Nestled in the Macintyre Valley, the Sapphire City of Inverell is a historic New England town with one of the state’s biggest lakes on its doorstep.
The architecture in Inverell is one of the first things to make a good impression.
Shops, cafes and pubs feature beautiful historic facades, while the pretty pink courthouse and charming post office are among the heritage-listed buildings dotted around town.
Visit this New England town to discover vintage and futuristic cars at the National Transport Museum, imagine country life in days gone by at Pioneer Village, and try your hand at fossicking for sapphires and other gems.
When to visit Inverell
Autumn is one of the most popular times to visit Inverell, when guests can enjoy mild temperatures and the changing colours of the trees.
Winters are a quieter time of year. Crisp mornings turn into relatively warm days, with average temperatures ranging from 0 to 16°C.
Tinges of pink colour the building of Inverell. (Image: Destination NSW)
In spring, when the flowers are in full bloom, the Sapphire City Festival adds extra fun for the whole family.
Summer days have an average top temperature of 30°C, a time when swimming and watersports at Copeton Dam are more popular than ever.
How to get to Inverell
Inverell is just over a five-hour drive and 430 kilometres from Brisbane along the National Highway, and around seven hours and 589 kilometres via the New England Highway and Thunderbolts Way from Sydney.
It’s also one of the main stops along the Gwydir Highway, with Glen Innes 67 kilometres to the east and Warialda 61 kilometres to the west.
Inverell Airport is 15 kilometres out of town and is serviced by Link Airways (formerly Fly Corporate), with direct flights to Brisbane and flights to Sydney via Narrabri.
Take in the historic buildings around town, like Heritage-listed Inverell Local Courthouse. (Image: Destination NSW)
Historic estates, luxury above-the-pub stays and lakeside cabins are just some of your options when staying in Inverell.
Inverell hotels and motels
Blair Athol Boutique Hotel
From the antique four-poster beds down to the silver shell butter trays at breakfast, there’s beauty all around at Blair Athol Boutique Hotel.
Built in 1904, Manor House has retained many of its original features, including ornate pressed metal ceilings and open fireplaces, although some changes have been made to ensure every room now has an ensuite.
Book ahead to secure a spot in the Blair Athol Day Spa, which is open to guests and non-guests alike on weekends. Inspired by Roman baths, the spa has a mineral-rich pool, as well as an infrared sauna, treatment rooms for massages and facials, and a terrace with views reaching as far as the Queensland border.
Enjoy the old-world glam of some original features of this boutique hotel, built in 1904.
Oxford on Otho
After two years of renovations, the Oxford on Otho is preparing to launch its new luxury accommodation in November 2022. The old layout of 17 rooms with two shared bathrooms has been completely overhauled to instead offer eight rooms with ensuites, as well as a two-storey family suite (to come in 2023).
Exposed brick, polished floorboards, pressed tin features and quality furnishings are just some of the elements in this stylish, contactless and key-free stay.
Stay in the stylish offerings of this brand new hotel. (Image: Instagram)
Inverell Terrace Motor Lodge
Inverell Terrace Motor Lodge – just a seven-minute walk from the high street – has 18 guest rooms, including interconnecting and accessible suites; each room has a flatscreen TV and mini bar, and breakfast can be delivered to your room.
A self-contained cottage has a dining area, kitchen and laundry, and can sleep up to eight guests in three bedrooms. There’s also a shared barbecue area for cooking your own meals.
Enjoy the comforts of a lodge room, or spread out in the self-contained cottage.
Inverell caravan parks and camping
Copeton Northern Foreshores
Just 17 kilometres from Inverell, Copeton Northern Foreshores is a family and pet-friendly campground overlooking Copeton Dam (which is also known as Lake Copeton).
There are powered and unpowered sites, a camp kitchen, covered barbecue areas, fire pits, laundry facilities, an outdoor gym and free wi-fi.
Whether you’re spending the night or just visiting for the day you can enjoy the children’s playground, water splash park and floating pontoon.
Copeton Waters Holiday Park
On the other side of Lake Copeton, 40 kilometres from Inverell, Copeton Waters Holiday Park is part of the Reflections Holiday Parks chain. It’s perfect for families, featuring a water park, jumping pillow, BMX track, tennis court, boat ramp and more.
As well as powered and unpowered sites the park has a range of cabins, from basic economy options to deluxe three-bedroom cabins with air conditioning, full-sized fridges and ovens. Some standard cabins also include a garden fence and kennel if you’re travelling with your dog.
Get out on the water thanks to Copeton Waters Holiday Park’s boat ramp.
There’s free camping on the eastern side of Copeton Dam. Keep in mind there are no facilities in the area, so you’ll need to be entirely self-sufficient.
Inverell Caravan Park
Boasting water views of the Macintyre River, Inverell Caravan Park has powered and unpowered sites, private ensuite cabins, accessible amenities, a saltwater pool, laundry facilities and a covered barbecue area.
The pet-friendly park is an easy 15-minute walk from the heart of town; you can follow the bitumen track along the river and look out for waterbirds as you go.
Look out to views of the Macintyre River.
Sapphire City Caravan Park
Sapphire City Caravan Park sits at the edge of town and is made up of three acres of grassed camping grounds, as well as cabins, villas, and powered and unpowered sites. The clean and comfortable cabins are self-contained and come with air conditioning and linens.
Inverell restaurants, pubs and cafes
Friendly Aussie cafes, a stylish craft beer bar and tempting dishes await in Inverell.
The Welder’s Dog
The craft beer that started in Armidale now has a new outpost in Inverell as part of the freshly renovated Oxford Hotel. The Welder’s Dog Inverell is the first in the group to offer in-house food, including burgers and buffalo wings.
As well as pouring their own range of beers, the team mixes espresso martinis, margaritas and other cocktails; enjoy them from a seat by the front window or under the soaring sky-lit ceiling in the back.
The venue gets bonus points for providing complimentary products in the women’s bathroom, including deodorant, hairspray, hair bands, chewing gum and sanitary products.
Grab a beer and some pub grub in the cosy Welder’s Dog.
The Union Inverell
After starting life as the Union Bank in 1911, then being turned into a restaurant and pub in the ’70s, the Union building was completely renovated and relaunched as a cafe and bar in 2012.
Now open for lunch and dinner, The Union Inverell’s menu includes salmon ceviche, Riverine scotch fillet steak, and slow-braised baby back ribs with homemade barbecue sauce. City visitors may also be surprised to find cocktails starting at $12, even outside happy hours.
Wash down your elevated pub grub with surprisingly affordable cocktails.
Grab a table inside or sit out the front to watch life go by on Byron Street while enjoying breakfast or lunch – or perhaps just a smoothie or sweet treat – at Freckles Cafe.
The menu includes freshly made sandwiches, melts, burgers and nachos; at breakfast, half-serve options of some dishes are available for those who’d like to try the choc chip waffles while resisting a whole plate.
Indulge in a sweet crepe at Freckles Cafe.
Inverell’s Australia Cafe
Comfortable booths with tiled tables, painted wood saws, Aussie rugby memorabilia, and photos from years gone by – including the 2010 fire that destroyed the 109-year-old Arcade where the cafe now stands – are just some of the things you’ll find in Inverell’s Australia Cafe.
Save your smashed avo for another day: here the breakfasts include omelettes, wraps, rolls, and baked beans or spaghetti with toast.
Let your tastebuds explore new flavours at Australia Cafe.
Things to do in Inverell
Embrace lake life at Copeton Dam, see collectable cars and bikes, stand in buildings from another time and see if you can find sapphires in the wild.
Sapphire City Festival
The Sapphire City Festival runs for 10 days every October and is the biggest event on Inverell’s annual calendar. It’s full of free or low-cost events, and highlights include the Pioneer Village Open Day, Sapphire City Market Day, the Inverell Art Prize exhibition and fossicking tours.
On Finale Day there’s a street parade along Otho and Byron Streets, carnival rides, entertainment and food stalls, as well as a fireworks spectacular off the town bridge.
Three times the size of Sydney Harbour, Copeton Dam is a popular spot for watersports, mountain bike riding, bushwalking, camping and fishing. It’s also one of only two inland waterways in NSW where you can fish for Murray Cod year-round.
After a $5.7 million upgrade, the Northern Foreshores has a newly fenced children’s play area, splash park, picnic areas and walking tracks.
It’s home to the longest boat ramp in Australia, too; the 400-metre ramp means the dam is now accessible when levels are between 11 and 60 per cent. Day visitors can use the Northern Foreshores facilities for $5 per vehicle, while camping is an extra charge.
Get active and enjoy the views at Copeton Dam. (Image: Destination NSW)
National Transport Museum
From some of the first cars to drive on Australian roads to futuristic solar-powered vehicles, the National Transport Museum is full of treasures and surprises.
Standouts in this big shed include a 1906 Dayton that’s believed to be the last in the world, a 1912 Renault, a 1926 Diana, and a range of Rolls Royces, Chevrolets, Holdens and Fords.
You can also see vintage and modern motorcycles, as well as an old monorail car from Sydney’s transport past.
View a range of classic and vintage cars, motorbikes and more at National Transport Museum.
Inverell Pioneer Village
Step into history at Inverell Pioneer Village, where heritage buildings have been relocated and restored to their former glory.
Around the village pond you can find the Grove Homestead, which dates back to 1840 and was originally found in the village of Tingha in early tin mining days, Paddy’s Pub, which was built in 1874, and a bush school, where students first took their seats in 1887.
Displays inside the buildings include vintage photography equipment, typesetting and printing machines, hundreds of colourful vintage glass bottles, and a working model of a sapphire mine.
Step into history at Inverell Pioneer Village. (Image: Don Fuchs /Destination NSW)
Inverell was one of the world’s biggest suppliers of sapphires in the 1960s and ’70s – so much so that it became known as Sapphire City.
Today you can still find sapphires by getting your hands dirty in creek beds, or by skipping a few steps and buying some sapphire wash.
There are designated fossicking areas around town, and the Inverell Visitor Information Centre can give you tips on the best places to try to find these precious gems, as well as quartz and other crystals.
Fossick for you very own sapphire. (Image: Don Fuchs /Destination NSW)
Inverell Art Gallery
See exhibitions by local and visiting artists or join a weekly art class or workshop at Inverell Art Gallery.
The 94-metre-long Meandering Macintyre mosaic out the front, comprised of images of local flora and fauna, is believed to be the longest continuous mosaic footpath in Australia.
Alongside the gallery, the Face of Inverell mural by Claire Foxton is a portrait of much-loved Aboriginal elder Aunty Elizabeth, who was 94 when she passed away in 2020.
Peruse works from local and visiting artists.
Victa Mower Museum
You’ll never look at Victa mowers the same way again after a visit to Malcolm Pomfrett’s place.
Malcolm has been collecting and rebuilding old Victa lawnmowers for more than 30 years, and now has more than 150 Victas on display at 31 Clive Street, Inverell.
Visitors are welcome to pop in; if Malcolm is home they can see the collection, along with a one-of-a-kind mounted reprint of an original archived drawing of a 1956 Victa mower base-plate.