When James’ overseas holiday plans continued to fall through, he was forced to turn his attention internally to his home state.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

For my Dad’s 60th birthday, we planned to relive his glory days by hiking in England’s Lakes District. Then New Zealand, WA’s Pilbara, Cradle Mountain in Tasmania.

Well okay, after our old friend the unspeakable C cancelled THAT many different plans, we weren’t really sure what to do at all. We wanted to do something outdoors, as a family and including hiking (for the glory days, my boy!).

Planning a family trip is different to scheming over your next completely outrageous and probably a little hair-brain-stupid odyssey into the unknown. We definitely aren’t the Kanizay family, and so we needed to find that happy medium where we have a great time without pushing it too far.

There’s a different goal (hello step number 4) – more kindred than epic, and we wanted something that would be enjoyable to all.

As we started planning our fifth getaway, we played it safe and began looking around NSW, where borders couldn’t get us down. I admit I was a little disappointed: so close to home? Lame!

I realised all our first choices had been overseas. Unthinkably, we had a yearning for overseas, for somewhere distant. Why?

That was the question I was asking myself as I started Googling hiking locations around NSW. Could my own backyard really deliver? To be honest, I was unconvinced.

The usual results pinged to the top, with the Blue Mountains being number one. At first I scrolled on in frustration, but then I stopped. Maybe that could work? Why couldn’t we do an overseas-esque trip up to the Bluies? After all, people travel from all over to see the mountains I call home.

Read more: 18 Amazing Ways to Explore NSW


Hiking With My Family (And Learning to Love NSW)


The idea appealed to the family, and so we locked in a house in the Blue Mountains, and a little cabin near Orange for our family retreat.

Setting off in the car, I was dubious. It was definitely easier than boarding a flight, but could it really be as good as if we were in the Lakes District? What would Alfred Wainwright think if he came to Wentworth Falls?

Travelling two hours up the highway certainly beats air travel. The air was brisk when we arrived. It smelt of Eucalyptus, not England.

We nestled in as a family around the indoor fire and planned our adventures for the week.


Hiking With My Family (And Learning to Love NSW)


Being in the Blue Mountains there were more opportunities for cafes and exploring local eateries amongst our hiking trips; it was the same in Orange.

Day one, we tackled Wentworth Pass. It’s a beautiful walk with spectacular views, secluded waterfalls, and even a swimming hole if anyone fancies a wild cold dip (they did not). We spent hours hiking without passing anyone else on the trail.

That night around the fire, playing cards and board games, I didn’t even think for a moment that I wasn’t overseas. We just soaked in the joy of the hike we’d done, and of spending time together.

Over the next few days, we ticked off more classic Blue Mountains hikes. Some we’d done before, but when spending time as a family is so rare, even retracing your steps is a joy when together. We ventured over Lillians Bridge and around Leura Golf Course; we conquered the Grand Canyon in Blackheath, checking out the local antique shop while in town. We explored the start of the Six Foot Track in the Megalong Valley and picnicked at expansive lookouts off Narrow Neck.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!


Hiking With My Family (And Learning to Love NSW)

It wasn’t Glenridding in the UK, but was it worse?

Each night we returned to our cosy weatherboard mountain retreat, lazing in the lounge room beside the crackling fire, and spent time together, as a family, playing cards and laughing. Did it matter where we were? I knew it didn’t – it was all about the people we were with.

After a few days, we moved on to Orange, staying in a cute cabin on a farm property. Every night we laboured up the nearby hill, sheep fleeing from us as we approached, to watch the sun set over the rolling hills in the distance.


Hiking With My Family (And Learning to Love NSW)


Temperatures were freezing, and we rugged up with beanies, scarves and all the other quite un-Australian fashion accessories. This didn’t feel like Australia – well not the Sydney I was used to at least. It felt like being overseas.

We explored all around Mount Canobolas, walking through the frigid temperatures to Federal Falls. The panorama from Mount Canobolas felt like it stretched across all of rural NSW. It wasn’t the rolling hills of the Lakes District, but we stopped and stared forever.

Read more: 9 Spring Microadventures Around NSW


Hiking With My Family (And Learning to Love NSW)

Wow. This whole NSW thing really is pretty incredible.

We spent time together as a family, and celebrated the wine and fantastic food Orange has to offer.

Pulling back into Sydney was like coming home from another world. The air was fresher out there, the grass greener, the mountains taller and the breeze cooler. It felt like I’d been off exploring new peaks and soaking in expansive views. It felt like all the things I imagined returning from the Lakes District would feel like.


Hiking With My Family (And Learning to Love NSW)


Sure it was different, but worse? Definitely not.

I had a newfound love for my backyard, for exploring the places I’d read all about, but always thought too close to make the effort. Places I thought weren’t worth my time when foreign shores were calling. I found epic waterfalls, hidden rainforest valleys, panoramic views and awe-inspiring sunsets. It was incredible. An adventure doesn’t have to be an epic to be amazing.

Maybe the best thing old mate C taught me, is just how good we have it. After all, the Explorers thought it was similar enough to call it the new, south Wales.


Hiking With My Family (And Learning to Love NSW)