Home » How good! Regional NSW is officially Australia’s favourite domestic travel destination

How good! Regional NSW is officially Australia’s favourite domestic travel destination

How good! Regional NSW is officially Australia’s favourite domestic travel destination

From the high-end-bohemian mecca of Byron Bay in the far north-east to the sand-blasted dunes of our outback towns, regional NSW is home to so many wildly beautifully places worthy of a spot on our travel hit lists. Want to travel back in time to a provincial idyll? Easy. Rather pretend you’re in Iceland and immerse yourself in a natural hot spring? You can do that too. The truth is, holidaying in regional NSW is epic, and we’re not the only people who have cottoned on. The latest data from Tourism Research Australia (TRA) shows that regional NSW is Australia’s favourite regional holiday destination, attracting 66 million domestic visitors in the 12 months leading up to March 2024.

In the year ending March 2024, our beautifully varied state recorded more domestic visitors than anywhere else in the country, with domestic overnight visitor numbers reaching 27.1 million (the second highest number on record) and domestic day trippers exceeding 38.9 million – more than anywhere else in the country.

Photograph: Supplied | Destination NSW

As well as being the most popular domestic destination for tourism, regional NSW is the region that has seen the best post-pandemic recovery in terms of tourism, with significant year-on-year growth in the industry after that fateful year of 2020. The data shows that the pandemic actually served to boost domestic tourism to the state – with visitation up 4.9 per cent compared with pre-pandemic times. And while, yes, the fact that more of us are choosing to holiday within NSW can be partially attributed to the (dare we utter its name) cost of living crisis, it’s heartening to know that more people are now experiencing the magic of what regional NSW has to offer.

Based on data from TRA, the top three regions overall for domestic visitors were the Hunter, the South Coast and the New England North West region. Domestic overnight tourism to the Central Coast has grown 11.2 per cent in the past year (we think its constantly improving foodie offering might have something to do with that), and overnight domestic visitors to the New England North West area increased by 16.5 per cent. The favourite day-trip destination for domestic visitors was the Hunter region, which welcomed 7.27 million daytime visitors. Based on our Food and Drink Editor’s reviews (like this one of Muse Restaurant, and this one of Yellow Billy), we’re unsurprised. 

As cited by Destination NSW Acting CEO Ian Maltman, it’s the diversity of landscapes within NSW (along with our cultural events calendar) that makes it such an appealing destination for travellers keen to make the most of their time off. “NSW is home to Australia’s most diverse landscapes – visitors can drive from the Snowys to the Sapphire Coast in a few hours, experience the vastly different climates of Byron Bay and Broken Hill, the sandstone cliffs of the Blue Mountains to the volcanic rock of The Warrumbungles.”

The Living Desert and Sculptures, Broken Hill
Photograph: Destination NSW | Jason Lerace

Regional NSW also welcomed a total of 694,400 international visitors in the year leading up to March 2024 – with 18 per cent of these coming from the UK, and an estimated total spend sitting at $1.1 billion. The North Coast and the Hunter were the top destinations for international visitors, with the Hunter welcoming 275,400 international visitors, and 156,800 international visitors exploring the North Coast’s sparkling shoreline. 

Keen for a holiday? These South Coast towns reigned supreme in this year’s Top Tourism Towns Awards.

Stay in the loop: sign up for our free Time Out Sydney newsletter for more news, travel inspo and activity ideas, straight to your inbox.

RECOMMENDED:

This NSW city was ranked among the world’s most underrated destinations.

These are our favourite weekend breaks in NSW.

Heading south instead? Here’s our guide to Shoalhaven.