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Take A Road Trip To Tamworth!

Golden guitar
Shonagh Walker

Lifestyle Writer

Jun 20, 2021

Tamworth, AKA, the Country Music Capitol of Australia, has much to offer its visitors. Whether whistle-stopping for a weekend, or lingering a little longer, you’ll be hard pressed to run out of fun things to do. 

Where To Stay In Tamworth

Look no further than the Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth, owned and run by Tamworth legend, Greg Maguire. A long-time local, Greg is famous for his cattle farms, passion for motorbikes and of course, bringing Five-Star luxury accommodation to Tamworth. 

The hotel recently underwent a $12million refurbishment, with Sydney team, Paul Kelly Design, at the helm. The move more than paid off, with stylish fixtures and furniture from lobby to lounge, bar to dining room, and even where you lay your head, propelling its ranking straight to to Five Stars.

A colour palette of aqua, teal, grey and white runs through the establishment, which immediately imbues a sense of calm and a sense of “I’m on vacation”. After a leisurely check-in, we had the choice of relaxing by the luxury outdoor pool, or dressing for a sundowner in the Coal Bunker Bar.

Of course, we chose the latter. It was impossible to resist after merely glancing the lengthy list of wines, whiskies and cocktails. And, we were thirsty girls after our five hour road trip from the Southern Highlands. Jeremy, a charismatic and enthusiastic mixologist was manning the bar, and he guided us in the just the right direction as to what to imbibe. 

Beginning with a Dirty Martini, we sipped it slowly whilst pondering our next indulgence, which was the prettiest sip of Sweet Pea Gin Elderflower Spritz. As we enjoyed the ever-so-pretty, delicious beverage, Jeremy explained the intricacies of the bar’s signature cocktail, The Powerhouse Iced Tea. We were sold within seconds and it was next on our list. 

This potent concoction is as unique as it is delicious. Designed to be shared between two, it is powered by Absolut Wild Tea Vodka and St Germain Elderflower Liqueur, then stirred with house brewed iced tea and seasonal fruits. It arrives in a glass teapot and is then served over ice at your table. The theatrics are as wonderful as the cocktail itself. 

Coal Bunker bar
The Powerhouse Iced Tea Is Served Like performance Art At Your Table!
 

Suffice to say we were slightly light headed by the time we made it to the The Workshop Kitchen. The elegant, spacious eatery is renowned for its wood-fired grill and stand-out local steaks, as well as its two-glass rated wine list as per the Australian 2019 Wine List of the Year Awards.

Powerhouse Rydges Tamworth
We opted for the salmon and the restaurant’s renowned flame grill steak for dinner, both of which were incredible. 

As vast as the menu is, it took us no time at all to decide on the salmon for myself and steak for my friend, all with a side of parmesan, truffle potato mash, of course. This was perfectly complemented by a bottle of Hancock & Hancock Grenache Rose, handpicked for us by General Manager and Sommelier, Daine Cooper. My salmon was cooked to perfection, as was my friend’s steak, and there aren’t really any words to describe how delicious and more-ish the potato mash was. 

powerhouse Rydges hotel
Daine Cooper, GM and Somellier of Powerhouse Rydges Hotel, With The Bottle Of Hancock & Hancock Grenache Rose he carefully selected to go with our meal.

We rounded off our feast with an oversized serve of affogato, which was as near to perfect as a dish of ice cream with coffee and liqueur drizzled over it can be. We then strolled (OK it may have been a stumble) the few metres back to our luxury two bedroom digs, admiring the brilliant stars lighting up both the clear night sky and our path way home. 


Sleeping Soundly 

Each room accommodates two (either single or double beds can be arranged) and offers the ultimate in privacy, comfort and relaxation. Given it was the weekend, the block out blinds were firmly shut to allow for maximum sleep-in time the next day.

powerhouse Tamworth Suite
It Wasn’t Easy Getting Out Of This Insanely Comfortable Bed, But A World Of Shopping And Site Seeing Awaited!


All hopes of that flew out the window when I was awoken with a combination of a thumping head from the previous evening’s imbibitions and the excitement to check out Tamworth’s historical sites and vibrant shopping scene. 

But first, breakfast. While The Powerhouse’s Workshop Kitchen offers a premium and hearty breakfast, we decided to stroll along the main street of the city, Peel Street, and found a gorgeous diner called Deco Wine Bar and Restaurant. As the name suggests, it had a distinctly art deco ambiance. I was pretty disappointed that they didn’t serve Bloody Mary’s, but they more than made up for it with the most perfectly effervescent and refreshing Mimosa, teamed with poached eggs and avocado. 

Shop til You Drop 

It’s a rare occurrence that one walks into a store and finds so much to buy that your Christmas shopping list is completely ticked off. However, that is exactly what happened when I entered The Magic Pudding. The overladen boutique is a treasure trove of fashion, homewares and food and the only thing that stopped me filling up an extra shopping bag was my credit card limit. From kid’s toys to beautiful clothing, jams and pickles and out of the square books and homewares, I had pretty much every friend and family member covered. 


Our next stop was RM Williams TamworthRB Sellars and Baxter Boots & Shoes as I was hell bent on picking up a pair of traditional country and western boots. Alas, I was out of luck, as my favourite picks were not available in my size. I added ‘boot shopping’ to my list of reasons to return to Tamworth soon, the other being the annual Country and Music festival, which was sadly cancelled in 2020 due to Covid. 

Strumming Gold


A little shopped out, we thought we’d hit the site seeing trail – after all, what’s a trip to Tamworth without seeing the big Golden Guitar, or the Guitar Museum, the latter of which is home to guitars donated by Country Music’s hugest names, including our own Keith Urban, Dolly Parton and the late, great Kenny Rogers.

The Big Golden Guitar itself is 12 metres high, weighs half a tonne and is representative of the Golden Guitar Awards which began in the early 1970’s, masterminded by 2TM’s John Mindon and Max Exwell, with the more intricate details designed by Tamworth artist Harry Frost. Ironically, the Big Golden Guitar has no strings, but it more than makes up for it in stature and prominence.

After a quick selfie in front of the guitar, we headed inside to check out the Country Music Wax Museum, which is looking a little tired these days but luckily leads out though the guitar museum, which is an absolute must-see.

With guitars gifted by the likes of Paul Kelly, Tommy Emmanuel, Smokey Dawson, it was truly fascinating. Seeing Kenny Roger’s guitar hung pride of place next to Dolly Parton’s is something everyone should have on their Bucket List. 

 

National Guitar Museum
A Guitar Donated By Australian Icon, Poet and Singer/Songwriter, Paul Kelly.

Peel Street Strolling

Peel Street is the main shopping strip of Tamworth and it’s well worth taking your time strolling it. Despite the fact we already had cleared almost all the shelves of each boutique, we decided to take a leisurely walk that way, before heading back to the hotel for an early supper and rugby match at the Coal Bunker Bar.

We were so pleased we did, as the heat had come in and the enormous pine trees and breeze swirling around the street made for some refreshing comfort. The many cafes and restaurants made it super refreshing too.

We stopped by The Pig and Tinder Box, which dates back to 1848. Located in heritage-listed bank building in the heart of Tamworth, it was one of the first pubs in the New England Region. It offers casual dining and an urban bar oasis and it was here that we were regaled with the tale of how Tamworth was the ‘first town of lights’ – being the first place in Australia to use electric streetlights in 1888. We discovered, with fascination, that our hotel’s name, Powerhouse Tamworth is an historical nod to this, as it’s the physical location of the former electrical power-house. Paris was the first location only ten years earlier, to be “a city of lights”.

Revved Up, Then Ready To Head Home

Refreshed and cooled down, we were ready to go back to our room, via what, in hindsight, became the most interesting stop on our day out – The Powerhouse Motorcycle Museum. Adjacent to the hotel, it’s open seven days, from 9am to 5pm and houses the Powerhouse Tamworth by Rydges’ private collection of bikes.

It’s a must see even for the most novice of motorcycle enthusiasts, like myself. Vintage BSA Gold Stars stand majestically beside Ducatis from the 1950s as well as Triumphs, Velocettes, Hondas, Laverdas and more. There are over 50 motorcycles in the museum, part of a rotating collection of 200+ motorcycles, all in pristine condition.

With motorbikes from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, there is something from every major era. The museum is also home to a very rare limited edition F4 MV Augusta Series ORO and a 1924 Harley Davidson postie bike.

powerhouse motorbike museum
The Extremely Rare 1924 Harley Davidson Postie Bike.

 

Dinner that night was a quiet meal of tapas like snacks in the Coal Bunker bar while watching the rugby. We had an early start the next day to make the drive home, so we skipped the intricate cocktails and opted for the same exquisite rose that we so enjoyed with the previous evening’s meal.

After a refreshing sleep, we were on our way back home, pinky swearing that we’d make our way back soon, with more time allocated, to explore the myriad parts of this gorgeous region has to offer that we sadly didn’t have time for on this trip, like those in the list below! 

Tamworth’s Must-Do Activities

Here’s a list of activities in Tamworth that we desperately wanted to dive into, however time constraints and COVID meant we were unable to. Be sure to add them to your list, if you’re able to travel these school holidays. 

  • Tamworth’s annual Country Music Festival (sadly cancelled ion 2021 due to Covid-19) is the largest and most populated city in the north-western region of NSW, and the second-largest inland city in the state. It is widely known as one of the top 10 music festivals in the world. Traditionally a fun, 10-day event held every January that includes over 700 artists, a 50,000 plus crowd of music lovers and over 2800 events. Here’s hoping for 2022. 

  • For a great view over the city of Tamworth and Peel River Valley, you can’t go past Oxley Scenic Lookout, two-kilometres from the CBD.

  • The Tamworth Regional Gallery, one of the oldest galleries in NSW, is a great spot to discover the district’s heritage. See colonial silverware along with modern exhibitions that change every six weeks. Weswal Gallery is another spot to appreciate contemporary local, regional and national art.

  • Stop by the Tamworth Powerstation Museum for more of the town’s early electric history.

  • Book a class with Grounded, for yoga, pilates and meditation classes in the heart of Tamworth.

  • Try to catch your own dinner at the Arc-en-Ciel Trout Farm also home to The Drunken Trout Café.

  • Take part in an Aboriginal cultural tour of the local region with Kamilaroi man and local indigenous custodian,Len Waters.

  • For pampering, Urban Vogue Day Spa is the place to rejuvenate during one of their signature treatments.

  • For families, meet joeys and other friendly animals at the Tamworth Marsupial Park and Adventure Playground.

  • Another fun spot for kids of all ages is the Tamworth Regional Playground on Kable Avenue, with its skywalk, three giant slides, four towers, a bike track, junior and senior fitness circuits, a dual flying fox and a waterfall with a three metre sway bridge. When it’s time to refresh and recover, there’s a café where you can take a well-earned break.

  • Daytrip to the historic town of Nundle, a scenic 45-50 mins drive from Tamworth. Visit the historic Nundle Woollen Mill and buy some beautiful woollen products from the shop at the last operating spinning mill in Australia. While in Nundle, make sure to visit Odgers and McClelland – a one stop shop for beautiful and practical kitchen and garden wares with vintage roots, and housed in a beautifully preserved 19th century village store.

  • An hour north, head to Barraba to see the impressive Water Diviner mural on the trio of 40-metre high grain silos.
  • Miss JuJu Foods the place to stop for signature salads, rice paper rolls and bao buns.
  • The Lemon House sells a range of homewares, gifts, furniture and more.

  • Bungalow G  this retail store is a carefully curated mix of eclectic, colourful & modern furniture pieces, homewares and lifestyle products.
  • Taste Tamworth Festival  (Wed 14 – Sun 18 April 2021)
    You can enjoy some of the local bounty at a range of restaurants and the annual 10-day in April, which celebrates the region’s fresh produce and cool climate wines.

 

Getting To Tamworth

Tamworth is just under five-hours’ drive north of Sydney and seven hours from Brisbane. There is also a daily direct train, or you can fly into Tamworth Regional Airport located 10kms from Tamworth’s town centre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By Shonagh Walker

Lifestyle Writer

Shonagh Walker is a multi-award-winning lifestyle writer and author specialising in beauty, health, fashion, travel, pets and animals. Her career spans over 30 years, and she can't recall a day during that time, where she hasn't been excited to get to work!

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