More Than Country Music: How To Spend 24 Hours In Tamworth
What’s there to do when it's not country music season? A fair bit, it turns out.
You’ll find Tamworth in the New England region of northwest New South Wales – smack-bang between Sydney and Brisbane. Unless you were making that journey and ran into it, you mightn’t even know Tamworth existed, let alone make plans to visit.
The town is the country music capital of Australia, best known for its annual 10-day country music festival, which sees upwards of 50,000 boot-scootin’ tourists visit each year, doubling Tamworth’s population for the duration of the festival.
But what’s there to do in Tamworth on the other 355 days in the year? A fair bit, it turns out. Here’s how to spend 24 hours in town.
Nestled between open plains and rolling hills, about 20km out of town, Tamworth’s Goonoo Goonoo Station (pronounced “Gunna Gunnoo”) is at the crossroads of country living and luxury. The station was established back in 1831, home to the families who lived and worked on its lands.
Since then, it’s undergone a multi-million dollar restoration, transforming the 19th-century heritage-listed village into truly a unique accommodation option in Tamworth. It boasts seven beautifully restored private cottages, a heated swimming pool, a tennis court, guest lounges, and heated flooring.
In short, it’s totally stunning — every detail, down to the furniture and artworks, have been carefully considered to create an overwhelming sense of home. Once you’ve checked in, you could lounge by the pool and soak up the scenic country surrounds, or get in the country spirit by feeding one of the resident horses a piece of fruit. But we suggest heading into town for a gander and bite to eat.
Peel Street is the main stretch in Tamworth’s CBD, and if you (as the locals say) “chuck a Peely”, you’re bound to find some great spots to drop in for a meal or a beer. One of our favourites is the Pig & Tinder Box, located in the heart of Tamworth.
The Pig & Tinder Box was actually one of the first pubs to pop up in the New England Region, opening its doors back in 1848. Flash-forward to today, and “The Pig” is back, this time as a trendy and chic boutique bar-meets-classic country pub.
It’s something truly special, and not something you might expect to come across in a country town. But the interesting thing about Tamworth is that it’s not just a country town. It’s the region’s major business centre and, as a result, people have moved here to live and work from all over the country, bringing metro flavours from places like Melbourne and Sydney with them.
If you’re heading in for some dinner, we suggest the braised beef rib, served with white bean purée, charred summer greens and a smoked BBQ glaze.
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, the menu is quite extensive, so you’ll undoubtedly find something delicious. It also has a choice selection of local and important beers, along with mean cocktail jugs.
If you’re visiting from the city, be sure to set an alarm — you better believe you’re not about to be woken up by any 6am garbage trucks or the hustle and bustle of metro life. Arguably the best part of visiting the country is the peace and quiet, so you can expect a good lie-in at Goonoo Goonoo Station.
Once you’ve enjoyed a cheeky sleep-in, head into town for brunch at Ruby’s Cafe on Peel Street. The quirky little eatery is tucked away right at the edge of the CBD. Though the cafe’s not huge, it comes with a big back yard filled with sprawling gardens for you to dine amongst.
Ruby’s is famed for its seasonal produce, incredible coffee and cool Melbourne aesthetic, with exposed brick and concrete floors. It also doubles as a giftshop, selling everything from locally made artwork and jewellery to clothes and furniture. Ruby’s is truly one of a kind, and well worth the visit!
Everyone knows one of the best ways to enjoy the countryside is from behind the wheel, on the open road. There are some beautiful spots to discover that are just a short drive from Tamworth, like Nundle.
So once you’re tummy is full, we recommend the scenic route from Goonoo Goonoo station to Nundle. It’s just 60km, with plenty of places to stop, get out, and look around along the way. At about three-quarters of the way there, you’ll see Chaffey Dam on your right-hand side.
At Chaffey Dam, there are camping grounds, walking tracks, picnic areas, fishing spots, hiking trails, and even 4×4 tracks if you’re up for the challenge (and your vehicle is properly equipped).
From gold and sapphire fossicking to one of Australia’s last operating spinning mills, historic Nundle is a beautiful village on the banks of the Peel River. Despite having a population of just 500 people, there’s loads to explore, like colonial heritage, quirky shops, and festivals throughout the year.
From March 31 to April 1, the town celebrates the Nundle Go For Gold Chinese Festival, a celebration of Nundle’s gold fields history and the Chinese and European miners that helped form the town in the mid to late 1800s.
Another big one on Nundle’s event calendar (and our favourite) is the Great Nundle Dog Race. The event attracts more than 1000 people and dogs for a day of novelty races, high jump, doggy derby, and best-dressed dog.
Sometimes you find the most awesome spots in the most unexpected places. Until next time, Tamworth.
Bradley Johnston was a guest of the Toyota Country Music Festival. Find out more about Toyota’s support for the festival here.
(Lead image: Goonoo Goonoo Station / Facebook)