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Five days in New South Wales: A whirlwind trip to Sydney and Byron Bay

a girl standing next to a horse
Five days in New South Wales: Sydney + Byron BayOlivia Biesty / Getty

Diving into a whirlwind five-day journey through New South Wales had me buzzing with anticipation.

I mean, can a quick city break in Sydney and a laid-back weekend retreat in Byron Bay, all tangled up with jet lag, truly capture the essence of these places? Spoiler alert: Yes, it can.

Sydney's big-city charm and Byron Bay's chilled-out vibes melted together into this unforgettable escapade. And let me tell you, after the Women's Football World Cup buzz and hearing about Sydney’s action-packed calendar, I realised I was in for an adventure-packed ride in an events hub that's also brimming with local gems. So even if it's just for a short stint to catch an event you love, a trip to New South Wales is an absolute jackpot. Let me walk you through why.

Sydney was even more impressive IRL

Sydney, the heartbeat of life in NSW with its iconic harbour, greets you with open arms and views you can't escape. Picture this: opening the door of my room at the new Crown Towers and there it is - the entire harbour framed in my window—talk about breathtaking. Yes, jet lag was whispering in my ear, so I pressed pause on the view-fest, a sunset cruise on the harbour was just hours away.

Let me take a moment to rave about Crown Towers, which hoisted me high above Barangaroo precinct, a haven of sophistication and modern décor. Sinking into a bubble bath and cocooning in a massive superking bed was the ultimate reset button after that marathon journey from London.

The culinary options there are sure to suit any tastebud. I barely scratched the surface but landed at a’Mare, an Italian gem that spoiled us with lobster, champagne, and pasta with table side pesto performance—a flavour symphony on a plate. If you're after a stay that's all about jaw-dropping harbour views and great dining options while remaining in the heart of the city, Crown Towers could be for you.

My first Aussie sunset was spent cruising the water at twilight, just a stone's throw from the Crown. It set the stage for a sunrise like no other the following morning —the Bridgeclimb walk over Sydney Harbour. Imagine reaching the summit in the early morning, soaking in local tales and history with a panoramic view. And for those wanting to stay grounded, a stroll around the harbour, rounding it off with cocktails at the Opera Bar is a non-negotiable. Just watch out for enthusiastic seagulls eyeing your oysters.

The Opera House stole the spotlight and emerged as a highlight of my time in Sydney. A backstage tour with our guide Sue led us through the multiple theatres, even glimpsing a busy stage crew prepping for their production of Sweeney Todd. The architecture, basking in sunlight and throwing dramatic shadows, left me in awe of its craftsmanship. Beyond the Opera House, Sydney's theatre seems to be going from strength to strength. Perfect for kicking jet lag to the curb—whether dancing to Tina Turner or getting lost in the magic of Disney's Beauty and the Beast like I did.

If it’s one thing that stood out amid this year's Women's Football World Cup it was the electric and communal support for the home team, the Matildas. The thrill of hosting the tournament electrified the city, drawing even an indifferent footy fan (me) into the spirited atmosphere. Watching the Matildas V England, and the gripping showdown between England and Spain, was a pleasure to witness, the celebration of sportsmanship was at its pinnacle. So as you cast your eye on your next big event, the 2024 calendar in Sydney can’t be overlooked.

Before leaving it was time for a different stay at another one of the finest hotel offerings and (possibly) the best hotel I have ever stayed in. Capella cocooned me in a luxurious home from home environment, with a contemporary feel. Attention to the decor and details was second to none I have experienced. Likening itself to a curated gallery, Capella showcases artwork, sophisticated furnishings and intriguing objects creating stay you can get lost in. The accommodation is as unique as the property itself. Echoing the intricate craftsmanship of the original building. I fell in love, this hotel is enough for me to catch the next flight back to NSW!

Six must-see and must-do experiences in Byron Bay

Sydney's buzz is fantastic, but Byron Bay's coastal vistas? They're the chill pill you need. A weekend road trip was the ticket to unlocking this region's magic. While staying here, renting a car for a mini road trip worked brilliantly to make sure we soaked in as much as possible.

Here are six activities that I don’t think should be missed.

The Farm

Breakfast at Three Blue Ducks was a farm-to-table fiesta, we sat on their outdoor patio with grazing animals nearby. I felt my shoulders drop as we settled into the chill Byron tone. Make sure to leave extra time for a browse in their produce store so you can take the taste of Byron home with you!

The Cape Byron Lighthouse

A walk up to Cape Byron Lighthouse, perched on Australia's easternmost point, gifted breathtaking views—even on a cloudy day. Locals have a VIP pass to sightings of turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales from up there, if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse too.

Tropical Fruit World

Tropical Fruit World was a rainbow of exotic fruits, ending in a fruit ice cream show stopper! A guided tour was the cherry on top, and the best way to learn about the history of the farm, and to experience fruit tasting. Tropical fruit world also offers boat cruises, tractor tours and there are cute farm animals living on the land too.

Husk Distillery

Another highlight of my trip was our tour of Husk. Think artisanal gin and rum rooted in a farm-to-bottle vibe— even local Margot Robbie has given her approval! The distillery is Australia’s first agricultural rum distillery with a farm to bottle philosophy, using sugar cane grown 100% on our farm.

Zephyr Horses

Zephyr Horses took me on a sunrise forest horse ride, an adventure wrapped in nature's embrace, even if my pony, Firebolt, moved at a leisurely pace through sub-tropical woodlands.

Sunset on the beach

Watching the sun set at Cabarita Beach with a bottle of wine to share was another total highlight of the trip, and a serene moment in my travels - despite the packed beach and promenade.

Finally, where to stay? We retreated to Marvell, Byron's only 5-star hotel, it was like stepping into Scandinavian chic amidst nature's beauty. Linen sheets, ambient lighting, and an exclusive rooftop bar—pure bliss that embodied Byron's beachy chic energy, with locals embracing local produce and artistry. Luxury, but with a chilled vibe.

Travelling in luxury with Qantas Airways

Getting to Sydney from London takes over 21 hours - so comfort is important. I flew with Qantas Airways in their premium economy cabin. It was a touch more comfortable than standard, and I enjoyed the attentive service, cuisine, and entertainment options.

Final thoughts

A journey through New South Wales isn’t just sightseeing—it’s an immersion into a mash-up of experiences, blending culture, nature, and adventure into an unforgettable chapter in the travel diary.

With upcoming events like the Sydney Marathon, Vivid Sydney, the epic Sydney Festival, New South Wales is a hotbed of evolving experiences. The city is also the first to welcome a New Year with its world-renowned fireworks display, and there's an endless calendar of festivals, exhibitions, celebrations, and sporting events - but if you do visit, I can't urge you enough to extend your stay and dive deep into the diverse offerings in New South Wales.

  • Crown Towers Sydney, rooms start at £376 a night BOOK NOW

  • Capella Sydney, rooms start at £394 a night BOOK NOW

  • Marvell Byron, rooms start at £314 a night BOOK NOW

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