March 17, 2023
13 mins Read
The northernmost town in the New England High Country, just 20km shy of the Queensland border, Tenterfield is where you can climb the largest granite monolith in the southern hemisphere, browse interesting boutiques in heritage buildings, eat and sleep in an award-winning garden, tuck into freshly made donuts around a fire pit, and lie back in a bubbletent and look up at the stars.
Spring and autumn are the prettiest times of year to visit Tenterfield. In spring the streets are lined with flowering plum and cherry trees, and at night fairy lights mingle with the blossoms to sprinkle romantic moments along the main street.
At the other end of the calendar, autumn brings colourful leaves that you can enjoy on strolls through the park and on country drives.
In summer, waratahs, flannel flowers and other natives can be found in bloom in the national parks where you can take a dip in natural swimming holes, and with average tops of only around 27 degrees, it’s still cool enough to get out and explore throughout the day.
Then in winter, wake up to frosty mornings and enjoy dinner and drinks around the fire when the temperatures drop to an average of one to 15 degrees a day.
It only takes around three and a half hours to travel the 270 kilometres from Brisbane to Tenterfield, while from Sydney it’s around eight hours and 660 kilometres.
The closest airport in Inverell is 170 kilometres away, where Link Airways (formerly Fly Corporate) operates direct flights to Brisbane and one-stop flights to Sydney via Narrabri.
Both Qantas and Rex fly from Sydney to Armidale Airport, which is 194 kilometres and just over two hours drive away. The drive from both airports will take you through Glen Innes, 91 kilometres south of Tenterfield, while Toowoomba, Tamworth, Lismore, Ballina and Brisbane airports are all within a three-and-a-half hours’ drive.
Luxury bubbletents, historic pubs and a range of B&Bs (including a cottage in an award-winning garden) are among the ways to stay in Tenterfield.
An Art Deco getaway in a historic pub, the Commercial Boutique Hotel has eight luxury rooms, each with queen-sized beds featuring bespoke French bedheads and walk-in rain shower ensuites.
Three of the premium rooms also come with baths, while one has a corner balcony overlooking the Tenterfield high street. Pets are welcome on application.
Best Western The Henry Parkes Tenterfield offers large air-conditioned rooms with free high-speed internet access and in-room movies. Accessible rooms and rooms with spa baths, kitchenettes and laundry facilities are also available.
As well as starting your day with breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, you can take a seat by the fire for a drink before dinner in colder times.
Lie back and look at the stars in your own private bubble at Mirumiru Bubbletent.
These luxury bubbletents feature queen beds made up with soft linens or cashmere sheets, outdoor vintage baths, and telescopes for a closer look at the planets above.
Mirumiru is Australia’s first family-friendly bubbletent experience and is where the kids can sleep in their own bubbletent in a tree.
They’re also a sustainable way to stay and are completely off-grid, running on solar power and rainwater with composting toilets and using local products.
First built in 1884 as Tenterfield’s Council Chambers building, the Old Council Chambers is now a character-filled country retreat.
There are two adults-only self-contained suites, each with a king-size bed, fireplace and free-standing bathtub, including one that’s behind the heavy door of the biggest strongroom in town.
Both suites have been designed with couples in mind but, thanks to fold-out lounges, can sleep up to four.
On two acres of land with sweeping views out to Mount Mackenzie, Carpe Diem Guesthouse opened in 2021 and has four lovely guest rooms with Smart TVs, a pool and snooker room on one side of the house, a library full of Australian books on the other, and a double-sided fireplace in between.
As well as using solar power wherever possible and relying on rainwater, bathrooms are stocked with local Washpool products and walls are decorated with local art for sale.
Set in Tenterfield’s award-winning Glenrock Gardens, The Cottage is a cosy hideaway where you can relax on the daybed looking out over the lake on sunny days and enjoy a glass of wine by the fire inside when the temperatures drop.
The adults-only cottage has a kitchen with a gas stove and oven, toaster, Nespresso coffee maker and kettle and teapot, along with an HDTV with Netflix, wi-fi, and a washing machine and drying rack for clothes.
In a peaceful setting looking out at Mt McKenzie, Craig’s Caravan Park is on the smaller side with older amenities but is well maintained by friendly owners who know how to welcome repeat visitors back.
The pet-friendly park is walking distance from town and has unpowered and powered sites, including some for longer vehicles, as well as open-plan cabins with ensuites.
A stone’s throw from the Tenterfield Railway Museum, the Tenterfield Lodge and Caravan Park has powered sites, and standard and ensuite cabins, including two pet-friendly options.
This park is best suited to grey nomads and mature travellers who can fire up the free gas barbecues, sit by the fire in the camp kitchen, use the book exchange and library and get a good night’s sleep away from highway noise.
Delicious dishes in a picturesque garden, vegan and gluten-free donuts by the fire, and sunset pizzas and granite belt wine are all on the menu on a visit to Tenterfield.
When the Commercial Boutique Hotel was restoring the building back to its 1940s charms the original wood fire oven was found hidden inside a wall in the kitchen.
Now it’s been brought back to life and can be seen in the dining room where guests can enjoy seasonal dishes along with local wines and craft beers. The Commercial also has room to drink and dine in the bar, as well as on the back deck and in the pet-friendly beer garden.
For years Tenterfield’s award-winning Glenrock Gardens could only be visited on special open days. As of September 2022, the gardens are now open every weekend thanks to the opening of their café, restaurant and bar, The Barn.
Open from 10–5 from Friday to Sunday, at The Barn you can take a seat under soaring ceilings and fairy lights or on the deck overlooking the lake.
The delicious share-style dishes change every week to make the most of what’s in season, and when you’ve had your fill of food you can take a stroll through the 10-acre gardens.
Another new addition in September 2022, Stonefruit is a café by day, wine bar by night.
While the breakfast menu is relatively limited you can try local charcuterie, bacon butties and assorted pastries, then from midday until late the menu includes freshly shucked Nambucca Heads rock oysters and organic grass-fed beef tartare with Granite Belt gourmet seeded mustard.
Expect some Granite Belt wines on the list, too, along with a selected range of local and imported drops.
A friendly community space on Manners Street, Manners & Co is home to the Bad Manners Donut & Coffee Van where you can pick up freshly made gluten-free and vegan-friendly cinnamon donuts, including some with a Nutella twist, and the Little Bread Shed boutique bakery.
There’s a large fire pit to sit around, a kid’s playground and a community market stall where you can pick up some local produce.
At the back of the Corner Life and Style Store, the Corner Café is a popular spot for breakfast, lunch and decadent cakes.
Here the breakfast menu ranges from low-carb plates to Nutella-stuffed French toast with fresh cream and strawberries. There are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free options and in colder months the seats around the open fire are the place to be.
Book ahead to secure a spot for sunset wood-fired pizzas and wine at the Balancing Heart Vineyard.
One of the granite belt’s top vineyards is only 27 kilometres, or around 22 minutes drive, north of Tenterfield, and is where you can try handcrafted one-of-a-kind wines by Mike Hayes, the 2017 Australian Winemaker of the Year.
Nature lovers, history buffs and Peter Allen fans are just some of the people who’ll find something special to do in Tenterfield.
The largest granite monolith in the Southern Hemisphere, Bald Rock is 30 kilometres outside of Tenterfield on the NSW and Queensland border and offers views from 1277 metres above sea level (don’t worry, you’ll only climb the last 260 metres or so).
There are two ways to walk to the top: the hard way and the easier way. The hard way, also known as the Rockface walk, is challenging on the way up and not for the faint-hearted on the way down.
The Bungoona Walk isn’t just easier, it also takes visitors through magnificent granite boulders and tors. Download the Bald Rock Soundtrails guide to hear Bundjalung ancestral songs, stories about the rock and more.
If you’d like to go camping in Tenterfield, the Bald Rock Campground has picnic tables, barbecue facilities and toilets, and as well as climbing the rock itself you can explore other walking and bike trails in the Bald Rock National Park. Fees apply.
Pack your swimmers for a trip to Boonoo Boonoo National Park where you can take a short stroll to a beautiful waterfall and cool off in one of the natural swimming holes.
Boonoo Boonoo (pronounced bunna-bunoo) is 27 kilometres from Tenterfield and is where Banjo Patterson proposed to Alice Walker.
These days you can take in the same views they saw more than a hundred years ago, as well as use the barbecue facilities, picnic tables and toilets in the picnic area.
In 1889 Sir Henry Parkes delivered a speech in the Tenterfield School of Arts that would go on to see the town dubbed the ‘birthplace of the nation’.
The Tenterfield Oration, or Federation Speech as it’s also known, is considered to be the start of the federation process that brought the colonies together to form a single nation.
At the Sir Henry Parkes School of Arts you can see the Banquet Hall where the speech was made as well as some of Parkes’ personal memorabilia and other displays. The complex is also home to the Tenterfield Cinema and Theatre where you can see recent releases and live shows.
Time is a traveller, Tenterfield Saddler… it’s next to impossible not to sing the Peter Allen classic to yourself when you stand in front of this piece of Tenterfield history.
The late George Woolnough’s saddlery on High Street is now part museum, part gift shop. Step through those red cedar doors and you’ll find Peter Allen memorabilia including his bright red size 14 tap shoes and pieces of the old saddlery on the 20-inch thick granite walls.
The Saddler is usually open from 9am to 12pm Tuesday to Sunday though sometimes those times change if one of their volunteers isn’t available on the day.
If you’re planning a trip to see the Autumn colours in Tenterfield, why not time it right so you can also catch the fun of the Tenterfield Autumn Festival.
Held over the Easter long weekend, the festival includes Easter egg hunts, a hay bale design competition, horse and cart rides, vintage car displays, helicopter rides and high tea at the Tenterfield Railway Station.
There’ll also be kids entertainment for the little ones, and live music and for the grown-ups.
The last station built on the Sydney to Brisbane railway line, the Tenterfield railway station opened in 1886 and welcomed passengers on steam-powered trains through to the XPT until the train line was cut off in 1989.
These days you can still visit the beautiful Victorian Gothic designed station and explore the Tenterfield Railway Museum where you can walk through old trains and see a range of exhibitions in the old waiting and other station rooms.
On the first Saturday of every second month from February to December, you’ll also find the Railway Markets in the front of the station with a mix of bric-a-brac, plants, food and other stalls.
Pick up a map from the Visitor Information Centre to take a self-guided heritage tour around Tenterfield.
Along with the Tenterfield Saddler and railway station you’ll see the church where Banjo Paterson married Alice Walker in 1903, the huge cork tree that was brought out from England in a jam tin in 1861 and is still growing today, the Italianate Post Office that dates back to 1881 and more.
You can also download the Tenterfield Soundtrail and hear stories about the town as you explore. If you don’t have a smartphone or tablet you can borrow one with the Soundtrail already loaded from the Tenterfield Visitor Information Centre.
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The place I call home!
Very pleasant and interesting read about Tenterfield travel commentary.