I couldn't believe it. We escaped to the country to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and we were stuck in a traffic jam. But instead of feeling anxious, we were laughing as this traffic jam was more snout to tail than bumper to bumper.
In Big Sky Country, you're much more likely to find yourself stuck in the thick of a travelling herd of cattle than in a crush of vehicles. One of the many great things about heading to the country is putting the pressures and schedules of everyday city life aside, so no matter how long those cows took to clear from the road, our moods never changed from amusement to impatience. And even though every day we had in the Big Sky region was chock-full of fun, we never felt the need to rush.
"Big Sky" is an apt name, with the terrain alternating between mountains and plains and beautiful views all around. The region is also known as New England, the rural areas in the northwest of New South Wales.
We began our journey at Castle Mountain Farmstay near Quirindi, a family-run homestead where you can enjoy riding horses, feeding pigs, milking cows and even saying hello to the resident emu.
Accommodation ranges from double rooms to dormitories and private cabins, and the ample size of the farmhouse makes it a perfect place for several families to holiday together. Home-cooked meals are included. We felt so at home at Castle Mountain that we didn't want to leave!
If your taste for country includes music as well, head to Tamworth to see the
Golden Guitar en route to Gunnedah "The Koala Capital of the World". We craned our necks to every tree to spot a koala in the wild, but alas, the inclement weather kept them out of view. For a guaranteed up-close-and-personal encounter with the fuzzy little fellas, head to Waterways Wildlife Park. This humble park began as a husband-and-wife team rehabilitating injured wildlife, and now boasts native animals including wallabies, dingos, pelicans, echidnas and of course koalas.
Head to Narrabri to learn how those clothes got on your back at the Australian Cotton Centre you'll never look at that plain old t-shirt the same way again. Alternatively, you can try your hand at yabbying at nearby Yarrie Lake, reach for the stars at the CSIRO Australia Telescope or wonder at the magnificent Sawn Rocks.
A highlight for us was the trek up the steep and winding road to the summit of Mount Kaputar. The trip isn't for timid drivers (or those scared of heights!) but the amazing views and, surprisingly, falling snow at the top were certainly worth it.
Dulcinea Holiday Cabins at the base of the mountain is a peaceful place to stay with all the comforts of home; choose between a three-bedroom cabin, ideal for families who want a bit of space, or the cosy studio cabin, perfect for a romantic getaway.
If your family is more likely to get their kicks from a roller-coaster than a brilliant sunset, heading out to Big Sky country may not be the ideal choice. But if you want to unwind and spend some quality time together, this rural area is a holiday gem full of surprises.
Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre
Phone: (02) 6740 2230
Narrabri Shire Visitor Information Centre
Phone: (02) 6799 6761
Phone: (02) 6755 4300
Accommodation: Castle Mountain Farmstay
Phone: (02) 6746 2102
Dulcinea Holiday Cabins
Phone: (02) 6793 5246
Reproduced with permission from Holidays with Kids magazine.
All kinds of fun family tours and activitiescan be booked around the country.