Films are a fantastic way to transport us to foreign – and familiar – places. These 10 films depict different parts of NSW, from the Harbour City of Sydney and the famous Bondi Beach, to the sunny mid-North Coast, and the dramatic landscape of Outback NSW. You can settle in and bookmark locations you love for future trips to NSW.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
One of Australia’s most iconic films, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, follows the journey of three drag queen performers on a tour across the outback of NSW, famously stopping in the city of Broken Hill. The enduring image of the three performers in full costume against the backdrop of the red desert is uniquely Australian. In the film, they go shopping on Argent Street, stay in a pub (which is now The Palace Hotel) and have a bus breakdown at Mundi Mundi Plain Lookout. The film is the inspiration behind the annual Broken Heel Festival, where the country’s best drag performers descend onto Central West NSW for a fabulous celebration of drag.
Palm Beach is set in Sydney’s most northerly suburb, Palm Beach, whose golden sand and sparkling blue sea provide a spectacular backdrop for the unfolding drama. Locations such as Pittwater, The Basin, the iconic Boathouse Restaurant and the stunning views from the Barrenjoey Headland (Sydney’s northernmost seaside point) were used in the film. Beautiful beaches and luxurious homes with waterfront views are an enticing promise to the endless summer vibe for visitors to this pretty enclave.
Looking for Alibrandi
Set in Sydney, this heartwarming film follows teenager Josie Alibrandi during her last year of high school. Spot famous Sydney landmarks including the iconic Bondi Beach, the sandstone buildings of the University of Sydney, and the entrance to the Sydney Opera House. Josie’s prestigious school (Kincoppal) can also be spotted from the picturesque Harbour Walk between Rose Bay and Watsons Bay.
The Dish tells the story of Australia’s role in broadcasting the Apollo 11 moon landing, specifically at the Parkes Observatory, near the town of Parkes in the Central West region of NSW. Many of the scenes were filmed in nearby Forbes, a quaint country town on the banks of the Lachlan River. Parkes is also home to the annual Parkes Elvis Festival, a celebration of the musical legend where thousands of impersonators visit the town for a festival spanning more than 150 events across four days.
This classic 90s comedy-drama stars Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths, following Muriel’s (Collette) journey from the fictional small town of Porpoise Spit to the bright lights of Sydney. The laid-back coastal town of Tweed Heads was the filming location for Porpoise Spit. Located on the far north coast of New South Wales close to the famous Byron Bay, the town is part of the Tweed – a lush region of rainforests, seemingly endless stretches of coastline, opportunities to get up close with whales, dolphins and sea turtles, and an emerging foodie and art scene. Plenty of Sydney landmarks can also be spotted in the film, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, as well as the famous Oxford Street.
Travel back to Sydney in the 1980s with this rock musical. Sydney plays a central role in the film – the opening scene is of the lead character, Jackie Mullins, walking across a tightrope in the centre of downtown Sydney, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background. Later in the film, she sings at the Bondi Pavillion (one of Australia’s cultural icons), which is transformed into a neon-lit nightclub. She lives in a pub under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and performs a song dancing along the bartop – the venue is Harbour View Hotel, which still exists today. The kitsch aesthetic and colourful costumes encapsulate the 1980s pop scene of Australia.
Mad Max 2
A cult Australian film starring Mel Gibson, Mad Max 2 was famously filmed around the Outback city of Broken Hill, whose vast, cinematic desert landscapes make for an impressive backdrop. Parts of the film were also set in nearby Silverton, a former mining town with a fascinating history. You can visit the original Silverton Hotel and the Mad Max Museum, which offers a large collection of photographs, memorabilia and costumes from the film.
The Inbetweeners 2
The award-winning British TV show The Inbetweeners follows the lives of four teenage boys in their last years of school. The show led to two spin-off movies – the second of which was filmed in Australia, where the friends undertake a road trip from Sydney to Byron Bay to get the backpacker experience. Plan your own road trip exploring this classic coastal route, taking in destinations such as the Central Coast, Port Macquarie and Yamba along the way. When you arrive, you can stay at Arts Factory Lodge in Byron Bay, the same hostel the characters stay at in the film.
Set on the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney, be entranced by stunning scenes on the river and learn about Australia’s long-running oyster industry.. Bookmark a trip to taste these delicious oysters yourself at the Hawkesbury River Oyster Shed, or head on a road trip along NSW’s Oyster Coast in the south, where you can taste freshly shucked Sydney Rock oysters on a tour or in one of many fantastic seafood restaurants.
This whimsical romantic comedy takes place mostly in Bellingen, on the mid-North Coast of NSW, close to Coffs Harbour and a great pit stop on a road trip from Sydney to Byron Bay. Bellingenisabeautifultownwithawelcoming vibe,andmakestheperfectbasetoexplorethe surrounding national parks, gorgeous farmland, World-Heritage listed rainforest and waterfalls that make up one of Australia’s most scenic drives, the Waterfall Way.