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James Horan -Destination NSW

The Best NSW Farmstays for your Family's Weekend away

Rustling up her Akubra and Riding boots, Natarsha Brown finds that a NSW farmstay is the perfect weekend retreat for families.

The idyllic idea of ‘going back to basics’ and living off the land is an increasingly popular fantasy for city families caught up in the hustle and bustle of the concrete maelstrom. Unfortunately, quitting your day job and moving to your own little rural retreat is not a very practical option for most. This desire to simply relax over a cuppa, breathe in that fresh country air and to immerse yourself in the slower-paced lifestyle of yesteryear – if only temporarily – has led to a unique type of holiday choice: the farmstay. So trade in the city life in for a weekend in the bush – the kookaburras are calling (literally).

Mowbray Park Farm, Picton

Horse-lovers listen up: Mowbray Park Farm has your four-legged friends in abundance and for all ages and riding abilities. This family-owned and -operated property 90 minutes south of Sydney has been running since the 1980s, so the team knows a thing or two about life on the land. Regular farm activities include hay riding, animal feeding, cow milking and egg collecting, plus tennis, swimming and canoeing for the fitness-focused. On weekends and school holidays the farm runs a kids’ club for a couple of hours during the day and after dinner to give parents some time to themselves to really enjoy their scenic surrounds. Children (and adults) love the animal nursery, which guests visit via tractor every morning, and then get hands-on feeding the local residents, which include creatures great and small – donkeys, alpacas, geese, ducks, goats and sheep. If the timing is right you can bottle feed a calf and help milk Lucy the cow. Pony rides happen twice a day and for ages eight and above, an optional horse trail ride will take you winding through the beautiful surrounds. Dinner is followed by a glowing campfire, marshmallows and camp songs included – it truly is a barn of a time!

Kookaburra Cottage Farmstay, Port Stephens

If a farmstay sounds simply splendid, but your family are beach bums at heart, then get the best of both worlds at Kookaburra Cottage Farmstay in Port Stephens. Local beaches are less than five minutes away and always popular Nelson Bay is only a 15-minute drive. Owners Scott and Louise Smith are definitely doing something right: with gumboots waiting for you at your front door and Bob – the resident pup – greeting you with a sloppy kiss as you enter the property, this cosy little farm feels like a home away from home. But the afternoon is when the real fun begins; guests are instructed to meet outside the farmhouse to feed the animals, starting at the baby chicks and cows, before taking a tractor ride. Kookaburra’s main drawcard is location, location, location, so make the most of your stay by enjoying a dolphin or whale cruise, go four-wheel-driving or boarding on the Stockton Sand Dunes, bush walk in the nearby national parks or snorkel in the marine park.

Mowbray Park horse rides 

The Cedars, Kangaroo Valley

Set on 485 hectares and surrounded by national park, The Cedars is a working farm which breeds cattle and is home to horses,chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys and even peacocks! Located in the picturesque Kangaroo Valley, there is always the chance of spotting native animals as well, so keep your eyes peeled for echidnas, wallabies and wombats idly passing by. With four self contained one- and two-bedroom cottages, each accommodating between two to six people, cottages feature a traditional Australian homestead-style verandah so guests can enjoy the gorgeous mountain views and feel at home among the gum trees. The farm is also the largest private wildlife sanctuary in the Kangaroo Valley, geared towards minimising the human impact on its surrounding ecosystems, so is a great choice for those wanting to get lost in nature, but who also want to “walk with light footprints”.

Madison's Mountain Retreat, Blue Mountains

If your family would love to immerse themselves in the farm experience but aren’t really fans of ‘roughing it’, then Madison’s Mountain Retreat is made for you. This alpaca farm is set along the outskirts of the Blue Mountains and features comfortable accommodation, with eight cottages and two refurbished train carriages. Not to mention the 18-metre heated indoor pool and spa, tennis court, gazebos and barbecues. The farm’s furry friends are never far away and guests are encouraged to get to know them, and even feed them – make sure to say hello to the baby alpacas, before taking a bush walk nearby.


Tropical Fruit World © Destination NSW & Kate Nutt

Ba Mack Farmstay, Mudgee

Ba Mack Farmstay, a merino sheep property near Mudgee, is renowned for its old-fashioned charm, friendly hospitality and hands-on animal encounters. Run by Julie McLeod and her daughter Kate, the farm has a limit on accommodation numbers so they can personally spend as much time showing your family the ins and outs of rural life as possible. Guests can learn all about the tricks of the trade, from saddling horses to collecting chicken eggs, picking fruit from the field to baking afternoon treats in the kitchen – and to let you in on a little secret, the scones are to die for! And if parents want to explore the nearby wineries and art galleries, a kids’ club runs every afternoon to keep littlies busy.

Tropical Fruit World, Tweed Coast

For families who have been lapping up the sun, sand and surf of the Tweed Coast, but would like a little slice or rural life on their holiday, consider a day trip to the colourful Tropical Fruit World at Duranbah. The property was purchased in 1972 by Bob and Val Brinsmead, who turned the then-run-down small crop farm into a plantation scattered with avocados, custard apples, mangos, lychees, guavas, macadamias, citrus, papaya and much more. The theme park-meets-farmstay guided tours include boat and train rides, an animal farmyard, putt-putt golf, volleyball, flying fox, cafe dining and, of course, fruit tasting.

Ba Mack Farmstay

The residents at Kookaburra Cottage


This article appeared in volume 49 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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