Top places to visit in NSW during the winter holidays
Hit the road with the family and help our beautiful bush destinations bounce back from what's been a very tough year.
Here are just some of the stunning NSW destinations looking forward to hosting you.
1. RIDE THE RAILS
Pack your favourite snuggie and enjoy a journey through the countryside by train. The Discovery Pass ticket provides unlimited Sunday travel on most trains, buses, ferries and light rail, as far as the Central Coast, Hunter region, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains. Get off at Bowral Station and visit the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame. If you enjoy water views, ride the ferry down the Parramatta River or over the harbour to Manly. transportnsw.info
2. EXPLORE THE COAST
Discover the pristine beaches of the Sapphire Coast and go paddleboarding or throw in a line at Tathra Wharf. Snorkel with seals at Montague Island and head to Bega to try its world-famous cheese, then relax at the Bermagui Fishermen's Wharf for freshly caught fish and chips. The Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre in Eden has exciting school holiday programs for the littlies.
The South Coast holds many charms and has so much to offer; from its natural beauty to delicious baked goods. Just south of Batemans Bay, Mogo Wildlife Park features many of the world's rare species. The zoo is offering its new annual pass, which also includes 12 months unlimited entry to sister park, Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney's west. Bookings essential. mogowildlifepark.com.au; sapphirecoastdiscovery.com.au
3. SNUGGLE IN A CAFE
Try The Henson at Marrickville or Coogee Pavilion for some kid-friendly dining. The Grounds of Alexandria and Bitton are both great for families looking for a change of scene, and check out the fantastic outdoor play area that's been set up at Twinkle Kids Cafe in Burwood. thehenson.com.au; thegrounds.com.au; bittongourmet.com.au
4. HAVE AN INLAND ADVENTURE
The quaint towns of the Central West are a must-see. In Dubbo, the Great Big Adventure Pass gives you access to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Old Dubbo Gaol and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Family of four passes from $190. Just outside of Mudgee, the Ganguddy-Dunns Swamp campground in Wollemi National Park is perfect for a family camping trip. Bookings essential.
5. SOAK UP THE ATMOSPHERE
Get a different perspective of Sydney from the city's west - the Blue Mountains. Take a scenic two-hour train ride from Central and get off at Leura to soak up the village life. Echo Point is the best vantage point for taking in the Three Sisters, and indulge in some hot chocolate at the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company. The Fairmont Resort & Spa might have temporarily closed their kids' zone, but you can still circle around the grounds on the Fairmont Express Train Ride complete with sound effects.
6. REACH SOARING PEAKS
Lift tickets are all sold out at the major resorts but you can still take the kids to the Snowy Mountains for a bite of winter chill. The Halfway Flat campsite in the Lower Snowy River is great for spotting wildlife with kangaroos and emus and wombats coming out at night. Bookings essential. nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
7. TAKE A SCENIC STROLL
Check out the stunning Malabar Headland walk, finished with a hot chocolate at Maroubra, or enjoy a family ramble along the Glebe Foreshore Walk, starting at Bicentennial Park, and see relics from the area's industrial past as you make your way to Sydney Fish Market for lunch. The Hermitage Foreshore Walk, between Rose Bay and Watsons Bay, provides Sydney Harbour views through the gum trees, and glimpses of some of Sydney's lesser-known beaches. Finish up with fish and chips at Watsons Bay, before a ferry ride back.
8. RIDE A BIKE
Cycling is a great way to explore some of the state's largest parks, from Centennial Park to Bicentennial Park, Western Sydney Parklands and regional and coastal cities' green space. Explore the pathways in Stuart Park, which features a 8.6 metre high SkyTower, complete with three giant slides and two flying foxes. Climb the 12m tower or spin around the carousel at Speers Point Park in Newcastle. There's also a maze, bike track and even a quiet zone for parents to seek a moment's serenity.
9. RECONNECT WITH NATURE
Scenic national parks is just one of the hallmarks of the Shoalhaven Coast. Go dolphin watching in Jervis Bay, kayak the Kangaroo River in Kangaroo Valley, shop around Berry's arts, craft and antique stores or take a surf lesson at Gerringong Surf School. Along the way, families can stay at beachside Big4 Holiday Parks, offering cabin accommodation, caravan sites and camping. big4.com.au; gerringongsurfschool.com.au
10. ESCAPE TO CANBERRA
No visit to Canberra is complete without a stop at the National Zoo and Aquarium. The attraction takes the interaction a step further, with the opportunity to enter the cheetah enclosure and play with the world's fastest land animal. Lovers of Australian art are well catered for at the National Gallery of Australia, with 60 works by some of Europe's most revered artists on display. At the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Australia's people, rather than landscapes, are the focus. Bookings essential.
TOP NSW PLAYGROUNDS
Tumbling down a slide or flying a colourful kite at a public playground is one of life's simple pleasures. Here are some of the best - and their main attractions.
1. BUNGARRIBEE PARK, WESTERN SYDNEY
Amazing flying foxes and swing sets.
2. LIZARD LOG PARK, ABBOTSBURY
A nature-themed playground with scenic walking and a cycling track.
3. TAMWORTH REGIONAL PLAYGROUND, TAMWORTH
A 3D climbing adventure, slides and a splash park.
4. LIVVI'S PLACE, RYDE
Slides built into the hill and there's a spinning rope pyramid.
5. WULABA PARK, WATERLOO
A towering 3-storey slippery dip.
6. DARLING QUARTER PLAYGROUND, DARLING HARBOUR
An 8m long slide, suspended balancing ropes, flying fox and sand diggers.
7. FAIRFIELD ADVENTURE PARK, FAIRFIELD
An 11m high spider web climbing frame, a sky bridge and a flying fox.
8. BLAXLAND RIVERSIDE PARK, NEWINGTON
Multi-level tree house, double flying fox, scramble wall and mega-swing.
9. SPEERS POINT PARK, NEWCASTLE
A giant 12m climbing tower which leads to a 9m spiral slide.
10. STUART PARK, WOLLONGONG
A double gyro for spinning, swinging and bouncing.
Originally published as Top places to visit in NSW during the winter holidays