, you may be having a tough time finding any availability in the not too distant future. 

But even if you’ve been a little slow off the blocks arranging your next trip, that doesn't mean there aren't still great breaks out there if you know where to look. Off NSW’s beaten tracks are some unsung holiday heroes where you can experience an amazing vacation without the booking bunfight. Here are our picks for the most underrated getaway destinations in the state.

RECOMMENDED: The best road trips in NSW.

Where you should be holidaying in NSW

Silverton
Silverton
Photograph: Destination NSW

Silverton

Today, this fascinating desert outpost, 25km west of Broken Hill, may have a population of just 40 people, but it boasts a history as rich and rare as the ore deposits that first attracted colonial pioneers in their thousands more than a century and a half ago. In the 1880s, Silverton quickly became one of the largest townships in the Barrier Ranges as mining prospectors poured into the area seeking their fortunes. Through boom and bust, Silverton has endured, and in recent years, the stark beauty of the desolate outback landscape has drawn artists and filmmakers here, including the producers of Mad Max 2. Fans of the movie can visit the Mad Max Museum or enjoy a pint at the Silverton Hotel, where Mel Gibson himself kicked back between takes – they’ve got the photos on the wall to prove it. The nearby Broken Hill Outback Resort is an ideal place to base yourself. From here you can also book excursions to nearby areas of historical and natural significance such as the Daydream Mine, the Mundi Mundi Lookout and the Living Desert Sculpture Park.

South West Rocks
South West Rocks
Photograph: Destination NSW

South West Rocks

This sleepy seaside town on the mid-North Coast is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of situation. Hidden away beside the Macleay River, South West Rocks is perfect for a secluded break from the city, where you can relax and decompress in peaceful surrounds. For history fiends, the Trial Bay Gaol is set in the lush natural setting of the Arakoon National Park – but the gorgeous walks around the area are a more universal crowd-pleaser. The stroll between Little Bay and Gap Beach takes around 45 minutes, but if you’re ready for a more serious trek, take on the hike from Trial Bay to the town’s lighthouse. Hungry? Embrace your environment and settle in for some honest pub grub and a brew at the Seabreeze Beach Hotel (it’s where all the locals are). When it’s time for bed, holiday cottages and apartments line the township’s shore – so take your pick.

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Brunswick Head
Brunswick Head
Photograph: Destination NSW

Brunswick Heads

Craving the temperate climes of Northern NSW, but would rather steer clear of the boat shoes and banker-off-duty man-buns that dot the shores of Byron Bay? Welcome to Brunswick Heads. This beachside NSW town is likely to become a very poorly kept secret before too much longer, thanks to its pretty beach, sleepy river, artistic community and impressive range of eateries. Head over to the tiny, two-hatted restaurant Fleet for a fine dining experience, or check out Mexican hangout Casita for a chill vibe, spicy Margaritas and zingy, lemon-spritzed fish tacos. The Brunswick has you sorted for chic, beachfront and, of course, environmentally conscious accommodation.

Bermagui
Bermagui
Photograph: Destination NSW

Bermagui

This little gem of a town on New South Wales’ stunning Sapphire Coast has a lot to offer: sparkling blue waters, rugged coastal trails and a chance to have up close and personal encounters with marine life and native fauna. The Fishermans’ Wharf is naturally your first stop in this seaside town – head in early to check out the freshest catches or go later to grab a box of salty, vinegary fish and chips to eat by the water. When you’ve explored the township, and had your taste of salt and sea wind at the local beaches, take a day trip out to Montague Island to swim with seals and go diving. Finally, take a restorative dip in the stunning oceanside Blue Pool before leaving – and see if you can spot some whales from the viewing platform nearby (if you’re there in season).

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Hilltops
Hilltops
Photograph: Destination NSW

Hilltops

We’ve all heard of the Hunter Valley, but did you know there’s a new wine region in town – or rather, quite a ways out of town? The Hilltops region is situated near Young, in south-west New South Wales, and this cluster of villages is tipped to be the next big thing for winegrowers and aficionados. Notable local names include the Grove Estate winery and the Ballinaclash orchard and cellar door. Pack your bags and take a road trip over the rolling pastures to taste local terroirs, pick cherries in orchards and look out over the canola fields. Peckish? Stop in at Pantry on Pudman in Boorowa for a coffee and a browse through the vintage store attached. Rest your head in style at the Sir George, a revamped heritage pub in Jugiong, just off the Hume Highway – or just stop in for lunch if you want a little taste of country hospitality.

Lightning Ridge
Lightning Ridge
Photograph: Destination NSW

Lightning Ridge

Heading off into the desert in search of the rare black opal may sound like a quest worthy of Indiana Jones, but in fact, the precious stone is a claim to fame for this mining town 700km west of Coffs Harbour. A true hidden gem of outback NSW, if you’ll forgive the pun, there’s more than just pricey pebbles to be found here. After a day on an opal mine tour or a horseback desert trek, the naturally heated, mineral-rich waters of the Artesian Bore Baths will soothe your weary bones, and better yet, they're totally free to enter. Other local attractions range from the historically fascinating, such as the traditional fossicking heap and Coopers Cottage, the oldest surviving house in northern NSW, to the downright whimsical, such as the Chambers of the Black Hand, a cave system created by homegrown artist Ron Canlin, filled with strange carvings depicting the likes of Nostradamus, King Tut, and Shrek, because, well, why not?

Looking for a shorter escape?

Avoca Vale Lookout, Blue Mountains
Avoca Vale Lookout, Blue Mountains
Photograph: Destination NSW

Short weekend getaways from Sydney

Travel Short getaways

Escape from Sydney to one of NSW's relaxing retreats. From fantastic local food and wine to shopping, great art, spas or adventure, you'll return to Sydney a new human.

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