|Sydney to Brisbane (via New England Highway)|
|A delightful journey from the wineries of the Hunter Valley, to historic townships, rugged national parks and farming plains, then up onto the Great Dividing Range to Tamworth - the home of Australian country music. This New England Highway trip then takes you to the historic university city of Armidale, Celtic-flavour Glen Innes, the ‘Sapphire City’ of Inverell and then down to the far north coast - through fertile farmland and rainforested hills.|
Head north from Sydney on the Pacific Highway and follow the signs from the Freeway to the city of Maitland in the Lower Hunter. From here take the New England Highway to Singleton. The highway first passes the winery region around Branxton, then leads you to Singleton, one of Australia’s oldest towns. Founded in the 1820s, this attractive settlement features historic buildings and several museums - it is also the access point for the pristine wilderness of Wollemi and Yengo National Parks.
Muswellbrook, the next major highway centre, is another historic town with an art gallery and several interesting urban walks. To the north, Scone is at the heart of a famous horse breeding area and the western gateway to Barrington Tops National Park. There are some delightful old buildings here and plenty of opportunities for horse riding. Nearby Quirindi, another renowned horse region is known as the ‘home of Australian polo’.
Up on the Great Dividing Range, the large rural centre of Tamworth is the undisputed ‘Country Music Capital of Australia’, with a famous annual country music festival. There are many galleries and museums here, but country fans should head for the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown. For outdoor pursuits, nearby Lake Keepit, Tamworth’s favourite recreation area offers boating, swimming and gliding.
From here the New England highway leads northeast and passes through Uralla - once the stamping ground of notorious bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ - and then brings you to the genteel city of Armidale. There’s a great deal to do here, and you’ll need a couple of days to pack everything in! Sightseeing suggestions are the excellent New England Regional Art Museum, the Aboriginal Cultural Centre, the University of New England and the area’s Heritage Walk and Drive. Out of town, you can visit New England National Park and spectacular Dangars Gorge and Falls.
The road then leads up to Guyra, the ‘Top of the Range’ at 1320m, and eventually to Glen Innes. Dubbed the ‘Land of the Beardies’ after two early settlers, this agricultural town offers numerous attractions. There is a Celtic monument here, as well as a pottery, glassworks and museum, and the area is home to several reserves and national parks.
Glen Innes is also the ideal base for exploring the surrounding region - to the east lie Washpool and Gibraltar Range National Parks, while the Gwydir Highway takes you west to Inverell. This area is full of mining sites and memorabilia: you can fossick for sapphires and garnets, visit the mining museum, and watch precious stones being turned into jewellery.
Located at the junction of the New England and Bruxner Highways, historic Tenterfield is the centre for a large sheep and cattle region. It was here that Sir Henry Parkes made his famous speech in 1889 - an event that ultimately led to Australia’s Federation in 1901 - and there are several museums and historic buildings to explore.
The town is also famous for its ‘Tenterfield Saddler’ connection, and you can visit the original 1860s saddlery. Before heading east, take a side-trip towards the Queensland border to explore the region’s national parks. Boonoo Boonoo and Bald Rock are scenic environments of granite rocks, gorges and rivers that are ideal for bushwalking.
Casino, the next main town along the highway, is known as the ‘Beef Capital of Australia’. Attractions here include the museum, scenic drives into forestlands and some delightful parks. From here, it’s just a short hop to the university city of Lismore, where you can visit the art gallery, the Lismore Visitor and Heritage Centre, a macadamia processing plant and a couple of nature reserves. Lismore is the ideal base for exploring this scenic Northern Rivers region - a land of forests, waterfalls and fertile valleys. To the north, the village of Nimbin offers a glimpse into the area’s ‘alternative’ lifestyle. There’s a museum, arts and crafts shops and a drive to World Heritage listed Nightcap National Park - with its forests and spectacular scenery.
The Bruxner Highway then takes you down to Ballina - past macadamia, avocado and tropical fruit farms and the attractive town of Alstonville, with its heritage listed buildings. From here it is only a short drive along this spectacular stretch of coastline across the border to Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city.
Where to Stay
Time required: 7 - 10 days minimum