Welcome to New England – the enormous beating heart of country NSW. There are tablelands rich with cool breezes and cellar doors, as well as rolling plains dotted with hot springs, pastoral countryside and over two dozen national parks.
Sounds like a lot? Here’s your to-do list: pop on your Akubra and crank up the country radio as you drive into Tamworth. Wander the colonial-era streets of Armidale, and read up on the bushranger history of Uralla. Tiptoe in bushland to see drowsy wild koalas at Gunnedah. Fish at one of Gurya’s many trout farms, be entranced by Glen Innes’ Celtic standing stones and explore Walcha’s Open Air Gallery.
Next, head out west to the Gwydir Valley to soak in Moree’s mineral-rich hot springs. Marvel at the Sawn Rocks near the town of Narrabri on your drive up north. Before crossing the QLD-NSW border, stop at the historic towns of Tenterfield and Inverell, and fossick for precious sapphires.
New England is divided into two main regions: New England High Country, home to Armidale, Glen Innes, Inverell, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha; and New England North West Region with Tamworth, Gunnedah, Moree and Narrabri.
Tamworth is known as Australia’s ‘country music capital’, but there’s plenty else to do here other than strum your banjo. For example, head to the scenic Oxley Lookout or spot wild koalas at nearby Gunnedah.
The ‘Cathedral City’ of Armidale is one of the main towns of New England. Admire its colonial buildings and close-by natural wonders – like those found on the Wollomombi walking track, or at Washpool National Park and Gibraltar Range National Park – and get a taste of Celtic culture at the town of Glen Innes.
Out west awaits a natural spa getaway, courtesy of the Great Artesian Basin. Aside from soaking at the spas, visitors can undertake remote activities like bush camping by Yarrie Lake and hiking the volcanic Mount Kaputar National Park.
Nestled in the Macintyre Valley, the Sapphire City of Inverell is a historic New England town with one of the state’s biggest la...
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The Tamworth Country Music Festival in late January is a major draw for fiddle fiends. By the time you’ve evicted the tunes of Lee Kernaghan from your head, Moree on a Plate is around the corner, showcasing the best of the region through cooking classes, food and wine stalls and long lunches.
At Glen Innes, the Australian Celtic Festival is in full swing in late April and celebrates one of the Celtic nations each year.
New England is filled to the brim with incredible art. In Armidale, visitors to the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) can admire a mix of contemporary artists, as well as heritage, works by Australian Impressionists like Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts.
Visitors who want a greater understanding of Indigenous culture are in luck. The Armidale and Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place preserves and promotes Aboriginal arts and culture, with art galleries and workshops onsite.
Moree is more than worth the trip for its spectacular natural hot springs. Soak in the mineral-rich waters at the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre, soothing tired muscles after a long drive.
Feeling refreshed? Then it’s time to explore the many national parks, with the drive into the region on Waterfall Way covering five alone! Eat a picnic lunch at Wollomombi Falls, the highest waterfalls in the state, at Oxley Wild Rivers National Park; or Ebor Falls at Guy Fawkes River National Park. And take your time walking among the Gondwana Rainforests in New England National Park.
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Staying in Tamworth? BIG4 Paradise Tamworth on the Peel River and Austin Tourist Park have cabins, unpowered and powered sites for camping and caravans, as well as a pool.
If you’re travelling out west to Moree, options like Gwydir Thermal Pools Motel & Caravanpark tempt you to stay in with their onsite hot springs, along with powered and unpowered sites, cabins and rooms.
Go au naturel with a free camping spree in one of the region’s national parks. Near Armidale, the Dangars Gorge campground in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park can be booked. Near Moree, the free Gum Flat Reserve camping site is on the sandy banks of the Gwydir River.
As you’d expect from a destination firmly on the road trippers to-do list, New England has plenty in the way of basic and low-cost motels and roadside inns. For a touch more luxury, try a night at Petersons Guesthouse and Winery, attached to a cellar door. Historical hotels like those at the atmospheric early 20th century Lindsay House and the restored art-deco style Tattersalls Hotel Armidale are also available to book in town.
In Tamworth, the five-star and family-owned Powerhouse Hotel by Rydges is a gorgeous stay, with impeccable jewel-toned interiors throughout the rooms, restaurant and bar. Alternatively, there are also countless cottages, farm stays and other eclectic properties to discover on Airbnb in New England.
Vibrant, welcoming and kitted out with funky artistic wall designs, the Goldfish Bowl Bakery in Armidale makes for a solid breakfast or lunch stop, eating in its vine-covered outdoor courtyard area. At Uralla, snuggle down with a coffee next to the fireplace of an old general store at The Alternate Root cafe.
You could also start your day, bleary-eyed, but eager to shop, at the Armidale Farmers Market. Taking place on the second Sunday of each month (except for July and August) on the grounds of the Edwardian Saumarez Homestead, fresh veggies are in abundance.
Want to discover more about New England’s wines, with food to match? Merilba Estate Wines and Peterson’s Wines both serve up winery lunches.
When it comes to country pubs, this region has got options on tap. As well as being a stylish overnight stay, the Commercial Boutique Hotel in Tenterfield has a pet and family-friendly restaurant that pours local drops from the surrounding wineries and has a cosy fireplace for those laid back winter nights. Other pubs of the region include the freshly renovated heritage Tamworth Hotel. It dates back to the thirties, and has pub favourites like steak, sourced from the local Jack’s Creek farmers. At Uralla, the Coachwood and Cedar Hotel (commonly known as ‘Top Pub’) has a gorgeous outdoor beer garden.
Located inland in northern NSW, New England is best visited by road trip. While it’s a six-hour drive straight from Sydney, we’d recommend hanging left from the Pacific Highway before Coffs Harbour. From there, take the lush Waterfall Way for just over two hours to get to the town of Armidale.
Alternatively, you can explore it as part of the inland Brisbane to Sydney route. Flights come into Tamworth and Armidale, and Countrylink trains have services between Sydney and Tamworth.
One of the best times to visit is in autumn when the foliage begins its magical costume change in preparation for winter. An autumn trip also means avoiding the baking summer months, where temperatures on average reach 36°C in the western parts of the region.
Get yourself acquainted with a historic centre on the Armidale Guided Heritage Tour, departing the Visitor Information Centre by bus. Over two and a half hours, a tour guide will tell you the stories of the town. Admission is free – although a donation is appreciated.
Take the time to hear the Indigenous history of the region. On Kamilaroi country, near Tamworth, Len Waters Aboriginal Culture Tours has a series of experiences that will see you looking at the land anew.
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