Koalas, farmstays, waterparks: Here’s how you do family bonding time on your Sydney holiday
When you’re travelling with the whole family, everyone has to enjoy the trip, right? And while your nightlife and food scene’s already covered, you’ve got to have something to please the tots, tweens, teenagers and, naturally, the parents.
In partnership with Destination NSW.
With more travel happening plus the upcoming year-end holidays, activities must cater for everyone in the company with you. And it’s not hard if you’re headed to New South Wales (NSW). The Australian state has no lack of activities that cater for the youngest, the oldest and everyone in-between. From exploring the country’s unique marine life to getting a digital detox in the countryside, you’ll be able to find it in NSW.
Simply take a drive out from Sydney, the state’s busy and bustling capital and you could be enjoying the peaceful plains amongst animals or swimming with sharks. Either way, making plans in NSW is a breeze when there’s something for everybody.
To say Australia is a wildlife haven is an understatement. It’s home to over 200,000 species of animal life and about 50,000 “known” species of marine life, some of which are still being researched and discovered.
There are some places which go beyond your usual zoo or aquarium visit to allow a better insight to these indigenous wildlife. Consider taking an eco-friendly or sustainable approach to these visits as some experiences serve as conservation efforts to rebuilding the natural environments to rehome or rehabilitate injured wildlife.
1. Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary
If you’re on your way along the Legendary Pacific Coast, north of Sydney to Port Stephens, make a pitstop in Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary.
The sanctuary works in partnership with the Port Stephens Koala Hospital to look after and help sick, injured and orphaned koalas recover in an idyllic bushland, next to the stunning beaches and world-class surfing breaks. Visitors can learn more about what koalas need to survive in the wild and how these animals flourish with care, in a similar natural habitat.
The sanctuary features a 250m Story Walk that provides an immersive education on the koala and its life through artistic sculptures. Don’t miss the Newcastle Airport Skywalk for a treetop experience, stretching 225m and offering a bird’s eye view of the marsupial’s tree homes.
If you’re looking to spend some time in the area, the sanctuary also offers stays. The Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary is open daily from 9am to 5pm, with earlier closing times on Christmas Day and in the winter. Tickets are from A$28 (S$26) and more information here.
2. Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounter
An interactive aquarium dedicated to ocean conservation, the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounter brings knowledge of marine life with their close encounters.
Wade into shallow waters for an intimate encounter with sharks or stingrays. Alternatively, put on your wetsuit and dive into the waters to snorkel alongside the zebra sharks, rescued from the nearby waters. Or get cuddles with the rays or have them swim over your lap in the waters of the lagoon.
Entry to the aquarium is A$38 and includes the Shallow Waters Encounter. For more information, go here.
3. Llama Collective
Llamas are not just for children’s nursery rhymes – they are bred for fibre production, animal-facilitated therapy and act as guardians for other livestock, such as sheep.
They make great pets, too – imagine walking them against the scenic backdrop of Hunter Valley’s Broken Back Range. The Llama Collective brings that to life with a Walking with Llamas experience that takes you on a 3km walk with one of the friendly llamas, on the grounds of Ben Ean Vineyards, Pokolbin.
Children ages six and above will love this experience. What’s more, being in the Hunter Valley, you’ll be able to round up the trip with cheese at the Fat Cow Cheese Shop, or get delicious chocolates at the D’Vine Treats chocolate shop. Finally, adults can make off with some wine at the vineyard’s cellar door.
The llama walk starts at A$80 per person. More information can be found here while bookings and enquiries can be made via email at enquiries [at] thellamacollective.com.au.
4. Wildlife Retreat At Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Taronga Zoo cares for more than 5,000 animals, from 350 species and we now know that many of these are threatened. In addition to its conservation efforts, the zoo has also created its Wildlife Retreat at Cammeraygal country, nestled within its grounds, overlooking the Sydney Harbour from its North Sydney location. The retreat offers a combination of stays.
Alternatively, there's the Roar and Snore experience within Taronga Zoo. Available from Tuesday to Sunday or nightly during the Australian school holidays, it kicks off welcome drinks and a buffet dinner before a night safari visit. For the night’s stay, you’ll sleep in a pitched luxury tent for a truly immersive outdoor “safari-like” camp. In the morning, see behind-the-scenes action at the zoo and after breakfast, finish your wildlife retreat with a daytime visit to the zoo.
FARMSTAYS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
Farmstays are gaining popularity as more urban-folk turn to ways to experience what we lack in the city – hello, Singaporeans!
Since farmers have had to change the way they work, and people in general want to have unique experiences, these stays are a novel way to do some digital detox and get back to the simple life.
What with fresh country air, tractor rides across undulating lands, learning about harvesting and sustainable farm-to-table living, what’s not to like?
1. Callubri Station
Steeped in 140 years of family history and a heritage in merino wool and lamb production, Callubri Station in Central West New South Wales is a working sheep farm over 115,000 hectares.
The station has preserved an original wool shed, which still holds its heritage sheep shearing stands for wool, plus spaces converted into function rooms for weddings.
This super secluded space can have only a maximum of 10 guests at any one time and it offers two types of accommodation on its farm stay facility.
One is the all-encompassing Sky Suites Experience, starting from A$745 a night, which offers twin-sharing options and daily activities around the farm with an experienced local guide. What’s more, the full-board stay includes all meals plus a three-course chef’s dinner at The Shearers’ Quarters nightly. Be wowed by the view and sun lounges as well as a deck that overlooks your very own 12m-long mineral pool with jets.
The other option is a scaled-down River Suite, starting from A$495 per night, in a cosy room with an en suite. You can book an all-inclusive package much like the Sky Suite’s activities or opt for a traveller’s package that serves up a mini sampler of the station’s vibe sans guided activities and tours.
Callubri Station is at the outback of Central West NSW in Buddabadah. Do take note that it's in the midst of building a family room so for now, only children 12 years and above are suitable for the stay. For more information and bookings, go here.
2. Corynnia Station
Spread across 6,880 hectares, Corynnia Station is home to 11,000 sheep, reared for their soft wool. The rustic working farm is one of Australia’s merino wool suppliers.
Because of its sprawling size, there’s no end to your options when it comes to activities, such as biking, setting up campfires, bushwalking, bird-watching and spotting wildlife.
The station is true to its country heritage – all rooms come with the creature comforts of en suite bathrooms, air-conditioning and heating but it does not have TV, forcing you to embrace the quiet and be still with nature.
There are three types of accommodation with twin-sharing options, from A$150 to A$900 per night. More information and bookings available here.
This beautiful country retreat operates as a merino wool and cattle station in the Great Dividing Range, located in the charming Southern Tablelands of NSW.
The Markdale is located across a 2,550 hectare property and provides farmstay accommodation for up to 24 people in its four stay options, from a two-bedder stone house to an original homestead built in the 1850s for four.
Not only will you get to experience rolling hills of the ranges, and get knowledge about the livestock farming, you’ll be able to walk around the 5-acre Edna Walling garden – an award-winning landscaped garden designed in 1949 by landscape pioneer Edna Walling.
The glorious backdrop of the Ranges’ paddocks and hills is offset by Walling’s use of blue and white wisteria, weeping elms, roses with silver birch, pinoaks, hawthorns, golden elms, and eucalyptus trees that frame the garden.
Take a walk in this garden every day, after looking into the cattle on the working farm. Finish off the day in the cottage by the fireplace and upload your pictures on Instagram. Yes, this farmstay comes with Wi-Fi. What’s not to love?
For more information, go here.
FOR THE WATER BABIES
There are never-ending water activities to partake in NSW, whether you’re looking to surf, paddle, slide or row. While Australia has often been associated with surfing, watersports has taken on more dimensions and there are a host of other activities you can indulge in – rash shirt or wet suit not always needed!
1. Cables Wake Park
Located in Western Sydney, the Cables Wake Park is actually two parks in one. There’s the Cables Wake Park for you to wakeboard, kneeboard, and learn watersports such as waterskiing.
For those who aren’t keen on these higher stakes activities, then the Cables Aqua Park is the answer. A floating park of giant inflatable slides, jumping pillows, and other blow-up floaties, the Cables Aqua Park is a giant bouncy castle on water for the young and not-so-young.
If you prefer to stay dry, the park has got playgrounds, barbecue pits and basketball or volleyball courts, too. You’ll definitely find something to keep you busy while waiting for the others in your party to finish.
The Cables Wake Park is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Meanwhile, the Cables Aqua Park is open Thursdays and Fridays from 1pm to 5pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm from October to November. In December and January, the park is open daily from 10am to 5pm. For more information and tickets, click here.
2. The Clarence Canoe and Kayak Trail
Along the Northern Rivers near Grafton, you can row along 195km of river between the Nymboi-Binderay National Park and the township of Copmanhurst. The Clarence Canoe and Kayak trail within the park is the country’s longest mapped whitewater trail. It combines three wild river systems from the Nymboidia, Mann and Clarence, and allows for paddlers to enjoy the trail across its eight sections.
Start off gently rowing down the Nymboida River or swim in the river’s tranquil waters. However, as you progress, you’ll find yourself at the Mann River which proffers whitewater rafting for beginners. The waters also allow for freshwater fishing, canoeing and, for the less physically inclined, camping by the riverside. The entire Clarence Canoe and Kayak trail has eight waterfalls, and 12 campsites on the banks over its eight sections before the last rest stop at Copmanhurst.