10 Best Things To Do On A NSW Central West Road Trip

A road trip to the NSW Central West makes an excellent holiday or long weekend away. Check out our 10 Best Things To Do in the Central West of NSW and prepare to extend your stay!

The first thing we need to do is quickly establish exactly where and what the Central West of NSW encompasses.

Where is the NSW Central West ?

The Central West is to the west of the Blue Mountains and has an area of over 62,000 square kilometres. The largest population centres are: Bathurst, Cowra, Lithgow, Mudgee, Orange and Parkes. The Central WEst has many smaller and very charming towns: Blayney, Canowindra, Condobolin, Eugowra, Forbes, Grenfell, Gulgong, Kandos, Lake Cargelligo, Millthorpe, Molong, Oberon, Peak Hill, Portland, Rylstone, and Wallerawang.

NSW Central West Maps


A Central West road trip can provide something to delight all the members of the family: there are lots of animal experiences, history and science discoveries, plenty of dinosaurs, deep dark caves, bushrangers and poets, hot air ballooning and outdoor artworks. Check out this list below and see what activities would suit your own family.

Before You Go – Planning Your NSW Central West Road Trip

Well, you’ve started well by reading this article which gives you an overview and some great ideas for what to see and do on your road trip to the Central West of NSW.

It’s also a great idea to check out the Visit Central West website, where you can read about more potential adventures too. Also, check out some of these books and resources.

Indigenous Central West

The NSW Central West is home to the Wiradjuri nation, the largest in Australia. The Wiradjuri nation is bounded by three rivers, the Macquarie River, known to Wiradjuri as the Wamboo, the Lachlan River, the Kalari and the Murrumbidgee, but let’s spell it as Murrumbidjeri.

There is Wiradjuri language app which you can upload onto your phone. Listen to Uncle Stan Grant senior speaking the words of his language and people.

Some good books are:

Growing Up Wiradjuri in Australia by Anita Heiss

Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane

Gudyarra: The First Wiradyuri War of Resistance by Dr Stephen Gapps

Keep an eye on the Central West page of the Welcome To Country Experiences webpage to see what cultural tours are current. You might enjoy a food experience in Mudgee, or a

Indigenous Cultural Adventures in Orange is also good to check up.

The Celestial Emu Rising Over Wattle. Credit Niall MacNeill
The Celestial Emu Rising Over Wattle. Photo credit Niall MacNeill

Stargazing + Star Bathing

The famous Parkes Radio Telescope, known as ‘The Dish’ is what most people first associate with the stars and the Central West. But did you know there is also the Bathurst Oberservatory where you can see and learn about stars.

But of course the darkness of the skies away from towns and cities means that just gazing up at the Milky Way is available all over the Central West. Travel between March and October for the clearest views.

And star lovers must try to get to Astro-Fest in Parkes each July or SkyFest in Condobolin each September where Indigenous experts will explain the night skies and tell starry stories.

Check out the Night Skies page on the Central NSW Tourism website.

Condo Corroboree dancers credit Marion Wighton Packham
Condo Corroboree dancers. Credit Marion Wighton-Packham

Magical Mayfield Gardens

Mayfield Garden – Visit Australia’s largest privately-owned, cool climate garden, Mayfield is a living legacy of the Hawkins family who took their inspiration from the best gardens in Europe. Beautiful in every season with pathways designed to be explored and so many nooks-and-crannies to discover. www.mayfieldgarden.com.au

Plan your visit on the Mayfield Gardens website.

Jenolan Caves are close to Oberon so a visit to these two places together works well.

If you are in Oberon in the autumn you might also like to do some mushroom hunting, check out this article:

Mushroom Hunting around Oberon

Check out the Visit Oberon website to find places to stay and more fun things to do.

Explore the Depths: Central West Caves Tours

Jenolan Caves – did you know that Jenolan Caves are the world’s oldest known open caves. They are over 340 million years old and there are 400 of them! Tours run daily. Click here to read more: www.jenolancaves.org.au A trip to Jenolan works well with a visit to the town of Oberon too.

Abercrombie Caves are close to Trunkey Creek and are also super spectacular. Cave tours are run and there are other interesting activities in the area. Check out the Abercrombie Karst Conservation Area website here.

At Wellington, between Orange and Dubbo there are more spectacular caves with well-run tours that take you deep below the earth’s surface. Check out the Wellington Caves website here.

Wellington Caves
My twins on a tour of Wellington Caves – amazing! See more photos on our Orange post here

Spend a day in Parkes

The Henry Parkes Centre and Information Centre has four museum collections under one roof: Parkes Motor Museum, The King’s Castle Elvis Exhibit, Parkes Museum and the Antique Machinery Collection.Check it all out here: www.henryparkescentre.com.au

Parkes Observatory, ‘The Dish’ – affectionately known as ‘The Dish’, is one of the largest radio telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere and was the location for the Australian film of the same name in 2000. www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au

Visit the Wiradjuri Amphitheatre to find out about the local indigenous culture of the Wiradjuri people. You will find indigenous artwork created by local Wiradjuri artists on display. 

The Parkes Motor Museum
kids in kayaks on Carcoar Dam in the NSW Central West
Kayaking on Carcoar Dam

The Tiny Townships of Carcoar and Millthorpe

  • Carcoar Toy Museum – kids of all ages will love theimpressive display of over 2,000 toys spanning the First World War right through to modern times, from Betty Boop, Dan Dare and Sad Sack to the Simpsons, Japanese Anime and a dedicated Robot Room. Also visit the Golden Era Piano Museum and Carcoar Hospital Museum www.carcoarvillage.com/20th-century-toy-museum
  • Self-guided walking tour – this National Heritage listed town is an incredible place to walk and learn with historic sites including the Edmond Blacket Church (1849) and impressive Courthouse with its rooms curated as historical displays. www.carcoar.com.au
sunrise behind the wire goanna sculpture in Forbes
A goanna sculpture on the Sculpture Down the Lachlan Culture Trail

A Day of Fun in Forbes

Sculpture Down the Lachlan Culture Trail in Forbes is a terrific display of outdoor public art featuring local and renowned artists. This sculpture trail is one of the best known outdoor public artwork displays in the NSW Central West. Plan your trip at: www.somewheredownthelachlan.com/home

Lake Forbes nine-kilometre walkway or cycling track running alongside it which is both pretty and an interesting pace to observe wildlife like the local swans. You might also see the local Forbes Dragon Boat Club in training.

Take a walk back in time with the Forbes Heritage Trail, you will find many grand old buildings and you can visit bushranger Ben Hall’s grave plus 20 more heritage local landmarks.

Read more about Forbes here: www.forbes.nsw.gov.au

Birdwatching at Gum Swamp in Forbes
You can spot lost of birds at Gum Swamp in Forbes
Canola and ballooning over Cowra
Hot air ballooning over the canola fields around Cowra

Break out in Cowra and Canowindra

The ancient ‘Age of Fishes’ Museum – the variety of fishy fossils on display at this fascinating museums are astounding. Learn about history from the dawn of time, shown in interesting and child-friendly displays.

Check out the Age of the Fishes Museum website here.

Age of Fishes Canowindra 21
The kids and I loved our visit to see the fossils at this museum
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Blind Freddy’s Bushranger Tours – let Craig Lawler show you the wild west in the central West. Craig is a bushranger expert and his range of tours will have something for everyone. You will learn about the bushranger history with its infamous heroes and good cops and bad cops.

Find the Blind Freddy’s Bushranger Tours website here.

Cowra Japanese gardens 9
The Gardens are exquisite, a charming and relaxing place to wander
Cowra Japanese gardens 11 1
Bonsai lovers will find many mini trees to delight them

Cowra Garden – the beautiful Gardens at Cowra are a haven of peace. These are part of the town’s historic links with Japan after Cowra became a camp for Japanese internees and POWS during the war. You can visit the site of the camp and learn about the famous Cowra Breakout on signs here and at the exhibition at the Visitor Centre. The Gardens website is at www.cowragarden.com.au. Find more interesting activities in Cowra at Visit Cowra.

Balloon Joy Flights for a magnificent and awe inspiring treat, see this gorgeous area from the air with a balloon flight from Canowindra, which is also home to an annual Balloon Festival.

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Wallangreen Sculpture Garden. Credit Visit Weddin

Castles + Sculptures in Grenfell

The small town of Grenfell is certainly worth a visit, especially if you time your stay to one of the Open Days at Iandra Castle, a grand privately owned estate listed on the NSW Heritage Database, which welcomes guests for designated open days to explore the homestead and gardens. Check out open days on the Iandra Castle website here.

Also in Grenfell is the Wallangreen Sculpture Garden a one hectare garden native and exotic trees and scrubs with over 100 sculptures and a dry stone wall planted with succulents and other plants.

Home of Henry Lawson – Grenfell is Henry Lawson country where the celebrated poet was born in a tent on the goldfields in 1867. Today, see the Henry Lawson Obelisk, a bust of Henry Lawson on Main Street.

Explore this interesting corner of the Central West further on the Visit Weddin website.

Gold Panning in Mudgee, Orange and Bathurst

These larger towns are where you can find history, museums, gold panning and plenty of great cafes, restaurants, vineyards and bars.

On Hello Sydney Kids we have detailed descriptions of all the kid-friendly things to do in these town.

Visit Orange with the Kids

A Weekend in Mudgee with The Family

15 Things To Do in Bathurst With Kids

You might also be interested in finding a home stay in the Central West, start looking on this article: Best NSW Family Farmstays

Find more road trips and drives around NSW on the Visit NSW website. There is a Tour of Caves and Fossils through the NSW Central West featured there.

If you love to swim check out this article: Wild Swimming In the NSW Central West

Find lots more great Australian family holidays here.

You’re all sorted for your NSW Central Wes road trip.

Do leave a comment and tell us of any other fantastic places you find!

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  1. says: Lindy

    Amusu Theatre, Manildra. 2865

    The AMUSU Theatre is located in Manildra, Central West NSW, a scenic 4 hour drive from Sydney over the Blue Mountains and not so far away Or for the locals a short 30 minute drive from Orange or Parkes. It is a rare purpose built Art Deco theatre that has been continuously operated since it was built in 1936. AMUSU Theatre still boasts the original carbon projectors, original seating including the ‘Love Seat’, original flooring, curtains and for a special touch, original old movie posters of yesteryear decorate the walls.

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