What’s New in 2020 in NSW

Filed under featured, What's Hot

2020 promises a raft of new offerings for visitors to Sydney and NSW, from hotel openings to restaurant launches, new bars and amazing experiences. Here are the hottest destinations and experiences to look forward to for the rest of 2019 and in 2020.  



NSW’s island paradise has been ranked the world’s fifth best region to visit in 2020 by Lonely Planet in its new publication, Best in Travel 2020. Immerse yourself in the jaw-dropping beauty of this World Heritage-listed haven just two hours’ flight from Sydney. The island measures less than 11km end-to-end and barely 3km across and has an array of habitat types that support a variety of wildlife and vegetation, including 113 plants that are found nowhere else in the world. Only 400 visitors are allowed at any one time and guests are encouraged to participate in ecological projects.

An adventure wonderland
Lord Howe Island’s famous twin peaks, breathtaking views and natural forest make it ideal for walkers and hikers. The one-day hike to Mt Gower provides encounters with rare flora and astounding views from the top.
Tropical and cooler water collide in the ocean around Lord Howe, resulting in rare corals, green and hawksbill turtles and 500 species of fish – perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling. More than 60 sites lure divers of all skill levels, or enjoy a glass-bottom boat tour to see the reef while staying dry.
Big-game fishing for yellowfin tuna, wahoo, marlin and more is a popular pastime on the island. If you catch something, head chef of the Arajilla Retreat, Ben Crompton, will prepare the catch and serve it to your liking. Rent a kayak and paddle around the island at sunset; cycle through lush rainforests; catch a wave at peaceful Blinky Beach – Lord Howe Island is truly an adventure lover’s wonderland.

Flora and fauna
With 14 species of seabirds breeding on the island, Lord Howe offers fantastic bird-watching opportunities. There are 130 permanent and migratory bird species on the island, including the woodhen which is unique to the island. Neds Beach is known for the colourful fish and turtles that inhabit the clear waters. Wade in and hand-feed mullet, butterfly fish and stingrays and look for giant clams on the shallow reef.

Relax in style
For an unforgettable break, stay at the incredible five-star Arajilla Retreat. For guests seeking complete immersion in the stunning landscape, The Arajilla Suite has a private deck surrounded by rainforest. Another excellent option is the Lidgbird Pavilion in the Capella Lodge. The all-inclusive double-storey apartment features panoramic views of the ocean and subtropical rainforest, private outdoor lounging area and a plunge pool.
The Capella Spa offers a range of treatments; for something unique, try the sacred stone therapy – a hot stone massage using warmed basalt stones sourced from Lord Howe’s beaches. Or try an anti-aging gold leaf facial at the Arajilla Retreat Spa, during which 24-carat gold is messaged in the skin followed by a herbal face pack. 

Newcastle’s visitor numbers have increased by 60 per cent in the past five years as the city positions itself as a premier coastal destination. With boutique, luxury hotels due to open, new tourist attractions, and a thriving food and drink scene, it’s set to be one of the hottest destinations of the year.

Sleep easy

The popular boutiqueQT Hotel brand will be making its debut in Newcastle in 2020. The design-led hotel’s flair for the unique, and its distinctive service will feature across the 106-rooms, rooftop bar and its signature QT dining concept. Set to take over the former 111-year-old David Jones Building, QT Newcastle will be conveniently located on Hunter Street Mall.
The Little National Hotel will open in Newcastle in 2021, with 150 rooms and 60 luxury serviced apartments. Located on Honeysuckle Drive, the hotel will offer views of the Hunter River from wall-to-wall windows, king size beds, rain showers, mood lighting and HD smart televisions, with a pool, gym and library rounding out the experience. 
Opening late 2020, Kingsley is located in the heart of Newcastle and will be the city’s first five-star offering. It will feature 130 rooms, a lobby bar, café with outdoor terrace, swimming pool and gym, and a rooftop restaurant. 

A home for the animals
The Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary will open in early 2020 to care for sick, injured or orphaned koalas, supporting their long-term rehabilitation. Visitors will be able to see koalas in an idyllic bush setting, with tailored education sessions from local guides. Along with the information centre and Koala Clinic, there will be a tree canopy boardwalk to get up close to the koalas’ natural habitat, a kiosk and four-star glamping tents.
The Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounter will move from its current site to a brand new centre at the old Anna Bay site in Port Stephens. It’s set to include a large outdoor lagoon with six pools, a tropical indoor aquarium, café and playground. 

Drink and dine 
The Newcastle city centre is undergoing a major revitalisation, with new public spaces connected to better transport. The Station and Market Street lawn opened earlier this year, and Museum Park was unveiled this month, with a historic footbridge, green garden and interactive light display. The Signal Box, a 1936 building that was once used to direct trains, will be home to a restaurant opening in November. The owners of popular Nelson Bay restaurant The Little Nel are behind the venue, which will be open all day and serve innovative, Modern Australian cuisine.
Popular restaurant Meet has a new location in a converted warehouse downtown, with indoor plants, industrial materials and an open kitchen. Look for the pink neon ‘M’ and prepare for a night of South American share plates and wine from nearby Hunter Valley.
Flotilla opened earlier this year in Wickham, Newcastle – a refined restaurant with a relaxed vibe by the owners of The Edwards. The menu showcases Australian produce, with natural or minimal intervention wines making up half the mostly Australian list. An open kitchen is anchored by a charcoal oven.
Skeeta’s on Darby is a family affair, with personal photos decorating the teal green walls and eclectic decor in the small bar. With over 21 wines, four beers on tap and premium spirits, there’s plenty of choice, plus cheese boards, snacks and live music on Sundays.
Earp Distillery will open in 2020 near the cruise terminal in Newcastle, and will offer tours of the distillery, lab and bond store for those curious about how spirits are made. You can also join a class, learning how to make gin, whisky, rum or vodka and receive a bottle to take home.

The region has an exciting future as a vibrant economic and cultural hub. A number of significant projects are planned – the construction of Western Sydney International Airport, due for completion in 2026; the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, part of a new arts and cultural precinct that will feature the largest museum in NSW and Australiana’s largest planetarium, expected to open in 2023; and stage one of the Parramatta Light Rail is expected to open in 2023.

Exotic new residents
Sydney Zoo is expected to open in Blacktown by the end of this year, making it the first major zoo to be built in Sydney in more than 100 years. When it opens, it will have more than 2000 native and exotic animals, with hidden barriers and boardwalks to create an immersive experience. The Zoo’s African precinct will have lions, hyenas, orangutans, cheetahs, zebras, chimps and baboons, among other animals.

Luxe lodging
QT Hotel will bring their brand of luxe individuality to Parramatta next year, taking up 14 levels of the mixed-use property at 9 Philip Street. Guests can stay in one of 255 rooms and two suites, dine at two restaurants from Rockpool Dining Group, and get a treatment from the award-winning Spa Q. 
A five star, 245-room Hilton Parramatta is due to open on Macquarie Street in 2022. Few details have been confirmed but there will be an outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and bar.

Dining hubs
The Paper Mill opened earlier this year on the banks of the Georges River in Liverpool, with four restaurants under one roof, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Restaurants include a café/bakery/dessert bar, a pizzeria, charcoal chicken and burger outlet, and an a la carte restaurant specialising in meat and seafood cooked over charcoal and in a wood-fired oven. Period features including original brickwork and the distinctive saw-toothed roof are retained, with contemporary updates in steel, glass and stone.
Dining and entertainment precinct West HQ in Rooty Hill is home to a number of top restaurants. Steak & Co., New Town Thai Street Food, Chur Burger, PizzaAperta Manfredi and Chu by China Doll all opened this year.

Green spaces
The Great West Walk is a new 65km walking route starting in Parramatta and ending at the foot of the Blue Mountains. The walk traverses protected woodland, river systems, public parks, classic architecture and urban landscapes. Highlights include the Old Government House, Parramatta; Toongabbie Creek, Winston Hills; Nurragingy Reserve, Western Sydney Parklands; Neoblie Historic Cottage, Rooty Hill; and the Nepean River, Penrith.

An up-and-coming wine region with exciting dining options and stunning, varied natural landscapes – this Snowy Mountains destination is one to watch.

Boutique accommodation
Stay just outside beautiful Tumbarumba at newly opened Glenburnie Cottage located on the Johansen Wines winery. The three-bedroom cottage is a stone’s throw from the cellar door and has picturesque views of the vineyards and nearby township. Explore the region’s forest or enjoy a bottle of gamet in front of the fire. 

The EcoNest is an off-grid retreat at Highfield Farm and Woodland, a small-scale sustainable farm, opening to the public in November 2019. The retreat will be powered by solar panels and batteries, with double-glazed windows allowing full view of the surrounding paddocks. A well-equipped kitchen can be used to cook the fresh produce available from the farm, including eggs from a nearby hen house. It has a fireplace and outdoor fire pit, and is dog friendly.
Nimbo Fork Lodge is located between Gundagai and Tumut, with six cottages and six private suites in the lodge surrounded by spectacular landscapes. Recently appointed chef Aaron Grant cooks with produce from neighbouring Riverina region and wine comes from local producers. The restaurant has recently started offering lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

Big adventures
Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail, opening in Autumn 2020, is a 22km long cycling and pedestrian trail, converted from a disused rail corridor. The first rail trail in NSW, it will be a fantastic way to explore the region, with gorgeous vistas of the mountains and wineries to visit along the way.
Take an unforgettable ride in a Truenorth Helicopter to see the Snowy Valley from a new perspective. The Country Escape package is a four-hour experience that includes flying over Batlow Orchards, a visit to Courabyra Winery (which has a new al fresco dining area) for a cellar door experience and three-course lunch, and a journey back to Tumut via three dams. The Vine to Wine Adventure has the same itinerary, with an added stop at Obsession Wines, near Tumbarumba, for a vine to wine tour and tasting and a walk through Braymont Gardens.

With the updated cruise port at Eden, it’s an exciting time for the region with the expected increased business. The younger generation of locals are opening exciting new food and drink offerings, and the expanded EAT Merimbula festival will draw crowds in 2020 and beyond.
Increased infrastructure
A $44 million wharf extension that now allows passenger vessels up to 325m to berth alongside Snug Cove in Eden was completed in 2019. To cater for the growth of cruise in Eden, the Port Authority is committed to opening a new facility to welcome cruise passengers. It’s anticipated the facility will be operational in 2020, in time for the 2020-21 cruise season.

Novel nature experiences
Bhoja SUP yoga is a new way to exercise while enjoying nature. Sapphire Coast yoga practitioner Beth Esser is offering yoga classes on stand up paddleboards on the beautiful Kiah River. Enjoy the serenity of the river, birds and wildlife as you move from pose to pose.
The iconic 31km Light to Light Walking Track from Boyd’s Tower to Green Cape Lightstation passes through spectacular coastal scenery, south of Eden. The new owners have made a few changes and while continuing to offer the hero three-day walk experience, this season they will introduce a walk product specifically for cruise passengers. There’ll be a greater focus on featuring the local produce of the Sapphire Coast (think oysters at sunset on the cliff tops overlooking Disaster Bay) and an educational element around local flora. Fully guided walks, self-guided walks and walks that include a stay at historic Greencape Lighthouse are available.

Make your own gin
North of Eden Gin (situated just north of Bega) was established 18 months ago. The owners make gin with botanicals sourced from the Sapphire Coast and their product won a silver and bronze medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London this year. From December 2019, their cellar door and gin school will be open to visitors. The gin school will take a maximum of 12 participants per class and students will create their own gins using individual mini stills.

Spotlight on: Bermagui

Five hours’ drive south of Sydney, Bermagui is a gorgeous coastal town with a sparkling vibe. The blossoming food scene welcomed Boneless Vegetarian Café this year, which serves dishes including vegan hot dogs, hemp smoothies and the popular roast cauliflower and truffle cream vegan toastie. Eastwood Deli and Cooking School, which opened last year, has made a huge splash in the region. The homemade doughnuts sell out every week and both the adult and kid’s cooking classes are popular – also look out for the themed pop-up dinners. The Bermagui Beach Hotel was taken over by new owners last year, who revamped the restaurant, increased the range of drinks on offer and renovated the space. It’s now a fantastic family-friendly pub with excellent water views. Honor Bread’s sourdough and pastries are consistently excellent, and Bermagui Gelati Clinic is still going strong after over a decade of making gelato. The natural attractions draw visitors from all over the State: the gorgeous Bermagui Blue Pool, Camel Rock, Horse Head Rock and Gulaga Mountain.


W Sydney, housed in the striking The Ribbon development, is set to open in Sydney in December 2020 with 593 rooms, suites and serviced apartments. The highlight of the hotel will be the pool deck with stunning views of Darling Harbour; it will also offer a restaurant and two bars, a spa and state-of-the-art gym, and a grand ballroom for events.

Little National, a $120 million development, is set to open in 2020 in Sydney’s CBD. The 12-storey hotel, which will have 230 rooms, a gym, library and rooftop lounge and bar, will be located above the Clarence Street entry to Wynyard Station. The eastern facade of the building will be home to a vertical garden of screening plants, and guests will be able to reach Barangaroo via a covered walkway.
The brand-new Crowne Plaza will open in early 2020 on the corner of Sussex and Bathurst Streets in the CBD. Marking its re-entry into Darling Harbour, the Crowne Plaza will offer 153 guest rooms, three dining options with a signature restaurant, café and bar, meeting and event spaces and the main attraction: a stunning rooftop pool.

voco Sydney Central is scheduled to open in 2021, with 301 premium guest rooms inspired by the concept of ‘me time’ and an eye-catching ‘green waterfall’ cascading from the rooftop of the 17-storey tower. The new hotel will be conveniently located on Pitt Street in the heart of Sydney’s CBD.


Flashjacks is a 10-room boutique hotel in Gundagai, in the State’s Riverina region, opening in March 2020 after an extensive renovation. The 1888 building was used as a school for many years and its connection to the past has been lovingly addressed with Australian timber and wool detailing. Rooms will have a private courtyard area offering views over the town, and a hot tub and sauna will be available to guests. A restaurant is also scheduled to open later in the year.

For a little slice of paradise, stay at one of six luxury cabins surrounded by three acres of pristine bushland. Pebbly Beach Escape is located on the South Coast, near Bawley Point; with each cabin boasting a generous deck overlooking the beach, an excellent position to spot local birds. The cabins range in size from studios to three-bedroom houses, with gorgeous features including well-equipped kitchens.

Tallagandra Hill Winery produces premium cool-climate wines in Gundaroo, in the Southern Highlands. Along with three modern on-site cottages, with covered decks and outdoor fire pits, a new event venue has opened for up to 170 people. Heritage timber, unique art features and modern facilities will be connected to landscaped outdoor areas for entertaining, wedding ceremonies and corporate experiences.



The team behind Eastern Suburbs institution Bar M are opening Toppi Martin Place, a vibrant Italian late-night restaurant this October. Named after chef and owner Paola Toppi, the bar honours two generations of female culinary stars and will be a fun, elegant offering in Sydney’s CBD.

Merivale is reinvigorating ivy’s laneway precinct in time for the completion of George Street’s pedestrian zone and Sydney Light Rail. It started with the opening of sophisticated cocktail bar Little Felix, with plans in place to open a Middle Eastern concept, a Mexican restaurant and a Totti’s-inspired eatery on Palings Lane over the coming year, taking the total number of hospitality outlets in the ivy precinct to 12.

Matt Moran’s hospitality company Solotel will reopen The Abercrombie on Broadway in early 2020. No new details have been announced but in 2016, the co-owner of Solotel confirmed Art Deco features will be restored in the building, including its beer garden. There are also plans to open a European-style wine bar in three nearby terrace houses, also purchased by the group on Abercrombie Street.

South Eveleigh is a burgeoning precinct; in the last year Egg of the Universe opened with a wholefoods café, yoga studio, and a play area; as did Indigenous rooftop farm Yerrabingin, which offers tours and meditation sessions. Next up is a roastery from the owners of The Grounds, opening in mid-late 2020, with an internal courtyard, mezzanine level and giant coffee roaster.

Spirit label Four Pillars will be opening a base in a historic 1930s building on Crown Street, adjacent to The Dolphin Hotel. Named Four Pillars Gin and Drinks Lab, it will have a 70-litre still, which will be used to make their small-batch gin, as well as a bar (pending approval) and retail store.


Husband-and-wife team Amanda and Sam Preston have been brewing quality beer at Bucket Brewery in South Kempsey, beside the Macleay River, for a number of years. The next chapter is a cellar door experience, which opens mid-November 2019. Initially it will open 10am – 5pm for tastings, take-away purchases, bar service and tours and will eventually open on the weekend, with a courtyard space to come. Try the Bucket Lager, modelled on the German-style Munich Helles with a pilsener malt aroma and flavour.

Opening in June 2020, the Rosby Cellar Door and Art Gallery will be a truly unique Mudgee wine and arts experience. The new building, set within the established grounds and sculpture garden at Rosby, will complement the existing arts and events program by offering a permanent gallery space for emerging and established regional artists, while creating a casual wine tasting experience.

Hillbilly Cider, located in Bilpin in the Blue Mountains, is building a new cider shed, set to open this Summer. Situated 500m away from the current shed, on the Bells Line of Road, the move will create more space and enable co-owners Shane and Tessa McLaughlin to expand their offering. It will include a tasting area, retail space, commercial kitchen, fireplace and seating area that will look onto the cider barrels and operation.

Stone & Wood is offering a new all-day immersive brewing experience at its brewery near Byron Bay on the North Coast of NSW. With groups limited to four, participants will enjoy a brewery tour, Cicerone-guided sensory training, tasting from the tank and casual information sessions. Packages also include transfers from Byron Bay, breakfast and lunch at the brewery canteen, and a pub crawl through Byron.

Printhie Wines in Orange is building a cellar door in Nashdale, a 10-minute drive from the centre of town, opening in the second half of 2020. The modern barn-style building will be surrounded by newly planted vineyards of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes and will include a 70-seat restaurant and private tasting room. Visitors will be able to picnic in the apple orchard, enjoy private tastings in a ‘cave’ and have lunch by the dam.



The Sydney Light Rail is due to start carrying passengers from Circular Quay to Randwick in December 2019, and on the Kingsford line by March 2020. The 12km route will have 19 stops from Circular Quay, along George Street to Central Station, through Surry Hills to Moore Park, then to Kensington and Kingsford via Anzac Parade and Randwick via Alison Road. Below is a full-day itinerary using the new Sydney Light Rail. Be amongst the first to experience the city’s newest form of transport.

Start the morning at the Museum of Contemporary Art; a major survey of English artist Cornelia Parker is on from 8 November – 16 February. Hop on the light rail to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) and stop for some shopping in the heritage building – treat yourself to their newly launched RISE style sessions for working women. Travel two more stops to Chinatown for lunch, there’s a plethora of cuisine to choose from but you can’t go wrong with Mamak. Surry Hills is three stops away; enjoy the afternoon at Mild Manners Gallery, shopping at TITLE and Collector Store, or do some people watching over coffee and cake at Kürtősh. Choose from one of two options for dinner – head towards Kingston and get off at Kensington stop for dinner at Pondok Buyung, and then to the Kingsford stop for an ice cream at Passionflower. Or head towards Randwick and get off at Wansey Road for Thai at Tum Zaap, and then hop back on until the Randwick stop for dessert at The Sweet Spot Patisserie.

The Australian Museum will reopen in mid-2020 after a $57.7m renovation which will include a major new touring exhibition hall, flexible gallery and educational spaces as well as more public amenities. Repurposing space to expand the touring exhibition halls will allow the Australian Museum to host one major exhibition or two simultaneously.

The Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment will double the arts and cultural offering at Walsh Bay by 2020, with new theatres, performance spaces and administration offices. Stage Two began in March 2019 to restore the industrial character of the wharves as well as to become home to many of our cultural institutions, including the Sydney Theatre CompanySydney Dance CompanyBangarra Dance TheatreSydney Philharmonia ChoirsGondwana ChoirsThe Song CompanyBell ShakespeareAustralian Chamber Orchestra and Australian Theatre of Young People.


The Thredbo Valley Track is a popular 18km mountain biking track in Kosciuszko National Park that follows the river from Thredbo Alpine Village to Bullocks Flat. The track is currently being extended downstream from Bullocks Flat to Garden Trout Hatchery. The 17km ‘lower’ Thredbo Valley Track extension is due to open in late 2019, and will be perfect for experienced riders keen to test their skills on this more challenging and remote section. A 4km ‘upper’ track extension from Thredbo Alpine Village to Dead Horse Gap is expected to open in 2020.

The Goulburn Regional Art Gallery is undergoing a major refurbishment and will reopen on 6 December 2019. The exhibition spaces are being reconfigured and rebuilt, a dedicated Education Studio will be built to deliver creative learning, and the Workshop will exhibit the Gallery’s collection permanently for the first time. There will be two new exhibitions to celebrate the opening, Of the Sun, about our relationship with the land and sea, and Aishah Kenton’s photographic works.

For an authentic experience of life on a cattle and sheep station, spend five days exploring the working farm Kimo Estate on horseback, one of the oldest properties in the Wagga Wagga region. An expert stockman will guide you and teach you cattle working skills and about Australian horsemanship. You’ll stay in luxury shearers’ quarters, with all meals and drinks included.

Explore the Mid North Coast via an unforgettable scenic joy flight with City and Country Air Charters, based out of Kempsey Airport. You’ll see breathtaking views of whales (in season), Smoky Cape Lighthouse, Hat Head, Kempsey and Crescent Head and South West Rocks during a half-hour flight. They also offer flights over the Blue Mountains and Orange wine region.  

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