Everything You Wanted To Know About Visiting Parkes, NSW

Nestled amid the scenic landscapes of New South Wales, the delightful town of Parkes sparkles with its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

Few other places in the state attract people with as diverse interests as astronomy, music festivals, indigenous culture, gastronomy, classic cars and outdoor recreational activities.

From the world-famous Parkes Observatory, affectionately known as ‘The Dish’, to the vibrant celebrations of the Parkes Elvis Festival, this Central West gem promises an unforgettable experience. This comprehensive guide invites you to uncover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about visiting Parkes in New South Wales. So join us as we showcase the town’s top attractions, outdoor adventures, cultural offerings, and practical tips to make your visit to Parkes as enriching and enjoyable as possible.

Introduction to Parkes

Introduction to Parkes

Parkes is a vibrant town approximately 365 kilometres west of Sydney. It’s strategically positioned along the Newell Highway, making it accessible by road for local and international travellers.

This central location has contributed to Parkes’ reputation as a hub for various industries and activities. Agriculture plays a significant role in the town’s economy, with the surrounding fertile lands fostering the growth of crops, including wheat, barley and canola. Livestock farming is also prominent, showcasing the region’s strong agricultural heritage.

Additionally, Parkes is known for its contributions to transport and logistics. The town is home to a critical rail junction connecting the Main Western railway line with the Broken Hill railway line. This strategic rail connection has made Parkes a vital point for the transportation of goods, contributing to the growth of industries such as warehousing and distribution.

With a population of around 11,000 residents, Parkes maintains a comfortable and close-knit community atmosphere. The relatively lower population density than larger urban centres allows for a more tranquil and relaxed lifestyle. Add in the town’s scenic surroundings and cultural offerings and it’s easy to see why Parkes is such an appealing destination for residents and visitors seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Getting There

Getting There 1

Parkes is an easily accessible destination, thanks to its central location and multiple transportation options.

If you’re driving, you can get there via the Newell Highway, a major inland highway connecting Victoria and Queensland. The Newell Highway passes through Parkes, making it easily accessible from various directions.

The most common route from Sydney is to head west on the M4 Motorway, which becomes the Great Western Highway. You’ll continue along the Great Western Highway until you reach the junction with the Newell Highway, which will take you directly to Parkes.

From Melbourne, take the Hume Freeway and then connect to the Olympic Highway. Follow signs to the Newell Highway from there, which will lead you to Parkes.

If you would rather not drive, several bus companies operate routes from nearby cities and towns to Parkes. These bus services offer a convenient and comfortable way to reach the town whilst showcasing other parts of New South Wales.

Parkes is also well-connected by train, mainly through the Indian Pacific railway line. The Indian Pacific runs between Sydney and Perth, with a stop in Parkes. This iconic train journey is an excellent option as it offers travellers a luxurious way to experience the Australian landscape.

Top Attractions in Parkes

Parkes is a destination brimming with captivating attractions and activities catering to diverse interests. From astronomical wonders to cultural festivities, the town offers a rich tapestry of experiences that enchant you. Here are some of the best things to do when visiting Parkes:

1. The Dish – Parkes Observatory

The Dish – Parkes Observatory

A trip to Parkes wouldn’t be complete without visiting the world-famous Parkes Observatory, affectionately known as ‘The Dish’. This colossal radio telescope was pivotal in the historic Apollo 11 moon landing by capturing and transmitting the iconic images of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface. Take a guided tour to learn about the telescope’s history, operation and ongoing contributions to space research. You might even have the chance to gaze at the stars through The Dish during one of the observatory’s stargazing events.

2. Parkes Elvis Festival

Parkes Elvis Festival

Channel your inner Elvis Presley fan and immerse yourself in the festivities of the annual Parkes Elvis Festival. Held every January, this unique event transforms the town into a vibrant celebration of all things Elvis. Enjoy tribute performances, parades, classic car displays and themed parties that pay homage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Whether you’re an ardent Elvis enthusiast or simply looking for a lively and entertaining experience, the festival is a highlight you won’t want to miss.

3. Henry Parkes Centre

Dive into Parkes’ rich history and cultural heritage at the Henry Parkes Centre. This multifaceted complex houses a collection of museums that explore different facets of the town’s past. Discover vintage cars and transportation history at the Parkes Motor Museum, explore the impressive King’s Castle Elvis Exhibit with its treasure trove of Elvis memorabilia and learn about the life and contributions of Sir Henry Parkes himself, the ‘Father of Federation’.

4. Cooke Park

Cooke Park

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For a dose of relaxation and leisure, head to Cooke Park. This expansive green space is perfect for picnics, leisurely strolls and family fun. With playgrounds for kids and ample shaded areas, it’s an

ideal spot to unwind and soak in the local atmosphere. The park hosts events, markets and live performances throughout the year, adding a lively touch to the tranquil surroundings.

5. Memorial Hill Lookout

For breathtaking panoramic views of Parkes and its surrounding landscapes, visit the Memorial Hill Lookout. The site features a poignant World War II memorial and offers a vantage point that captures the town’s beauty from a new perspective. It’s an ideal spot for taking photographs and deeply appreciating Parkes’ natural beauty.

6. Goobang National Park

Nature enthusiasts will find their haven in the nearby Goobang National Park. Embark on bushwalking and hiking trails that wind through diverse ecosystems, showcasing native flora and fauna. The park’s landscapes range from open woodlands to rugged rock formations, providing opportunities for exploration, birdwatching and admiring stunning vistas.

7. Parkes Show and Agricultural Fair

Parkes Show and Agricultural Fair

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If your visit coincides with the Parkes Show, you’re in for an authentic taste of regional Australian culture. This annual agricultural fair showcases livestock exhibitions, rodeo events, carnival rides, show bags and various delicious food stalls. It’s an opportunity to experience the warmth and community spirit of Parkes’ agricultural traditions.

8. Local Cuisine and Arts

Local Cuisine and Arts

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Indulge in Parkes’ culinary delights by exploring its local cafes and restaurants. From hearty Australian fare to international cuisines, the town offers diverse dining options to satisfy your taste buds. Additionally, take the chance to peruse local art galleries and craft stores, where you can find unique souvenirs and artworks that capture the essence of Parkes.

9. Aboriginal Cultural Experiences

Explore the rich Aboriginal heritage of the region by participating in Aboriginal cultural celebrations and workshops. These events offer insights into the traditions, stories and artistry of the Wiradjuri people, the land’s traditional custodians.

Best Time to Visit Parkes

Best Time to Visit Parkes

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The timing of your visit to Parkes can significantly impact your experience, as the town offers different attractions and activities based on the seasons and local events. To help you plan the best trip, here are the various seasons and the highlights they bring:

1. Autumn (March to May)

Autumn is often considered one of the best times to visit Parkes. The weather is mild and pleasant, with cooler temperatures compared to the summer months. This season is ideal for outdoor activities like exploring the Goobang National Park or strolling through Cooke Park. The vibrant foliage adds a touch of beauty to the town’s landscapes, making it a picturesque time for sightseeing and photography.

2. Spring (September to November)

Spring (September to November)

Spring is another fantastic season to experience Parkes. As the weather begins to warm up after the winter chill, the town comes alive with blossoming flowers and renewed energy. This period is excellent for outdoor adventures, such as hiking, biking and picnicking in the local parks. The Memorial Hill Lookout offers stunning town views against the backdrop of colourful spring scenery.

3. Parkes Elvis Festival (January)

If you’re an Elvis Presley fan, January is the month to visit. The Parkes Elvis Festival takes place during this time, transforming the town into an Elvis-themed extravaganza. Prepare for tribute performances, parades, themed parties and an overall festive atmosphere. Remember that this popular event draws a considerable crowd, so plan your accommodations and activities in advance.

4. Parkes Show (August)

Parkes Show (August)

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The annual Parkes Show is in August. This traditional agricultural fair celebrates the region’s farming heritage with livestock exhibitions, entertainment, carnival rides and delicious food stalls. If you’re interested in experiencing the local culture and community spirit, attending the Parkes Show is a great way to do so.

5. Stargazing Events

For those interested in astronomy and stargazing, Parkes occasionally hosts stargazing events at the Parkes Observatory. These events provide a unique opportunity to observe celestial wonders through powerful telescopes. The weather conditions, especially during clear nights, play a crucial role in the success of these events.

6. Considerations

Keep in mind that summer (December to February) can bring hot temperatures to Parkes, making outdoor activities less comfortable during the peak of the day. If you plan to visit during summer, consider early morning or late afternoon activities and stay hydrated. Some attractions, like The Dish, operate year-round, while others, such as outdoor events, have specific dates.

Overall, the best time to visit Parkes depends on your interests and the experiences you wish to

enjoy. Whether you’re seeking cultural festivities, outdoor adventures, or astronomy-related activities, Parkes offers something special throughout the year. Be sure to plan ahead, considering the local events and weather conditions that align with your preferences.

Where to eat in Parkes

Parkes offers an excellent range of dining options for the visitor that cater to various tastes and preferences. The town has you covered whether you’re in the mood for local Australian cuisine, gourmet restaurants showcasing international flavours, or a cosy café service with good old comfort food. Here are some notable dining venues in Parkes:

1. The Dish Cafe

Situated right next to the iconic Parkes Observatory, The Dish Cafe offers visitors stunning views of The Dish itself while they dine. The café’s relaxed atmosphere and space-themed décor create a unique dining experience. Whilst there, you can enjoy a range of hearty breakfast and lunch options, including homemade pastries, gourmet sandwiches and fresh salads. The café also offers barista-made coffee and a selection of cakes and sweets.

2. Station Motel Bar & Grill

Part of the Station Motel complex, the Bar & Grill boasts a contemporary yet welcoming ambience. The restaurant features a diverse menu and a stylish bar area.

You can indulge in mouthwatering steaks, burgers and seafood dishes, while the restaurant is also known for its impressive wine list, making it a perfect spot for a special evening out.

3. Aastro Dish Cafe & Functions

Another dining option near The Dish, Aastro Dish Cafe & Functions, offers an expansive deck area where guests can enjoy panoramic views of the observatory and the surrounding landscapes.

Delight in the café’s range of homemade pastries, gourmet sandwiches and fresh salads. The café also offers gluten-free and vegetarian options for those who need or want them.

4. Belle Armoire

Belle Armoire is a charming café known for its inviting vintage-inspired decor and warm ambience. The café prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy a variety of café-style dishes, including all-day breakfast, sandwiches and quiches. Don’t miss their freshly brewed coffee and a delectable selection of cakes and desserts.

5. Taste of North India

If you’re craving authentic Indian cuisine, Taste of North India is a standout choice. The restaurant

offers a cosy atmosphere and friendly service.

You can indulge in diverse traditional Indian dishes, from flavourful curries to tandoori specialities. Their butter chicken and lamb rogan josh are the stuff of local legend.