The regional city of Armidale has a lot more to offer than its university, including dramatic gorge and waterfall country nearby, a thriving foodie scene and rustic accommodation.
Story By Therese Hall
By virtue of its geography, much of the gorge country east of Armidale is untouched. There are two World Heritage-listed national parks – Oxley Wild Rivers and New England – within a 45-minute drive of Armidale, hosting some 229,000 hectares of Gondwanaland-like landscapes of meandering rivers, surging waterfalls and dark forests mostly hidden in mysterious valleys.
Lachie Onslow, who owns Armidale-based Fleet Helicopters, is doing everything he can to lift the profile of the New England gorges, aided by his fleet of 12 aircraft, including the recent addition of two ‘war birds’ (a North American T-6 Harvard and a Boeing Stearman, both World War II training aircraft). “We reckon this is the most spectacular country in Australia – comparable to the Bungle Bungles,” Lachie says.
Since taking over the aerial-spraying operation that his father set up 30 years ago, Lachie has steered it steadily towards the tourism market, introducing gorge tours 10 years ago. “We’ve been pushing the gorge barrow on our own for years,” he says. “Armidale just thought the university was the be all and end all, but now people are realising there are really good tourism opportunities here.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #91
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2013