These winter school holidays plan an adventure to Central New South Wales. The region has a plethora of exciting family-friendly wintertime experiences on offer: festivals and events, historic tours, gardens and farms to explore, cellar doors, fascinating museums and cultural activities, and more. But it’s bound to be chilly, so make sure you rug up!
Approximately two and a half hours from Sydney, Central New South Wales encompasses Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Canowindra, Grenfell, Parkes and Forbes.
This July, the Bathurst Winter Festival, Winterfest at Mayfield Gardens and Astrofest are all taking place in the region.
The Bathurst Winter Festival, which runs from Saturday 7 July to Sunday 22 July, transforms the city with enchanting light displays, an open-air ice-skating rink and a big ferris wheel. There are twilight markets, food trucks and entertainment program. The festival opening hours are 9 am to 9 pm.
Also running from 7–22 July is WinterFest at Mayfield Gardens, a charming European-style garden estate in Oberon. There’ll be a curling event with daily games, beautiful winter foliage to be seen in sections of the Hawkins Family Garden, and complimentary s’mores (toasted marshmallows dipped in chocolate, cooking crumbs and sprinkles) served in the woodfire garden. Open 9 am to 4.30 pm.
Image: Mayfield Gardens
Fancy some stargazing? Astrofest, an annual festival of astronomy, will be held in Parkes on 14 and 15 July. On Sunday 15 July, daytime astronomy viewings will be conducted on the lawns of the CSIRO Parkes Observatory’s Visitors Centre. Telescopes will be set up for viewing stars, planets, the sun and the moon during daylight, subject to weather conditions.
Aside from these festivals, there are loads of engaging attractions throughout the region. Here are just some of the highlights.
Attractions of Bathurst, Oberon and beyond
- Discover Jenolan Caves, the world’s oldest known open caves, near Oberon. Older kids will love the ‘Legends, Mysteries and Ghosts’ night tour.
- If you have a dinosaur enthusiast in your family, they’ll appreciate a visit to the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum in Bathurst. The ‘Dinosaur in the Dark’ event, on Tuesday 17 July 2018, offers an evening tour by torchlight. The Mini Mammoth exhibition is also on until the end of these school holidays.
- Check out the famous race track at Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit.
- Explore the renowned gold rush town of Hill End. Tours are available teaching about gold panning, fossicking, as well as a visit to an underground gold mine.
- You could take a ride with Yarrabin Horse Riding. Or, enjoy a farmstay experience at Barcoo’s Barn, where the kids can have pony rides, feed the animals and collect eggs.
Image: Jenolan Caves
Attractions of Orange and surrounds
- Heifer Station Winery is so much more than just a cellar door. There’s an onsite petting zoo and farm open every day during the festivals and school holidays.
- ‘Paddock to Plate’ is an exhibition at the new Orange Regional Museum celebrating the region’s rich food and wine production history.
- Snuggle up by the fire in a log cabin at Canobolas Mountain Cabins, featuring beautiful views of the valley and surrounding bush.
Image: Heifer Station Winery
Attractions of Cowra and Canowindra
Attractions of Parkes
- A cultural precinct, The Henry Parkes Centre incorporates four museum collections: The King’s Castle Elvis Exhibit, Parkes Motor Museum, Henry Parkes Museum and the Antique Machinery Collection.
- Parkes Observatory is one of the largest radio telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere and offers opportunities to view the spectacular starry sky.
- Learn about the local indigenous culture of the Wiradjuri people at the newly built Wiradjuri Amphitheatre, with artwork created by local Wiradjuri artists on display.
- For aviation enthusiasts, the HARS Hangar at Parkes Regional Airport provides insights into the area’s significant aviation history.
Attractions of Carcoar
- Carcoar was established around 1838 to give protection to local settlers from bushrangers. Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic sites including the Edmond Blacket Church (1849) and courthouse.
- There are several quirky museums at Carcoar, including the Golden Era Piano Museum, Australia’s only piano museum, and the Carcoar Hospital Museum. Carcoar Toy Museum’s boasts over 2000 toys from the First World War through to modern times.
- For a local farmstay experience, check out Dairy Park Farm Stay, owned by the same family since the early 1800s. Or alternatively, you can stay in an old train carriage at Neville Siding.
Attractions of Forbes and Lachlan Shire
- Explore the ‘Somewhere down the Lachlan’ sculpture trail – a public display of artwork along the riverbanks.
- At Gum Swamp Wildlife Sanctuary you can view some of the 150-plus bird species that frequent the waterway.
- For an energetic lakeside outing, walk or cycle the nine-kilometre track by Lake Forbes and keep an eye out for the family of swans and other birdlife.
- On the Forbes Heritage Trail you can witness the town’s grand historic buildings and visit bushranger Ben Hall’s grave.
- If you’re looking to stay in the area, the Big 4 Forbes Holiday Park offers affordable family accommodation.
All images supplied by Unearth Central NSW