Waterfalls, wine and romance; Tourist Drive 19 is a lovely way to spend a day.
If you find yourself in Armidale or Uralla needing to while away a few hours, Tourist Drive 19 is for you. It’s comprised of 86km of country back roads, including 20km unsealed, and will easily fill half a day or more. You’ll need to pack walking shoes, a picnic spread, a taste for local wine and a camera. It’s sounding like a great day already, isn’t it?
Starting in Armidale, visit the New England Regional Art Museum where you can take in an outstanding permanent collection from four major artists. Then call into the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place where you can explore the rich Aboriginal culture through viewing the art gallery, musical section, tools and weaponry, history room, bush tucker walk and the archaeological section.
Now you’ll leave Armidale in the rear vision mirror, heading along Dangarsleigh Road until you arrive at Petersons Guesthouse and Winery, just out of town. Set on the historic property of ‘Palmerston’, the Peterson family has established an award winning guesthouse and cellar door. The latter is located in the heritage-listed stables, which have been stylishly refurbished. The guesthouse’s restaurant is open for lunch on weekends. Just don’t drink too much if you’re the designated driver; it’s not knock off time yet!
Instead, you’ll continue 7.5km until you come to the Dangarsleigh War Memorial, a unique privately-built monument erected in 1921 by Alfred Haroldston Perrott, owner of the property on which it stands. Dedicated to those who gave up their lives in World War I, families placed individual names on the monument, which cost them sixpence per letter. These names include Perrott’s eldest son. A moving service is held at the site each Anzac Day.
Turn left here and follow the unsealed road to Dangars Gorge where you’ll experience breathtaking views across the gorge country and, if you’re anything like me, will be tempted to see how your “cooee” bounces through the valley. Trust me, it’s pretty satisfying. The spectacular gorge country is believed to have been formed over the last 12 to 15 million years as the rivers and streams cut their way down through the rock that forms the New England Tableland. There are picnic facilities here including gas barbeques, so this is a great spot for a picnic lunch.
There are a couple of walks to choose from, including the Gorge Rim walk which takes you to the very edge where Dangars Falls drops 120m into the gorge below. The Gorge Lookout path to the north of the car park is only 100m long and has wheelchair access. A third walk takes you across the river to Dangars Falls Lookout and a little further on to Rock Wallaby Lookout. This walk is approximately 2 km return and provides a magnificent view down the gorge and to the river, some 300m below.
But the best of the walks is the two-hour return walk to McDirty’s Lookout along the southern rim of the gorge, which comes highly recommended for its spectacular views. If you need to work off that last glass of chardonnay or perhaps your barbeque chicken picnic lunch, this one’s for you.
After leaving Dangars Gorge, turn left into Black Lane for 2.3km and then left on to Enmore Road. You’ll drive through typical New England farming country and past properties that date back multiple generations. Turn right at Mihi Station to visit the old rural settlement of Gostwyck, a popular spot for visitors. On the left approaching Gostwyck stands an unusual shearing shed. The English-style octagonal woolshed of Deeargee Station was rebuilt after a fire in 1872 and is still fully operational with every facility necessary for shearing, sorting, pressing and bailing. It’s still in use today.
Gostwyck Station with its elm drive and beautiful Gostwyck Chapel covered with Virginia Creeper is a favourite spot with photographers. The chapel was built in 1921 in memory of Clive Collingwood Dangar. It’s constructed of bricks made and fired on the property, while the stonewall surrounding the chapel was built as protection against flooding. The magnificent avenue of 200 elm trees was planted by a specialist brought out from England specifically for the job. During drought times these trees were hand watered with buckets from the nearby Salisbury Waters. It might be New England, but this region is still very much old Australia!
The best time to visit Gostwyck is in Autumn when the elms and the vine-covered chapel turn vibrant autumnal shades as though they’re vying for your heart. Visit at dawn or dusk to experience this magical hidden gem at its finest hour.
Finally you’ll come to the idyllic country town of Uralla with its heritage streetscape, unique shops, galleries and museums. Uralla has become a favoured destination for visitors who appreciate its rare blend of past and present, and is a delightful way to finish your day. Return to Armidale on the New England Highway, or better yet stay the night in Uralla and enjoy happy hour with the locals at the pub.