Armidale: Australia's Highest City
What’s so appealing about Armidale is that it’s a cosmopolitan and sophisticated urban centre located in a picturesque rural setting on the doorstep of some of the most scenic national parks in Australia. This means that it ticks a lot of boxes as a perfect change of scene for jaded city slickers from larger metropolises and anyone seeking a serene but interesting place to unwind.
The past has a place in modern-day Armidale. Gracious cathedrals and stately buildings dating from the 1860s reflect the lofty aspirations of the early settlers and remain a hive of activity today. But the best way to learn about the history of the city is to hop onboard the Armidale Heritage Tour bus for an entertaining 2½ hour narrated sightseeing jaunt that takes in the most important sites.
These days, the fact that Armidale is home to the University of New England, an institution that has attracted students and faculty from across the globe since its establishment as a university college in 1938, is a major reason for the worldly and refined feel about the place.
With the University, TAFE, four prestigious private schools as well as public schools all achieving results, Armidale is also widely known as a centre of education excellence.
If you’re wondering where to eat, stylish cafés buzz with activity and serve up great coffee and delicious meals all day. Restaurants, clubs and pubs also offer a wide range of contemporary Australian and international cuisines, often featuring food and wine produced in the surrounding countryside.
5 reasons to visit Armidale
With a cool climate and an air of Mother England, Australia’s highest city offers culture and natural beauty in abundance. 1. Go chasing waterfalls The main artery into Armidale from the coast is aptly named Waterfall Way, thanks the abundance of cascading falls. The road is a thing of beauty itself, weaving over the Great Dividing Range through subtropical rainforest to Bellingen. You’ll encounter a number of waterfalls, the highlights being Ebor, Mihi, Dangar and Wollombombi Falls, the latter considered one of the tallest in the country. 2. Climb Cathedral Rock Off the Waterfall Way you’ll discover a number of pristine national parks and some wonderful walks. High on your ‘to do’ list should be Cathedral Rock, in the small national park of the same name. A series of giant granite boulders, the hike is a challenging climb that resorts to a chain fixed to the rock at the summit, so is not for the faint hearted. The view from the top is spectacular, so pack a thermos and something for morning tea – you’ll have earned it! 3. Take a scenic flight over the gorge country The gorges of New England’s national parks are breathtaking, and their grandeur is best experienced from the air. Fleet Helicopters runs joy flights from Armidale airport, so you’ll also get to take in the beautiful city of Armidale and watch as the fertile agricultural tablelands drop suddenly into the abyss of the gorge country. Your stomach will perform summersaults as you drop into canyons, surf thermal currents as you rise over the rocky ridges and soar above trickling rivers far below. 4. Coffee and lunch at the Goldfish Bowl Armidale’s favourite coffee haunt, the Goldfish Bowl also does a damn good brekky and lunch with a hint of city café culture. The onsite woodfire oven pumps out fresh artisan bread and gourmet pizzas, while the ever-changing, seasonal menu is sketched in transient chalk on the blackboard and features lots of local produce. There’s a sunny courtyard that welcomes the four-legged brigade, or stay toasty and ogle the baked treats in the cabinet inside. 5. Stay in country club luxury at Petersons Guest House For a taste of the country high life, book yourself into Petersons Guesthouse at the award winning Petersons Armidale Winery just out of town. The grand homestead was built in 1911 and now serves as a guesthouse, where visitors can choose from a number of bespoke suites furnished in beautiful antiques and luxury linen, with tall ceilings and giant windows offering sweeping views of the perfectly manicured gardens and lawn beyond.