Shaney hudson discovers Tamworth is so much more than just the home of country music.
Shaney Hudson boot scoots with her baby into Tamworth’s annual Country Music Festival.
It’s bedtime in Tamworth, but Indy, our 15-month-old, just won’t sleep. I do the pram shuffle in the restaurant foyer, and a man who looks a little familiar moves aside.
“Good luck,” he grins, a kind gesture of solidarity from a parent who’s been there before. It takes a moment for the penny to drop, but I realise it’s Troy Cassar-daley, one of Tamworth’s favourite country music stars, fresh from headlining a concert that afternoon.
We’re visiting Tamworth for the annual Country Music Festival, held over two weeks each January. Arriving on the weekend, we’re surprised by how family-driven it is, thanks to alcohol-free zones in the CBD, free outdoor concerts each evening, brilliant corroborees and the much-loved Cavalcade street parade, which kicks off with a fly-over by the local aviation club.
Featuring line dancing, stock-whip displays and floats, it’s the horse-drawn carts that draw the most cheers from Indy ... until he sees a real-life bright yellow Toyota Hilux Tonka truck (the only one in the world) at the 4WD off-roading track.
Tamworth is the home of country music, and the first stop for any visitor is the Big Golden Guitar. Situated on the outskirts of town, the 12-metre, 500-kilogram icon is our family of three’s first regional “big thing”. We mark the proud moment with a family photo, destined to go straight to the pool room.
While the visitor centre has a number of signed guitars, Peel Street, at the heart of Tamworth CBD, is filled with buskers jamming to country classics. The banjos and fiddles get Indy up and dancing, and while we show him how to throw coins in a bucket for the buskers, he doesn’t quite grasp the concept, attempting a few times to help himself to the shiny loot. Eventually, he settles down next
to the life-size bronze cast of Smoky Dawson, one of the many tributes to the greats of the industry located on the main drag.
From there, it’s a short walk to the Tamworth Regional Playground, which gives me serious childhood playground envy. The park here features a skywalk, the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, with giant slides, towers and an octa net to climb up. Along with dedicated senior, junior and toddler play areas, it’s also an inclusive park, with a wheelchair-friendly carousel.
Parents are catered for as well, with Hopscotch Restaurant & Bar offering allimportant coffee and restaurant meals on a shady terrace in the centre of the play area.
For Indy, the water play area is king, with both of us happily splashing among the bubbling fountains, following water channels and getting drenched.
Surprisingly, on both visits we encounter kids finding their own fun in the boughs of the huge trees, proving that the simple things offer the most enjoyment.
The highlight of the trip, however, is Tamworth Marsupial Park. Run by Tamworth Regional Council and a dedicated team of volunteers, it’s the kind of place where you have to give way to a peacock with your pram, a goanna slinks under your picnic table during lunch and a cockatoo begs for a scratch.
Also home to emus and wallabies in a 14-hectare bushland setting, it has a fantastic new play area with designated over-fives and under-fives areas encouraging fine and gross motor skill and imaginative play, and Indy happily tuckers himself out on the slides while we rustle up lunch on the free barbecues.
With temperatures soaring, Tamworth has two public pools to choose from, but we opt for a dip at our hotel, the Quality Hotel Powerhouse. While renovations are set to start this year, we loved the family rooms with second bedroom (featuring two bunks) meaning we 01 The Tamworth Country Music Festival is a family-driven celebration 02 Ready for the Cavalcade 03 Troy Cassar-daley is one of the country music legends at the festival 04 Tamworth Regional Playground features a water play area 05 Meeting Smoky Dawson on Peel Street 06 A family snap with the Big Golden Guitar. All images © Chris van Hove
wouldn’t have had to tiptoe around during naptime, if Indy had decided to sleep!
Get out of town
While Tamworth is country, you need to get out of the city to get your boots dirty. One of the best vistas of Tamworth is from Oxley Lookout, overlooking the city and Peel River Valley. But drive 20 minutes south and you can visit one of the state’s most historic working cattle stations, Goonoo Goonoo.
We bump over grates and drive through fields of black cows that elicit delighted squeals. Originally a sheep property, Goonoo Goonoo Station now runs cattle and has built a stunning glass-encased restaurant that has become a local favourite for brunch, while the village has been turned into luxury accommodations.
We grab a coffee and let Indy stretch his legs before our long journey home. There’s a certain smell in the air: dirt, hay and an approaching storm. The clouds gather, the humidity soars and with a crash, a thunderstorm breaks, sending us scurrying to the car. The drenching transforms the landscape, and it’s a chance to see this land anew. It’s all too much for Indy though, who finally, thankfully, falls asleep.
“We’re surprised by how family-driven the festival is, thanks to free outdoor concerts each evening and the muchloved Cavalcade street parade.”
Tamworth Report Card
Info The next Tamworth Country Music Festival will be held 18–27 January 2019. tcmf.com.au Getting there Tamworth is a five-hour drive from Sydney, a three-hour drive from Newcastle and a seven-hour drive from Brisbane. Stay powerhousetamworth.com.au Eat hopscotchrestaurant.com.au goonoogoonoostation.com