Tamworth is usually known for its famed golden guitar and country music festival, but there's a whole lot more to do than strumming tunes.
1. Namoi River
2 hr / 200 km / N
Activity: Canoeing, bushwalking, fishing, rockclimbing, camping
Drawcard: Feeding through one of NSW's only river parks, Warrabah National Park, the Namoi River offers a smorgasbord of outdoor activity. To get there you need to carefully navigate Namoi River Road from Manilla because the last 22 km is unsealed. Once at the river, you can take your pick from a range of bushwalks, fishing spots and rockclimbing areas. Or, the river itself drops 245 m in height over a 15 km stretch, so if you're an experienced canoeist and you want to get your pulse racing, you can have a crack at paddling the imposing rapids - many of which are rated at Grade 3 or more where the water reaches higher levels.
Fuel stop: Burrel's Bazaar, a quaint little coffee and cake shop in Barraba, is a favourite spot with locals to rest your legs after an adventurous day of wandering and exploring.
2. Horton Falls Reserve
<2 hr / 128 km / NW
Activity: Camping, walking, swimming
Drawcard: If you're a fan of stunning scenery spend some time at Horton Falls. Pack a lunch and admire the surrounds from the lookout at the picnic spot overlooking the largest drop, or challenge yourself with the two-hour walk that snakes to the base of the gorge. This track is mighty steep, so should only be attempted by seasoned walkers who're up for a challenge. If you're after an easier pace, a second track leads to the top of the first fall and will take a little more than 30 minutes up and back. At night, curl up under the stars and drift off to sleep to the sounds of the rushing falls - you will, however, be roughing it as the sites have no amenities.
Fuel stop: To fill your picnic basket head to Saunders Fruit & Vegetable Supplies (83 Queen St, Barraba) and stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, local honey, New England larder products, Noughat Limar, fruit baskets and platters, Bacco's bakery products, cheeses and an array of weekly specials.
3. Leconfield Jackaroo and Jillaroo School
1 hr / 50 km / E
Activity: Learn cattle skills for the bush
Drawcard: This five or 11 day outback tutorial will leave you swaggering like a true bushman. Learn to muster cattle, wrestle a calf, ride a horse, sheer sheep, crack a whip, train a dog and a whole heap more. Owner of the school, Timothy Skerrett, is the fourth generation of Skerretts to be born and bred on the 20833 ha property and has been running the school for the past five years. He'll pick you up on day one from the YHA in Tamworth, and after a quick stop at the local thrift store for some working clothes, you'll arrive at the property for an introduction to survival and bush tucker before the real work begins.
Fuel stop: All evenings are spent around the campfire with open-air camp oven cooked meals.
4. Moonbi Common Lookout
30 min / 25 km / NE
Activity: Walking, birdwatching, photography
Drawcard: Tamworth is a haven for birds, with more than 230 species inhabiting the area, including the endangered regent honeyeater and the turquoise parrot. Most of the observation sites are found along the Travelling Stock Routes, with Moonbi Common a popular one among nature lovers. Take the Moonbi Common Road and veer right into New England Gully Road. After 1.8 km you'll come across Moonbi Gap Road which will lead you to the lookout. Pack your camera and telescopic lenses and sit tight to capture snaps of some feathered friends.
Fuel stop: Relax with food, refreshments and great tunes in the Golden Guitar Coffee Shop. Browse through hundreds of Australian country music CDs, videos and cassettes, Tamworth Country Music Capital souvenirs and gift items.
55 min / 59 km / SE
Activity: Fossicking, camping
Drawcard: Step back in time and follow the lead of the early adventurers who went in search of their fortune by panning for gold. The Peel River in the Nundle region has been a hot spot for fossickers since the 1850s and if you're lucky, you may sift through the dirt to find sapphires, zircon, jasper, crystals or even gold. If you set out north from Nundle along River Road and follow the Peel River, you'll reach a general access point on the western bank. Continue on around a large bend to the left and you'll find Swamp Creek. Here you can pan for treasure and also set up camp if you're keen to try your luck over a number of days.
Fuel stop: Stop for dinner at The Peel Inn. Built by William McIlveen in 1860, and lost soon after in a card game, the hotel celebrates local produce with fresh trout, succulent steaks and tender roasts.
6. Glenriddle Reserve
1 hr 50 min / 97 km / NW
Activity: Fishing, boating, camping, swimming
Drawcard: Located on Spitrock Dam, 15 km south-east of Barraba on the Crow Mountain Road, Glenfield Reserve is a top spot for boating, fishing and bush camping. The scenic reserve spans 14 ha and fishing enthusiasts are likely to find golden perch, black bream, jewfish and Murray cod nibbling at the end of their lines. The surrounds are picturesque, playing host to an array of native flora and fauna, and the picnic, barbecue and toilet facilities make it a popular destination for families and groups in summer.
Fuel stop: Stop off at The Country Coffee House (94 Queen Street, Barraba) where award-winning coffee and delicious home-cooked food is plated up with lashings of country hospitality.
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