Tamworth is home to one of the world’s largest music festivals. True, the Tamworth Country Music Festival is responsible for the city’s world-wide fame, but it has a great deal to offer besides its yearly Festival. When you visit Tamworth outside of the peak tourist season in January, you discover a thriving country town that epitomizes the best of rural Australia.
It is no accident that Tamworth and country music became virtually synonymous. Tamworth has always been and remains essentially a country town. Before it became famous for its festival, it had already been established as the regional centre of the New England area of New South Wales. Starting as far back as 1831, sheep and cattle stations were established in the area. Then, even more than now, expert horsemen were needed to herd livestock. This led to a proud equestrian tradition that exists in the city to this day.
Interestingly, Tamworth’s first claim to fame was as Australia’s "City of Light." It got this distinction after electric lights were installed throughout the city streets in 1888. This is particularly interesting because Tamworth hadn’t yet been actually proclaimed to be an incorporated city. That didn’t happen until 1946. The following year, East-West airlines opened the first commercial air service between Sydney and Tamworth and the city began to blossom into what it is today.
Proud Tamworth locals don’t really think of their town as either the country music capital or the City of Light. They prefer to say that they have a town with a "City Heart and a Country Soul." Nothing could describe Tamworth better. When you step off the bus, you almost feel like you’ve gotten off your horse after a long day on the trail. Tired and "saddle sore," you really appreciate the hospitality you receive when you sit down for your first delicious meal in a local cafe or restaurant.
Some people are surprised by the variety of restaurants in Tamworth and the quality of the food and wine. Yes, a lot of the fine restaurants and cafes are there to cater to the tens of thousands of visitors who turn up for the Tamworth Country Music Festival. What you may not know, though, is that much of the produce and wine that you are enjoying comes from local growers and vintners.
If you have a hankering for a night on the town and want some entertainment, there’s almost as much on offer in Tamworth in the off season as there is during Tamworth Country Music Festival time. There’s always something going on in the pubs and hotels in town. In fact, that’s a great way to see some of the local music talent in an intimate setting.
There are more than enough great Tamworth accommodation to choose from. If you are planning on visiting in late January during festival season, you will need to book well in advance, but otherwise, a little advance notice should be fine.