Odometer: 6935 km
Armidale is next in our visit of midsize NSW country towns. It is situated in the New England area of NSW on the Northern Tablelands. Driving around the area makes one realize why this is called New England. The lush rolling green hills, copses and rows of deciduous trees, flocks of sheep and cattle, the smell of fresh cut grass, lots of wildflowers and an abundance of historical buildings.
At an elevation of 980 metres above sea level, Armidale is Australia’s highest city. As a result it has four distinctive seasons, with frost on the ground in winter and well into spring!
Armidale could also be called the city of churches. It has an Anglican and a Catholic cathedral, both impressive 19th century buildings. It also has a large number of other churches within close proximity of these cathedrals. There are several lovely parks in the city and a large number of historical buildings. Naturally, there is a heritage walk you can do around town, pick up the leaflet from Tourist Information, or download it.
Note that a number of places, like the Saumarez homestead, are currently closed due to the Covid Pandemic.
Nearby Uralla is famous for having a statue dedicated to Captain Thunderbolt, one of the last Australian Bush Rangers. Also renowned for being the “gentleman bushranger”, Fred Ward (1835 – 1870) was one of ten children born into a convict family. He started working on farms at an early age and got involved with selling stolen horses. He was caught and convicted, and spent time in jail. Fred got a ticket to leave after four years, but was caught on a stolen horse and sent back to jail. He managed to escape from a work gang on Cockatoo Island and turned to bush ranging, robbing travellers. On 25th May 1870 he was shot dead by Constable Walker near Kentucky Creek in Uralla, and was buried there.
Gostwyck is another bucolic area between Armidale and Uralla. In the middle of this farming country is a lovely small brick chapel, built in 1912 and covered in vines. It is situated on a junction of two avenues of Elm trees. It couldn’t feel more English here!
There are a large number of national parks in the vicinity of Armidale, with gorges and waterfalls dropping off the edge of the high country table land. At the Outdoor shop in town, and at Tourist Information, you can get a large set of brochures about the parks, walks and tourist drives.
The first spot we visited was Dangars Gorge, which has the Dangars Falls. This is part of the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. The waterfall is an impressive 120 metre drop, but, despite the recent rains there was very little water. Alas, my pictures don’t do it much justice.
It must have been quite a shock for the early pioneers to stumble upon this massive cut in the gently rolling countryside.
- Best Coffee: SeeSaw Coffee in the Armidale CBD at Faulkner Street. Very smooth coffee and lovely outdoorsy setting!
- Accomodation: We stayed at “The Cottage” at “Two dogs folly” (AirBnB), located just outside Armidale on the road towards the Dangars Gorge. It is a rough half hour walk into Armidale or a quick 5 min drive. The cottage is an old mid 1800’s workers cottage, which has been sympathetically restored and extended with a modern bathroom and kitchen. With view of the pastures and the local wildlife, the place is very relaxing.
- Tip: If the weather forecast says rain, although the sun may be shining and the skies are blue, take in your laundry if you plan to go out!