Eight holiday experiences to give you goosebumps

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Looking for an action-packed family adventure? Whether you ski or toboggan, the NSW snowfields are just one way to get your pulse racing.

Don’t let a winter chill be the only thing to give you goosebumps. Here are eight other experiences to make your hair stand on end. Better still, they’re close to home.

Abseil into the gloom at Jenolan Caves


Are you afraid of the dark? Caving is a great way to get the heart pumping, and Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains is one of the most family-friendly places to do it.


The Plughole Adventure Tour is perfect for thrillseekers over the age of 10 and includes a nine-metre abseil into Elder Cave and plenty of climbing and crawling.


If that sounds too exciting, there’s also off-the-track explorations and for the truly brave, the Legends, Mysteries and Ghosts tour.


@jenolanmagic – At Jenolan Caves today. Just finished the Extended Orient cave. Tomorrow we attempt Aladdin. pic.twitter.com/hZSW0rYaHo

— Katie Fox (@Fox_Katie) May 3, 2014

Would you stand close to this man-eater?


There’s nothing like an encounter with a deadly animal to get the blood flowing freely.


At five metres long and weighing more than 500 kilograms, Elvis the saltwater crocodile is not a reptile to be messed with by anyone’s standards.


Watching the keepers while Elvis lunges for his lunchtime feed at the Australian Reptile Park is just close enough for comfort.


Littlies will also love the daily walks with Hugo the Galapagos tortoise.

The white stuff: Learn to ski or snowboard at NSW’s snowfields


The Snowy Mountains are mainland Australia’s only true alpine wilderness, but more importantly for the legions of snow bunnies who descend on it each year, it’s also home to NSW’s snowfields – Perisher, Charlotte Pass, Selwyn Snowfields and Thredbo.


Selwyn and Perisher are considered the most-family friendly, but all offer kids’ snow school, as well as extras such as snowshoe tours, tobogganing and high-speed snow tubing.

Feel the need for speed on a quad bike at Port Stephens


If you prefer your slopes of sand rather than snow, try quad biking up and down the highest coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere at Williamtown near Port Stephens.


The basic tour gives you one hour of riding up and down the dunes and a guided tour back via the higher dunes. There’s also a sandboarding option.


If you’d rather stick together, there are Hummer tours for up to 12 people.


This looks like incredible fun… Stay tuned!!! #adventure #fun #exciting #adrenaline #everpro@SDAQuadBikes: pic.twitter.com/dWp4ahChVX

— Ever Pro (@EverProOfficial) February 26, 2014

Discover the secrets of the universe at Siding Springs Observatory in Coonabarabran.

This one won’t cause you to break a sweat, but may force you to catch your breath when you see all those planets, nebulae and galaxies up close.


With its combination of clear skies, altitude and distance from city lights, Coonabarabran is widely regarded as Australia’s stargazing capital.


Start by checking out the astronomy exhibition at Siding Springs Observatory, and then put your new-found knowledge to good use with a night-time viewing at Warrumbungle Observatory.

Have a whale of a time getting close to these creature of the deep.


It’s hard not to be awed by the sheer size of a humpback whale as it breaches beside you, and winter is the prime time to spot them as they migrate from Antarctica to warmer climes.


Head to Jervis Bay, where you can get up close on a small and speedy rigid inflatable boat, or choose a larger cruiser like the one above for a more leisurely trip.


Look out for humpback, false killer, minke, pilot and southern right whales, as well as fur seals, little penguins and dolphins.


Today we sighted several pods of more than 20 Dolphins. The sun is out and the Bay just looks gorgeous.

— Jervis Bay Whales (@JervisBayWhales) June 3, 2014

Get air at Canowindra, Australia’s hot air balloon capital


Hot air balloon rides are on many family bucket lists, and Canowindra in central NSW is regarded as birthplace of modern ballooning in Australia.


Better still, it’s something you can do together, regardless of age and fitness level (although children under five are not recommended).


Just make sure they can see over the edge – it would be a shame to miss those views.

Head underground and fossick for opals at Lightning Ridge.

If the sunbaked sand hills and wide blue skies of outback NSW don’t make you feel like an adventurer, head underground.


Big Opal offers tours of a working opal mine, while the fabulously-named Chambers of the Black Hand will see you heading between 11 and 20 metres underground into a series of subterranean tunnels decorated by local artist Ron Canlin.


Adults can check out the mine’s carved Egyptian tomb, while kids will love The Jungle Room and cartoon characters such as Jack Sparrow, Puss in Boots and Shrek.


Don’t forget to have a fossick for your own opals while you’re there.


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