After our lack luster time in the Warrick fossicking areas a few weeks ago, we decided to head into an area a bit more renowned for this type of adventure - Down Fossickers Way - Gwydir Highway.
I had done a lot more research before this little adventure on where fossicking is allowed etc and planned the driving route to ensure we took in all the areas I had found on the net, information on the towns, places to go and with all this information on hand off we headed.
Are they hooked on this you may well ask - well the answer is no we are not, but a part of this retirement journey was to try new things, go to new places, see things we haven't seen before and right now is the best time of the year to head into these types of areas. The days are warm but not too hot and while the nights are chilly they are bearable, and of course the country areas shine in spring but you don't have to battle flies, mozzies, snakes and other little peskies yet.
We enjoy our country trips and this particular area and route has some wonderful views and quaint little towns, ones that we have either never heard of before or those that we have passed through on our way to Sydney in the days past before jumping on a plane was affordable.
So with all of the information I had gathered on the areas - off we headed - the plan was: Goldy through Lismore and Casino to Bonalbo - have to say I couldn't see much there and because we had set off so early nothing much was open when we passed through here at around 9am, . The information I had found on this town was right, it had a small town village with a camping ground, shop etc but we definitely couldn't find any fossicking areas around here and when we asked at the general store they didn't know of any either (or they were not going to share it if they did) and that was OK because already we had gone somewhere we would never have veered off to and the drive was definitely pleasant.
From Bonalbo we headed back to the
the New England Highway in search of a town called Drake, where again the information I found had said there is a public fossicking area. Before hitting Drake though we found this beautiful look out in the Mallanganee National Park, where we stopped for morning tea and for Derek a bit of metal detecting and found a 1940's top off a toothpaste container from London. The views here were fantastic, under cover tables and a loo - so a lovely place to stop and smell the roses so to speak.
So into Drake where everything I had collected suggested there was a public fossicking area, we stopped at the general store, come post office come tourist information center where I was told - in all my years working here no one has ever asked about this, we don't have any and you are the 2nd person today to come in and ask. It did seem there were lots of retirees out and about looking for this type of adventure. So no public fossicking in Drake (be warned). The lovely lady there told me though if you go back about 5kms you will see a turn off to Jensens Creek and people use to go there and camp and fossick and its about 15kms off the highway and you can even take that road to Tenterfield as it goes all the way through.
OK lets go we though and off we headed, lets go discovering its only 11am we have only been on the road for 5 hours , so plenty of time to go there, stop, fossick and get into Tenterfield. Let me warn you after about 5ks on this turn off it turns to dirt track and not something for the faint hearted check out the videos at the end of the blog. Don't get me wrong this is an absolutely stunning drive, but mildly graded dirt tracks, on quite steep inclines at times and water over bridges so be careful if you are travelling with a caravan or small car, we don't have a 4WD but Derek has done lots of it over the years so is very confident in this type of drive, also there had been no rain for weeks so while the roads where rough and very dusty at least they were dry. This drive though takes you through the lower parts of the Clarence River and there are plenty of rapids, water views, creeks, animals of all discriptions - cows, sheep, horses roaming free, some of the biggest goannas I have seen for years, bird life aplenty and dead dingos hanging from trees everywhere so interesting, pretty, and provides a great look at outback NSW. I will say we absolutely loved it and for a few hours had a fantastic time feeling like we were a milliion miles away. This track does take a few hours to get you to Tenterfield and is about 80kms so would not recommend doing this too late in the afternoon. When you finally finish the drive and hit the bitumen once again, you are rewarded by being brought out at the Tenterfield Dam, so big wide water, nice picnic area to stop at before a short drive into town.
It was getting onto 3pm when we finally got to Tenterfield and to be honest we were a bit tired, we went to the Tourist Information and got the low down on the area, things to do, places to stay and they were really helpful, I do find in most of these towns these centers are really great and the staff there passionate about their area - even they hadn't taken the road we had just come from and were very interested in our experience. We choose the Jumbuck Motor Inn for our stay which was lovely, whilst only $100 a night it was very modern, quite large and extremely clean and I like it when these places value add by having a small selection of wines, beers etc at the reception and they cook a nice meal here as well. After a coffee and a bit of a relax we walked into the town center - only about 50 meters from the Jumbuck Motor Inn to really feel the town. They have a great museum which is nicely presented of the town, its history and of course Sir Henry Parks who gave the Federation speech in Tenterfield, I like the way they had the table that everyone sat at and a photo at the end of it showing all who attended the speech that changed our nation. Of course you can't go to Tenterfield without going to the Tenterfield Saddlers shop, unfortunately for us it was closed for renovations, but in the words of Peter Allen, I am a traveler and now can say and been to Tenterfield Saddlers.
Day 2 begins with a fairly quick trip via Deepwater and Emmaville where once again according to my info I had collected was a small town which is a popular destination for those interested in fossicking and fishing. Before heading into town we did see a sign for a Ottery mine so we took that turn off grrrr dirt road again - but unfortunately while its signed posted you get there and it doesn't seem to be anything and it did also say Arsenic Mine when we arrived so thought better of it. We headed into Emmaville to see the Mining Museum which didn't open until 10am, and to be honest there was really nothing else around in this area - again from what we could see there didn't appear to be any public fossicking areas, and while if the Museum was open we may well have gotten some into, so TIP: don't get into Emmaville before 10am. My question is why not open earlier, we didn't leave Tenterfield until after 8.30 and I fail to see why these country towns don't open earlier to catch the tourist up early. As we wanted to get to Inverell we took the road from Emmaville to Inverell and after about 10kms in it became dirt road, so we headed back into town and headed into Glen Innes. TIP why not say dirt road on the signs, we really were not up for another 70K dirt track drive and again I would say these towns would do themselves a favor by having some sort of map of interesting things in the town if they cannot get up earlier so that people can at least find things of interest to them or understand the drives they might well be undertaking.
So off to Glen Innes and the Tourist Info center were we lucked on with a guy who really knew a lot about the area and the types of things that were of interest to us. We headed up to The Standing Stones which was quite incredible and had an absolutely wonderful morning tea up there at The Crofter's Cottage - $5 for scones, jam and cream and a great coffee next to a warm and cosy fire place - well done Cofter's Cottage you provided us with a wonderful, economic,cozy stop.
From here we headed into Inverell, where once again we went straight to the Tourist Info center. WOW the 2 people here where even better than the ones we talked to in the other towns and by now I was getting a little sick of collecting brochures and maps, so asked can you just give us 1 map with fossicking areas, national parks, things to do and they were just so informative. We went and found some accommodation (more on that later), had a cuppa and lunch and took a drive to the Pioneer Village just up the road and other places within a 5-10 min drive before heading into the town center for a walk. Inverell is a big town and I was pretty shocked as it seemed to be thriving which was fantastic to see. They have a lovely river walk around the town center and the town center is a good 4 streets with lots of really interesting shops, that you don't see much anymore in the cities like independent jewelry stores, lovely clothes shops, army disposal shop still selling guns, lots of nice eateries and on top of that they had quite a few big city shops as well, so a few nice hours of meandering, looking in the stores, having a cuppa and walking along the river the day was gone. Inverell is a good base as there is plenty in the area and enough places to eat etc. We decided to stay 2 nights now we had a good fossicking park to go to the next day and some wonderful National parks within 50K drive.
Where did we stay - we selected The Sapphire Motel on the highway (as they all are) and we were not disappointed, again they had a nice wine fridge in reception, prepared their own meals (which were fantastic), where opposite the bowls club. The club has a bistro a few nights a week and we were given a couple of free drink vouchers by the owners of the Motel so we headed there for dinner. How's this: 3 drinks, $5 on the raffle, $10 in the pokies and 2 meals for under $40 and just a walk across the road to get to the warm electric blanket warmed bed. I would highly recommend this motel, it provided a microwave and toaster as well for those who might prefer to self cater, the owners where lovely and friendly. On the 2nd night we decided to eat in - Derek had the steak and mash, I had the seafood basket and we shared spring rolls and chilli sauce - it was an absolutely beautiful hearty meal, very tasty, nicely presented and served hot for $50 so for 2 courses pretty good value as well.
Fossicking in Inverell - well we were not disappointed here, the Tourist Info center recommended Billabong Blue about 20K's out of Inverell and WOW what a place, we had suspected we might spend a few hours there and then go off to one of the National Parks but it wasn't until one of the other guests said well it's 1.30 I'm going to have lunch that I thought we have been here since 9am and I wasn't finished yet. Take a picnic etc with you though. Every bucket seemed to have something in it and I was just so captivated by it all see the video below, that the day just flew by, it was a lovely property with everything so nicely setup, right on a billabong full of beautiful birds all for $20 a day per person with all equipment provided. Once we finished fossicking about 3pm, we took a drive around the property which also has camping grounds, sheep roaming around, more fossicking for those with their own equipment and is generally just a lovely place. They are having loos and shed for coffee being erected there so the next time we go it will no doubt be even better. Well done Billabong Blue, this is what we had been looking for, and what had sort of been promised in all the info on the net I had gathered.
Day 4 and we are now heading home, with a nice little haul of gems, some sore and tired bones from all that shaking, but feeling fantastic. The drive from Inverell back to Glen Innes and then through to Grafton has lots of great things to see and the views from the National Parks - Gibralta and Welsh Pool are great, with nice small walks which we undertook a few, stunning views and nice picnic areas - so we drove home slowly, stopping along the way frequently.
Some of the views on the drive home! Spectacular!