Sleeping giant: Armidale trumps Gold Coast, Barrier Reef and Tassie as tourism titan

IT’S a ranking that has blown the socks off many local residents, not least the rest of Australia.

Armidale has been named one of the hottest Aussie travel destinations for 2014, coming in third behind Western Australia’s Kimberley region and the Top End.

The historic New England town was the “dark horse of 2014” according to the Australian Traveller, one of the nation’s top-selling travel magazines, which surprisingly ranked the “seemingly sleepy town” higher in the holiday stakes than well-known tourist meccas such as the Whitsundays, the Gold Coast, Adelaide, the food regions of Victoria, and the entire state of Tasmania.

It was the university town’s ability to balance “a city-esque vibe amid a country landscape” which saw it race to the top of the field.

“An impressive catalogue of galleries, museums, music gigs and theatre performances ... as well as picturesque national parks, majestic waterfalls and plenty of walking trails to get your fill of country air,” made it hard to pass up, the magazine explains.

Anne Thackway, who along with husband Michael has spent about 20 years running a farm stay just outside of Uralla, said the result was astonishing to say the least.

“It’s phenomenal,” Mrs Thackway said. “Armidale has come of age and grown and matured into a really beautiful place.”

When asked to pinpoint the appeal, the former Sydney-sider suggested Armidale was more refined than other regional towns.

“I think perhaps, though I could be a little biased, it’s a more cultured sort of town than a lot of country towns. It has the difference of a higher altitude, which usually provides a more gentle climate and it has many cultural attributes.

“We have all the galleries, which are quite famous, and add to that world heritage-listed national parks which are said to be second-to-none in terms of scenery and accessibility.” 

Armidale Dumaresq Council tourism and marketing project manager Tony Broomfield admitted he was bowled over by the news.

“Money can’t buy this sort of publicity,” Mr Broomfield said.

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