Named after the father of Australian federation, the town of Parkes was once best known for its radio telescope that helped broadcast the moon landing. Today, this beautiful heritage town in Country NSW, famous for the hordes of Elvis fans who make an annual pilgrimage to honour the King.
Parkes Elvis Festival
The iconic Parkes Elvis Festival is an unmissable event held in January to celebrate Elvis Presley’s birthday. Elvis impersonators and fans flock here every year to pay tribute to the man who showed the world how to shake their hips. Come for the fun and the spectacle, it's worth slipping on your blue suede shoes to see what all the buzz is about.
Things to do
In July 1969, 600 million people around the world watched Neil Armstrong famously step onto the surface of the Moon, and one of the reasons why can be found right here in Parkes. The CSIRO Parkes Observatory's radio telescope, which Australians irreverently nicknamed ‘The Dish’, helped broadcast the Apollo 11 Moon landing, giving Parkes a permanent place in the history books.
The telescope is still a world-leading instrument today and is in continuous operation. With a diameter of 64m, it’s also one of the largest single-dish telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere. You can visit the Observatory and see astronomy and space science exhibitions plus 3D theatre shows.
The Henry Parkes Centre, named after the colonial politician credited as the father of Australian Federation, incorporates the Parkes Visitor Information Centre and four impressive museums, including the Parkes Motor Museum and the King’s Castle Elvis Exhibit, which contains a collection of Elvis' personal artefacts.
Gold fever struck the Parkes region in 1861 and it's worth exploring the district’s goldmining heritage on the Newell Gold Trail. Visit nearby Peak Hill, a 35-minute scenic drive north of Parkes, which has a heritage open-cut gold mine opened in 1893. There are free, self-guided tours, walking trails and picnic areas.
Eat & drink
Enjoy a bite to eat and great views of the telescope at The Dish Cafe, or take advantage of the free gas barbecues and cook your own lunch. The Railway Hotel offers the quintessential country pub experience. Just northwest of Parkes is the Trundle Hotel, a heritage-listed pub built in 1912 that boasts the longest verandah in NSW.
Parkes is just under five hours’ drive from Sydney, almost eight hours from Melbourne and around three hours from Canberra. You can also travel by train direct from Sydney on Mondays.
Parkes Airport is 5km from the Parkes town centre. Regional Express services the airport with four flights a week from Sydney. For other major Australian cities, connect via Sydney for travel to Parkes.