Road Trip New England Highway – Sydney to Brisbane 3 Day Itinerary

by | Last updated Sep 24, 2023 | New South Wales, Queensland, Road Trips, Transport / Travelling Options | 26 comments

The Golden Guitar – just one of the big things you will see on a New England Highway road trip

 

Most people choose to drive between Sydney and Brisbane by the Pacific Highway that runs along Australia’s East Coast. But there is an alternative. Instead of beautiful beach stops why not head inland. You will see scenic countryside, eat at classic bakeries and cafes and stop in quaint, historic towns along the New England Highway. The Highway is about 50kms longer than the Pacific Highway route but can be an easier drive with less traffic. Why not give it a try. You just might be surprised at what you will see! Here is my suggested 3 day road trip itinerary of this great inland road trip to help you meander along the New England Highway.

 

New England Highway – Inland Road Trip

 

map of the New England Highway

 

The New England Highway originated as a track developed to reach the prime wool growing areas in the New England region of NSW. Today, it still takes you to those areas but the track has become a major inland road linking a number of towns.

The New England Highways starts or finishes just North-West of Newcastle in New South Wales and starts or finishes north of Toowoomba in Queensland. It is about 850kms long and can take about 10-12 hours to drive if you don’t make many stops and/or stay overnight anywhere. It is part of Australia’s National Highway system and is a great inland route you can drive between Sydney and Brisbane. The route number is most A15 (it does change a couple of times but is mostly A15).

Though you can drive the New England Highway in one day, there is plenty to see and do along the way. If you have the time why not turn it into a 3 day road trip. Here is my suggested itinerary to make the most of your road trip up or down the New England Highway. You can go either way Sydney to Brisbane or Brisbane to Sydney. For the purposes of this post you are driving Sydney to Brisbane. Just read backwards if you are going Brisbane to Sydney!

Now as this is a road trip, you will need a car. If you don’t have one yourself you can always rent one. To see what vehicle might suit you and to get availability and a price through DiscoverCars. And don’t forget before going on any road trip to check your vehicle over. And don’t forget the iconic Australian road trip snacks to keep your hunger at bay.

 

Best Time to Drive the New England Highway

 

Anytime is a good time to drive the New England Highway as it will always be open unless there is a major road incident or environmental issue like a bushfire raging. Depending on the weather drive to the conditions. If it is raining slow down. When you drive the New England Highway you may be influenced by events. Is it Tamworth Music Festival time? Maybe you want to explore the area in warmer weather. Or perhaps look for work during harvesting time?

 

Day 1 – Newcastle to Tamworth (282km, about 3.5 hours drive)

 

Oxley Lookout, Tamworth

Golden Guitar – a must see in Tamworth

Head north from Sydney to Newcastle taking the M1 to reach the beginning of the New England Highway. This will take a couple of hours depending on the traffic. On leaving the Newcastle area near the winery region around Branxton you will pass through some interesting old towns. Firstly Singleton which is one of Australia’s oldest towns. Founded in the 1820s it features historic buildings and museums. Muswellbrook, a popular horse breeding area and Scone follow which are great for grabbing a bite to eat or a cup of coffee while enjoying wide streets and their old buildings and maybe some horse riding. But the major stop today is Tamworth about 300km or 3.5 hours away from Newcastle.

 

Tamworth

 

Tamworth is known as Australia’s country music capital. And you can’t visit Tamworth without a visit to the 12 metre high Golden Guitar. The guitar sits proudly at the Tamworth Visitors Centre. Here you can grab a bite to eat and check out some of the music-related and not so music related souvenirs on offer. You will also find two museums here: ‘The Gallery of Stars’ Wax Museum and the ‘National Guitar Museum’. If you love guitars you will enjoy seeing the autographed guitars from Australian and International country music icons. Guitars from Smoky Dawson, Brian May (Queen) and Paul Stanley (KISS) to name a few.

Don’t forget to have a walk around town. The streets are wide and some of the buildings old and interesting. For a magnificent view over Tamworth and beyond follow White Street all the way to the Oxley Scenic Lookout.

Tamworth swells with visitors during January when Tamworth hosts the country music awards with the golden guitar the main prize. Buskers of all ages busk on the streets and you can boot scoot with the best of them. It is a very exciting time to visit Tamworth and if you plan to be there at that time book early.

Tonight, stay in Tamworth. There are a number of accommodation options:
Hostel: The Rex
Tourist Park: Paradise Tourist Park
Budget Hotel: Tamworth Budget Motel, Tamworth City Motel
Mid-Range: Best Western Tamworth Motor Inn, Quest Tamworth
For more accommodation deals check out Booking.com.

 

Day 2 – Tamworth – Tenterfield (298.6km, about 3.5 hrs driving)

 

Big Solder, Uralla

Thunderbolt Rock, outside Uralla

Goodbye Tamworth, hello Uralla

 

Say goodbye to Tamworth and head north up the New England Highway and into bushranger country of Captain Thunderbolt. Yes, that’s right, Captain Thunderbolt is the alias name of Frederick Worsworth Ward, one of the last of New South Wales bushrangers. He ruled the highways and the byways of the New England High Country for much of the 1860s. Before he was shot and killed on 25 May 1870 at Kentucky Creek, near Uralla he apparently used Thunderbolt Rock as a vantage point and hide-out. It is about 7kms south of the town of Uralla and it is worth a stop to view this granite outcrop with its graffiti art. Once in the town of Uralla itself there is a statue of Captain Thunderbolt casting his gaze over the Main Street. Some like to visit his headstone in the Uralla Pioneer Cemetery to pay their respects.

Also in Uralla you can’t miss the Big Solder which is outside of the military museum. The museum is only small but quite interesting. Another museum to visit is the McCrossin’s Mill Museum containing a Captain Thunderbolt exhibition.

 

Armidale

 

It is just a short drive, 25km or so from Uralla to the university city of Armidale. Armidale is the administrative centre for the Northern Tablelands region of NSW and has the main campus for the University of New England. If you would like a stop you might want to go on one of the heritage walks lasting a couple of hours to appreciate what Armidale has to offer. Or discover some good food and wine. The region also boasts world-heritage national parks, cool-climate vineyards and spectacular waterfalls and gorges. Armidale is also the half way point on the New England Highway between Sydney and Brisbane.

 

Glen Innes

 

Heading up the New England Highway you will be led to Guyra at 1320m and next to Glen Innes. As you travel along you will notice many Scottish town names. Name such as Stonehenge, Ben Lamond and Glencoe to name a few. This is because the earliest settlers in Glen Innes were Scottish because they enjoyed the cooler climate of the area which reminded them of home.

 

Tenterfield

 

Tenterfield Saddlery

 

From Glen Innes head to Tenterfield. Tenterfield is the centre of a large cattle and sheep region. It was here that Sir Henry Parkes made his famous speech in 1889 which led to Australia’s Federation in 1901. Plenty of museums and historic buildings here to explore. Plus, this is the birthplace of Peter Allen, the Australian songwriter and singer. Allen made Tenterfield famous in the song ‘Tnterfield Saddler’ that he wrote about his grandfather, George Woolnough who worked in Tenterfield as the saddler. The saddlery is still there at 123 High Street and produces leather goods plus has some other interesting stuff on display. There is also the Peter Allen Festival which occurs in September paying tribute to the contribution of this entertainer to the world of entertainment. While in Tenterfield have a walk along the streets as there are a number of homewares, fashion and gift stores plus a number of eateries.

Tonight, stay in Tenterfield. Accommodation options include:
Peter Allen Motor Inn, Best Western Henry Parkes, The Commercial Boutique Hotel
For other options check out Booking.com.

 

Day 3 – Tenterfield to Brisbane(274km, about 3.5 hours drive)

 

Fruitiforus, Ballandean

 

Big Apple, Stanthorpe

 

Tenterfield is the last major stop in New South Wales before crossing the border into Queensland. A town to visit is once in Queensland is Ballandean where you will find the Big Fruitiforus. Ballandean is a small town located in the Granite Belt Region of the Southern Downs in Queensland. Have your photo taken with him. Then onto Stanthorpe, fruit growing country. Maybe another photo stop with the ‘big apple’. Warwick is next and depending on where you final destination is, if it is Toowoomba continue along the New England Freeway and from Toowoomba head to the coast to Brisbane which is a couple of hours away. Otherwise, follow the signs to Ipswich on Route 15 and finish in Brisbane.

 

Are You Ready for a 3 Day Trip along the New England Highway?

 

So there you go, I hope you enjoyed, or will enjoy this road trip of the New England Highway. It really highlights the diversity that Australia has to offer and means you don’t have to stick to the coast to discover Australia.

 

See the Golden Guitar in Tamworth when driving the New England Highway road trip.

26 Comments

  1. Emma

    If I get back to Australia it looks like road trip will be the best thing to do to see more of the country. I visited Sydney a long time ago but I’d love to go back

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      When you come back, hire a car and hit the roads. You see so much when you have your own transport. And you will have the flexibility to go where you want, when you want.

      Reply
  2. Ruth

    At first, I thought the article was about New England in the United States. Then, I realized there is a New England Highway in Australia. That is cool! It looks like an awesome road trip.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      I didn’t even think about New England in America but how cool is that!

      Reply
  3. Mal

    Thanks for sharing this alternative itinerary. Looks like some great spots to visit along the way, love the Golden Guitar!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      It is a great alternative to the much driven coastal route along the Pacific Highway. The Golden Guitar is special.

      Reply
    • Avagarde

      Thank you for sharing this. Very helpful as I am planning a trip now SYD TO BNE and want an alternative to the Pacific Coast route.

      Reply
      • Sharyn McCullum

        There is plenty to do on the New England Highway. It is a great alternative to the Pacific Coast route. I hope you enjoy it.

        Reply
  4. Suvarna Arora

    This will come handy when I can travel again. So well written.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      That’s good. It is an interesting and fun road trip to undertake.

      Reply
  5. Ann

    Looks like such a awesome road trip! I always love to switch it up and road trip the less travelled path. I did the coastal route years ago but very keen to do another Australia road trip again one day! Will keep this one in mind 🙂

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      This road trip just might suit you then! This is just one of the great road trips that Australia has. I have gone up the Pacific Highway Sydney to Brisbane and then come down the New England Highway. Always fun.

      Reply
  6. Julia

    I love a good road trip… and this hits on some of the more “off the beaten path” items in Australia, which I love!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      I love a good road trip also. The New England Highway was an unexpected delight.

      Reply
  7. galatia savva

    I have always wanted to do a road trip, so thank you for writing about this alternative route!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Road trips are good fun.

      Reply
  8. Mayi

    I have never been to Australia so this is a handy itinerary. Thanks for sharing the unusual attractions along the way, they will make the trip more interesting.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      It is an interesting trip – so different to the coastal Pacific Highway (which is great also). If you make it to Australia I highly suggest the road trip.

      Reply
  9. Audrey

    A road trip to Australia, so dreamy! I wish to have a road trip with kangaroos! different from skunks and deers!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Yes, you will probably see a lot of kangaroos – and hopefully you won’t hit any while driving!

      Reply
  10. Elizabeth

    I would love to take a road-trip in Australia. I hear so much about the Pacific Highway, but have never heard about the New England Highway. I love alternative routes, so thank you for sharing this! The thought of historic towns and quaint bakeries really caught my attention too.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Most people drive the Pacific Highway (me included) but the New England Highway is a good alternative where you will see inland Australia and learn so much about things like bushrangers.

      Reply
  11. Delphine

    That’s a great drive! I’ve never visited Brisbane and driving from Sydney looks like a great idea. I would love to do a loop via the coast and Byron Bay on the way back!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Sounds like a great plan. Up or down via the inland road and up or down via the coast road. I went up the coast road to the Sunshine Coast and then from Brisbane veered inland and came down the New England. It was a good trip. So much variety and history of Australia I discovered.

      Reply
  12. Ashley

    This looks like an awesome road trip! I would love to take this trip.

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      If you have the chance I would highly recommend this road trip. It was a lot of fun.

      Reply

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Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve Sign shaped like a big white wave with Sharyn McCullum On the Great Ocean Road.

G’Day! Sharyn here, an Aussie loving discovering Australia. Let me show you around so you can discover Australia too.  Read my story here.

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