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In a few weeks I'll be driving from Dubbo, NSW to Canberra, ACT with the family, most likely via the straightest route down the A32 (Barrier Highway) and B81 (Lachlan Valley Way). It's a 400-km, five-hour drive, so where should we stop to let the kids run around, eat lunch and/or have a coffee break?

And before reaching for the "too broad!" close button, please note that the total list of metropoles along the way consists of Wellington (pop 4000), Molong (pop 1600), Canowindra (pop 2300), Cowra (pop 9000) and Boorowa (pop 1200) — not a whole lot of "there" there. We've also previously had the dubious pleasure of visiting Yass (unlikely to make that mistake again) and popped into Murrumbateman (wineries OK, but only a hop, skip and jump away from Canberra).

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    A tiny detour and you can at least go through Orange (city of apples) or west through Young (city of cherries)! – Mark Mayo Sep 8 '15 at 12:35
  • @MarkMayo what about Young (city of Angus)? – Gayot Fow Sep 8 '15 at 13:27
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+100

On a more serious note, if you do come the way described there are some intereting points along the way.

Wellington has plenty of older historic buildings if that's up your alley, but just outside there are the Wellington Caves and Phosphorus Mine. Definitely worth a visit if you've got the time, both cave and mine tours are quite good. About five minutes down the road is Bell River Estate if you like fortified wines (less so for the kids, but it's a brief stop).

Further afield is Lake Burrendong (actually a massive dam - three times the size of Sydney Harbour) and its Burrendong Botanic Garden and Arboretum. The former is good for a quick swim, the latter for something a bit educational.

Along to Molong, there are rumours of a hat store that has a back wall full of hats left by previous owners upon purchase of a new one - all stapled to the wall because that's the only way to get the trusted hat out of someone's hands out that way. ;) Could catch someone's fancy? More prosaically it has a few wineries situated around town that are worth a visit, but more to keep the adults from throttling the kids.

Getting closer to Boree, about fifteen minutes out of your way is the home of the best cider in Australia (IMO) - Small Acres Cidery. Hmmm... there's dogs to play with for the kids?

Canowindra does have the Age of Fishes Museum. Run by the Australia Museum in Sydney, it's dedicated to the discovery of a very rich local fossil fish find. I'd definitely drop by, but then that's my kind of thing.

I'll defer to jpatokal's comments on Cowra, only to add that the area is well-known for its wines and has plenty of cellar doors open at various times of the week. Kids can stay in the car.

And to end on yet another boozy note (kids, who needs them?), the Young region which includes Boorowa is also known for its wines - so if you've recovered from the previous umpteen stops, why not make one more before Canberra? After all you need to survive a visit to our nation's capital somehow, and not sobering up is a time-honoured tradition by many including our federal politicians.

  • Yeah, unfortunately most of the places are more known for food and wine than anything that might appeal to the young ones. – dlanod Sep 12 '15 at 4:45
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This is not meant to be a definitive answer, just a collection of random points of potential interest going north to south.

Also, on local advice, it's better to take the A39 (Newell Highway) down to Parkes since this is a better road (it's the shortest route between Brisbane and Melbourne), then cross over via Eugowra to Cowra and join the Lachlan Valley Way there.

Things to see

  • Peak Hill Open Cut Mine Experience -- Apparently a big hole in the ground qualifies as an attraction in these parts!
  • This is beyond parody: "The Peak Hill Tourist Drive will guide you to explore treasures such as Australia’s first vertical cement wheat silos (1918) which are still operating today."
  • CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope -- Has a cafe called, wait for it, "The Dish" (ba dum tssh)
  • Age of Fishes Museum, Canowindra. What is this I don't even...
  • Cowra Japanese Garden and POW Campsite -- Japanese strolling garden (cherry blossoms in Sep/Oct!), cafe serving Japanese/Oz modern fusion (shudder), and a memorial to the massacre of over 100 Japanese POWs in a suicidal mass breakout
  • Cowra Station and Lachlan Valley Railway -- apparently no actual train operating though, and while the railway museum is notionally open, having already seen a bunch of these operations elsewhere it's likely a disheveled collection of scrapped locos in various states of disrepair...

Places to eat

  • The Dish, Parkes
  • Japanese Garden Cafe, Cowra
  • Cowra has a large McDonalds, which is apparently noteworthy. Although there's another at Parkes on "Bogan Street", which is even better!
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    Most of that is in "Bogan Shire", just to tickle your fancy even more... – dlanod Sep 12 '15 at 3:58

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