Insider’s Guide 34

Tam­worth is fa­mous for coun­try mu­sic but, says Emily Her­bert, it’s not just Golden Gui­tars and Slim Dusty stat­ues that make this New Eng­land city sing. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Ja­son Lou­cas.

QantasLink Sprit - - Contents - The Nun­dle Woollen Mill spins yarns and tales from the past (left) INSIDER’S GUIDE

Where to eat, stay and play in Tam­worth, NSW

You need to do this…

We just have to say it: coun­try mu­sic diehard or not, every Aus­tralian should ex­pe­ri­ence the Tam­worth Coun­try Mu­sic Fes­ti­val once in their lives and this year it’s on Jan­uary 20 to 29 (see page 40). Re­gard­less of when you visit Tam­worth, gate­way to NSW’s north-west, you’ll find a ru­ral hub with a cos­mopoli­tan edge ev­i­dent in its pol­ished eater­ies, pretty bou­tiques and ex­cel­lent sport­ing and en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

Tree-lined Peel Street is the main ur­ban artery, a thriv­ing thor­ough­fare lined with out­door cafés and shops. Fol­low your nose to The Other Shop (theother­, where a vanilla-caramel can­dle per­pet­u­ally burns. Here you’ll find high-end Aus­tralian fash­ion la­bels and cool sea­sonal one-offs. Once you’ve donned your Camilla caf­tan, float across the street to French Style (02 6766 5663) for Ben­si­mon sneak­ers and French es­padrilles, be­fore head­ing to Tar­nished Interiors (0429 073 030) for new and vin­tage home­wares and fur­ni­ture.

Nearby, the city’s cut­ting-edge play­grounds are a draw­card for chil­dren of all ages. The Tam­worth Re­gional Play­ground (des­ti­na­tion­tam­ au), a $2.2 mil­lion devel­op­ment in Bi­cen­ten­nial Park, in­cludes the nineme­tre-high Sky­walk, a fly­ing fox and bike track. While the kids play, grownups can pick up cof­fee and brown­ies from the on-site Hop­scotch Restau­rant & Bar (hop­scotchrestau­

For less bus­tle and more view, head up the hill to the Tam­worth Mar­su­pial Park (0429 007 918), where close en­coun­ters with kan­ga­roos, emus and cock­a­toos await. If the kids haven’t had enough of play­grounds, there’s an­other one right here; the lo­cally de­signed Ad­ven­ture Play­ground – adding weight to Tam­worth’s claim to the ti­tle of “play­ground cap­i­tal of NSW”.

Al­ter­na­tively, you might want to hit the na­ture trails nearby. The Kami­laroi Track (tam­ will take you on a ram­ble to Flagstaff Moun­tain and fur­ther on to the Ox­ley Look­out for a panoramic view of the city.

If you’re not in Tam­worth dur­ing fes­ti­val time, get your coun­try fix at The Big Golden Gui­tar Tourist Cen­tre (big­gold­en­gui­, which has wax fig­ures of Chad Mor­gan, Jean Stafford, Johnny Ch­ester and the like. The Aus­tralian Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame (coun­try­mu­sichallof­ is run by vol­un­teers and is burst­ing with mem­o­ra­bilia, from span­gled stage cos­tumes to the well-strummed gui­tars of Aus­tralia’s coun­try mu­sic greats.

To get the most out of this re­gion, hav­ing a car is a must. Forty min­utes out of town is the pic­turesque vil­lage of Nun­dle (nun­, at the foot of the Great Di­vid­ing Range. Some 600 me­tres above sea level, it’s a refuge in sum­mer from the some­times bru­tal heat of Tam­worth and was orig­i­nally a gold­min­ing en­camp­ment in the late 19th cen­tury. Its her­itage en­dures in an­tiques shops and the Nun­dle Woollen Mill (nun­, where fleece is spun on vin­tage ma­chin­ery and the re­sult­ing yarn is for sale in the mill shop.

Make like a fos­sicker and hire a kit and a mud map from the Mount Mis­ery Gold Mine Cafe (gold­mineguest­ then pan for the yel­low stuff in the near­est creek – good luck!

For lunch, grab pic­nic sup­plies from the Friendly Gro­cer on Jenk­ins Street (02 6769 3000) and head to Hang­ing Rock Look­out for views of the Nun­dle Val­ley. Or dine on hearty pub grub (the herb-and-parme­san-crusted schnitzel is our pick) in the leafy beer garden at The Peel Inn (peel­

An hour’s drive from Tam­worth, up the New Eng­land High­way, is the out­stand­ing Eastview Es­tate (east­viewes­t­ Drop in for an af­ter­noon tast­ing at the es­tate’s retro Speakeasy sa­loon and sip your way through an ex­ten­sive list of homemade gins, vod­kas and craft beers. Stephen Dob­son, the co-owner of this dis­tillery/ brew­ery/restau­rant, is happy to share sto­ries about his pre­vi­ous life as a Hol­ly­wood cin­e­matog­ra­pher-di­rec­tor.

Drive about 40 min­utes north-west of Tam­worth on the Ox­ley High­way through un­du­lat­ing farm­land to Lake Keepit State Park (02 6769 7605). At three-quar­ters the size of Syd­ney Har­bour, this shim­mer­ing ex­panse of wa­ter is a mag­net for lo­cals try­ing to escape the sum­mer heat. And this is the sea­son to take to the mega dam, which is at un­prece­dented lev­els af­ter record rain­fall last year.

If you have the time, camp or hire a cabin here and spend a cou­ple of days ca­noe­ing and fish­ing for yel­low­belly and Mur­ray cod. The ex­cel­lent fa­cil­i­ties in­clude bar­be­cues, a skate bowl, a wa­ter park and ten­nis courts. It’s hard to beat wa­ter ski­ing in the golden last hours of the day as cock­a­toos take to the sky in a white plume above you. Tam­worth’s Peel Street is full of char­ac­ter (be­low left); the Big Golden Gui­tar is 12 me­tres high and weighs more than 500 kilo­grams

You’ll want to eat here…

$ For the best soft tacos in town, take a trip to the Tor­tilla Car­tel (02 6766 6363) in The Al­bert Ho­tel, where the street­style food is a mouth-wa­ter­ing fu­sion of Amer­i­can and Mex­i­can. Down a cloudy ap­ple cider and dig in to South­ern fried chicken burg­ers, jalapeño pop­pers and pulled lamb bur­ri­tos.

The Post Of­fice Ho­tel (02 6761 3322), on Fitzroy Street, has de­cent and well­priced pub fare – we’re talk­ing chicken schnitzel and rump steaks for under $20.

The busy Ruby’s Cafe & Gift Store (02 6766 9833) is a lo­cal favourite. For brekkie, try the Red Ruby: poached eggs, beet­root rel­ish and Egyp­tian dukkah topped with Per­sian fetta. The garden set­ting of­fers an escape from the crowds dur­ing fes­ti­val time.

At Teamo Tea­house (teamotea­house., take your pick from more than 50 loose-leaf teas, all of which can be served iced; try a tea-based cock­tail for a lit­tle more kick.

$$ Across the Peel River, Le Pruneau (lep­ is a touch of France at a busy Tam­worth in­ter­sec­tion. As well as host­ing an or­ganic mar­ket every Satur­day, the restau­rant makes ev­ery­thing on site, from pas­tries and cakes to house-cured meats and pre­serves. The en­er­getic owner, Phillippe Kan­yaro, also teaches cheese­mak­ing at the lo­cal TAFE.

If you want to spot a real cow­boy any time of year, head to The Long­yard Ho­tel (long­yard­ho­, next door to the 12-me­tre-high Big Golden Gui­tar. The ho­tel can get jam-packed, as it’s only a stone’s throw from the Aus­tralian Equine and Live­stock Events Cen­tre, but the bistro pumps out flavour­some steaks with ad­mirable speed.

The Pig & Tin­der Box (thep­i­gand tin­der­ serves ter­rific tapas, as well as wood-fired pizza and ele­gant cock­tails (the spiced ap­ple mar­garita is a stand­out).

For es­presso made by baris­tas with big-city CVs, head to Ad­dimi (ad­dimi., a fam­ily-owned café that’s a pre-work favourite for busy lo­cals. $$$ You’ll want to or­der the 14-hour slow-roasted New Eng­land lamb shoul­der at The Work­shop (02 6766 7000), set within the newly re­fur­bished Qual­ity Ho­tel Pow­er­house. The fine­din­ing restau­rant is a spe­cial-oc­ca­sion sta­ple for lo­cals and has just cel­e­brated its 30th an­niver­sary. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Ben Davies worked at Michelin-starred restau­rants in Europe be­fore mov­ing to Tam­worth in 2005.

For a long lunch, head to Graze at the Wil­low Tree Inn (grazewil­ au), a 45-minute drive south of Tam­worth. The restau­rant and bistro pro­duces its own beef and lamb on Colly Creek Sta­tion, within cooee down the road. The steaks, dry-aged for five weeks on the premises, are worth the drive alone.

If you want to en­joy the wine list, take the train from Tam­worth – which pulls up just in time for lunch – or grab a room at the inn and stay over (but be sure to get in early, as Satur­day nights book out quickly).

These are the places to stay…

$ At leafy Par­adise Tourist Park (par­adis­e­tourist­ on the Peel River, a few min­utes’ amble from the CBD, you can book a cabin, pull up with a car­a­van or pitch a tent.

Its metic­u­lously-kept fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a com­mu­nal kitchen and – the best thing dur­ing a Tam­worth sum­mer

– a swim­ming pool.

For a quiet night in the coun­try­side, McNevins Tam­worth Mo­tel (02 6760 9200) is 10 min­utes out of town with a ru­ral out­look. While it has run-ofthe-mill dé­cor, the mo­tel wel­comes pets and there are even fa­cil­i­ties for a horse or two. $$ The her­itage-listed CH on Peel (chon­, right in the heart of the city cen­tre, was trans­formed from a pub into an Art Deco ho­tel in 2014. You can still en­joy a beer or a glass of wine in the bar down­stairs while watch­ing the world go by on Peel Street.

Over­look­ing town on the east side, the Qual­ity Ho­tel Pow­er­house (pow­er­house­tam­ is pop­u­lar with cor­po­rate crowds but apart­ments and bunk suites mean it’s good for fam­i­lies, too. $$$ The only five-star ac­com­mo­da­tion in Tam­worth, The Retreat at FroogMoore Park (froog­ is a bou­tique ho­tel on the pe­riph­ery of town. Each of the five rooms has a theme, in­clud­ing Moroc­can Fan­tasy and Maeda Ja­panese. Re­serve a ta­ble for din­ner – own­ers Peter and Sandy Moore are pas­sion­ate about food and grow the limes, plums, figs and ve­g­ies that end up on their guests’ din­ner ta­ble. Sandy de­scribes her­self as a “flavour cook”; you’ll know what she means when you try her Moroc­can lamb tagine.

If themed rooms aren’t your thing, you’ll find more un­der­stated chic at Beethovens B&B (qan­, a his­toric home­stead close to the CBD.

Graze’s dry-aged Colly Creek rib eye (above); Sichuan prawn pizza (top left) and cock­tails mixed by Henry Cameron at The Pig & Tin­der Box

Aus­tralian singer­song­writer Am­ber Lawrence plays at the big­gest coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val in the South­ern Hemi­sphere

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