Only 200km west of Sydney and 250km from Canberra, is Bathurst, a country escape that’s perfect for families. Located in the heart of the NSW Central Tablelands, Bathurst is a great alternative for families keen to escape the congested coastal fringe over the Easter school holidays.
With genuine country hospitality, Bathurst offers a range of family-friendly indoor and outdoor activities. From interactive museums to gold panning to self-guided village tours, families with younger kids (think under 12s) will find loads to do in Bathurst.
With enough to keep a family busy over three days, Bathurst is a great long weekend destination. The weather in Bathurst is better in spring and autumn, which makes the Easter long weekend the perfect time to explore this NSW gem.
5 things to do in Bathurst with kids on a long weekend
1. Become a detective on a night tour
On the outskirts of Bathurst, high on a hill stands Abercrombie House, tall and imposing, and bursting with family history.
Originally built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers the Stewart family. It fell in to decline in the early 20th Century. It was not until the 1960s, when the Morgan family moved in, that the grand house once again became a family home.
For three generations the Morgan family have opened their home to the public. They share its story and its place in the history of Bathurst with visitors. The Morgan family kids spent their lives exploring this grand old dame with its warren of staircases leading to surprises at each turn. Now they share the same experience with other kids each school holidays.
On the Abercrombie House Kids Night Tours kids become History Detectives for a night. They explore the house and its gardens by torchlight. And at the end of the tour it’s time for chocolate milk and cookies on the veranda.
2. Ogle dinosaurs
With more than 5000 objects on display, including Australia’s largest collection of fossils in amber, the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum vividly tells the story of life on earth.
By far the greatest attraction for little and big kids alike, is the 10½m long and 4½m high Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton cast.
Equally impressive is the amber display. Visitors can slide a magnifying glass over the amber specimens, revealing creatures imprisoned by the viscous resin 34 million years ago.
There are a range of interactive activities throughout the museum including Fossil Sudoku, Fossil Rubbings and a kids’ activity area. The museum also has a stunning collection of crystals and gems including diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
3. Check out the miniature railway at the Bathurst Rail Museum
The Bathurst Rail Museum will keep little ones entertained indoors for a couple of hours. This family-friendly museum comes with added bonuses of a Refreshment Room café, baby change facilities and pram parking.
The showpiece of the Bathurst Rail Museum, and most popular amongst the kids, is a 20m by 9m scale model railway line. This exhibit depicts the Main West Line during the 1950s. It has tiny moving trains crossing tiny bridges, tiny people waiting at tiny stations, tiny signal boxes and tiny farmhouses and animals in tiny paddocks.
If that isn’t enough to keep the kids enthralled, there is also an interactive play and learning space with one of the world’s largest permanent BRIO sets.
4. Explore quaint villages
Eleven villages surround Bathurst, each with their own unique history to explore on self-guided walking trails. One of the more popular villages, Hill End, is heritage listed, and well worth the one-hour drive from Bathurst.
Hill End is a well-preserved town that offers visitors, young and old, the opportunity to step back in time and experience what it was like to live 150 years ago in an 1870s gold rush town.
Visit the Heritage Centre in the centre of town. Housed in a restored 1950s Rural Fire shed, this is a free self-guided museum. The kids will enjoy exploring the collection of photographs, interactive iPads, historic footage, gold rush artefacts and a restored red Blitz fire truck.
When you’re finished at the Heritage Centre explore the streets of Hill End. It’s incredible to think that this was once a boom town. Hill End once had a population of 8000, 28 hotels, four churches, a hospital, a public school, three banks, two newspapers and more than a kilometre of shops.
Drop into the one remaining hotel from the gold rush era, The Royal, for a cold drink and some country hospitality in the family and dog friendly courtyard bistro.
5. Take the kids gold panning
While at Hill End try your luck gold panning at nearby Tambaroora Creek a designated fossicking area. Alternatively go underground and experience what mining was like in a replica gold mine at History Hill.
On 1200 acres of land, History Hill is a museum with an eclectic collection of 10,000 gold rush artefacts. There are steam engines, stamper batteries, old bottles, rock and crystal displays and a blacksmiths shop. We loved the tiny porcelain dolls that used to be put in Christmas puddings before the use of sixpence.
While this collection is impressive it is the replica 175 metres of underground mine that attracts the attention of every child and teen. In the mine the temperature drops and the moist air hangs like a heavy cloak, it’s dark and musty and there is something to see around every corner and up every dead-end tunnel. A highlight of the self-guided tour is exiting via a set of ladders rising 18m up a vertical shaft.
The best Bathurst accommodation for families
There is plenty of family-friendly accommodation in Bathurst, from off-the-grid 4WD camping options such as Watton Airstrip, to all-amenities caravan parks, motels, hotels and self-contained apartments in town.
If your family is looking for a hotel in Bathurst, we suggest either Rydges Mount Panorama overlooking Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit or Holmhurst, an historic home that was once an orphanage then became student accommodation and now a guest house.
Or you could choose a farm stay such as Barcoos Farm, a real working farm where the kids can collect the eggs, feed the animals, enjoy a pony ride or a sulky cart ride.
More family fun in and around Bathurst for a long weekend
3 free, family-friendly, self-guided tours
- Heritage walks around Bathurst
- Children’s River Park Walk – designed for children to learn a little about the history of Bathurst and the Macquarie River
- Bathurst cycle map features cycle ways, cycle friendly cafes and toilets.
Note: All maps available at the Bathurst Visitors Information Centre
3 great fishing spots within an hour’s drive of Bathurst
- Lakes Oberon and Lyell
- Chifley and Carcoar dams
- The Fish Campbells and Macquarie Rivers
5 national parks within an hour’s drive of Bathurst
- Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve (currently caves are closed due to Covid)
- Evans Crown Nature Reserve
- Kanangra-Boyd National Park
- Marrangaroo National Park (4wd access only)
- Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve
Robyn loves a road trip. She spent a year circumnavigating the United States in a motorhome, camped out of the back of a Citroen through Europe and took another year to do the block in a caravan around Australia. When she wasn’t on the road she was under the water as a certified SCUBA instructor taking groups to remote islands in the South Pacific. She now travels with her husband and teenage daughter still enjoying the road trips and exploring our own backyard.