Sitting on the edge of the Outback, New England is an undefined region of inland New South Wales that includes the Northern Tablelands and North West Slopes. It’s an agricultural and grazing region that also benefits from mining and fossicking. Due to the cold caused by the high elevation, our time in New England was brief. We did a heritage walk around Armidale, tasted beer in Uralla, gawked at the Big Chicken in Moonbi, shielded our eyes from the Big Golden Guitar and marvelled at the sculptures in Walcha.
Not only the administrative centre of New England, Armidale is also the highest city in Australia at 980 metres above sea level. This elevation provides the city with a mild climate with pleasant summers but long cold winter. Therefore, it has a problem with pollution and respiratory complaints because during the winter months, every wood heater in the city is billowing smoke into the atmosphere.
The elevation may also be responsible for the number of churches in the city. With a population of just over 23,500 people and more than 20 churches, it seems like Armidale is the place where you can be closer to God.
We did a quick heritage walk around the bustling city to look at the historic buildings, as well as a sculpture of the Tightrope Man, an artistic piece representing Signor Vertelli, who walked across Dangar Falls on a tightrope in 1866.
With a population of just over 2,000 people, Uralla is a relatively small town and we were surprised to find out that there was a brewery in town. The New England Brewery is based in a big shed on the main street and started in 2013. They have a great variety of craft beers, each with their own unique characteristics. Juz enjoyed the Golden Ale, with its bready flavours, fruity citrus and a creamy malt finish. It actually gets half of its yeast from the Farmhouse Saisson, another delicious brew.
Just before we left, Ben the brewer asked if we were going to visit the Black Duck Brewery in Port Macquarie, and when we confirmed that we were planning to, he asked us to pass on a message to Al the brewer. “Tell him,” Ben said, “that you guys had trouble finding a park…”
We spent the night at the Moonbi Park Lookout and in the morning, we climbed the stairs atop the big granite boulder to get a misty view of the surrounding area.
Around 7km down the road is the small village of Moonbi, home of the Big Chicken.
After a cold night, all we wanted was a nice coffee so when we got to Tamworth, we went straight to the Old Bell Tower based on great reviews. Unfortunately, the experience there was so shitty, we were consequently shitty for the rest of the day. If we weren’t in such a bad mood, we probably would have stayed Tamworth for a little longer.
Tamworth is known as the City of Lights, having been the first place in Australia to use electric street lights in 1888. It’s also the Country Music Capital of Australia because of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and the National Equine Capital of Australia because of the number of equine events held there. After our crappy coffee experience, we drove down to see the Big Golden Guitar, drove up to the Oxley Lookout, and exited towards the coast.
Walcha was a highlight. The tree lined streets were ablaze with red leaves and covered the gutters in crunchy curls. There were sculptures everywhere, some welded from iron, and some carved out of wood. On the outskirts of town was a deer farm, which can be an odd sight in Australia.
On our way towards the coast, the road weaved through Cotton-Bimbang National Park. The cold weather and lingering mist made the forest look sad and lonely and the dreary weather followed us to Port Macquarie.