Kangaroo Valley, South Coast, NSW, Australia

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Just 100 miles (160km) from Sydney, there's a small village that has a very big reputation. You will find only around 360 permanent residents within the National Trust town of Kangaroo Valley, but they take great pride in living in what is often referred to as "the most beautiful valley in Australia." They are more than willing to share their good fortune with tourists, offering Kangaroo Valley accommodations that are as pleasant to stay in as the area is to visit. Whenever you do visit the valley, you will come away thinking that it is not just one of the most beautiful in Australia, but ranks with the most beautiful in the whole world.

Whether you approach Kangaroo Valley from Canberra or Sydney, the drive takes only 2 hours and much of that is through beautiful rolling hills. It can truly be said of this valley that "getting there is half the fun" and often tourists find that the drive takes much longer as they make so many stops along the way. Once you get there, you are treated with a taste of old Australia before you even enter the town when you cross the historical Hampden Bridge, a lovely sandstone bridge built in 1898. This suspension bridge is the oldest surviving bridge of its kind in Australia.

When surveyor and explorer George Evans looked down upon Kangaroo Valley from the heights of neighboring Mount Tapatallee in 1912, entranced by the vision before him, he commented that "no painter could beautify" what he saw before him. This view has been shared for over 20,000 years. The indigenous inhabitants considers it to be sacred and attributes healing powers to the region. The European settlers who arrived not long after Evans put it on the map coveted the area because of its rich soil and abundance of water. Except for the first exploitation of the wonderful Australian cedars in the area, even early settlers were eager to protect the region's natural splendor.

Kangaroo Valley naturally draws individuals with artistic and esthetic sensibilities. Because of this, the town seems to fit in perfectly with its surrounding environment and lots of the shops in the village feature fine arts, crafts and antiques, while others focus on keeping guests well fed with gourmet food. The Aussie meat pie, for example, isn't usually related to gourmet food, but at the Barrengarry Store, you are able to choose from a number of what many say are the most delicious and nutritious meat pies in Australia.

Of course, you will not want to stay inside too much when you're in Kangaroo Valley. The scenery is simply too magnificent. Bush walking is as well-liked today as it had been with the aborigines 20,000 years ago. Remarkably, you can literally follow in their footsteps, because many of their trails remain. There is an abundance of wildlife in the valley and on the surrounding slopes. The locals just ask that you tread gently and treat their unspoiled paradise with the respect it deserves. You won't need to be reminded, though. There's something about Kangaroo Valley that makes you want it to remain just as it is forever.