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Autumn in Central Park
 

Armidale (including Mt Yarrowyck, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New England National Park, Styx River State Forest and Cathedral Rock National Park)
Major city in the New England area
Armidale is located 525 km north-north-west of Sydney and 465 km south-west of Brisbane within the district known as New England. An attractive and graceful city of tree-lined streets where new world cosmopolitan and old world pastoralism coexist with varying degrees of harmony, it is the major centre of the Northern Tablelands with a population of over 25 000. Situated a cool 980 m above sea-level Armidale has the highest airport in Australia.

The city, unlike most of Australia, has four distinct seasons. The justness of naming the district New England is particularly apt when the introduced birch, ash and poplar, which lend such a European feel to the city, set the town ablaze with reds, golds and browns in autumn.

Grazing and the production of high-grade fine wool are the major source of local income although dairying, timber processing and the production of potatoes and stone fruits are also important. There are many well-established and wealthy grazing families in the area. The money of the district is apparent in some of the city's fine heritage buildings.

There is plenty of impressive scenery around Armidale, including forests, mountain gorges, waterfalls (Wollomombi Falls are one of the highest in Australia) and four national parks.

Armidale also has plenty of parkland and a strong reputation as a major educational and ecclesiastical centre. The University of New England was the first public university to be established outside of the capital cities. The town also boasts two major cathedrals facing Armidale Central Park, and St Nicholas's which is registered on the National Estate.

The collection at the New England Regional Art Gallery is considered by many as the best of any country gallery in Australia, with a particularly impressive array of Australian paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

The band rotunda in Central Park
 

The Armidale Autumn Festival runs throughout the autumn (March to May), incorporating numerous events, including the Armidale Show in early March. The Wool Vision Showcase, held in early May, is a showcase for the district's wool industry and the Saumarez Homestead Fair takes place in early May. The markets are held on the last Sunday of each month in the Beardy St mall with a livestock, double header auction held on the 3rd weekend of each month.

For thousands of years before white settlement the New England area was occupied by Aboriginal groups who used it as a meeting place on trading routes between the coast and inland areas. The Anaiwan and Kamilaroi seem to have been predominant in the area.

Explorer John Oxley passed through the New England Area in 1817-18. White settlement commenced with squatters who began opening up the country around 1832. The Saumarez and Tilbuster stations were taken up around the present-day site of Armidale by Henry and William Dumaresq in 1835. Henry, the brother-in-law of Governor Darling, was a member of the Duke of Wellington's staff in the Battle of Waterloo in the course of which he was shot through the lungs while delivering a message. Consequently he suffered ill health for the rest of his life and died young in 1838. His brother William was a veteran of the Peninsular Wars and the son-in-law of the colonial secretary.

In 1839, a part-time poet with close Aboriginal associations, G.J. Macdonald, acting as the commissioner of crown lands, made part of Tilbuster station his headquarters. He described the site, now occupied by Macdonald Park in East Armidale, as 'an extensive, open plain, well watered and sheltered and centrally situated'. Macdonald named the area after his clan's baronial estate of 'Armadale' on the Isle of Skye.

A slab and bark village grew in 1839 as a government administrative centre around Macdonald's office, store and barracks. The first post office opened in 1841 and the first church service was held in 1845. Applications were made for land in 1845-46. Though wool-cultivation was the main economic activity a steam-powered flour mill was built in 1846. The first school (Anglican) was established the following year.

A townsite was surveyed in 1848 and gazetted in 1849. The town benefited from being situated on the Great Northern Road with Cobb and Co establishing a service in 1850 . The following year the population was recorded at 547. An early description of the village depicted it as 'a large piece of naturally clear land, looking precisely like an English race course framed in gum trees'. There was local conflict with the indigenous peoples in the early days though few details appear to have survived.

The discovery of gold at Rocky River, near Uralla, in 1852 was the first of numerous such finds in the district. This brought new money to the town which caused a spurt of growth. The Armidale Express newspaper commenced operation in 1856 and, in 1861, a public school and school of arts were established.

The railway arrived in 1883 and Armidale was proclaimed a city in 1885 with a population well in excess of 2000. In the last 20 years of the century Armidale established itself as an educational centre with the opening of St Ursula's (1881), the Ladies' College (1889), the grammar school, the Armidale School (1894) and New England School (1895).

The years after World War II saw a considerable growth in the town's population, thanks in large part to the expansion of tertiary education. There are something like 17 000 tertiary students enrolled at Armidale out of a total town population of some 22 000.

Things to see:   [Top of page]

Visitors' Information
The Armidale Visitor Information Centre is located in Curtis Park, on the corner of Dumaresq and Marsh Sts. There is information on self-drive scenic and heritage tours of the district, heritage walks of Armidale and Hillgrove, horseriding in the area, fishing in a district noted for its trout, guided trout fishing tours, gem fossicking, farm holidays, sightseeing, abseiling, rafting, swimming and picnic spots, tel: (02) 6772 4655 or (free-call) 1800 627 736. The email address is armvisit@bigpond.net.au

 

Heritage Walk
Central Park
A logical place to start a walking tour of Armidale is in Central Park which is the centre of the city. Bounded by Faulkner, Barney and Dangar Sts and Tingcombe Lane it is an attractive, dignified reserve which was dedicated in 1874 as a recreational area. The band rotunda was built as a 1902 Boer War Memorial. There is also a tourist directory, a memorial fountain dedicated to those from the district who served in World War I, and picnic and toilet facilities. The well-established trees are quite beautiful, particularly in autumn.

 

 

St Mary's and St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral
 

Catholic Cathedral
The two most obvious landmarks about the park are the two cathedrals. St Mary's and St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral on the other side of Dangar St is the town's dominant building. A Gothic Revival structure of Pyrmont stone and polychrome brickwork it was built in 1911-12 to replace an earlier church (1870-72) which, in turn, replaced the first wooden chapel on the eastern side of the city (1848). Features include the lantern tower with its turrets and needle spire, the hammerbeam roof, the cylindrical stone columns within and the marble work of the altar and chancel.

 

St Peter's and Merici House
Nearby, on the corner of Dangar and Rusden Sts, is the splendid High Victorian Gothic design of St Peter's Anglican Cathedral, the work of J. Horbury Hunt, arguably Australia's most distinguished colonial architect. Considered one of Australia's most interesting and innovative ecclesiastical designs it was built between 1871 and 1878 to replace an earlier 1850 church. The chapter house and vestry were added in 1910 and the tower 1936-38.

The brickwork is outstanding featuring the usage of many types of moulded brick. Details include square towers and buttress finials capped by pyramids (a Hunt motif), Gothic arches, gables, a sandstone pulpit, a brass lectern, piers and stained-glass windows which are individual tributes to early settlers. It is a work of consummate craftsmanship and complexity.

The village's first resident clergyman was the Reverend Henry Tingcombe, after whom the laneway was named.There is a museum in the bell tower with items relating to parish and diocesan history which is open from 9.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. weekdays. Admission is free.

On the other side of Dangar St is Merici House which was built as St Mary's School in 1862. Angela Merici was the founder of the Ursuline Order of nuns who began teaching at the school in 1883.

 

Jessie St
Head west along Rusden St to the corner with Jessie St which was named after the ship which brought Henry Dangar to Australia in 1821. On the north-eastern corner is 'Minto', built in 1894 as the Central Hotel, although the design has been greatly altered over the years. On the north-western corner is the city's second Baptist Church, built in 1918 to a Gothic Revival design. If you head south down Jessie St halfway along the block is the Ursuline Convent, built in the 1860s and extended 1901-02.

 

Beardy St
Return north along Jessie St, turning right into Beardy St, named after Chandler and Duval, two hirsute stockmen who acted as guides for squatters in the earliest days. On the right, at no. 208, is the State Bank, built 1887-89 as the Australian Joint Stock Bank. It has a decorative facade and columns at the entrance to the banking chamber which has an elegant cedar interior with carved counters, marble mantelpieces, festoons and panelling on the walls and ceiling. The residence is fronted by a wrought-iron gate.

Outside the National Bank is Armidale's only remaining hitching post. Over the road is Richardson's Store located in the old Capitol Cinema (1925). Richardson's was previously located on the north-western corner of Dangar and Beardy Sts. The building at that corner bears the date '1842' on the facade. This refers to the year of the firm's establishment in Queensland and perhaps also to the first store built on this site. Richardson's built their first store here in 1872 and had the present building erected in 1903.

Diagonally opposite is the New England Hotel, established on this site in 1857. The current building dates from 1897.

 

The Stables
Slightly north along Dangar St, at the corner with Moore St, is an 1872 cottage known as The Stables, situated behind the National Bank building. There is a hoist over the main door to service the loft. It is currently open as a gift shop.

 

Sheriff's Cottage and Courthouse
Walk down Moore St to Faulkner St. On that corner is the Sheriff's Cottage, a simple, vernacular single-storey brick magistrate's residence with timber verandah. Built in 1870 it was originally the town lock-up.

The cottage lies behind the simple brick courthouse (1859-60) on the north-western corner of Beardy and Faulkner Sts. It replaced an earlier building erected on a different site in 1844. Designed by Alexander Dawson, later alterations were made by James Barnet in 1870 and W.L. Vernon in 1900. It features a grand portico with half-fluted entrance columns, a vented pediment, cedar joinery and furniture and a squat clock tower, added in 1878. Other features include a cobbled vestibule and fine wrought-iron gates.

In 1971 a message was found in a cognac bottle placed under the floorboards during the renovations which had occurred in 1870. Written by the Clerk of Petty Sessions it read, in part: 'My friends...rest assured that the world has wagged before your time as it will after your time, and that nothing is certain but death. For and behalf of my numerous creditors. Sydney Blythe.'

 

AMP and Bank of NSW Buildings
On the north-eastern corner is the Westpac Bank, built as the Bank of NSW c.1938, with a detailed facade, metal-framed windows and heavily panelled timber doors.

Next door, in Beardy St, is another attractive 20th-century building, the AMP Building (1929) with a Georgian Revival stuccoed brick facade, sandstone entrance, multipaned windows with timber frames and shutters, a mansard roof with terracotta tiles and sculpted figurines above the parapet.

 

 

Imperial Hotel (1889)
 

Imperial Hotel
On the south-eastern corner of Beardy and Faulkner Sts is the two-storey brick and stucco Imperial Hotel (1889). Armidale's oldest surviving hotel this highly ornamented building features extensive cast-iron friezework on the verandahs, bull nosed awnings, and extravagant parapets decorated with Grecian urns and pediments on arches. The interior retains an air of Victorian opulence.

 

Post Office and Lands Board Office
On the south-western corner is the two-storey Classical brick and stucco post office (1880) designed by James Barnet with a balcony and colonnade added in 1897 by W.L. Vernon.

 

The Armidale Post Office
 

Next door, at 164-66 Beardy St, in the mall, is the Lands Board Office (c.1882), now a series of shops. It is a two-storey Classical Revival brick and stucco building designed by James Barnet with chimney pots and original slate roof. It later became the telegraph office, at which time the single-storey front section with arched doorways and windows was added. From 1932 it functioned as the CBA Bank.

 

Lands Department Office
Return to Faulkner St. Next door to the post office, at no. 108, is the Lands Department Office (1886), a two-storey High Victorian public building designed by James Barnet with walls of English bonded brick. It features an elegant and elaborate belled iron verandah and balcony with cast-iron columns and balustrades.

 

Folk Museum and Town Hall
Further south on Faulkner St, on the corner with Rusden St, is the old School of Arts and Mechanics/Literary Institute. The original corner section was built in 1863 with an office, library and billiards room added in 1897. It is made of stuccoed brick with a fine cast-iron verandah and a central parapet with a gun motif bearing the name of the Literary Institute. It is now a folk museum with local artefacts, open seven days from 1.00 p.m. - 4.00 p.m. Admission is free and group tours can be arranged in advance, tel: (02) 6770 3536.

Next door (along Rusden St) is the two-storey High Victorian town hall (1882-83). The decorative stuccoed brick facade includes pilasters, scrolls, frieze work and a central pediment.

 

Wesleyan Church
East along Rusden St is the Wesley Uniting Church and Hall. The present hall was the town's first Wesleyan Church (1864). The present church dates from 1893. The pipe organ was made in 1879. Note the circular window above the front gable flanked by two Gothic stained-glass windows.

 

St Paul's Presbyterian Church
Further south on Faulkner St, to the right, opposite Tingcombe Lane, is St Paul's Presbyterian Church (1881-82), a Gothic revival design with a tall steeple, wrought-iron ornamentation, arched lancet windows and rose window.

 

Faulkner St
Adjacent the church, at 139 Faulkner St, is Solomons' Cottage, built of English bonded brick in 1872 for Henry Solomons who established a photographic studio in 1880. Still in the family it is a Georgian design with a bullnose verandah.

Next door, at the Barney St corner, is NSW's first Masonic temple which has a fine leadlight gallery. Diagonally opposite, at 128 Faulkner St, is Lindsay House (1880s).

 

S.H. Smith House
West along Barney St, at the corner with Dangar St, is S.H. Smith House, built in 1889 of Flemish brickwork. It originally served as New England Ladies' College which closed in 1904. In 1928 it became part of Armidale Teachers' College and was substantially altered. In 1960 it was joined with 'Southhall', a two-storey building dating from 1886 with chimney pots, cast-iron lacework verandahs and cedar doors, staircase and mantelpieces.

 

Dangar St
Turn left into Dangar St. To the left, at no. 133, is Arran Cottage (1863), built in 1863 for one of Armidale's first doctors. With the aid of the Anglican church his wife ran a Ladies College there from 1875. The house behind it, at 133 Dangar St, was built in 1862.

 

Residential and Heritage Walk
The following can be considered either as a separate walk or an extension of the preceding walk. It takes off precisely where the last walk concluded and takes in some of the town's residential heritage, as well as two historic educational centres, the town's impressive art gallery and the Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

Head south along Dangar St, across Brown St and, to the left, is Armidale City Public School which opened on private premises in 1861. It shifted to the present site in 1865. Before that time this was the town's first cemetery (from 1846 to 1859) and police barracks. Opposite the school, at 160 Dangar St, is the former Hilton School (c. late 1880s). The house at 176 Dangar St was built c.1900.

Turn right into Mann St. At no. 146 is Linden Hall, built of Flemish bonded bricks c.1880 with later additions. The building has a bullnose verandah and decorative bargeboards on the front gable.

Turn left into Jessie St then left again into Mossman St. At no. 145 is 'The Turrets', built in the 1860s for a member of the Richardson family. The house's name derives from the turretted bay windows. There is an interesting old buggy shed on the grounds.

 

C.B. Newling Building
Turn right into Dangar St then left at Kentucky St. To the left is the old Armidale College of Advanced Education, the Old Teachers College, and now known as the C.B. Newling Building. From 1863 to 1920 this was the site of the town gaol where six hangings were executed. It also doubled as an insane asylum. The college purchased the site in 1927 and the current building opened in 1930, the first teacher's college in NSW outside of Sydney. Situated atop a hill amidst formal gardens it is a Classical design featuring six Ionic columns, stained-glass windows, round-headed windows and an impressive art collection.

The college's Educational Museum sits opposite, to the right of Kentucky St. It consists essentially of three 19th-century school buildings featuring teaching devices and furniture from the mid-Victorian era. One of the buildings is the re-erected Standard School of Pallamallawa. It is only open by prior arrangement and only to large groups. There is a small entry fee, tel: (02) 6773 6466.

At the corner of Dangar and Kentucky Sts is the college's Heritage Centre which maintains the town's and university's historical archives. It is open to the public on weekdays from 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m., tel: (02) 6773 6466.

 

New England Regional Art Museum
A little further along Kentucky St, at the corner with Marsh St, is the New England Regional Art Gallery. Its collection is considered by many as the best of any country gallery in Australia, with a particularly impressive collection of Australian paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Tom Roberts, Norman Lindsay and Arthur Streeton. There are also pieces by Kandinsky and Rodin. Situated in Kentucky St it is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (02) 6772 5255.

 

Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place
Adjacent the gallery is the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place with visual and performing arts programs designed to preserve and inform about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island art and culture. There are also arts and crafts from the indigenous communities for sale, open weekdays from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and weekends by appointment, tel: (02) 6771 1249.

 

Residential Walk - Final Section
Turn into Marsh St, left along College Avenue, and right into Faulkner St. Just over Mossman St, at 160 Faulkner, is 'Uloola' (1908). This property originally occupied the entire block bounded by Faulkner, Mossman, Dangar and Reginald Sts.

Turn right into Mann St. At no. 118 is 'Loombra' (late 1880s). Used in the 1950s as a residence for the College of Advanced Education it has some fine cast-iron ornamentation and large bay windows. At no. 108 is 'Teringa' (c.1889), a two-storey building with an impressive, detailed facade.

Turn left into Marsh St. To the immediate right, at 179 Marsh St, is an attractive Georgian cottage of Flemish bonded brick.

Head north along Marsh St to Brown St. On the south-western corner is 'Birida' (1907), an impressive Federation house of a complex design with towers, bay windows and ornamental gables. Opposite, at 168 Marsh St, is Belmore Cottage (1866).

Turn left into Brown St and right into Faulkner. To the left, at no. 132 is Denham Cottage Lodge with its numerous gables. Its construction has been variously given as the 1890s and 1913. Central Park is just down the road.

 

Armidale Bicentennial Arboretum
Armidale Bicentennial Arboretum is bounded by Kentucky, Butler and Galloway Sts. It contains thousands of native and imported shrubs and trees, walking tracks, a north-facing lookout, picnic shelters, a toilet block and aquatic gardens with a waterfall and walkbridge. There is also a senses garden near the entrance.

 

Railway Complex
In Brown St are the railway station and station master's residence. The Bicentennial Railway Museum adjacent the station has railway equipment, vehicles and other related items. There is also a collection of police memorabilia. Viewings of the interior are possible between 11.00 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. daily. Admission is free, tel: (02) 6770 3536.

 

Cycleway
A 4.7-km bicycle track leads from from the city to the University of New England. It starts from Harris Park (Dumaresq St) and bikes can be hired from Armidale Bicycle Centre at 248 Beardy St, tel: (02) 6772 3718, or from the University's Sports Union, tel: (02) 6773 2316.

 

University of New England
The University, situated at the town's north-western corner, off Queen Elizabeth Drive, occupies some 260 ha, including some very pleasant stretches of lawn and parkland. The administration building is the superb 'Booloominbah', a grandiose, three-storey, 45-room red-brick country mansion. It is a typically complex and asymmetrical design by J. Horbury Hunt, built between 1883 and 1888 for the White family, whose most famous member is the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Patrick White.

The building features truncated pyramid chimneys, shady balconies and verandahs, a square tower, projecting wings and gables, arched doorways, massive chimneys, large stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the life of General Gordon, dark oak panelling, a large cedar staircase and an extensive art collection.

There is an 8-ha deer park to the rear. The fallow deer were imported from Indonesia by Frederick White in the 1890s. There are also wallabies and kangaroos.

Frederick White died in 1903 and his wife stayed on in the house until her death in 1933. In 1938 her son-in-law donated it so that it may constitute the basis of the New England University College of Sydney University, the first university outside of the capital cities. In 1954 it became an autonomous institution and 'Booloominbah' became the administrative centre. It is at the end of Booloominbah Drive, which extends off Elm Ave.

'Trevanna', also designed by Hunt, was built in 1889 for Phillip Wentworth Wright as a summer residence for his wife and daughters. Erected on stone foundations it has rubble walls, a hipped and gabled slate roof and brick surrounds. 'Trevanna' now serves as the vice chancellor's residence.

The Museum of Antiquities, in the Arts building (in Arts Rd), features archaeological finds from Greece and Rome as well as parts of Europe and the Middle East and some Australian Aboriginal material. It is open from 9.00 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. weekdays with free admission. Group bookings can be made by appointment, tel: (02) 6773 2555.

The Zoology Museum, adjacent Trevenna Rd, has a wide range of zoological specimens from Australia and throughout the world. It is open weekdays from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. weekdays, tel: (02) 6773 2865. Admission is free.

 

Drummond Park
Drummond Park, at the corner of Jessie and Donnelly Sts, features the Apex Memorial Lookout, which offers views over the city.

 

 

The Old Homestead at Moore Park Inn
 

Scenic City Walks
Another way to see the park is to follow the 2.8-km loop walk which starts and finishes at the trackhead sign adjacent Stephens Bridge on Marsh St. It follows Dumaresq Creek for a distance then heads north to Drummond Park.

It is also possible to walk from the aforesaid trackhead north-east to the 'Pine Forest' (Armidale State Forest). Follow Dumaresq Creek in the opposite direction then head north along Box Hill Drive to Rockvale Rd which leads to the Pine Forest on the banks of Commissioners Waters. Depending on the route you choose this is a distance of some 6 to 9 km.

The Pine Forest is a very popular spot which can also be easily reached by car. There are toilets, tables, barbecues, water and wood. Another walk starts at the trackhead sign by the seating area and follows a path marked with posts through the forest to the Rockvale Rd, along Trelawney Rd to another part of Commissioners Waters. It then pursues the waterway through Charleston Willows Reserve back to the Pine Forest. A longer route is also available. There is a pamphlet outlining all of these walks from the visitors' centre.

In the background, north-west of town, is Mt Duval, named after John Duval, a ticket-of-leave convict in charge of cattle on William Dumaresq's original Tilbuster station.

 

Armidale School and Macdonald Park
The Armidale School, at the corner of Barney and Douglas Sts in East Armidale, opened in 1894 under the control of the Anglican church. Impressive architecturally it consists mostly of two-storey polychrome brick buildings with interesting roof forms. The gables feature terracotta plaques, copings and finials. The whole is set in park-like grounds. The chapel, designed by Cyril Blacket and built in 1902, blends well with the other buildings. The interior is attractive and features an impressive pointed brick arch over the altar.

Adjacent is Macdonald Park, originally known as Commissioner's Paddock as it was on this site, in 1839, that part-time poet G.J. Macdonald, acting as the commissioner of crown lands, established his headquarters and hence precipitated the emergence of Armidale. He described the site as 'an extensive, open plain, well watered and sheltered and centrally situated'. There are picnic, barbecue and childrens' play facilities.

 

Dumaresq Dam
Dumaresq Dam is located 8 km north-west of Armidale. Head out of town along Boorolong Rd and turn into Waterworks Rd following the signs. The waters are periodically stocked with trout and may be fished in season (from the October long weekend to the end of the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June). There is a walking trail around the dam, a boat ramp, sailboating, swimming, and picnic and barbecue facilities.

 

St Nicholas's Church of England
St Nicholas's Church of England is one of the oldest in the district. It is a simple church built of feather-edged weatherboard on foundations of basalt and mud in 1863-64 by Henry Lane of Dumaresq. The nails are hand-made, the fittings are of red cedar and the interior is lined with imported pine. The original roof of stringybark shingles is now covered by corrugated iron. To get there head west out of town along the Bundarra Rd then take the right into Dumaresq Rd.

 

Mt Yarrowyck
37 km north-west of Armidale along the Bundarra Rd, a signposted side road leads to a carpark and picnic area where there are plaques pointing out the highlights of the 3-km loop walk which commences here. The major attraction is an Aboriginal rock art site in a small shelter on the south-western slopes of Mt Yarrowyck. On a 2.7-m rock surface are some red ochre paintings, dominated by bird track motifs. There are also stick figures and other geometric shapes with the red pigments and technique being considered characteristic of the New England area. It is not a spectacular ceremonial site but an information cave that told passers-by what type of food was available.

 

Old Bishopscourt
Follow the New England Highway south towards Uralla. On the left, just out of town, is Old Bishopscourt, the residence of the Anglican bishop of the diocese. Built in 1934 and set amidst 5.5 acres of lawns, gardens and parklands, it replaced the original 1890s building. The 1896 chapel remains, tel: (02) 6771 1955.

 

Berry Farm
A little further south, to the left, before you reach the airport, is the Berry Best, the largest hydroponic berry farm in Australia, open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (02) 6772 5974.

 

Saumarez Homestead
Turn into Armidale Airport, then turn left and follow the signage to this beautiful homestead. The Saumarez stations was taken up by Henry Dumaresq in 1835. Henry, the brother-in-law of Governor Darling, was a member of the Duke of Wellington's staff in the Battle of Waterloo in the course of which he was shot through the lungs while delivering a message. Consequently he suffered ill health for the rest of his life and died young in 1838.

The property was sold in 1856 and reduced in size through subdivision. The White family bought it in 1874, establishing a successful pastoral enterprise. They initially lived in a small brick cottage which is still standing. Francis White then built the luxurious 33-room Saumarez Homestead from 1888-1907 on the crest of a hill amidst landscaped gardens. It is a large two-storey Late Victorian mansion with fine upstairs verandahs featuring ornate cast-iron lacework, roundheaded windows and decorative gables. The architect was W. Pender.

Also on the property are a fragment of a small 1860s brick homestead, a large aviary, a schoolhouse once used by the staff's children, a farm worker's cottage and a collection of vernacular, timber slab and boarded farm buildings dating from the 1840s and 1850s.

The family donated the property to the National Trust in 1981 and the interior of the homestead is now open for viewing, but by guided tour only. These are available on weekdays at 10.30 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. Group tours can be arranged by advance booking, tel: (02) 6772 3616 or, after hours, (02) 6772 4486. There is a small charge. Afternoon teas, souvenirs and heritage books are available.

For those just wishing to peruse the gardens and outbuildings or inspect the homestead's exterior, the grounds are open from 10.00 a.m. - 3.00 p.m. on weekdays and 2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m. on weekends and public holidays. The Saumarez Homestead Fair is held in early May each year.

 

National Parks
There are a number of fine national parks in the the Armidale area. Details on National Parks, including maps and directions, are available from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Visitors' Centre at 85 Faulkner St, tel: (02) 6773 7211.

 

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park
Covering 92 000 ha Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is considered one of the most beautiful national parks in NSW. It is the sixth largest wilderness area in the state with the largest area of dry rainforest in NSW and yet it is, for the most part, easily accessible by conventional cars. There are 13 major waterfalls though the limited catchment means they only tend to run after local rains. There is also a vast array of plant and animal life. The habitats include open forest, gorge woodland, dry rainforest and shrublands.

The park is situated on the Great Escarpment which divides the tablelands from the coast. Here the New England Plateau drops precipitously into the rugged gorges carved out by the Aspley and upper Macleay Rivers which meander through the park. It was in this landscape that the Aborigines of New England and the coast took their last refuge in flight from white encroachment and violence.

Camping is permitted everywhere but at Gara Gorge Day-Use Picnic Area. Major highlights are listed separately below. Numerous private tour operators run excursions into the park. Ring (02) 6773 7211 for further information.

 

Dangars Falls
The falls are a popular spot 22 km south of Armidale along Dangarsleigh Rd. En route you may be interested in taking a look (from outside the property boundary) at the exterior of 'Roseneath'. The oldest residence in the vicinity of Armidale it is a two-storey brick house with large verandahs and basalt stables built in 1854 for the first town clerk. The gardens include some venerable old trees. It is located just off Dangarsleigh Rd in Roseneath Lane.

11 km from Armidale there is a fork in the road where you will find an unusual war memorial erected by the Perrot family for their son killed at Passchendale Ridge in the First World War. The road on the right leads to Uralla. Take the road on the left to get to Dangars Falls (11.3 km).

There are camping and picnic facilities and 20 km of walking tracks around the rim of the gorge and down to the Macleay River. One brings you to outstanding views of Salisbury Waters tumbling 120 m into the gorge below (after local rains), and of the ridges and plateaus of the area. The area is particularly delightful in spring.

 

Gara Gorge
Castledoyle Rd heads south-east off Waterfall Way (the road to Dorrigo) at the eastern edge of Armidale. It will take you the 16 km to Gara Gorge where there are day-use facilities and swimming at Blue Hole.

The Threlfall Historic Hydro-Electric loop walk offers fine views of the gorges. One of the first hydro-electric schemes in Australia was built to light the town of Hillgrove and the remains can still be seen at Gara Gorge.

 

Wollomombi Falls
40 km east of Armidale, along a signposted side road which heads off Waterfall Way, are the sensational Wollomombi Falls, Australia's second-highest vertical drop falls where the Wollomombi River plummets 220 m over the cliff to the gorge below (after local rains) with Chandler Falls doing likewise nearby. Situated at 1160 m above sea-level there are gorge rim walks (including a wheelchair track) which take you to two outstanding lookouts, and a track, for the fit, that takes you down the gorge to the Chandler River where you can swim if the weather is pleasant. The latter is hard-going (5 hours return).

It is also claimed that the Wollomombi Falls are the fifth highest in the world when it is considered that the falls drop a total of 488 metres in two stages.

 

East Kunderang and the Macleay River
3 km east of the Wollomombi Falls turnoff, the Kempsey Rd heads south off Waterfall Way. Over an 11-km stretch of road there is a 685-m drop in altitude which has spawned the name 'The Big Hill'. On a clear day can see the Macleay Valley spread out below.

Continue through Jeogla, then, after about 10 kilometres, there is a right turn along Raspberry Rd which leads along lengthy, steep, gravel roads (4WD only) to the Macleay River. Beside the river is historic East Kunderang Homestead (19th century) which has been restored to provide quality accommodation amidst spectacular, remote and rugged scenery, tel: (02) 6776 4260.

 

Styx River State Forest
Near the Raspberry Rd turnoff, but running in the opposite direction off the Kempsey Rd, the Styx River Forest Way leads through old growth Alpine forests and the fast-flowing rivers of the Great Eastern Escarpment within Styx River State Forest. The drive entails substantial variations of altitude, environment and biosystem.

The Forest Way Loop side road leads off to the left past camping locations, the popular Wattle Flat Picnic Area, fishing spots and Eely Creek Fire Lookout, back to Styx River Forest Way which continues north-east past other camping and picnic areas and Beech Lookout. You will eventually come to a T-intersection. At this point turn right to Point Lookout in New England National Park or left past the L.P. Dutton Trout Hatchery (see next entry) and back to Waterfall Way.

 

Trout Hatchery
23 km east of the Kempsey Rd, 75 km east of Armidale and 14 km south-west of Ebor is the turnoff to Point Lookout in New England National Park which takes you past the L.P. Dutton Trout Hatchery, open from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. daily. There is a display aquarium featuring trout, eels, crayfish and endangered freshwater species, an audio-visual show in the theatrette, group and individual tours, including educational tours for schools, trout feeding, scenic walks along the Serpentine River, barbecue and picnic facilities and trout for sale, tel: (02) 6775 9139.

 

New England National Park
The New England National Park is a world heritage listed wilderness area of varying habitats reflecting dramatic differences of altitude. Ecosystems range from snow gum woodland and Antarctic beech rainforest to subtropical rainforest, including wet and dry eucalypt forest, subalpine heath and wetlands. There are 500 plant species (the NPWS have two brochures on that subject), large numbers of mammals and reptiles and a significant bird population. Clearly marked bushwalks lead through mossy beech forests and fern gullies.

Near the park entrance is the Thungatti Camping Area where there are picnic, barbecue and toilet facilities. On its eastern edge is a small pocket of rainforest with a shallow creek. The Tea Tree Falls Walk commences here. This is a 40-minute stroll through a variety of plant communities (see NPWS brochure).

The roads continues on past Berarngutta Picnic Area to Point Lookout, situated 1562 m above sea-level from whence there are spectacular views down over the almost vertical escarpment into the Bellinger River Valley and beyond to the ocean. A short wheelchair-friendly track leads from the car park. There is a picnic shelter at Point Lookout with an open fireplace.

The track leads from Point Lookout past Eagle's Nest Lookout and Banksia Point. At Eagle's Nest Lookout a 3-km walking track leads along a high country trail, dipping for a while into cool Antarctic Beech forest.

The 6.4-km circular Lyrebird Nature Walk commences at Banksia Point, 800 m south of Point Lookout. It leads deep into rainforest past Weeping Rock, a large sheer moss-covered cliff face that towers overhead. There are cabins at Banksia Point. The Chalet has accommodation for up to six people.

Tom's Cabin is also available for bushwalkers, one km west of Point Lookout and 5 km from the park entrance. It has two bedrooms with four bunks apiece. For cabin bookings tel: (02) 6776 0000. Bush camping is permitted if prior notification is given. You may wish to purchase provisions at Ebor. Another option is Little Styx River Cabins. They offer guided fly fishing safaris and bushwalking, tel: (02) 6775 9166.

The road to Point Lookout passes Styx River Forest Way on the right ( see previous entry) which leads past camping and picnic areas and Beech Lookout in Styx River National Park.

 

Cathedral Rock National Park
5.4 km north-east of the Point Lookout Rd, along Waterfall Way, is a left turn into Round Mountain Road which will take you into Cathedral Rocks National Park. Characterised by large granite outcrops it is an ideal spot for exploring and climbing. Bushwalkers are rewarded with some excellent views. The landforms, vegetation and temperatures are quite different to those experienced in New England National Park. There are easily accessible wetlands, gully rainforest, wet and dry eucalypt and wet heath. Wallabies and kangaroos tend to congregate around the marshlands at dusk. There are also plenty of wildflowers in summer and birdwatchers will find the park rewarding.

After 7 km the Round Mountain Road leads to the Barokee Rest Area and continues on for another kilometre to Round Mountain (1583 m), the highest point of the New England Tablelands. The Barokee Rest Area is in the middle section of the park. From here there is an easy, 5.8-km loop track to and around Cathedral Rock. There is an additional 400-m spur track which leads to the top of the rock from whence the views are outstanding, though the rocks can be slippery and the track potentially dangerous.

Another possibility is to continue on past Cathedral Rock to Native Dog River Rest Area (10.4 km, one-way) in the northern section of the park. It can also be reached by turning left (west) off Waterfall Way into the Guyra Rd, 10 km beyond the Point Lookout turnoff. It is 8 km along the Guyra Rd to the Native Dog turnoff. Several walks commence from here - the Warrigal Track (1 km), and that to Woolpack Rocks (7.4 km return). It is possible to continue south to Barokee Rest Area (10.4 km, one-way).

 

Ebor Falls
Just beyond the Guyra Rd is the turnoff to Ebor Falls where the Guy Fawkes River drops 115 m over columned basalt rock. There are toilets, barbecues, tables and running water and three viewing platforms with sweeping views of the falls and the Macleay Valley.

A little further north is Guy Fawkes River National Park (see entry on Dorrigo).

 

Antique, Craft, Gift and Art Shops
Armidale has a number of specialty shops, including Woodshed Antiques at 93 Dumaresq St (tel: 02 6772 3345), Isabella's Antique Jewellery On the Mall (tel: 02 6772 0098), June's Jewellery and Gems at 154 Beardy St (tel: 02 6772 7375), the Armidale Wool Shop at 148 East Beardy Mall (tel: 02 6772 7083), Meg's Threads and Patches at 6 Moore St (tel: 02 6772 5338), The Stables in Moore St (tel: 02 6772 8646), In Stitches at 22 Moore St (tel: 02 6771 5122), the New England Hobby Shop at Shop 16 Richardson's Arcade (tel: 02 6772 0194), Country Stitches at 11 Richardson's Arcade (tel: 6772 7354), the Aboriginal Art ad Craft Shop at Shop 8, IXL Arcade (tel: 02 6771 5538), the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place in Kentucky St (tel: 02 6771 1249), Wooden Ya Reckon Sculpture and Furniture at 72 Markham St (tel: 02 6772 0024), Weemala Pottery Studio at 113 Harry McRae Drive (tel: 02 6772 5371) and the New England ArtSociety Gallery at Wicklow County Fair, Marsh St, tel: (02) 6772 9993.

 

Fossicking
Fossicking is possible on the Commissioners Waters, Gara River, Tilbuster Creek and the Puddledock Area. Licenses are available at the courthouse or the Acacia Motor Inn at 192 Miller St, tel: (02) 6772 7733.

 

Fishing
The rivers and creeks around Armidale, particularly to the east, are noted for their rainbow and brown trout which can be fished in season, from the October long weekend to the end of the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June.

The river at Wollomombi is a good spot or you can follow the river upstream to its headwaters in Rockvale and Boundary Creeks or turn off into Kempsey Rd and fish the lower Styx River in the Styx River State Forest. Other locations are the Oaky River, Barwick Creek, Dumaresq Dam, Dumaresq Creek and the Guy Fawkes River at Ebor, especially above and below the falls.

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