Although Captain James cook is accredited as 'discovering' Australia, a number of other intrepid European explorers had sailed the continent's coastal waters before him. It was, however, in 1770 that Cook made his claim to Australia on behalf of the British Empire and modern day Australia began, right here in New South Wales. Being designated as a penal colony, it was in 1788 that the first convicts and their overlords and other pioneering souls arrived in the now infamous Botany Bay. New South Wales was now firmly on the world map.
Today, New South Wales is very far removed from its convict roots, being a place of great freedom in spirit and natural wonders, with fabulous cities, amazing beaches, wonderful scenery and a high quality of life. It encompasses the Australian Capital Territory and the national capital city Canberra, as well as global superstar Sydney, and Australia's 7th largest city, Newcastle. Covering an area of more than 800,000 kilometres, it has enough diversity of landscape to keep any avid geography student enthralled, and more than enough heritage and history to satisfy the most voracious of culture vulture appetites. Or, if you just want a nice sunshine holiday with pretty scenery and good entertainment, well, you can do that too.
Did you know that New Zealand was once part of New South Wales? When the Land of the Long White Cloud was annexed by the British in 1840, it fell under the Government of NSW.
Things to See, Places to Go, Things to Do
As big as a small country, picking the highlights of NSW is no easy feat but here are the top class attractions and headline makers:
Sydney - The jewel in the NSW crown. Being built around one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world, and being decorated with iconic sights like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, isn't enough for Sydney. It also has some of the best beaches on the planet, world class sports facilities, a happening food culture, fantastic shopping, lovely parks and open spaces, vibrant entertainment day and night, and an enviable climate.
Canberra - Much shyer than it's brasher and more glamorous cousins, Canberra is the quietly charming capital and 8th largest city of Australia. Sitting on a limestone plain, cradled by mountains, Canberra is the home to all the national treasures and important cultural collections. It's the place to trawl museums, galleries and archives, or to use as a base to explore the Namadgi National Park, and other delicious countryside beyond the urban limits.
Newcastle - It might lack the allure of Sydney and the significance of Canberra, but Newcastle is a wonderfully dichotomous place. Not only is it a major industrial metropolis with a huge busy port, but is also a fabulous seaside destination. Stretching for kilometres either side of the city centre, the coastline throws up beautiful beaches, a host of water sports, the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere, whilst the city has plenty of destinations for shopping, entertainment and cultural pursuits.
Other places of note - Tamworth, the country music capital of Australia, Wagga Wagga, a major commercial hub on the Murrumbidgee River, Wollongong, a lovely seaside city, Dubbo, home to the significant Taronga Western Plains Zoo, and Coffs Harbour, a coastal town much envied for its climate and setting.
The Beaches - Along the whole coastline of NSW, there are sublime, pristinely clean beaches. From tiny rocky inlets to sweeping swathes of golden sand, they are a haven for sun seekers, surfers, and other water sports enthusiasts. There's the famed Bondi, Manly and Palm beaches of Sydney, Newcastle boasts 12 beaches and the towns of Coffs Harbour, Nowra, Lismore, Port Macquarie and the Byron Bay area are all significant beach-wise.
The Snowy Mountains - Part of the Great Dividing Range and the Australian Alps, the Snowies are home to mainland Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko. The country's only true alpine region is in south NSW and is a major winter sports destination.
National Parks - The Royal National Park, south of Sydney, was Australia's first national park, but today there are more than 700 designated areas in NSW. Offering every landscape from bush land, forest, mountain peaks and foothills, desert and marine environments, they offer paradise to nature lovers, and plenty of fun in the great outdoors.
Wineries - The main wine growing centre of NSW is the Hunter Valley. Actually, it's the most publicised and the most visited, because it has been developed for commercial tourism. There are 13 other wine growing areas, all beautiful and all with vineyards open to the public.
Sites of Aboriginal Significance - It is estimated that the Aboriginal people have inhabited Australia for more than 45,000 years. There are, accordingly, a large number of significant places relating to their culture and history. Scattered right across the state, there is a register for visitors to access, to find those sites of interest in, and near to their holiday location.