New South Wales may be home to one of Australia’s most vibrant cities but venture further afield from Sydney and you’ll be charmed by the NSW country towns that offer a taste of rural life, fresh air and friendly communities. The towns of NSW have character, history and natural beauty, with many offering excellent food and wine too.
NSW’s country towns showcase the best of Australian country life, from the Southern Highlands’ rolling hills to the rugged coastline of the North and South Coast. So whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family holiday, or an adventure-filled escape, these NSW country towns will tick your boxes.
- NSW Country Towns
- Best NSW Country Towns For Food And Wine
- Best NSW Country Towns For Gardens and Flowers
- Best NSW Country Towns For Celtic Heritage
- Best NSW Country Towns For Access To Nature
- Best NSW Country Towns On The Coast
- Best NSW Country Towns For Arts And Culture
NSW Country Towns
Best NSW Country Towns For Food And Wine
Bowral is a popular Southern Highlands getaway for Sydneysiders looking for a country escape with good food, wine and lovely gardens.
120 km southwest of Sydney, Bowral is smack bang amid beautiful countryside and famous for its gardens, such as the Corbett Gardens, historic buildings and excellent food and wine.
You’ll find antique shops, art galleries and boutiques galore.
The Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame is a landmark that defines this NSW country town as Bowral was where Sir Donald Bradman grew up.
Above all, the Southern Highlands region has developed a reputation for its excellent food and wine, and Bowral has a pick of fantastic restaurants, cafes and wineries that are good enough to attract a sophisticated crowd.
Festivals and events: Bowral Autumn Music Festival and Tulip Time Festival
Distance to Sydney: 118 km (1.5 hours)
Mudgee is a NSW country town in the Central West region of the state known for its countryside views of vineyards and cellar doors.
Mudgee is one of Australia’s top wine regions, producing top-notch shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.
The town’s historic buildings, including the Mudgee Railway Station, St Mary’s Catholic Church and the colonial-era courthouse, makes it attractive for anyone wanting to explore colonial history.
The countryside, with its rolling hills, vineyards and historic homesteads, is incredibly scenic and you will enjoy scenic drives stopping at wineries, cafes and galleries along the way.
Outdoor activities around Mudgee include hiking, fishing and golfing. And Wollemi National Park is a popular place to go bushwalking and camping.
Festivals and events: Mudgee Wine and Food Festival, the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days and the Mudgee Show.
Distance to Sydney: 264 km (3.5 hours)
This charming South Coast town in NSW is filled with craft shops, galleries and artisanal food stores, making it a popular weekend getaway (or even a day trip) from Sydney.
Berry is a tiny country town in the Shoalhaven region, with a delightful landscape of historic stone buildings that provides it with a charming village atmosphere.
Check out the Berry Museum, Berry Courthouse and St. Luke’s Anglican Church for your photography list.
Another foodie’s paradise, you’ll find several cafes, restaurants and gourmet food shops.
There are wineries and breweries in the region to explore and the beautiful rolling hills and lush farmland make it a perfect destination for a romantic getaway.
Berry is a top spot for boutique shopping and you are likely to find a special piece from one of the art galleries or antique shops. Or a unique gift of local art or crafts.
Festivals and events: Berry Jazz Festival, Berry Agricultural and Horticultural Show, the Berry Celtic Festival.
Distance to Sydney: 144 km (2 hours)
Another Southern Highlands village, Berrima is tiny compared to Bowral and is so lovely that its colonial buildings make it look like it could be straight out of a picture book.
Berrima’s well-preserved colonial buildings include historic churches, the Berrima Courthouse and the Old Gaol.
Berrima has a happening arts and crafts scene, with several galleries showcasing the work of local artists, including pottery, textiles and other crafts.
The town also has gourmet food shops and cellar doors, where you can taste local wine, cheese and chocolates.
Distance to Sydney: 131 km (1.5 hours)
This cute village near Sydney is the gateway to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region, and World Heritage-listed Yengo National Park.
The Hunter’s best-kept secret is a historic town is a maze of original buildings that have been carefully preserved and restored and now house galleries, gift shops and cafes.
This storybook town will take you back to the 19th century, so explore the historic courthouse, which is now Wollombi Endeavour Museum, St Michael’s Church, St John’s Church for a glimpse into the past.
The Wollombi Tavern is a charming pub that dates back to the 1800s for a taste of the famous Wollombi burger, made with locally sourced beef and topped with beetroot, cheese and egg.
As a gateway to the wineries and restaurants in the Hunter Valley, Wollombi is a lovely NSW country town.
Go wine tasting at Wollombi Wines and Undercliff Winery and shop for locally made bread, jams, cheese and other food at the Wollombi Markets held on Monday of every long weekend and Australia Day.
Distance to Sydney: 130 km (1.5 hours)
Best NSW Country Towns For Gardens and Flowers
Wander down the main street of Crookwell and you’ll get the feeling that this is a NSW country town with a strong community feel.
It’s known for its traditional country gardens, open during the Crookwell Garden Festival in November each year.
The Southern Tablelands settlement is home to a few shops that sell country-style gifts, such as homewares, clothes, soaps, candles and clothes.
Pop in for a coffee and a chat with the locals at Café Zestt or Ensemble & Co.
The Crookwell Wind Farm’s growing collection of wind turbines generates electricity for tens of thousands of homes.
Festivals and Events: Crookwell Garden Festival, Crookwell Country Weekend, Crookwell Show (showcases the region’s farming heritage with livestock competitions and horse events).
Distance to Sydney: 240 km (2.5 hours)
Leura is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Blue Mountains, with an Edwardian-style village atmosphere with charming shops, cafes and galleries.
Wander down the main street to soak up the ambience of the beautifully restored historic buildings that now house cafes, boutique shops and galleries.
It’s a lovely spot to relax over coffee in one of the cosy cafes and enjoy scenic views that are soothing for the soul.
The town is also home to some stunning country gardens where you will find exotic and native plants, including azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias.
Take a stroll down the expansive Everglades House & Gardens, which beautifully blend the Australian bush and with European-style landscapes.
Leura also has several fascinating bushwalks. Some to add to your list are Leura Cascades, Gordon Falls, Leura Forest, Sublime Point and Jamison Lookout.
Festivals and events: Leura Gardens Festival.
Distance to Sydney: 99 km (1.5 hours)
Grafton, a charming town in the Clarence River Valley, is steeped in history, dating back to the early 1800s when British colonisers first explored it.
Today, Grafton is a cultural, educational and agricultural hub.
Its picturesque location with the river running through town, lush greenery, and gently rolling hills makes it a popular tourist destination.
The Jacaranda Festival is one of the top attractions of Grafton.
Every year during October and November, the city celebrates this festival with colourful lights, music and street parades.
Apart from the Jacaranda Festival, Grafton is known for its rich history, which can be discovered at the Schaeffer House Museum.
The museum is in a beautifully restored 1901 Federation home and exhibits an extensive collection of historical artifacts and memorabilia that showcases the city’s growth and development.
The Clarence River offers leisure activities such as kayaking, fishing, and swimming.
The Australian National Kayaking Championships are held here annually, attracting world-class athletes to this stunning location.
Distance to Sydney: 610 km (6.5 hours).
Best NSW Country Towns For Celtic Heritage
A small town with rural charm, Boorowa’s Irish heritage sets it apart from other NSW country towns.
If you love all things Irish, put the Boorowa Irish Woolfest on your to-do list for a celebration of the town’s Irish roots with live music and dancing.
The hub of a rich agricultural region known for wool, lamb and beef production, you can learn a bit about the region’s farming heritage at the Boorowa Agricultural Museum.
The surrounding countryside is incredibly scenic, with rolling hills, vast farmland, and stunning vistas.
Festivals and Events: Boorowa Irish Woolfest
Distance to Sydney: 328 km (3.5 hours)
A small town in Northern Rivers with a lovely riverside location, Maclean tops the list of NSW country towns for its Scottish heritage.
Maclean’s Scottish heritage can be seen in its tartan-wrapped power poles, Scottish-style architecture and annual Highland Gathering.
This NSW country town on the banks of the Clarence River is a popular spot for fishing and is not far from stunning beaches.
Festivals and Events: Maclean’s Celtic Festival celebrates the town’s Scottish heritage with live music, dance and food.
Distance to Sydney: 640 km (6.5 hours). Distance to Brisbane: 272 km (2 hours 45 minutes).
11- Glen Innes
The New England region is home to another NSW country town with a strong Celtic heritage, and Glen Innes is home to descendants of Scottish and Irish settlers.
You can explore the town’s Celtic history at the Australian Standing Stones and the Land of the Beardies History House, a museum and research centre.
Glen Innes is also famous for its gemstones and is in a prolific sapphire known for its deep rich, royal blue sapphires.
One fun thing to do is to go fossicking, which doesn’t require a licence unless you’re fossicking in a state forest.
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, the Post Office and the Court House are historic buildings to check out.
Festivals and events: Australian Celtic Festival (May), the Minerama Fossicking and Gem Show, and the Land of the Beardies History House Open Day.
Distance to Sydney: 570 km (6.5 hours)
Best NSW Country Towns For Access To Nature
Dorrigo is a NSW country town in the Northern Tablelands near Dorrigo National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site where you can go hiking through the rainforest to discover hidden waterfalls like Dangar Falls and Crystal Shower Falls.
The Skywalk at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre takes you over the rainforest to enjoy views of the Rosewood rainforest basin and the double peak of McGraths Hump.
The town’s historic railway station is now a museum known for its heritage architecture and railway artifacts.
Festivals and events: Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival.
Distance to Sydney: 544 km (6 hours)
Best NSW Country Towns On The Coast
Yamba is a coastal town in the Northern Rivers region with fantastic beaches, such as Main Beach, Turner’s Beach and Pippi Beach that are great for surfing, swimming and fishing.
This seaside spot is a popular fishing destination and where you might catch whiting, flathead or bream from the rocks or from the beaches or you can also go on a fishing charter.
It goes to reason that while in Yamba, you should try the fresh fish, prawns and oysters in one of the seafood restaurants.
Yuraygir National Park and the Clarence River offer hiking, cycling, and kayaking adventures.
Festivals and events: Surfing the Coldstream Festival, the Yamba Triathlon.
Distance to Sydney: 650 km (7 hours). Distance to Brisbane: 278 km (3 hours).
14- Byron Bay
Famous for its surf breaks and a magnet for surfers, Byron Bay has a laid-back vibe, stunning beaches and a relaxed beach culture.
There’s a thriving music and arts scene and a focus on wellness and spirituality, with spas, yoga classes and retreats here.
Byron Bay attracts those interested in being eco-conscious and whale-watching tours are popular here.
Cape Byron Lighthouse marks mainland Australia’s easternmost point and has stunning coastline views.
You’ll find plenty of top-notch eateries and bars (prices reflect this!) with menus featuring local, fresh, organic produce.
Festivals: Byron Bay Bluesfest and Splendour in the Grass.
Distance to Sydney: 757 km (8 hours). Distance to Brisbane: 164 km (2 hours).
Ballina is another popular destination for surfers, with fabulous beaches like Lennox Head and The Pass, surf schools and shops.
It’s one of the NSW country towns you’d head to for its fishing, with many opportunities for recreational fishing in the ocean and the rivers.
Ballina’s aviation history can be discovered at the Southern Cross Aviation Museum, which features displays and exhibits, while the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport is one of the oldest in the country.
The Big Prawn is a giant fibreglass statue that is a popular landmark for a selfie.
Distance to Sydney: 730 km (7.5 hours). Distance to Brisbane: 186 km (2 hours).
Best NSW Country Towns For Arts And Culture
This Tweed Valley town in New South Wales has beautiful natural assets from Mount Warning to the Tweed River and several national parks where you can go hiking, camping or kayaking.
What Murwillumbah is especially known for is its thriving arts community, with several galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists.
A landmark of the region is the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, which is an impressive gallery housing a significant collection of Australian art.
Murwillumbah’s historic buildings include the Tweed River Historical Society Museum, the Murwillumbah Railway Station, and the Tweed Regional Museum.
Festivals and events: Murwillumbah Art Trail, the Tweed Valley Banana Festival, and the Murwillumbah Farmers Market.
Distance to Sydney: 800 km (8.5 hours). Distance to Brisbane: 139 km (1.5 hours)
Morpeth’sheritage architecture is picture-book pretty, with 1800s stone cottages, grand Victorian buildings and historic churches.
This NSW country is known for its quaint specialty stores, antique shops and galleries where you can pick up unique gifts, souvenirs and collectibles.
Morpeth is home to several great cafes, restaurants, and pubs, and there are nearby wineries and taste some of the region’s best wines.
Festivals and events: ChapelJazz Morpeth, PorchFest Morpeth, Morpeth Triathlon and Morpeth Motorama.
Distance to Sydney: 165 km (2 hours).
Bellingen is a NSW country town on the mid-north coast known for its arts and culture scene, with galleries, live music and festivals throughout the year.
It’s also an excellent base to explore the nearby national parks and beaches.
Bellingen is surrounded by beautiful countryside, including the Bellinger River, Dorrigo National Park, and the stunning Waterfall Way.
You can explore the rainforest, go hiking or swim in the river.
Bellingen’s vibrant arts scene is showcased in its galleries, studios and workshops that display the work of local artists and craftspeople.
Of course, you’ll also find cafes, restaurants and shops offering local and organic produce and local markets.
Its history is reflected in charming heritage-listed buildings, such as the Hammond and Wheatley Emporium, a fabulous place to shop for gifts, and the Bellingen Butter Factory (circa 1906), now a cafe.
Pop into the Bellingen Museum to learn more about the town’s history.
Distance to Sydney: 515 km (5.3 hours).
This Northern Tablelands town also has several historic buildings and sites, including the Sir Henry Parkes School of Arts, the Tenterfield Saddlery and the Tenterfield Railway Museum.
Tenterfield was the birthplace of entertainer Peter Allen and Sir Henry Parkes, the “Father of Federation”. You can learn about Parkes and his role in Australian history at the Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts.
Events and festivals: Tenterfield Show, the Tenterfield Autumn Festival, Tenterfield Art Prize.
Distance to Sydney: 662 km (8 hours).
For more things to do in NSW, read:
- 16 Things To Do In Maitland
- 15 Things To Do In Byron Bay
- 15 Things To Do In Newcastle
- 16 Things To Do In Port Stephens
- 10 Things To Do In Kiama
- 12 Things To Do In Windsor
- 20 Things To Do In Sydney For Couples
- 20 Things To Do In Sydney At Night
- 17 Things To Do In Central Coast
- 19 NSW Country Towns
- Reflections Holiday Parks