The coast road from Sydney to Brisbane is perfect if you want to put your foot down and take the direct route north.
However, if you like driving through country towns and not past them, then an inland journey through New England High Country might just be for you.
Take a few days or a week meandering through charming country towns with plenty of pit stops at cafes and classic bakeries along the way to keep you refuelled and recharged.
Follow along on the map below:
Sydney to Newcastle – 2 hours
Before you head inland, scoot up the coast to Newcastle and discover a city that’s growing in popularity as a relaxed and breezy weekend getaway. Blessed with beautiful beaches, cool cafes and a thriving arts scene, once you stop in Newcastle you’ll want to linger longer.
The Flotilla is the latest project by Silverchair’s Chris Joannou and Zach Scholtz: an impressive contemporary restaurant in the Newcastle suburb of Wickham. The cuisine at this finer diner is more refined than at their previous restaurants and worth making a detour for.
Grab a takeaway coffee from one of these excellent cafes, Equium Social, Praise Joe Urban Pantry or The Hood Milk Bar and continue your road trip north.
Where to stay
The Junction Hotel offers nine unique and quirky rooms above a pub in the heart of cosmopolitan restaurant precinct The Junction.
Equium Social, Newcastle
Creature comforts at Newcastle’s Junction Hotel
Newcastle to Tamworth – 3.5 hours
For a coffee pit stop, seek out Double Picc in Muswellbrook to keep caffeinated and alert on your road trip or if you’re not quite ready to stop, push on to Willow Tree and pause at The Plains Pantry for fresh local produce, sweet treats or healthy bites.
Have you even visited Tamworth if you don’t snap a selfie at the Golden Guitar? It’s on the southern approach on the New England Highway, so you can’t miss it and despite the clichés it’s rather a cool tribute to the town’s country music roots: so too the bronze statues along the main street featuring an assortment of country music legends.
For a little culture, stop by the Tamworth regional art gallery
For casual eats, Pig & Tinder Box is a local favourite. Housed within Tamworth’s beautiful old bank building, The Pig & Tinder Box is more contemporary restaurant than gastro pub with a menu of creative share plates and traditional wood-fired pizzas. We highly recommend the Korean fried chicken with sweet fermented chilli and sesame packing just the right amount of fiery chilli and crunch.
More dining destination than road trip pit stop, Goonoo Goonoo Station is Tamworth’s most celebrated restaurant. With sweeping views over the rolling hills to the distant Liverpool Range, Glasshouse Restaurant is a spectacular spot to dine in style.
For a little culture, stop by the Tamworth Regional Art Gallery, which showcases gems from the permanent collection as well as touring exhibitions. The gallery is easy to find in the heart of town.
Swing by Sonny’s Bakery for a hearty breakfast of favourites including indulgent eggs benny, epic bakery items and great Will & Co coffee.
The pig and tinderbox is a local favourite
The magical Goonoo Goonoo station
Where to stay
Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth by Rydges has just undergone a major refurbishment: this roadside hotel has transformed into a five-star beauty with stylish rooms, inviting bar and impressive steakhouse.
Tamworth to Armidale – 1.5 hours
The drought-ravaged countryside is a heartbreaking sight as you arrive into Armidale and the dry landscape continues on to the Granite Belt and beyond. Another great reason to choose an inland journey is to show your support and inject some much needed money into the local community.
Detour to Petersons Guesthouse & Winery for wine tasting or stretch out in the country gardens with a cheeseboard or antipasto platter for a relaxing picnic pit stop. Grab a bottle of something special to enjoy at your next destination.
New on the scene, The Social Club is the latest venture by charismatic owner Caleb Harvey. Harvey’s vision to create an inviting and safe space for the LGBTQI community and welcoming to all has already been a hit with locals. In a region doing it tough, it’s pleasing to see all meals are priced at $12.90: from toasties to burgers and more.
Where to stay
After a multi-million-dollar refurbishment the ultra-luxe Tattersalls Hotel Armidale is a sensational spot to lay your weary head. Dazzling in Art Deco style, no expense has been spared in fitting out this inner-city beauty.
Tattersalls Hotel Guest Lounge (Photo: Sally Scott)
Armidale to Tenterfield – 2 hours
I defy anyone to visit Tenterfield and not start breaking in to song! There is even a Peter Allen Festival in September paying tribute to the contribution of the entertainer.
A visit to Tenterfield is not complete without visiting Tenterfield Saddler. The original saddlery is filled with interesting memorabilia and leather goods. Staffed by volunteers, it’s worth phoning ahead to confirm opening hours.
Wine down at Our Place, a cosy wine bar serving an impressive selection of local Granite Belt wines and local produce platters. On warmer nights, head out the back to the courtyard glowing with fire pits and filled with happy locals.
Also on the main street is The Corner Life and Style Store & Cafe a sprawling store filled with homewares, fashion, jewellery, accessories and gifts. The cosy cafe is a superb spot for breakfast, where you can enjoy your coffee fireside.
Where to stay?
The Commercial Hotel Tenterfield offers eight luxurious rooms above a tastefully restored pub decked out in art deco style. Conveniently wander downstairs to the restaurant and bar for a local wine or craft beer and relax by the fire.
The commercial boutique hotel offers 8 luxurious rooms
Tenterfield to Brisbane – 3.5 hours
Continue your journey to Brisbane via the Granite Belt with a wine tasting or two at local favourites such as Tobin Wines, Symphony Hill Wines or Ridgemill Estate.
Enjoy a morning tea pit stop at Sutton’s Farm for their legendary apple pie, an enormous confection served old school with a side of cream and ice-cream. Or, stop at Arthur Clive’s Bakery at Aratula – the perfect half way spot for a cheeky cake and coffee as you head toward your final destination.
The delightful Sutton Farm
Stop for a tasting or two at Ridgemill Estate