All Shook Up over Parkes

Sue marr dis­cov­ers there is as­tron­omy, avi­a­tion, an­i­mals and a whole lot of Elvis ac­tion packed into Parkes.

Holiday with Kids - - Parkes, Nsw -

It’s hard to put a fin­ger on ex­actly what makes a visit to the NSW cen­tral-west town of Parkes so mem­o­rable and down­right en­joy­able. Just an hour’s drive from Or­ange and a tick over 360 kilo­me­tres from Syd­ney, it’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, as a base for ex­plor­ing the re­gion or for a must-stop breather on an in­trastate road trip.

As the lo­cal tourism slo­gan en­cap­su­lates, ‘it all adds up’ and yes, it does. In so many dif­fer­ent ways.

Coun­try charm

It starts with the friendly wel­come that only a true coun­try town can ad­min­is­ter and res­onates long after you leave. It wraps you in a blan­ket of hospi­tal­ity and ser­vice rarely ex­pe­ri­enced by big city res­i­dents. For chil­dren grow­ing up in cityscapes es­pe­cially, the warmth and open­ness of a coun­try com­mu­nity can’t be un­der­val­ued.

The town is laid out on a mostly flat, grid sys­tem that fans out from the main street, Clarinda, so it’s very easy to nav­i­gate and even eas­ier to walk around. Pretty Cooke Park is a cen­tral start­ing point, sur­rounded by fam­ily-friendly mo­tels, shops, cafes, restau­rants (in­clud­ing Thai and Chi­nese) and clubs. A walk up the main street to the Whole­some Blend cafe (and it of­fers a great blend in­deed) and cen­tral Parkes is cov­ered.

The res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion just tops 12,000, which makes the num­ber of pubs and clubs in town seem ex­tra­or­di­nary. This is ter­rific news for vis­i­tors as there are so many af­ford­able din­ing and en­ter­tain­ment op­tions, from the Parkes Ser­vices Club to the Sports and Bowl­ing Club and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

Dur­ing the hot, dry sum­mer months, the im­pres­sive Parkes Shire Li­brary com­plex of­fers wel­come respite from the heat, as does the nearby Aquatic Cen­tre with its Olympic­sized swim­ming pool, per­fect for laps or just some fun and a splash for the kids.

To in­fin­ity and be­yond…

Just 20 kilo­me­tres up the road from the town, movie buffs will recog­nise the CSIRO Parkes ra­dio tele­scope, bet­ter known as The Dish, from the movie of the same name, which high­lighted the im­por­tant role Aus­tralia played in the Apollo space mis­sion in 1969. Chil­dren are in­vited to ex­plore the world of as­tron­omy and ‘lis­ten to the stars’. You can eas­ily make a day trip of it by tak­ing ad­van­tage of the free bar­be­cue and pic­nic fa­cil­i­ties.

On a clear night, how­ever, you won’t need a tele­scope to view the night sky. It is some­thing spe­cial to be­hold as the Milky Way, Saucepan, South­ern Cross and other South­ern Hemi­sphere con­stel­la­tions reach out in 3D from a vel­vety black back­drop.

A lit­tle fur­ther afield, you’ll find the Peak Hill Open Cut Gold Mine, the Big Fish Fos­sil Hut and the iconic Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo. Back in Parkes, your visit list should in­clude the Avi­a­tion Mu­seum and the im­pres­sive Henry Parkes Cen­tre, which houses the Parkes Vis­i­tor Cen­tre, Mo­tor Mu­seum and the King’s Cas­tle. The lat­ter is the per­sonal Elvis mem­o­ra­bilia col­lec­tion of orig­i­nal Yel­low Wig­gle, Greg Page.

All Shook Up

While there is rea­son enough to visit Parkes at any time of year, we’re in town for the an­nual Parkes Elvis Fes­ti­val. Held to cel­e­brate the King’s birth­day in mid-jan­uary, the fes­ti­val sees the town’s pop­u­la­tion ‘all shook up’ and swelling with 25,000 vis­i­tors as all things Elvis are cel­e­brated around the clock. Fam­i­lies of fans flock from far and wide for this world­class event, earn­ing it­self a Des­ti­na­tion NSW ac­co­lade and fur­ther ce­ment­ing the tourism sta­tus of this friendly in­land town.

The fes­ti­val wel­comes young and old and ev­ery­one in be­tween, and en­cour­ages par­tic­i­pa­tion across the age groups. The wel­come pa­rade show­cases cars and fash­ion from the Elvis era with tal­ent shows and pro­fes­sional per­for­mances by guest ETAS (Elvis Trib­ute Artists) from around Aus­tralia and the world. There’s also a ju­nior Elvis and

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Priscilla con­test for the kids, al­low­ing the whole fam­ily to get in­volved.

Cooke Park hosts a live stage each day with free en­ter­tain­ment and danc­ing from 10am un­til late. An old-fash­ioned lemon­ade stand, food stalls, cof­fee carts and mar­ket stalls keep ev­ery­one oc­cu­pied and re­freshed. Mist­ing fans keep a lid on the heat as the dance floor warms up the rev­ellers.

What im­pressed us most was the care and en­cour­age­ment the Elvis com­mu­nity gives to in­ter­ested young­sters, keen no doubt to nur­ture the next gen­er­a­tion of fans.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion is at a pre­mium dur­ing the fes­ti­val with many vis­i­tors opt­ing to bring their own for the well-ap­pointed tent and car­a­van sites or tak­ing ad­van­tage of shut­tle buses run­ning to the satel­lite towns of Forbes, Tul­lam­ore, Peak Hill, Manil­dra and Or­ange.

We opted to take ad­van­tage of the lo­cal Ray White’s home rental ser­vice, only avail­able dur­ing the Elvis Fes­ti­val. It’s a great op­tion for fam­i­lies with two or three chil­dren, or even a cou­ple of fam­i­lies trav­el­ling to­gether.

One thing is for cer­tain, the fes­ti­val brings out the best in this town with the lo­cals turn­ing on a world-class wel­come. Get­ting to know the lo­cals is cer­tainly a high­light of a visit to Parkes. You won’t need a map; just ask some­one for direc­tions and be­fore you know it, you’ll be in­tro­duced to the fam­ily and be priv­i­leged with in­sider in­for­ma­tion on the best places to eat and things to see. As you can imag­ine, noth­ing much es­capes the lo­cals in a small town so there are al­ways in­ter­est­ing sto­ries on tap.

There are many other fes­ti­vals and events held in the re­gion through­out the year and Parkes is an ideal base for check­ing these out as well.

After only a few days in Parkes, the con­nec­tions we’ve made with the lo­cal com­mu­nity make it an emo­tional farewell when it comes time to leave. Will we be back? For sure. What was it that made a visit to Parkes so spe­cial? It’s not just one thing but… it all adds up.

Parkes Re­port Card

Info vis­it­parkes.com.au Get­ting there Parkes is 365 kilo­me­tres by car from Syd­ney and around an hour’s drive from Or­ange. Reg­u­lar train and bus ser­vices op­er­ate year-round and Rex Air­lines has daily flights to Parkes Air­port. Do parke­selv­is­fes­ti­val.com.au

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