This time last year I decided to embark on a road trip with three of the kids in tow. The motivation behind the trip was to follow the ART SILOS, visit towns with family connections, check out the incredible galleries throughout regional NSW and get up some driving hours for one of the kids. The plan was to circle down near the Newell Highway as far as Canberra and travel back via Sydney however, for the sake of efficiency this post will only deal with the journey to the capital with a dedicated post for Canberra, Sydney and the return journey saved for another day.
The best laid plans
Leaving home with three kids (one tween and two teens) is always an adventure, particularly when said children are used to highly organised travel (a necessity when embarking on almost any trip as a family of six). This time however, no accommodation bookings had been made prior which was the cause of some concern from the older two once they realised there was no set destination for the end of each day and we would just find a place to stay once we had had enough of driving.
On leaving Toowoomba we headed west towards Goondiwindi via Yelarbon for a quick Art Silo viewing on the way. We reached Goondi in a little under three hours and, after a quick coffee and snack at The Larder we hopped back in the car, this time towards Moree for more food and a visit to The Moree Gallery before making our way towards GUNNEDAH for the night. We arrived just in time to see the Art Silo and Water tower before the sun went down. After a brief scout around we found rooms at The Mackellar Motel before heading out in search of dinner. The teens, not quite au fair with the cultural makeup of the country town were amazed at the number of Chinese restaurants per capita and debated fiercely over which one to try. So, to avoid more arguments, we settled on the Court House hotel for a very good steak.
Rooms at The Mackellar are clean and comfortable, with good family options available. They are located in the main street and walking distance from plenty of food and drink options as well as the local Woollies. However if you are after something for a little longer or a little fancier then you could check out the few Airbnb’s on offer, although you may need to have more of an idea where you are staying each night as these mostly don’t allow for walk-ins. I am also quite partial to Pub accomodation so if this is up your ally then I recommend giving THE GUNNEDAH HOTEL a go, but be prepared for shared bathrooms.
My kids love nothing more than motel continental breakfasts (except for snow…they love snow more) so fuelled with this and a solid takeaway coffee from The Verdict we were on the road again, this time towards Dubbo via the Art Silo at Dunedoo which is a journey of just under three hours. Having left Gunnedah early we arrived at around 10 so grabbed a quick coffee and a snack and the lovely PRESS cafe and pressed on towards Parkes via Peak Hill. PEAK HILL while tiny is filled with history so, after viewing the silo, a quick stop at the open cut gold mine was required. This was well worth the detour and was the start of our new focus on gold and bushrangers as well as art, causing a few changes to the route plans.
No visit to PARKES is possible without a visit to the CSIRO RADIO TELESCOPE Discover Centre AKA The Dish. It simply has to be seen up close to be believed and the attached gift shop is filled with information on its origin and place in space exploration history. You might even pick up a copy of the DVD for future research.
Next on the route was FORBES for the Historical museum and a visit to Ben Hall's grave which is not his actual grave but more a memorial. The museum, while underwhelming from the outside, has a fascinating array of war history as well as plenty of information on the Gold Rush and Ben Hall so is well worth a visit. Bring cash for the admission as there are no card facilities.
From here we headed to EUGOWRA to see my Grandfather’s name on the War Memorial as well as view the Bushranger mural. If not for the family link this little detour could be avoided, although the town and drive is pretty if you have the time.
We arrived in COWRA in the early afternoon and, after booking into the Breakout Motor Inn, headed to the Japanese Gardens and Cultural Centre and Bellevue Hill Reserve Lookout for the afternoon. We arrived too late for the gardens so spent the remainder of the afternoon at the lookout and nearby playground until sundown. The lookout offers 360 degree views of the town and surrounding farmland as well as slides and swings built amongst the hill that are suitable for all ages.
Food options in Cowra are plentiful and typical of a country town including Fish and Chips, Chinese, Sushi, cafes and a range of pubs. We stuck to type and chose the Railway Hotel despite requests from the tween for KFC before bedding down for the night in the cosy family suite.
The following morning we checked out, grabbed breakfast at The Kendall Street cafe and headed out to the Cowra POW Camp. After a quick history lesson covering the internment of Japanese, Italians and other German allies in WW2 we located the camp. I was overwhelmed by the stillness and sadness that enveloped the space and, despite few buildings standing, you could build a picture of what the camp looked like when in service as well as the desperation felt by the inmates.
We debated whether or not to attempt a visit to the Japanese Gardens and Cultural Centre again after missing them the day before and, having now seen what is on offer, would never even consider skipping them. These, the cemetery and the POW camp make Cowra one of the most unique spaces in the state and well worth visiting.
Our original trip had us heading towards WAGGA WAGGA and HOLBROOK via YOUNG, however our only accomodation booking was looming in Canberra later that day so we saved that leg for another time and headed straight for the capital via Yass.
There are many possible variations to this trip that include spending more time in any one of the regions passed through on the way. The key to this, and any road trip with kids, is to stop where and when you need, taking your time to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination.