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Inverell started life as a property on the Macintyre River on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range. The word is of Gaelic origin meaning "meeting place of the swans", from "inver", a meeting place, and "ell", a swan. The area was also known, less romantically, as Green Swamp in the 1850s.
Colin and Rosana Ross established a store next to a popular crossing point on the river in 1853. They sold provisions to the early travellers heading up to the Darling Downs. A water-driven flour mill and a hotel were set up soon after and, today, Ross Hill bears their name and some nearby streets were named after the Ross’s children.
From the time diamonds were discovered here in 1896, mining and fossicking have been popular around Inverell, with professionals and amateurs searching for sapphires, diamonds, topaz, quartz, tourmaline, jelly bean crystals, citrine and grass stone. The Inverell area supplied 80% of the world's sapphires. No wonder Inverell is called "The Sapphire City".
There are quite a few fossickers who return year after year to camp in the bush and search for stones in and around the local creeks. If you prefer not to get your hands dirty, you can buy stones, both rough and cut, in town – as well as get advice on how best to cut any gems you find in the field.
If you want to get a feeling for what life was like when the pioneers first settled in the Inverell region, there’s no place better than the Inverell Pioneer Village. Highlights include Grove Homestead from 1840 and Paddy’s Pub, a classic timber and tin bush pub from 1874. The Village houses a fascinating collection of early photos, along with the cameras and photographic equipment used to capture these images. There’s also an impressive collection of old agricultural equipment such as a Waterous Steam Engine and Grain Saver Thresher.
Another museum popular with visitors is the National Transport Museum, one of the biggest in Australia. A prized possession is the 1906 Dayton, believed to be the only one in the world. You can imagine being chauffeured in the 1929 Packard or seeing the Elsmore Honey truck making its deliveries.
Many people are surprised to learn that Inverell has its own opera company. Opera North West was originally formed to present the annual Opera In The Paddock. The company now presents a broad range of musical programs featuring opera, operetta, musicals, chamber and orchestral works.
To get a taste of the natural wonder of the region, there are great walking tracks, reserves and dams in and around Inverell. One of the best places to go exploring is Goonoowigall State Conservation Area. This unique wilderness area is home to 120 species of native birds. It also houses the remains of an early Chinese settlement.
Locals are proud of Inverell’s strong sense of family and community. Like many towns, Inverell’s younger generation often leaves to pursue education and career opportunities in the big cities. Unlike many towns, a large number of them come back to Inverell to establish businesses and raise a family. The importance of family might explain why so many visitors comment on the warmth of the welcome they receive in Inverell. No matter the season, you will be greeted with a smile at the meeting place of the swans.