Armidale, Glen Innes and the New England area are great places to visit in the summer and autumn. The whole area can be summed up with two words: history and nature. Here's a bit about what you can expect and our experiences as a family visiting the area.
The New England area is in northern New South Wales and borders with Queensland. As you travel south, you hit Tenterfield (see our Girraween page), Glen Innes and then Armidale. There are also a number of littler towns along the way.
Glen Innes wasn't a part of our itinerary for our big Australian trip but we wanted to avoid some very hot weather in both the area we were staying and the next place we were going. Glen Innes fit the bill perfectly because it was also on the way to our next stop in Tamworth.
Glen Innes is a noticeably friendly town with lots of old historic buildings and a strong Celtic influence. It seems that people have taken what they liked from Scotland, Ireland and England and mixed them all together into Glen Innes.
When we first drove through the town, there was a lady playing bagpipes in the middle of the street! You don't see that every day. There are some beautiful old buildings though like The Convent, Court House and Town Hall as well as numerous others. The whole main street is historical.
Side note: due to visiting Glen Innes and seeing a Celtic band in Tamworth, our toddler now wants to learn the bagpipes.
The Standing Stones are the main attraction in town. (We got them mixed up with Stonehenge Recreation Area – don't do that. It's where they graze sheep and practise shooting things.) The Standing Stones are a really great sight and a nice spot to spend some time. What I find most amazing about it is the effort, will and cooperation of the community to even get them up!
We stayed at Glen Rest Caravan Park. One of the owners has made a beautiful garden out the back that you can take a peek at over the fence. It's one of the best flower gardens I've seen. They also have a number of birds you can say hello to. One will say hello back if he's in the right mood.
It's definitely an interesting and peaceful spot for a day or two. We spent 3 days here and they were really nice. We're definitely glad to have added this on to our trip.
Our stop after Tamworth was Armidale which is on the range and south of Glen Innes. It's another historical spot and much larger than Glen Innes. It's the shopping centre for the area, has the New England University and is the highest city in Australia.
Armidale in itself is probably not the most family friendly of places but there are a few things to do in town and once you get out of town, there are more options.
The first thing we did was take a heritage bus tour of the historic buildings around Armidale. The tourist information centre runs it and you can give a gold coin donation. Since our little one loves buses, she was very excited for this! It's advertised as 2 – 2.5 hours but our tour guides are apparently always on the slower side and we had a 3 hour tour. (Now I've got the Gilligan's Island song in my head.)
The bus tour takes you to churches - one you can go inside, the art gallery (where you go inside also), gives you the history of certain spots, takes you to the historic house at the university and that sort of thing. It's quite good – especially considering it's by donation only.
One special thing in Armidale is also the deer. There are not many places to see deer in Australia, especially considering they're not supposed to be here. We were even able to feed some at the caravan park we were staying in so that was lots of fun.
There are many many places to stay here. We stayed at the Highlander Van Park where we had a big grassy patch out the back. That was quite nice except for it being dog-friendly and people letting their dogs run around (and poop) in the unpowered camping area. There was internet included here though so we actually got some work done and stayed longer because of that. We had planned 3 days here but stayed 6.
New England is full of national parks. It's one of the best protected areas in Australia. Closer to the Glen Innes area there are both Gibraltar Range National Park and Washpool National Park (World Heritage). You'll find serveral waterfalls and one of the parks is wet rainforest on one side of the river and dry on the other.
Around Armidale and heading east, you find The Waterfall Way with a number of different waterfalls and national parks. It's our next stop but can also be combined with a trip to Armidale. See you there!
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