The New England Plateau rises parallel to the coast, extending from the northern end of the Hunter Valley, some 200km north of Sydney, all the way to the Queensland border. At the top it’s between 1000m and 1400m above sea level, and on the eastern edge an escarpment falls away steeply towards the coast. This eastern rim consists of precipitous cliff faces, deep gorges, thickly forested valleys, streams and mighty waterfalls, and because of its inaccessibility remains a largely undisturbed wilderness. On the plateau itself the scene is far more pastoral, as sheep and cattle graze on the undulating highland. Because of the altitude, the climate up here is fundamentally different from the subtropical coast, a mere 150km or so away: winters are cold and frosty, with occasional snowfalls, while in summer the fresh, dry air can offer welcome relief after the coastal heat and humidity. Even during a heatwave the nights will be pleasantly cool.
The New England Highway, one of the main links between Brisbane and Sydney, passes all the major towns – Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes and Tenterfield – from where scenic side-roads branch off towards the coast. Farms and stations all over the highlands provide farmstay accommodation, offering horseriding and other activities.Read More
TAMWORTH is also known as the “City of Lights” because it was the first in Australia to be fitted with electric street lighting, in 1888. To most Australians, however, Tamworth means country music – it’s a sort of antipodean Nashville – although outside of festival time it’s a lot less atmospheric.
The 12m-high golden guitar in front of the Golden Guitar Complex, on the southern edge of town, sums up the town’s role as the country music capital of Australasia. Inside you’ll find waxwork figures of the great Australian country stars such as Chad Morgan, Buddy Williams, Smoky Dawson and his horse Flash, Slim Dusty, Reg Lindsay and Tex Morton. There’s yet more country music memorabilia at the corner of Brisbane Street and Kable Avenue, where the Hands of Fame cornerstone bears the palm-prints of various country greats. In the second half of January each year, fans from all over Australia and beyond descend on the town for the ten-day Tamworth Country Music Festival. Every pub, club and hall in town hosts gigs, record launches and bush poetry, culminating in the presentation of “Golden Guitars” at the Country Music Awards of Australia.
The sealed World Heritage drive Waterfall Way (www.visitwaterfallway.com.au) runs between Armidale and Coffs Harbour via hundreds of kilometres of rainforest roads, waterfalls and lookouts. The exceptional New England National Park, 85km east of Armidale, and the several patchwork sections of the Oxley Wild Rivers, Guy Fawkes River and Cathedral Rock national parks around it are full of ancient ferns, towering canopy trees, gorges and spectacular waterfalls (although the falls can diminish to a trickle during prolonged dry spells). The most impressive are the Wollomombi Falls, among the highest in Australia, plunging 225m into a gorge just over 40km east of Armidale, off the road to Dorrigo. Nearby are the Chandler Falls, while Ebor Falls, a stunning double drop of the Guy Fawkes River, can be viewed from platforms just off Waterfall Way, another 40km beyond Wollomombi. Between Wollomombi and Ebor, Point Lookout in the New England National Park offers a truly wonderful panoramic view across the forested ranges – you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the middle of the Amazon. The road to the lookout is unsealed gravel, but is usually in reasonable condition; the rest of the park is virtually inaccessible wilderness.