The capital of Australia’s New England region, Armidale is a city that feels like a big country town. And as a gateway to gorge and waterfall country, it’s full of natural wonders.
Walk down wide leafy streets lined with heritage architecture, see great Australian art, discover local craft breweries, and visit some of NSW’s most spectacular waterfalls: Armidale, Australia’s highest city, has a lot to discover both in town and out in nature, with more than 500 kilometres of rivers and waterfalls on its doorstep.
Wander through Beardy St and explore Armidale. (Image: Destination NSW)
When to visit Armidale
Autumn and spring are the most spectacular times to visit Armidale, as that’s when the town is transformed by rich autumn leaves and spring blooms.
Summer days are usually nice and warm rather than too hot, with average tops of around 26°C followed by cool (and sometimes even cold) nights.
Discover the city of Armidale. (Image: Destination NSW)
Winter temperatures can drop below freezing and have an average top of 12°C. Frosty mornings that turn into blue-sky days are perfect for brisk bushwalks and relaxing around open fires, and while snow is a relatively rare occurrence, you may still catch a dusting during your stay.
How to get to Armidale
Planes, trains and automobiles are all possible options when heading to this charming New England hub.
Both Qantas and Rex offer flights to Armidale from Sydney, while Link (formerly Fly Corporate) flies from Brisbane to Armidale.
The airport is also the closest commercial airport for local towns including Glen Innes, which is just over an hours’ drive north, and Uralla, which is 12-minute drive south.
Travelling from Sydney to Armidale
There are two main ways to drive from Sydney to Armidale; Thunderbolts Way is 475 kilometres and takes just under six hours, travelling through Gloucester and Walcha, while the New England Highway takes about 15 minutes longer to travel 513 kilometres through the Upper Hunter to Tamworth then on to Armidale.
Taking the scenic drive along Thunderbolts Way is a great way to get to Armidale. (Image: Destination NSW)
If you prefer to go the longer, more waterfall-dotted route, you can travel up the Pacific Highway to Urunga and join the Waterfall Way, which will take around seven and a half hours and cover 670 kilometres.
Discover more natural treasures along the Waterfall Way at Gara Gorge in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. (Image: Harrison Candlin)
You can also hop on a train from Sydney’s Central Station and watch the world go by for eight hours. Unfortunately Armidale is the end of the line, so if you’re travelling from the north you’ll need to fly or drive; from Brisbane, it takes five and a half hours and 465 kilometres down the New England Highway.
An Art Deco hotel, a historic guesthouse and a pet-friendly caravan park are just some of the ways to stay in and around Armidale.
Armidale hotels and motels
Tattersalls Hotel Armidale
Step back in time at Tattersalls Hotel Armidale, where a multi-million dollar renovation has transformed the old hotel back into an Art Deco beauty. Walk up the sweeping walnut staircase to the stylish guest lounge and luxurious guest rooms, then look out onto the open-air Beardy Street Mall from an enclosed balcony, where you can relax and stay warm on chilly days.
The Tattersalls Hotel is the perfect spot for the discerning traveller and local alike. (Image: Destination NSW)
A 15-minute stroll from the centre of town, the 4.5-star Rydges Armidale has 57 luxury rooms which all feature block-out curtains, coffee pod machines and marble bathrooms stocked with ThankYou amenities. There are two Tesla Destination Chargers, and the hotel’s dining options include the Mediterranean-inspired Azka Restaurant and Azka Wine & Tapas Bar.
Country Comfort Armidale
Just across the road from the heritage-listed Central Park, Country Comfort Armidale has 42 rooms; each includes a work desk, flat screen TV, refrigerator, toaster and microwave. There’s off-street car parking, and the motel has a laundry with washing and drying facilities.
Petersons Guesthouse & Winery
Petersons Guesthouse has seven rooms in a historic homestead just outside of Armidale. Each room comes with a king bed, antique furniture and heated bathroom floors, and some have clawfoot tubs or full-size spa baths. The winery’s cellar door is found in the homestead’s stables across the garden, and guests can choose their preferred drop for dinner at a wine tasting before coming back to relax by the fireplaces in the Great Hall.
The historic grounds of the Petersens Guesthouse & Winery were established in 1911. (Image: Destination NSW)
Loloma is a boutique B&B in one of Armidale’s most beautiful houses, just a few minutes’ walk from the heart of town. Originally built in 1882, the home has retained many of its late Victorian features, including marble mantles, cedar joinery, ornamental fireplaces and iron lacework. There are two large and well-appointed suites, a light-filled glass conservatory for breakfast, and a swimming pool for the warmer months.
Armidale caravan parks and tourist parks
Armidale Tourist Park
Looking for pet-friendly accommodation? Armidale Tourist Park has cabins with pet-proof furniture so four-legged friends can sleep inside or out. It’s also kid friendly, as there’s a pool, jumping pillow, tennis court, ping pong and a playground, all set across 14 acres. Campers and caravanners can choose between grassed and slabbed powered and unpowered sites, and cabin and villa options cater for anywhere between two and nine guests.
BIG4 Highlander Van Village
BIG4 Highlander Van Village offers powered and tent sites along with cottages and cabins, including log-style cabins for two, and a four-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin that can sleep up to eight. Set at the edge of town, the park has a swimming pool and recreation room, as well as a camp kitchen, barbecue area and laundry facilities.
Armidale restaurants and cafes
Stylish restaurants, cosy cafes and Napoli-style pizza nights are just some of your options when dining in Armidale.
Tattersalls Hotel Armidale Restaurant
With its fine Art Deco lines, the Tattersalls Hotel Armidale is a beautiful place to enjoy a coconut margarita, mango sherbet martini, or perhaps a more traditional cocktail in the lounge. Afterwards, move to your table where the fine dining menu includes baked herb-crusted barramundi and Wagyu tenderloin Wellington rolled in prosciutto. Prefer a more casual bite? Take a seat in the hotel’s pizza garden and peruse the garden bar and pizza menus.
Wine and dine at the Tattersalls Hotel Armidale. (Image: Destination NSW)
The Goldfish Bowl
At The Goldfish Bowl they bake their own organic bread, roast their own specialty coffee, source fresh sustainable ingredients from local suppliers, and serve a lot of happy customers.
It is easy to spot the colourful facade of the Goldfish Bowl cafe in Armidale.
Get a seat inside where you can watch the wood-fired oven at work, or sit outside in the grapevine-covered courtyard. It’s open for breakfast every day, lunch Monday to Friday, and for pizza night on Fridays.
Get breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Goldfish Bowl and recharge your batteries before exploring Armidale even more. (Image: Destination NSW)
The pizza love continues at Signor Vertelli, where Napoli-style pizzas are created with a mix of organic flour and ancient grains for a more earthy taste. Diners can choose pizzas from a seasonally changing menu that can include eggplant and guanciale (pork cheek) options, then sit back and watch their wood-fired pizza baking in a handmade and Naples-designed Stefano Ferrara pizza oven.
Armidale pubs and bars
Whether you’re after a chicken schnitty or fancy trying a green Thai jackfruit curry, the Whitebull is the place to be. As well as having a broad menu to choose from, the pub has a great selection of beers on tap – there are 26 craft, regular, imported and ginger beer options – as well as an extensive wine list (and a large couch in front of the fire for those fast enough to grab it).
Great Hops Brewing Co.
Get to know local boutique beers over tacos, burgers and wings at Great Hops Brewing Co., found just outside Armidale on Old Inverell Road. The team takes classic beer styles from around the world, puts an Aussie spin on them, and has some fun with the names. Where better to drink the Armidale-made mid-strength ale called the Ar-Mid-Ale?
The Welder’s Dog
While you can now find Welder’s Dogs in Tamworth and Inverell, you can pull up a seat in the bar where it all began in Armidale. At The Welder’s Dog original craft beer bar you can BYO food or choose a light bite from the fridge while enjoying your beer or hard lemonade. You can also take a tour of the brewing headquarters and sip a beer in the Brew Bar, which is a five-minute drive away.
Enjoy a drink at Welder’s Dog. (Image: Destination NSW)
Welder’s Dog has a wide range of local and regional spirits available for you to taste.
Things to do in Armidale
Adrenaline junkies, history buffs, art admirers and nature lovers all have something to look forward to on a visit to Armidale.
The Big Chill Festival
The Big Chill Festival brings locals and visitors together in Civic Park to celebrate the changing seasons as Armidale heads into winter. Bundle up with your beanie and scarf to gather around fire pits, listen to live music and tuck into slow cooked BBQ and gourmet steak burgers. You can get your ice skates on for a spin around the outdoor skating rink, browse local boutique craft and trade stalls, and sample local craft beers, wine and gin.
See waterfalls and gorges
Just outside Armidale, the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is home to one of the largest gorge systems in Australia. It’s made up of a combination of World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest and dry forest, lush valleys and rocky outcrops, winding rivers and dramatic waterfalls.
Get your steps in on Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and admire the beautiful views the park has to offer you at the same time. (Image: Harrison Candlin)
Visitors can go hiking, swimming, canoeing and fishing, or simply take in the views from platforms close to the car parks.
Stopping at Edgars Lookout to watch the scenic views of Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is a must-do. (Image: Destination NSW)
The best waterfalls near Armidale can be found to the south and east of town. Drive 20 minutes south to Dangars Falls, where you can see water plunging 120 metres into the ravine below; there are several viewing platforms, including some close to the car park. Another platform sits at the top of the falls, where you can sometimes feel the mist on your face as the water tips over the edge of the cliff.
Dangar Falls are ones not to miss, so make sure you add it to your to-do list. (Image: Harrison Candlin)
Head back to Armidale and east along the Waterfall Way to see Wollomombi Falls (at more than 220 metres, these are the highest in NSW) and the two-tiered beauty of Ebor Falls.
Ebor Falls is a great stop on your way and offers spectacular waterfall views, scenic lookouts, and a great picnic area. (Image: Harrison Candlin)
Helicopters and vintage planes
See the waterfalls and gorges from above in a helicopter or vintage plane with Fleet Adventures. Choose whether you want the doors on or off the helicopter and watch farmland give way to wild gorge country; when you’re not flying over waterfalls, you may spot brumbies and eagles.
Get ready to take off and fly over Armidale’s most stunning nature. (Image: Destination NSW)
Perhaps you’d like to take in the views from a Warbird plane? You can feel the wind on your face in an open cockpit Boeing Stearman, or sit back in comfort in a WWII T6 cockpit. If you really want to get the adrenalin pumping you can buckle up for an aerobatic adventure and do loops, barrel rolls and more on your flight.
Visit art galleries and museums
Among the best regional galleries in Australia, the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) is home to one of the most significant art collections outside our capital cities. Between the gallery’s Howard Hinton, Chandler Coventry and NERAM collections it holds more than 5000 pieces of historical, modern and contemporary pieces from artists including Arthur Streeton, Margaret Preston, Brett Whiteley, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Pay a visit to Armidale’s New England Regional Art Museum and emerge yourself in all things arts.
Next door at the Armidale & Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre & Keeping Place (ACCKP) you can learn about local Indigenous history and life today; join a tour or just take a look around their latest art exhibition and permanent collection of artefacts. Groups can also book in for workshops, which can include weaving, crafts and Aboriginal history classes.
Learn about local Indigenous history and life today at the Armidale & Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre & Keeping Place (ACCKP).
The University of New England’s Natural History Museum displays botanical, geological, zoological and paleontological specimens from around the world. It’s also home to a reconstruction of one of Australia’s newest dinosaurs, known as ‘Lightning Claw’.
Follow the road past the Armidale airport and you’ll find the Edwardian mansion Saumarez House. On Wednesdays and Sundays you can take a guided tour of this grand, 30-room home that was built between 1888 and 1906, which is still filled with its original furniture. Head out to see 19th century tools in the outbuildings, then stroll through the homestead’s rose garden, where 600 heritage roses grow.
Fancy a trip back to the past? Visit the mansion and learn more about Armidale’s history. (Image: Destination NSW)
Take a heritage tour
Be taken on a historical journey around Armidale on a Guided Heritage Tour. Expect lively and at times personal commentaries from your guides as you slowly drive past key buildings, including cathedrals, hotels, schools and monuments. Tours run Monday to Saturday; they start at the Armidale Visitor Information Centre at 10am and return around 12.30pm. There is no set price, although a $10 donation is recommended.