The Golden Guitar – just one of the big things you will see on the New England Highway
Most people choose to drive between Sydney and Brisbane by the Pacific Highway. But there is an alternative. Instead of beach stops why not head inland. You will see scenic countryside, eat at classic bakeries and cafes and stop in quaint, historic towns along the New England Highway. The Highway is about 50kms longer than the Pacific Highway route but can be an easier drive with less traffic. Why not give it a try – you just might be surprised at what you will see! Here is my suggested 3 day itinerary of this great inland road trip to help you meander along the New England Highway.
New England Highway – Inland Road Trip
New England Highway
The New England Highway originated as a track developed to reach the prime wool growing areas in the New England region. Today, it still takes you to those areas but the track has become a major inland road linking a number of towns.
The New England Highways starts/finishes just North-West of Newcastle in New South Wales and starts/finishes north of Toowoomba in Queensland. It is about 850kms long and can take about 10-12 hours to drive if you don’t make many stops and/or stay overnight anywhere. It is part of Australia’s National Highway system and is a great inland route you can drive between Sydney and Brisbane. The route number is most A15 (it does change a couple of times but is mostly A15).
Though you can drive the New England Highway in one day, there is plenty to see and do along the way. If you have the time why not turn it into a 3 day road trip. Here is my suggested itinerary to make the most of your road trip up or down the New England Highway. You can go either way Sydney to Brisbane or Brisbane to Sydney. For the purposes of this post you are driving Sydney to Brisbane. Just read backwards if you are going Brisbane to Sydney!
Now as this is a road trip, you will need a car. If you don’t have one yourself you can always rent one. To see what vehicle might suit you and to get a price click here.
READ MORE: Read about other Road Trips you can take.
Day 1 – Newcastle to Tamworth (282km, about 3.5 hours drive)
Oxley Lookout, Tamworth
On leaving the Newcastle area near the winery region around Branxton you will pass through some interesting old towns. Firstly Singleton which is one of Australia’s oldest towns. Founded in the 1820s it features historic buildings and museums. Muswellbrook, a popular horse breeding area and Scone follow which are great for grabbing a bite to eat or a cup of coffee while enjoying wide streets and their old buildings and maybe some horse riding. But the major stop today is Tamworth about 300km or 3.5 hours away from Newcastle.
Tamworth is known as Australia’s country music capital. And you can’t visit Tamworth without a visit to the 12 metre high Golden Guitar. The guitar sits proudly at the Tamworth Visitors Centre. Here you can grab a bite to eat and check out some of the music-related and not so music related souvenirs on offer. You will also find two museums here: ‘The Gallery of Stars’ Wax Museum and the ‘National Guitar Museum’. If you love guitars you will enjoy seeing the autographed guitars from Australian and International country music icons. Guitars from Smoky Dawson, Brian May (Queen) and Paul Stanley (KISS) to name a few.
Don’t forget to have a walk around town. The streets are wide and some of the buildings old and interesting. For a magnificent view over Tamworth and beyond follow White Street all the way to the Oxley Scenic Lookout.
Tamworth swells with visitors during January when Tamworth hosts the country music awards with the golden guitar the main prize. Buskers of all ages busk on the street and you can boot scoot with the best of them. It is a very exciting time to visit Tamworth and if you plan to be there at that time book early.
Tonight, stay in Tamworth. There are a number of accommodation options:
Hostel: The Rex
Tourist Park: Paradise Tourist Park
Budget Hotel: Tamworth Budget Motel, Tamworth City Motel
Mid-Range: Best Western Tamworth Motor Inn, Quest Tamworth
For more accommodation deals check out Booking.com.
Day 2 – Tamworth – Tenterfield (298.6km, about 3.5 hrs driving)
Big Solder, Uralla
Thunderbolt Rock, outside Uralla
Say goodbye to Tamworth and head north up the New England Highway and into bushranger country of Captain Thunderbolt. Yes, that’s right, Captain Thunderbolt is the alias name of Frederick Worsworth Ward, one of the last of New South Wales bushrangers. He ruled the highways and the byways of the New England High Country for much of the 1860s. Before he was shot and killed on 25 May 1870 at Kentucky Creek, near Uralla he apparently used Thunderbolt Rock as a vantage point and hide-out. It is about 7kms south of the town of Uralla and it is worth a stop to view this granite outcrop with its graffiti art. Once in the town of Uralla itself there is a statue of Captain Thunderbolt casting his gaze over the Main Street. Some like to visit his headstone in the Uralla Pioneer Cemetery to pay their respects.
Also in Uralla you can’t miss the Big Solder which is outside of the military museum. The museum is only small but quite interesting. Another museum to visit is the McCrossin’s Mill Museumwhich contains a Captain Thunderbolt exhibition.
It is just a short drive, 25km or so from Uralla to the university city of Armidale. Armidale is the administrative centre for the Northern Tablelands region and has the main campus for the University of New England. If you would like a stop you might want to go on one of the heritage walks lasting a couple of hours to appreciate what Armidale has to offer. Or discover some good food and wine. The region also boasts world-heritage national parks, cool-climate vineyards and spectacular waterfalls and gorges. Armidale is also the half way point on the New England Highway between Sydney and Brisbane.
Heading up the New England Highway you will be led to Guyra at 1320m and next to Glen Innes. As you travel along you will notice many Scottish town names. Name such as Stonehenge, Ben Lamond and Glencoe to name a few. This is because the earliest settlers in Glen Innes were Scottish because they enjoyed the cooler climate of the area which reminded them of home.
From Glen Innes head to Tenterfield. Tenterfield is the centre of a large cattle and sheep region. It was here that Sir Henry Parkes made his famous speech in 1889 which led to Australia’s Federation in 1901. Plenty of museums and historic buildings here to explore. Plus, this is the birthplace of Peter Allen, the Australian songwriter and singer. Allen made Tenterfield famous in the song ‘Tnterfield Saddler’ that he wrote about his grandfather, George Woolnough who worked in Tenterfield as the saddler. The saddlery is still there at 123 High Street and produces leather goods plus has some other interesting stuff on display. There is also the Peter Allen Festival which occurs in September paying tribute to the contribution of this entertainer to the world of entertainment. While in Tenterfield have a walk along the streets as there are a number of homewares, fashion and gift stores plus a number of eateries.
Day 3 – Tenterfield to Brisbane(274km, about 3.5 hours drive)
Big Apple, Stanthorpe
Tenterfield is the last major stop in New South Wales before crossing the border into Queensland. A town to visit is once in Queensland is Ballandeanwhere you will find the Big Fruitiforus. Ballandean is a small town located in the Granite Belt Region of the Southern Downs in Queensland. Have your photo taken with him. Then onto Stanthorpe, fruit growing country. Maybe another photo stop with the ‘big apple’. Warwick is next and depending on where you final destination is, if it is Toowoomba continue along the New England Freeway and from Toowoombahead to the coast to Brisbane which is a couple of hours away. Otherwise, follow the signs to Ipswich on Route 15 and finish in Brisbane.
So there you go, I hope you enjoyed, or will enjoy this road trip of the New England Highway. It really highlights the diversity that Australia has to offer and means you don’t have to stick to the coast to discover Australia.
READ MORE: Read about other Road Trips you can take.