At 1062 metres above sea level in the New England High Country of NSW, Glen Innes is a cool climate town and a gateway to the wonders of the Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage Walk and Gibraltar Range National Park.
Discover local gins, mead and craft beer, visit the Australian Standing Stones, go fossicking for gemstones and crystals, and get back to nature on a Glen Innes getaway.
When to visit Glen Innes
Glen Innes has four very distinct seasons, each with its own individual charms.
In autumn you can walk down streets lined with rich red and gold trees, and have leaves gently fall around you as you picnic in the parks. The first weekend of May is one of the most popular times to visit Glen Innes; when the Australian Celtic Festival attracts visitors from across the country and further afield.
Crisp and brisk are the words in winter, when the temperatures can easily drop below freezing overnight before reaching an average maximum of 14°C. Expect sparkling frosts and the chance of snow, and enjoy warming up beside the fire with a pub lunch or hearty dinner.
Spring brings pink and white cherry blossoms and bright golden wattle. Sit beside flowerbeds full of lavender as you have lunch or a coffee on the main drag, Grey Street, before a spot of shopping or sightseeing.
With an average maximum of 26°C, Glen Innes summers tend more towards the wonderfully warm than uncomfortably hot. But you’ll still want to bring your swimmers so you can take a dip in the local pool or a natural swimming hole.
How to get to Glen Innes
At the crossroads of the New England and Gwydir Highways, Glen Innes is around seven hours drive and 570 kilometres from Sydney, and four and a half hours and 366 kilometres from Brisbane.
Qantas and Rex fly to Armidale airport, which is around a 75-minute drive away, while Link (formerly Fly Corporate) flies from Brisbane to Inverell, just under an hour away.
If driving up from Grafton, consider the road less travelled. The Gwydir Highway will get you there a lot faster, but Old Grafton Road is a winding scenic drive that was considered an engineering feat when it opened in 1867. The road includes sections carved by bullock drays in the 1840s, and a 20-metre hand-cut tunnel through solid rock. Just keep in mind this route is not for larger vehicles: the tunnel has a 3.3-metre clearance and there’s no easy way to turn around.
Glen Innes accommodation
A romantic castle, family-friendly stays, rustic fishing cabins and historic farms are just some of the ways to stay in and around Glen Innes.
GLEN INNES MOTELS AND GUEST HOUSES
NEW ENGLAND MOTOR LODGE
After being fully renovated in 2021, this four-star property now boasts 43 deluxe rooms, suites and studios. Every room comes with a microwave, toaster and fridge, as well as a smart TV with a Netflix connection. The New England Motor Lodge is also home to The Highlands Restaurant, where you can sit by the fire in the cooler months, and has a pool for when the temperatures rise.
In the centre of town next to the Great Central Hotel, Central Motel offers classic country accommodation with a few extra touches. Every room has a fully equipped kitchenette, including a full-size fridge/freezer, and cots can be added for younger guests. The 50” flat screen TV comes with eight Foxtel channels, and there’s an undercover BBQ for those who’d like to whip up their own lunch or dinner.
New to the Glen Innes Airbnb list in 2022, Nuallen House is a spacious five-bedroom, two-bathroom guest house that can sleep up to 13 guests. With a mix of queen, single and sofa beds, this family-friendly home can also be used for mixed groups of adults and has a dedicated workspace with Wi-fi for those who need to work on the road.
THE BANK GUEST HOUSE
In a historic bank building at the top of Glen Innes’ high street, this boutique guesthouse hosts three queen bedrooms, along with guest lounges and dining rooms. The Bank Guest House also has a game room for the children (and everyone else who loves board games!) and a garden area. And while cafes and restaurants are just outside your front door, you can use the shared kitchen for cooking your own meals.
GLEN INNES CARAVAN PARKS
FOSSICKER CARAVAN PARK
As well as powered and unpowered sites for RVs and caravans, Fossicker Caravan Park has fully self-contained one and two-bedroom villas. Each villa has a lounge and kitchen area complete with a stove, microwave and cooking utensils. There’s even an on-site fossicking park, where you can try your hand at finding sapphires with the kids.
POPLAR CARAVAN PARK
Another popular Glen Innes option, Poplar Caravan Park offers spaces for your BYO home on wheels, as well as ensuite cabins. The powered and unpowered sites come with a camp kitchen and clean facilities with nice hot showers, while the cabins can sleep up to five people. And you won’t have to go far for some of the best burgers and fish and chips in town: the caravan park’s cafe has locals coming back for more.
GLEN INNES FARM STAYS
KINGS PLAINS CASTLE
You don’t have to fly to Europe for a romantic castle stay; just drive half an hour from Glen Innes and check into Kings Plains Castle. Built as a 28-room Scottish Baronial-style castle in 1908, it’s now an 11-room B&B. Go bushwalking, play tennis or snooker, or just relax on one of the seven balconies in this adults-only escape.
There are six ways to stay on this historic working farm, including the luxury Waterloo Homestead, the Schoolhouse, Shearer’s Lodgings and Creek Shack. Waterloo Station has hosted writers’ retreats and other group getaways and is perfect for reconnecting with family and friends, while the slow combustion fireplace, soft linen sheets and secluded location make the off-grid Creek Shack a romantic getaway for two.
BENS FALLS RETREAT
Pack the fishing rods and a sense of adventure for a stay in the rustic Cod Cabin at Bens Falls Retreat. Built from slabbed timber, this off-grid cabin has six single beds and a double bed, all in the same room. Only accessible by 4WD vehicles, the cabin is right on the banks of the Severn River, where you can catch and release Murray cod and yellowbelly. You can also arrange to have a massage or join a yoga class overlooking the beautiful Bens Falls.
GLEN INNES CAMPING
Nature lovers should keep an ear and eye out for lyrebirds, satin bowerbirds and other rainforest creatures in the Bellbird campground in Washpool National Park. Book ahead to secure one of 17 campsites for tents, camper trailers and caravans in this World Heritage-listed rainforest that’s about a 45-minute drive from Glen Innes.
GLEN INNES SHOWGROUND
As an RV-friendly town, Glen Innes has free potable water and dump points, as well as a range of places to camp, including the Glen Innes Showground. Sleep among heritage buildings in shaded camping areas for tents, caravans and motorhomes. There are toilets and hot showers, including one with disabled access, and pets that are kept under control are welcome.
Glen Innes restaurants and pubs
From quality pub grub to traditional Thai, there’s a dish waiting to hit the spot when you get a hankering for a good meal in Glen Innes.
THE HIGHLANDS RESTAURANT
One of the world’s best marbled-beef producers is found just outside Glen Innes, and while you can find Rangers Valley meat on the menu in Japan, Dubai, the USA and more, in Glen Innes you can dine on a locally raised premium cut. At The Highlands Restaurant your options include a 360-day, 400-gram Rangers Valley Wagyu-Angus cross with an MB 5+. Other local fare includes New England smoked trout and lamb, along with local wines, gins and craft beers.
The map on the wall says it all about where the ingredients on your plate came from. At The Local, the focus is on showcasing the best produce in New England, while at the bar next door, The Local After Dark, you can sip regional spirits and enjoy the best cocktails in town. The hand-crafted cocktail list includes twists on old favourites, including peanut butter coladas and a rhubarb spritz.
GLEN INNES RAILWAY TAVERN
Old pub in the front, new bistro in the back: Glen Innes Railway Tavern is where you can find more of that Rangers Valley beef, along with gourmet pizzas, pastas, risotto and more. The salted caramel apple crumble with caramel popcorn is a decadent must, while all kids’ meals come with free ice cream.
Have a drink on the balcony at the New England Club while admiring the King Edward Park views, then head into the club’s restaurant, Yim Thai. Here you can enjoy a wide selection of delicious Thai dishes, including a mix of the classics and chef specialities.
SWEETIE PIE’S BAKE SHOP
You won’t find Glen Innes’ newest bakery in the main street; instead, Sweetie Pie’s Bake Shop is opposite Glen Innes High School on Edward Street. One for the foodies, pastry chef Nicole Hyde slow cooks the meat, using some vegetables from her own veggie patch in her pies. The menu includes a surf and turf chunky beef and garlic prawn pie, as well as a vegetable satay pie with peanuts piled on top.
Things to do in Glen Innes
Forest bathing, gem hunting, art viewing and cellar door hopping are just a few of the activities you can enjoy on a visit to Glen Innes.
AUSTRALIAN CELTIC FESTIVAL
Thousands of people flock to Glen Innes on the first weekend in May for the Australian Celtic Festival, when the sounds of bagpipes fill the streets and echo around the Australian Standing Stones. Every year up to 20 clans representing the six Celtic nations march in a street parade, joining the festivities that include almost 200 individual events over four days. There are live bands, jousting and medieval re-enactments, Celtic dancing, and a marquee full of children’s activities. You can even try your hand at highland games and test your strength in the strongman competition.
AUSTRALIAN STANDING STONES
Like the Celtic stone circles before them, the Australian Standing Stones are arranged as a calendar, with the Celtic cross and Southern Cross incorporated into the design. Find the solar noon shadow marker at midday to see how long winter shadows compare to shorter summer ones. Let the kids try to pull Excalibur from the stone before lunch or coffee at the replica taigh dubh, Crofters Cottage.
A rockhound’s delight, the Minerama festival is held on the second weekend of March and is the largest annual fossicking gem and jewellery show in NSW. As well as browsing more than 100 stalls at the Glen Innes Showground, you can enjoy entertainment, gem cutting, beading displays and more. You can also join workshops at The Makers Shed, where you can learn how to make your own piece of jewellery.
FOSSICKING AROUND GLEN INNES
Pop into the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre to hire fossicking equipment and get tips on some of the best places to hunt for sapphires, emeralds, crystals and more gems. Or cheat a little and buy a bag of sapphire wash at Fossicker’s Caravan Park and watch the kids find their sparkly surprises. You can also learn about the history of local mining and see more than 4000 gem and mineral specimens at the Emmaville Mining Museum.
GET INTO NATURE
Go forest bathing beneath the world’s largest group of coachwood trees at Washpool National Park, or hike through huge granite boulders in the Gibraltar Range National Park, where you might even spot flowering waratahs in October and November. Both national parks are around a 45-minute drive from Glen Innes, making them an easy day trip; they also have camping options for overnight stays. Closer to town, picnic among impressive granite boulders at Stonehenge Recreation Reserve, just 12 kilometres south of Glen Innes.
TAKE A SELF-GUIDED HISTORY TOUR
Download the Glen Innes Heritage app for a free self-guided walking or driving tour of more than 50 of the town’s heritage buildings. If you’re in town on a Friday, be in Grey Street at midday when a bagpiper plays in front of the Town Hall. For more history lessons, visit Land of the Beardies History House Museum, where children can win an iceblock if they spot all the cute Beardies around the museum.
DO A CELLAR DOOR TOUR
Discover local gin, mead and beer on a 140-kilometre tourist drive loop. Start at Glen Gowrie Distillery, just outside Glen Innes, to try small batch gins and liqueurs (including Australia’s first beer liqueurs), then travel to Torrington for a tasting at 2Wild Souls, where chemical-free native timber honey is used to make sparkling meads the méthode ancestrale way. Continue to Deepwater for ‘brewed with altitude’ craft beers at Deepwater Brewing before heading back to base. Be sure to book ahead for gin and mead tastings.
VISIT AN ABORIGINAL ART GALLERY
Local Aboriginal artist Lloyd Gawura Hornsby has had work displayed in European galleries, including the Louvre Museum, but closer to home you can see his art at Gawura Gallery. You can also take part in a cultural tour, which includes a visit to the Mann River Nature Reserve. The tours must be booked ahead of time.
SEE A SHOW AT GLEN INNES CHAPEL THEATRE
Home to the oldest continuously running Arts Council in NSW, the Glen Innes Chapel Theatre was originally built as a Methodist church in 1885. These days it’s where you can catch movies or live shows, including local arts council productions and touring shows.
This is one for car lovers and anyone who enjoys stepping back in time, as John and Josie Ellis display more than 100 vintage petrol bowsers from around the world in an incredible collection of ‘garagenalia’. Bookings are by appointment on 0419 030 222. You’ll never look at petrol bowsers the same way again.