Your complete guide to New South Wales

Are you thinking of visiting New South Wales? Do you have some questions or need some answers? Then come and discover all you will ever need to know right now!

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New South Wales, also known by the shortened version NSW, is the 4th smallest state or territory in Australia, bigger than only Victoria, the island state of Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. It is home to 7.2 million people, and the capital city is Sydney.

3 large animal skulls tied to a post in the Outback
Outback & regional NSW can
be a dry and barren place

People who live in NSW are sometimes referred to as New South Welshmen or Welshies (because of the "Wales" part of the states name), Cockroaches (it is an informal name for the NSW state ruby team), and even Corn Stalks (although I haven't been able to track down the reason behind this name).


As you can see on the map above, it is located in south-east Australia. It has the most easterly point of mainland Australia, Cape Byron, which is home to one of Australia's most popular backpacker destination, Byron Bay. To the south it borders with Victoria, with the Murray River (Australia's longest river), making most of the border between these two states. To the west it borders with South Australia, the driest state on the continent. And to the north it borders with tropical Queensland.


By population, NSW is the most populated state or territory. However, if measured by people per km² it drops to second position, with Victoria having more than three times as many people per km². Despite the fact the it is the most populated state you should not expect a mass of people! Don't forget that this is Australia, and NSW has on average only 9 people per km² (for the purpose of this I have excluded the Australian Capital Territory, which is basically a city territory much like the Vatican). To put this into perspective, the United Kingdom has 256 per km², Germany has 229 per km², and France has 117 per km².

Ranking of the largest cities (by population): ¹
1. Sydney
(4.6 million)
2. Newcastle(540,000)
3. Wollongong(288,000)
4. Wagga Wagga(57,000)
5. Coffs Harbour(52,000)
6. Tamworth(47,000)
7. Port Macquarie(44,000)
8. Orange(39,000)
¹ Sourced from, you guessed it, Wikipedia!

This means that over 63% of all Welshies live in Sydney, and you can see that the next biggest cities get much smaller in population very quickly. If you excluded all the people from the cities listed above, the average population density drops to a tiny 1.8 persons per km².

What does this mean?

Once you get out of the cities, expect big wide open spaces! Much of the east of NSW is taken up by either farm land (both crops and livestock) or forest. Out to the west, it could be best described as desert scrub land, and out there you can easily drive the back roads for hours without seeing another car or finding the next town.

So what else is out there? Over 50% of NSW (almost twice the size of the UK!) is classified as either Arid or Semi-Arid, meaning that's is very dry. In these areas you won't find too much for the casual tourist, much of this land is used for stock grazing, and some of it has been turned into farmland via irrigation. The other parts of these arid areas are very isolated and have few inhabitants.

National Parks

There are over 780 national parks and reserves which cover about 8.3% of the state, which includes 189 national parks. If you are a nature enthusiast there is plenty to see and do. These parks include rainforests, rugged bush and mountainous areas, beautiful marine parks that you can snorkel and scuba dive in, and outback desert wonderlands.

An emu in Ouback NSW cooling in the shade of a tree
The coastline is perfect for holiday
makers, but as you head closer to the
NT border, things get hotter!

In total, these protected areas cover about 66,370 km². At first this figure may not sound very impressive, but it is about the size of Ireland or Sri Lanka. As such, there are many free camping spots all over the state, so for all you nature lovers, get ready to go camping!

What else?

Most of the east coast has a weather classification of Temporal with sunny weather for much of the year. This means that there is a lot more people living in the area compared to the west of the state, resulting in a lot more to see and do for the casual tourist. To the north, near the border with Queensland, it is classified as Humid-Subtropical. To the south, near the border with Victoria, is the Snowy Mountains region with a Alpine (cool - cold all year round with winter snow) climate.

In fact, it doesn't really matter what you like to do, you are likely to find it in NSW. With Sydney as its urban master piece, sub-tropical areas including Tweed Heads and Byron Bay, winter alpine areas, and everything else in between (including deserts, island retreats, scuba diving, surfing, gorgeous beaches right along the coast), and so much more, it has so much to offer any traveller on any budget!

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