With some places over 1000 metres above sea level the New England region of New South Wales has a distinct high country feel and is a welcome relief to the hot, humid conditions along the coast. That coupled with far less crowds make this region a top spot to visit. Temperatures tend to be that bit cooler year round up here with snow possible during the winter months.
We kick off in the far north of the region at a breathtaking lookout on the outskirts of Tenterfield at Mount Mackenzie.
From Tenterfield we head south down the New England Highway before taking a short diversion inland from the tiny hamlet of Deepwater toward Torrington and the intriguing rock formations of Torrington State Conservation Area including the famed ‘Mystery Face’. Camping is also permitted out here with some excellent bush camps further on from the Mystery Face Circuit Walk turnoff.
After exploring these amazing rock formations ( it never ceases to amaze us as to what Mother Nature creates) we head into the regional hub of Glen Innes where we recommend taking time to stock up and refuel before heading into the vastness of the Great Dividing Range where the adventure really begins.
Heading east out of town make sure you call into the famous “standing stones”, Glen Innes` version of stonehenge.
Heading east along the Bruxner Highway keep an eye out for the turnoff to the Old Grafton Road about 35km from town on the right hand side. The Old Grafton to Glen Innes Road runs all the way to you guessed it Grafton and was the first road used by Bullock Teams and later horse and cart for farmers to get their produce from their farms high up on the New Engand Tablelands to the river port at Grafton. Today it is a scenic pleasant drive through some of the most rugged country this area has to offer.
Once on the old road keep an eye out for not only wildlife but also stock being moved along this rough, rugged route, flashbacks of days gone bye. The road twists and turns via a number of switchbacks, at least this steep section of road is now sealed making the journey a little safer before emerging into a lush green valley flanked by tall, eucalyptus clad mountains and bordered by the Mann River. Just at the base of the decline the Mann River Nature Reserve nestled on the banks of the river is the perfect place either for a picnic lunch or overnight camp. We have camped here several times over the years and can highly recommend this site.
Trundling on from the nature reserve the road gently undulates following the rivers path as close as practical with the ever present towering mountains to both sides and the gorgeous lush green valley floor commanding your attention. The road can be rough in places but take your time, immerse yourself in the stunning beauty of the area and you won’t even notice.
About 40 odd kilometres further along one of the highlights of this drive is reached. The road passes through a 20 metre convict built tunnel through solid rock. It is a marvel to see and imagine what it would have been like for these men working in this isolated place back then. It certainly has stood the test of time.
Around 10km after passing through the tunnel you reach the once thriving township site of Dalmorton.
Established after a quartz reef was discovered near here in 1871 it is hard to believe standing here today that this town once boasted a population of around 5,000. Our history of some of these short lived towns certainly does make traveling our beautiful country that bit more interesting.
It is here in Dalmorton we leave the Old Grafton – Glen Innes Road and further into the depths of the Great Dividing Range and toward the splendors of Guy Fawkes River National Park. Take a right hand turn at Dalmorton and just over the river the Dalmorton camping area within Guy Fawkes River State Conservation Area can be found. Situated above the river this is a well laid out site and would make a great overnight or longer camp spot. Pit toilet and firepits are provided with fees payable at a self registration station onsite.
From here we follow a main forest road (beware of logging trucks) back up the escarpment again passing two lookouts (one on the left and one further along the right) providing extensive scenic vistas both to the east and west over the vast wilderness of the Great Dividing Range, simply breathtaking.
After meandering along main forest roads and following our trusty Hema Navigator to keep us on track and passing another awe inspiring lookout we once again drop into a secluded valley and into what has to be one of our favorite campsites in this region, Chaelundi within Guy Fawkes River National Park. On our first visit here many years ago we were enjoying a cup of tea by the campfire after the dinner chores had been completed when we were visited by a rather curious possum. We had been and since have on many occasions been visited by these curious creatures even to the point of attempting to climb the ladder of our rooftop tent through the night more than once, but on this occasion the metal surrounds of the firepit got the better of him or her and decided to place his or hers paws on the by now very hot metal then very quickly scurried off with tail between legs. Hopefully all was ok and he or she may think twice about doing that again! There is also pit toilets, firepits and some picnic tables available here with fees payable at a self registration station onsite. There are walks here to keep you occupied to lookouts and to view Chaelundi Falls.
Once you leave Chaelundi the road out to a main road can be just as scenic and stunning as the rest of the trip depending on which route you decide to take. We highly recommend leaving via Mount Hyland Nature Reserve, at 1400 metres above sea level it has a scenic lookout located along the main road as well as a rainforest walk which is a bit harder to find and was quite overgrown on our last visit here but may well be worth the effort.
This main way out will lead you out onto the sealed Armidale – Grafton Road.