NSW has an amazing array of rural towns just waiting for you to visit them and soak up their charm and hospitality.

As part of our Drought Aid campaign, I jumped in the car with my dad Gary for a scenic and exploratory trip from Sydney to Glen Innes hoping to discover hidden gems while highlighting the effects of the Drought on rural towns. #ruralroadtrip

After the obligatory stop at the Twin Caltex we turned left and headed towards Polkolbin in the Hunter Valley. Though it was only 8am and not late enough in the day for any wine tasting, a drive around the Hunter Valley reminded me of the things I love about this region. Along with the myriad of wineries, cellar doors and gourmet food tastings there is always the much loved Hunter Valley Gardens. These are beautiful every day of the year but my favourite activity there is the Christmas Lights Spectacular. A delight for adults and kids, this will bring out the child in everyone. Grab a hot chocolate and take your time exploring the Gardens at night. Be captivated by worldwide icons including the Opera House, Eiffel Tower and a Giant Globe all made from lights. Be transported into a fairytale at the Princes Castle, be dwarfed by the 8m Snowy The Snowman and check out Santa’s Workshop where you can even write a letter to Santa.

The Chapel at Hunter Valley Gardens is worth a visit for its beautiful view, take in a game of mini golf along with a long leisurely lunch.

Turning onto the New England Highway through Singleton we checked out Bayswater Power Station before making our way past the Drayton Coal Mine to Scone.

40 minutes North of Scone is Murrurundi you will find the most delicious pie shop Life Of Pie on the Highway. You need to add this to your “must visit” list. The best sausage rolls I’ve tasted in years and the cakes – we shared a few as we couldn’t decide on just one. Plenty of parking along the road for cars and caravans and you can sit inside or outside to enjoy your baked goods.

Staying on the New England Highway we drove around the outskirts of Tamworth on our way to Uralla. Uralla has captured my heart and again should be on your ‘must visit’ list. The Trader Store Uralla serves delicious Mexican food, great coffee and cakes. Say hi to Nathan when you are there and grab a take away coffee or drink before you leave. Uralla has a brilliant new kids park around the corner from The Trader Store which is perfect the perfect place to relax while the kids burn off some energy.

Uralla is an RV friendly town – actually Uralla and Armidale, Guyra and Glen Innes, are RV friendly towns. Uralla has both paid caravan parks and free camping available and the facilities available around town are great. Dale at Dale’s Downtown Meats will cryovac meats for caravanners and travellers. He also makes his own delicious Beef Jerky that is worth grabbing a pack to share in the car.  There are plenty of options for food and shopping in Uralla and the locals are exceptionally friendly and like to have a chat.

We stayed the night in Armidale at Sandstock Motor Inn which is conveniently located within walking distance to the centre of town and across the road from Armidale City Bowling Club. The accommodation was clean and basic but provided a comfortable bed and parking on site. The bowling club served delicious generous sized meals and provides parking on site.

The next morning we stumbled across Courthouse Coffee who served a delicious country breakfast and good coffee. We opted to sit outside and enjoy breakfast basking in the morning sunshine. After picking up some Christmas decorations from House Worx in the Coles arcade as a memento of the road trip we got a little to be told that the pallets of donations we had sent for the CWA had arrived in Armidale and we got to go see them at the transport company. After this we continued up the mountain range towards Guyra. We refueled at Black Mountain Roadhouse which is just outside of Armidale.

Arriving in Guyra was a trip down memory lane. My dad’s cousins are farmers in Guyra and he spent a lot of his childhood and teenage years on their farm. Guyra is at the top of the mountain range at 1330m above sea level. It’s your old school country town that is suffering due to the drought. We had lunch at Rafters Restaurant with members of the various Country Women’s Association groups who are packing hampers and distributing them by hand to farmers in need. It was great to meet the women I have been speaking to over the phone and put faces to names. I also had the privilege to be educated on the effect of the drought to farmers by NSW farmers president Joshua Jackson.

Guyra is home to the highest caravan park in Australia. The Guyra Summit Caravan Park is comprised of 40 Caravan and RV sites, 4 cabins and a three bedroom cottage. Whilst we didn’t stay there it is conveniently located to the town centre. The town is easy to walk around and when rain has afforded them good water levels the Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve is a wonderful place to stop and relax.

Guyra has all your essentials covered. IGA supermarket, butcher, gift shops, hairdresser etc… The Guyra Cafe became a favourite place to visit over my 2 days in Guyra with great coffee and scoop Ice Cream. Bronwyn at Brisk Trading helped my tick off a few gifts. It’s a great store with unique and wonderful quality gifts and home wares. I went shopping in Guyra with the CWA ladies buying gift cards at the local IGA and Pharmacy with funds raised through the Drought Aid campaign. These gift cards were distributed to drought and fire affected farmers by the CWA members with the Drought Aid hampers.

Dad and I stayed on a farm just outside of Guyra catching up with family but there are motels, caravan parks and Air B&B options for accommodation.

Saturday saw us day trip to Glen Innes through the bush fires. A lot of the town was closed up as business owners were off fighting the fires but there is plenty to see and do in and around town. Glen Innes is a much larger regional centre with grocery shops, pubs and clubs, a large shopping high street and is part of the tourist drive known as Fossickers Way.

The Super Strawberry captured my stomach. The freshest and tastiest strawberries I’ve ever eaten served on soft and fluffy pavlova with silky fresh cream. Make sure you stop by the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre to pick up maps and have a chat with the helpful staff who shared a few locals tips with us. After walking around town and enjoying the architecture and chatting with the friendly locals a stop by The Furry Cow gelato shop is definitely required.

We ate lunch at Cuisine Cafe which was both delicious and generous in meal size. I highly recommend the zucchini fritters which filled me up for quite a few hours of exploring the parklands and town centre of Glen Innes. Glen Innes is home to the Australian Standing Stones, the gateway to fossicking and has a rich and proud celtic heritage that is evident in both the architecture and the town’s events.

We were on high alert on the drive back to Guyra later in the afternoon due to the bushfires. Regular alerts for closed roads and changes in the fire were being received automatically to my mobile phone. The drive would usually be a lovely relaxed drive and very easy towing a caravan but the bushfires definitely proved that being prepared with the Fires Near Me mobile phone app and having alternative route contingency plans “just in case” is always a good idea when travelling through rural areas. Forget counting sheep – we were counting fire trucks.

Sunday saw the last day of the rural road trip. After stretching breakfast out as long as possible, feeding the orphaned calves by hand and playing with the pet kangaroo, we reluctantly packed up the car to begin the trip home.

Making sure we stopped in different towns on the way back we started with a drink and snacks at Moonbi followed by lunch in Tamworth. Needing to get home we didn’t have time to stay and explore Tamworth so that will remain on the “must visit’ list for next time. Petrol stations were abundant in Muswellbrook and the obligatory stop at the Twin Caltex for coffee made the trip home easy and enjoyable.

I highly recommend that you take a trip up the New England Highway. If you are travelling to Queensland head inland and see the best these rural communities have to offer. Better still, make the New England region your destination and spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks thoroughly exploring the region or simply pick a location and enjoy the country hospitality and delicious wine and food.

You can follow along and check out what we are up to with the Drought Aid Campaign on Facebook HERE.