Road Trip: Sydney to Tamworth

Couple enjoying a glass of wine at sunset in Tamworths countryside #newsouthwales
Couple enjoying a glass of wine at sunset in Tamworths countryside #newsouthwales

Trip Summary 
Duration: 3 days
Distance: 512km

Art and culture – Food and drink – Sightseeing – Wildlife
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Popran National ParkPokolbin Wineries – Graze Restaurant at Willow
Tree Inn
Big Golden Guitar Statue

These communities have been impacted by bushfire, drought and lockdown restrictions. Please check the status of roads and places you plan to visit before setting off.

Traverse the New England and Oxley highways from Sydney CBD to the city of Tamworth, while exploring the sights and attractions of Wollombi, Pokolbin, Willow Tree and Gunnedah along the way.

Swim in the crystal clear waters of Emerald Pool, sample the Hunter Valley’s best food and wine, explore the gateway to the Liverpool Plains, learn the history of Australia’s richest agricultural regions, and visit the Country Music Capital of Australia.

Hero image credit: Destination NSW

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Day 1: Sydney to Hunter Valley

3 hrs 4 mins | 194km

Stop 1: See postcard views at Popran National Park
Just one hours’ drive north of Sydney, and the first food and fuel stop off the M1 freeway, take the exit for Peats Ridge – a small NSW township in the Central Coast with a population of 377 residents. For Instagram-worthy views of Popran Creek and Glenworth Valley, take the Mount Olive trail in Popran National Park to the Mount Olive lookout. It’s a steep but short climb to the summit, and worth the view. If heights don’t appeal, detour off the Mount Olive trail to the Hominy Creek trail to find the crystal clear waters of Emerald Pool. Both trails are a short walk from Ironbark picnic area. Keep an eye out for native wildlife, including honeyeaters, spinebills and glossy black cockatoos on route.
Stop 2: Soak up Wollombi’s colonial history
Steeped in colonial and convict history, Wollombi was established as the administrative centre of the district in the 1830s, and many of its buildings and surrounding private homes are well-preserved examples. Pick up a map for the easy 1km Historical Wollombi Village Walk at the Wollombi Museum to learn the background of the township. 
Stop 3: Take tea at Myrtle House
Following your walk, treat yourself to a beverage, light lunch or scrummy scone, while enjoying magnificent views of Wollombi Village in a beautiful garden setting at the picturesque Myrtle House.

Stop 4: Wine and dine in Pokolbin
What’s a trip to the Hunter Valley without visiting a cellar door or two? Follow Wollombi Road north-west towards Pokolbin, and stop in at Leogate Estate (look for two lions adorning the cast iron gates at the entrance) or Tempus Two wines. If you fancy pairing your vino with a view, Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard is a must for enjoying award-winning wine while taking in breathtaking 360 degree views of the Hunter Valley and Brokenback Ranges. It’s also the first vineyard established in the Parish of Pokolbin almost 150 years ago. For dinner, Muse offers contemporary Australian fare and fine-dining, while Hunters Quarter provides a European menu and relaxed setting.  
Scenic view of Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Pokolbin
Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, Pokolbin (Photo credit: Destination NSW)
Stop 5: Rest and recharge in the Hunter Valley
End your day kangaroo-spotting on your private balcony at Belford Cottages, where you’ll have guaranteed privacy in one of a handful of private dwellings scattered around 15ha of unspoilt bushland. For those travelling on a tighter budget or saving the bucks for bottles, the colonial-style Hill Top Country Guest House in Rothbury includes king-size beds, spa baths, a sauna and pool, and superb views of the Hunter Valley. 

Day 2: Hunter Valley to Tamworth 

4 hrs 10 mins | 332km

Stop 1:  Lunch at Willow Tree
Willow Tree Township developed with the advent of the railway line in 1877, making it the gateway village to the Liverpool Plains. Check out the historic Werris Creek Railway Station – a magnificent and beautifully maintained building that was at its height of activity in the 1870s, before grabbing an early lunch at Graze Restaurant at the Willow Tree Inn. The restaurant has previously been named the Best Steak Venue and the Best Country Restaurant in NSW by the Australian Hotels Association. 
Couple enjoying the food and wine at Graze Restaurant at the Willow Tree Inn Willow Tree
Graze Restaurant at the Willow Tree Inn (Photo credit: Destination NSW)
Stop 2: Spot a koala in Gunnedah
Along the New England Highway and B51, you’ll enter Gunnedah, the hub of Australia’s richest agricultural regions – the Liverpool Plains in North West NSW, and home to one of the largest and healthiest koala populations in the country, so keep your eyes peeled. Habiting a plethora of attractions, important memorials, museums and parks, explore the township and pay a visit to the heritage sculptures at Pensioners Hill and Gunnedah Rural Museum.  
Stop 3: Snap a selfie with Tamworth’s Big Golden Guitar
Standing prominently on the New England Highway on the southern approach to Tamworth is the Big Golden Guitar statue. The 12m tribute indicates that you’re about to enter the Country Music Capital of Australia, where revellers from far and wide descend for their annual pilgrimage in January for the Tamworth Country Music Festival -- reputed to be the largest music festival in the southern hemisphere. But you don’t need to head to the festival to get a taste of country music’s finest. Visit the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame for a timeline of Australia's country music heritage, donated memorabilia, digital media and displays, and come face-to-face with the pioneers of country music. Did we mention the building is shaped like a guitar?
Big Golden Guitar - Tamworth
The Big Golden Guitar, Tamworth (Photo credit: Destination NSW)
Stop 4: Rest and recharge in Tamworth
Featuring a garden, barbeque facilities, outdoor pool, free WIFI, and just 2.1m from the Golden Guitar, Country Capital Motel is ideal for families and couples on budget, while those who prefer the hustle and bustle of the CBD, might prefer CH Boutique Hotel. Nestled minutes on the main strip of shops, dining and entertainment options, the rooms are modern and stylish and equipped with a mini-bar, coffee machine, hairdryer and toiletries.  

Day 3: Explore the township of Tamworth

Stop 1: See Tamworth and surrounds
Aside from its country music legacy, Tamworth also has a rich architectural and agricultural history -- the area is a producer of wool, dairy products, eggs, poultry wheat, Lucerne and honey. Visit the History and Heritage Visitor Information Centre and grab one of two maps – Tamworth CBD Walking Route or Tamworth Driving Route, depending on your preference. Both offer comprehensive guides to the major historic buildings and places around the city. A couple to note include Tamworth Powerstation Museum, which stories Tamworth being the first town in the southern hemisphere to acquire municipally-supplied electric street lighting, and the Oxley Lookout which reveals panoramic views over the city.  

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