For those of you who thought country music was just one simple genre, look out: there’s country swing, blues, bluegrass, western, hillbilly, bush ballad, rockabilly, pure country, Australiana, and even wild west forms of hip hop and reggae. There’s only one place in Australia where you’ll find all this at once: Tamworth in New England, NSW, every January.
It’s not just the music that takes you to the Tamworth Country Music Festival – it’s the experience.
Typically there are around 800 artists listed on the program, and then a further 500 or so buskers. Morning, noon and night there’s strumming, humming, thumping and wailing in virtually every street, park, pub, campsite and shower block. Not to mention the dancing and bush poetry. These efforts are cheered for, clapped along with and stomped to by a gathering of 50,000 revellers – doubling the region’s population for ten days.
“Hey, Keith Urban had to get his start somewhere. And this town is it. Saunter in and holler with the best of them.”
– Catriona Rowntree
If you need to know the difference between bluegrass and pure country, you’ve got to do Tamworth at least once in your life.
Did you know?
The world record for line dancing was established by 5502 people in Tamworth in 1997. That record is now held by the 12,168 people who took part at the Happy Valley Recreation Ground in Hong Kong in 2002. They danced to “Baby Likes To Rock it” for 7min 40secs.
The feeling in Tamworth is that when it comes to being dressed right, using the proper steps and shouting “yee-ha” the most, those 5502 souls in 1997 still hold the record.
How to get there
Qantas has daily flights to Tamworth from Sydney and Brisbane.
Tamworth is in northwest NSW, at the junction of the New England and Oxley Highways. It is a five-hour drive from Sydney and a six-hour drive from Brisbane.
Countrylink offers daily train services to Tamworth from Sydney.
Best time to go
Anytime, but the Country Music Festival is held in January.
Detailed visitor info by Tourism Tamworth
Visitor info by Tourism NSW
** This is our original 100 Things to Do Before You Die. First published in 1996. There is an updated 100 Things To Do In Australia Before you die, published in 2011.