With its diverse natural landscape, immersive museums and rich history, Central NSW offers an exciting country escape for all ages. From farmyard fairytales in Bathurst to gold mining legends in Parkes and stunning countryside settings to explore in Cowra, this captivating region provides the ultimate mix of playtime and learning time, with endless adventures on offer for both kids and adults.
1. CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope
The Dish, the famed radio telescope at CSIRO Parkes Observatory, is a must-see for both fans of astronomy and the legendary Australian movie of the same name. Marvel at the dish from the viewing area as it moves, controlled by real-life astronomers studying the universe. Then head to the discovery centre to get to know the telescope’s world famous history as you wander the free astronomy and space science exhibition, or get your tickets to the 3D theatre show. Kids can also play detective for the day on the AstroKids Scavenger Hunt – search for clues around the discovery centre to solve a space-themed puzzle, suitable for ages seven to 14.
2. Barcoos Barn, Perthville
Be inspired by the country lifestyle with a farm experience at Barcoos Barn, just outside of Bathurst. Pull on your gumboots and book in for activities including feeding the lambs, alpacas, chickens and ducks; pony rides; meeting Eeyore the donkey; and seeing Georgie Pig perform some tricks. You can also settle in for a farm stay, with a range of accommodation options including a heritage farmhouse, self-contained units and more. Unwind and enjoy the crisp, open country air while the kids live out their dream farmyard fairytale.
3. Prisoner of War Hologram Theatre
For an immersive look into Cowra’s poignant WWII history, the Prisoner of War Hologram Theatre offers an engaging holographic performance showcasing the 1944 Cowra breakout, when more than 1000 captured Japanese soldiers launched a mass escape attack on guards. The tale is shared through a remarkable nine-minute hologram of Claire, a young Cowra local, who tells the story of the Cowra Breakout and its dramatic aftermath. This must-see experience will capture the minds and hearts of all visitors – like renowned American travel writer, Bill Bryson, who watched it three times during his visit.
4. Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum, Bathurst
This fascinating museum is home to the internationally renowned Somerville Collection of more than 5000 rare minerals and fossils from around the world. Travel through time and view ancient specimens such as a sabre tooth cat skull, fossils in amber, fossilised dinosaur eggs, raw gemstones and more, and learn about their place on earth billions of years ago. Plus, don’t miss the impressive, and Australia’s most complete, Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.
5. Peak Hill Gold Mine
Forming a striking backdrop to the Peak Hill township, the Peak Hill Gold Mine sits high on a hilltop and offers an insight into life during the Gold Rush era. Wander along the free, self-guided trail and explore the open-cut mine that produced more than 60,000 ounces of gold from 500,000 tonnes of rock, between 1893 and 1917, and was still mined for the precious metal until 2002. Discover preserved mining techniques and old workings, then make your way to the top observation platform for a dramatic view of the five open cuts and natural surrounds.
6. Cowra Japanese Garden
Add a dose of calm to your adventure with a stroll through the spectacular Cowra Japanese Gardens. Spanning more than five hectares, the Gardens are a picture-perfect oasis of manicured hedges as well as waterfalls, lakes and streams. Give the kids a dose of culture with Japanese-themed activities hosted throughout the year, including traditional ceremonies and craft workshops. The in-garden café serves both Japanese and Australian delights, with picturesque views.
7. Abercrombie House, Bathurst
More time travelling can be found at Bathurst’s Abercrombie House. Built in the 1870s, this grand country home has been meticulously restored and preserved to reflect the Scottish Baronial-style architecture of the era. Roam around the magnificent gardens and outbuildings before exploring the striking interiors, with grand staircase and ballroom. There are kids’ night tours during the school holidays, with a torch-lit house and garden walk that happily ends with chocolate milk and cookies.
8. Henry Parkes Centre
Whether your crew love music, cars or antique treasures, the Henry Parkes Centre has a dedicated space to explore all passions. Take a selfie with a life-size Elvis Presley and relive the star’s life and career at The King’s Castle. At the Parkes Motor Museum, rev heads will love the extensive collection of heritage motor vehicles through the ages. Or transport yourself back to the 1800s at the Moat Cottage Replica and learn all about Parkes’ namesake, Sir Henry Parkes, through the intriguing theatre experience. Don’t forget to check out the Henry Parkes Museum & Antique Machinery Collection to get an insight into early life in this heritage country town.
9. Cowra Nature Based Adventure Playground
The great outdoors is nature’s best playground, and the newly opened Nature Based Adventure Playground in Cowra blends the natural environment into a kid-friendly playground setting. Thrills on offer include winding slides, two flying foxes, a rotating mousewheel, a 9m-high climbing frame, plus a dedicated dance stage for scheduled Indigenous ceremonies. When it’s time to wind down and refuel, take advantage of the shaded picnic facilities, free barbecues and panoramic bush views.