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Parkes is the place to go for grey nomads
The iconic ‘Dish’ is approximately 20km from Parkes. PIC: Tourism NSW

Grey nomads seeking to avoid the crowded New South Wales coastal route in favour of an inland tour along the Newell Highway are inevitably drawn to the thriving regional town of Parkes. And they are well rewarded for doing so.

Parkes is probably most famed now for its starring role in the movie ‘The Dish’, and for the Elvis festival it hosts every January … but the story goes back a lot further. The area wasn’t heavily settled until gold was discovered in the 1860s and a ‘canvas’ town quickly sprang up.

As the ramshackle settlement grew, it was eventually being named in honour of the then Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes.

The rich mining history of the area, and its equally rich agricultural history, can be fully explored at a cluster of museums located at the Henry Parkes Centre on the northern side of town. The complex incorporates the Parkes Visitor Information Centre, the King’s Castle Elvis Exhibit, the Parkes Motor Museum, the Henry Parkes Museum (traditional history), and the Antique Machinery Collection.

History is also on display just walking around looking at the historic civic buildings in and around Currajong and Court streets, and it’s also well worth a drive out to nearby Peak Hill and its Open Cut Experience.

The Peak Hill mine operated between 1893 and 1917, and then again between 1996 and 2002. The Open Cut Experi­ence includes both the historic works and the more recent mines with several walking paths and viewing platforms offering spectacular views across the mine site.

For many, the must-see at­traction though is the world famous ‘Dish’ which is located about 20km north of town. As shown in the movie, the dish, which is a massive 64 metres in diameter, stands in the middle of sheep paddocks and dominates the surround­ing farmlands. It was the first fully steerable large antenna in the Southern Hemisphere and remains a world leading scien­tific instrument that has been responsible for many firsts in radio astronomy.

There are a lot of other things to see in the town and vicinity, including the 33-me­tre high Shrine of Remem­brance at Memorial Hill, and The Big Fish Fossil Hut at Peak Hill. Both are well worth a look.

In terms of caravan parks, there are a number of good ones in the area, and the Parkes Showgrounds offers powered sites for $20.

And, of course, don’t forget if you are lucky enough to be in Parkes on the second weekend in January you will be consumed by the five-day Elvis Festival which features Elvis concerts, an Elvis parade, and an army of Elvis imper­sonators.

And for all grey nomads who do take the time to call in and enjoy the quirky attrac­tions of Parkes, the town’s businesses and tourism authorities would like to say a resounding: “Thank you, Thank you very much.”

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