Tamworth is more than the twang of guitars. Bernadette Chua hits the region's food scene.
The Big Golden Guitar, that shining beacon of Australia's country music scene, greets visitors to Tamworth. But the scene has already been set as you roll on in via the New England Highway, where the cotton and wheat sways in the wind, the cattle graze in the paddocks, and the olive trees stand like soldiers.
It's the perfect road in to Tamworth's burgeoning food and wine scene, known for its local produce and farm-to-table dining.
"Tamworth has so much to offer from amazing local breweries, wines and food to experiences like the guitar museum, motorbike museum, amazing parks and the new Escape Rooms," says local travel agent Chris Watson from Chris Watson Travel.
Housed in the old offices of the local paper, The Press is a hidden bar with an extensive cocktail menu, and an even longer whisky list. Dark and moody, it's reminiscent of a 1920s New York underground bar. There's a simple menu of pizzas and starters, such as wings and metre-long grazing boards.
If it's a beer you're after, The Welder's Dog brewery is in Armidale, 90 minutes to the northeast. Tom, Dan and Phil started life out as ginger-beer brewers, but in just three years, they've turned their ginger beer into proper beer.
A weekend away is never going to be enough..
While they still have the Farmhouse Ginger Beer on the menu, the lads have also concocted some delicious beers, including a summery IPA (pictured right) made with local hops and a chocolatey, coffee-flavoured Extra Stout.
For high-end dining, award-winning architectural marvel Goonoo Goonoo Station stands out on the plain. It's a 20-minute drive south of Tamworth.
After a sumptuous meal at the stunning Glasshouse Restaurant, diners can stumble to bed in one of the station's chic country cottages. The scenic restaurant sits seamlessly between two re-purposed heritage buildings. Expect dishes like native-bush-spiced lamb, Black Angus scotch fillet and a divine salted-caramel bombe alaska with Davidson's plum.
The wine list is unpretentious. Labels from the Central West include Lowe organic wines, and you'll even find a delightful shiraz viognier from Clonakilla estate near Canberra.
To soak up the wine the following morning, Hissy Fits Cafe's breakfast burrito with bacon or mushrooms, scrambled egg, charred corn, spring onion and hash browns with chipotle mayo.
A weekend away is never going to be enough when there is so much to do in this culturally abundant region.
Drive: The drive from Newcastle takes 3.5 hours on the New England Highway. If you're flying from Canberra, it will take 2.5 hours. Flights cost from $552 with Qantas.
Stay: Chris Watson Travel suggests the Mercure Hotel (from $132 per night) or the Powerhouse Hotel by Rydges (from $221 per night).
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