It's not quite the Wild West, but Tamworth sits in prime farming country and the town is not so much a regional centre as a holy land – a pilgrimage destination for many music-loving Australians. The religion is country music, the god Slim Dusty, and the holy grail is the world's biggest golden guitar.
Loosely regarded as the birthplace of the Australian nation, it was at the Tenterfield School of Arts in 1889 that Sir Henry Parkes delivered the speech that led to the Federation of all Australian states in 1901. Its other claim to fame is that entertainer Peter Allen (the 'Boy from Oz'), was born here: golden oldies may remember his famous song 'Tenterfield Saddler'.
Sapphires put Inverell on the map – in the sapphire boom of the 1970s, the town was supplying 80% of the world's sapphire market. Things have taken a slide since then, but Inverell remains a decent-sized country town with well-maintained facilities and a handful of interesting things to see and do in the area.
This charming tiny village (www.nundle.com.au) is recommended for its tranquil perch between the Great Dividing Range and the Peel River. It marks the beginning of the Fossickers Way driving route, and by itself makes an excellent daytrip from Tamworth. Overnight here if you really want to get away from it all.
Settled in the 1830s, Barraba, with its old wide streets and elegant awnings, was put on the map during the gold-feverish late 1800s. Today it's a very sleepy little stop on the Fossickers Way. Known for its birdlife, Barraba is near both Mt Kaputar National Park and Horton Falls National Park.