Visit beautiful waterfalls and see unique tunnels where mushrooms grow
Put the Harbour Bridge in the back of your mind and leave the Opera House to the throngs of tourists. If you want to experience a side of New South Wales visitors rarely see, head out of Sydney and consider these other wonderful attractions.
Watson’s Bay, Camp Cove and the Gap
Watson’s Bay is one of the oldest fishing villages in the country. With such a status, it comes as no surprise that the area has some of the most succulent seafood in the country, so head here if you want to dine out on more “Fruits de la Mer” than is strictly sensible. If you can move afterward, a dip in the ocean is almost mandatory. Paddle out from one of the small but perfectly formed harbour-side bays, such as Camp Cove.
Photographers will be delighted to see Sydney’s skyline, including the wonderful bridge, from a different perspective than many other visitors. But for a distinct snapshot, make your way up to the Gap. A short walk to this cliff top offers vast panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the swaggering seaside suburb of Manly. Keen explorers will easily come across signs pointing to the lighthouses, signal station and, dramatically, the site of the Dunbar shipwreck.
Sea Cliff Bridge, Clifton
When it comes to the wow factor, there aren’t many roads that can give California’s famous seaside skirting Route 1 a run for its money, but this sidewinding structure makes Big Sur’s Bixby Bridge seem less impressive. Located on the way to Wollongong, the meandering overpass officially opened in 2005 and provided a welcome connection for nearby towns like Coalcliff and Cliffton – two settlements steeped in NSW’s deep mining history.
As only one of seven bridges of its kind in the world, a drive on Sea Cliff puts you on a fairly exclusive list. But if you intend to mark the occasion with something more, it seems the site is now becoming popular with people who tote love-locks. A viewing platform has been installed so people can pull up and ponder or, more excitingly, squint into the distance to try and see some migrating humpback whales.
Wentworth Falls lies toward the towering and beautiful Blue Mountains in a spot that could easily have been plucked from the pages of a storybook. Unassuming and authentic, it has a number of Victorian buildings located beside more modern dwellings and local businesses. Perfectly situated as a last stop before venturing along Darwin’s Walk and into the Blue Mountains National Park, the town has family friendly facilities and more than a few wonderful surprises, including an observatory.
The waterfalls for which the town is named are just one reason to visit, but when the streams are in full flow, the results are spectacular. People with even a touch of vertigo should skip the elevated walkways that skirt around the rock faces, but many other vantage points provide views of the falls and majestic Kings Tableland. The area dates back 20,000 years and is important to Aboriginal culture.
Mittagong Mushroom Tunnels
For an intriguing experience, walk around this disguised underground railway tunnel which has strange food. Situated in Mittagong (“Mitta” to locals and a primarily a wine-growing region), the Li-Sun Exotic Mushroom farm operates under the watchful eye of microbiologist and all-around fun guy Dr. Noel Arnold, who has tended the unusual food since 1987.
On discovering that the 150-year-old underpasses provided ideal conditions for growing produce usually only found on mountain slopes in China, Korea and Japan, he set about making an agreeable home for his enokis, namekos and shimajiis mushrooms, to name just a few. He now supplies both farmers markets and dining destinations with his uniquely niche morsels. A walk through the earthy passageways — once also used to store explosives during World War II — is a bizarre, but recommended experience. Make sure you check if the tunnels are open for public tours before going.
A rather spectacular rebranding, as well as a few licks of paint, has seen this Victorian building transform itself from an old police station and jail to a gleaming contemporary art space designed for the creative thinkers and doers. Though the Lock-Up’s business was strictly aligned with the boys in blue for more than 120 years, it began its evolution into an exhibition, installation and performance area in 2007 with a mission to promote art without boundaries.
Volunteers provide fantastic insight into the jail’s history, and many original features have been retained. Ironically, unlike its former inhabitants, entrance to this establishment is free.
Nearby, the cultural hub of Newcastle provides necessities for trips to the ever-popular Hunter Valley wine region.