This is a scenic drive along the New England Highway and Thunderbolts Way, between Tenterfield in the north of NSW down to Sydney. It takes about 8 hours and passes through historic country towns, through some of the New England region’s most beautiful high country, and gives travellers an insight into the lives of Australia’s early settlers. If time permits, it is ideal to break the trip and stay in a few places along the way to appreciate the sights.
About a half hour drive south of Tenterfield, Deepwater is a small village where each year in mid-Spring they celebrate the end of winter with the Deepwater Scarecrow & Wool Festival. There is lots of fun with the locals dressing up as scarecrows, plus sheep-shearing displays, wool spinning, markets, live music and much more. There are some lovely old buildings in Deepwater including the Eclipse Theatre and the Deepwater Railway Station.
Glen Innes Town Hall
Glen Innes is about 40kms south of Deepwater and is an attractive town with some fine buildings – in fact, there are more than 30 heritage-listed buildings along Glen Innes’ main street, Grey Street. The New England Highway doesn’t pass through the centre of town so it is worth a detour to at least drive along Grey Street. Glen Innes is an area known for its wool, lamb and beef production, and most recently its wine. Find out more about local produce and where to try it at www.gleninnestourism.com/food-wine-celtic-country Many of the district’s first European settlers were from Scotland and this heritage is celebrated every year with the annual Celtic Festival during the first weekend in May. Other Glen Innes attractions include:
The Land of the Beardies Museum
The Beardies Festival, November each year
Minerama Gem Festival, March each year celebrates the districts’ sapphire mining history
Wright Robinson Wines of Glencoe
There are a number of National Parks around Glen Innes, most notably Washpool NP and Gibraltar Range NP. More details can be found at www.gleninnestourism.com/glen-innes-national-parks
Fossicking – see details at www.gleninnestourism.com/fossicking/
For a town of its size, Glen Innes has a large choice of accommodation – camping, motels, apartments, farm stays, B&Bs – and even a castle (Kings Plains Castle).
Big Lamb Statue, Guyra
Guyra is located about half way between Glen Innes and Armidale, and is the highest town on the New England Tablelands at 1330m above sea level. As such it can get very cold – at any time of the year. Highlights in the area include:
The Lamb & Potato Festival every January showcases local produce (www.guyra-lamb-potato.com)
Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve – bird-watching
Visitor information is available at Rafters Café/Restaurant on the New England Highway in Guyra, telephone 02-6779-1876.
About half an hour drive from Guyra, Armidale is a very attractive city with many historic buildings and churches. It is the main centre for the New England Region and home to the University of New England (UNE). Although the New England Highway bypasses Armidale, it is certainly worth a visit (it’s only about 1km off the Highway). Attractions include:
Historic buildings and churches
New England Regional Art Museum
Booloominbah Homestead, National Trust property, UNE
Petersons Winery & Cellar Door – open Sat & Sun
Saumarez Homestead, National Trust property
Armidale is a good base for exploring the New England High Country’s world-heritage national parks with their outstanding gorges, waterfalls and rivers. A good way to experience this beautiful countryside is to take a drive along Waterfall Way (B78) – a scenic drive between Armidale and Urunga (just south of Coffs Harbour) of about 170kms.
Beardy St, Armidale
While the entire drive of 170kms is a bit far for a day trip from Armidale (even for us!), some sights along that route are achievable:
Dangars Falls – about 22kms from Armidale.
Gara Gorge (Blue Hole) – about 16kms from Armidale
Bakers Creek Falls – about 17kms from Armidale
Wollomombi Falls – about 40kms from Armidale
Point Lookout – about 80 kms (1 hour) from Armidale
Ebor Falls – about 1 hour drive from Armidale
There are a couple of good websites on the Waterfall Way:
For more detailed information about Armidale and the New England High Country (Guyra, Uralla, Walcha) visit – http://www.experiencethehighs.com.au/
Bushranger – Thunderbolt
Historic Uralla is about 20 minutes drive south of Armidale. This pretty town has a connection with bushranger Captain Thunderbolt who spent time in the area and is buried in the town’s cemetery. Uralla is a good place to take a break as there are some good cafes (including Trina’s Café and White Rose Diner), some interesting shops and an excellent museum – McCrossin’s Mill Museum.
For more information, contact or call into Uralla Visitor Information Centre, 104 Bridge St, Uralla, Tel 02-6778-6420 www.uralla.com. Another good website on Uralla is www.experiencethehighs.com.au/experiences/uralla.
At Uralla, instead of continuing on to Tamworth, we turn left off the New England Highway and onto Thunderbolts Way towards Walcha.
Walcha “Where Wild Rivers Run”
Walcha is only about a half hour drive from Uralla and is one of the oldest towns in the New England region with many historic buildings dating back to the 1800s. However one of the first things you notice driving into the town are the outdoor sculptures. There are 41 pieces of outdoor art throughout the town and the best way to appreciate them is to download the Open Air Gallery of Sculptures & Artworks brochure from the www.walchansw.com.au website.
Walcha’s attractions include:
A walking tour of historic buildings including the Post Office, Court House, Fenwicke House – download the brochure from www.walchansw.com.au
Walcha Pioneer Cottage Museum in Derby Street
Walcha Mountain Festival – October each year
Walcha Garden Festival – November each year.
Walcha is the southern gateway to the Wild Rivers National Park. The Oxley Hwy (B56) between Walcha and Port Macquarie travels through Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and is a beautifully scenic drive. The entire trip to Port Macquarie would take about 2 hours (it’s about 180kms) but there are a couple of waterfalls close to Walcha that are worth a visit:
Apsley Falls – 20kms east of Walcha
Tia Falls – about 40kms east of Walcha
For more detailed information on Walcha, visit www.walchansw.com.au or contact the Visitor Information Centre in Fitzroy Street, Walcha, telephone 02-6774-2460. Between Walcha and Gloucester (about 50kms from Gloucester), it is worth stopping at Carsons Lookout for the sensational views towards Barrington Tops. There are also a few picnic tables so it’s a good place to break your trip. Bretti Nature Reserve, about 30kms before Gloucester, is a beautiful place to picnic or camp beside the Barnard River.
Bretti Nature Reserve
Gloucester is about a 1 hour 45 minute scenic drive south of Walcha. The town is most well known as the gateway to the Barrington Tops National Park. Other attractions include:
Gloucester Art Gallery
Gloucester Farmers Market, 2nd Saturday of each month in Billabong Park
Tugwood Wines, Cellar Door 10am – 4pm
Villa D’Esta Vineyard Cellar Door, 10am-4pm, 7 days
Copeland Historic Gold Mine Tours
Hillview Herb Farm (by appointment)
The Steps Mountain Bike Park
Billabong Park in Denison Street is a good place to stop for a picnic, toilet break or walk through the Native Gardens. For more detailed information, visit the Gloucester Visitor Information Centre, 27 Denison St, Gloucester, tel 02-6558-1408.
Gloucester to Sydney At Gloucester we took Bucketts Way south for about one hour (via Stroud) to join the Pacific Hwy (A1) just north of Raymond Terrace, and from there it was a couple of hours drive to Sydney.