Located in the New England High Country midway between Sydney and Brisbane, Uralla typifies the type of town that tree-changers from the city find enticing. This welcoming and truly picturesque town offers a mix of gorgeous scenery, bushranging legends, local art, antiques, rare books, cool-climate wines, country cafes and historic pubs.
With lots of wide open spaces, great weekend activities and a choice of schools, Uralla is a wonderful place to raise a family. Many Uralla residents also make the short twenty minute commute each day to work, school or university in neighbouring Armidale.
Uralla experiences four distinct seasons, each of them glorious in their own right. In autumn, the countryside is spectacularly ablaze with the reds, oranges and yellows of the turning leaves; while winter is the time for warm pubs and getting cosy in front of a crackling fire. Spring brings blossoms and annual festivals, while summer in the high country always remains mild and pleasant.
The gently rolling hills and English-style greenery of the New England plateau provide the perfect setting for a town that truly cherishes its heritage. Many of the quaint cottages, stately country homes and main street shops date back to the 1800s when gold was discovered in the local hills, and more than 5,000 prospectors flocked to the region.
The Uralla district is often referred to as Thunderbolt Country due to the daring exploits of bushranger Frederick Ward, better known as Captain Thunderbolt, who spent much of the 1860s robbing mail coaches, roadside inns and stores around the region. He was however, commonly known as the “gentleman bushranger”, famous for a career in which he was always polite to the ladies, never shot anyone, and was even known to have returned money, or shouted drinks to those whose coinage he had just liberated.
The last of the NSW bushrangers, Thunderbolt’s career came to an end in May 1870, when he was shot by police just outside Uralla. He now lays at rest in the Uralla Pioneer Cemetery, where his headstone has become a popular attraction for visitors.
Built in 1870, the same year as Frederick Ward’s death, McCrossin’s Mill is now a highly regarded, award-winning museum. The Mill holds a diverse and unique collection of exhibits, including the definitive display of Thunderbolt artefacts.
Gold is still waiting to be found in Uralla and there’s a public fossicking reserve where novices and experienced prospectors are welcome to try their hand panning for gold or other precious gems.
Uralla boasts three cool climate wineries within easy driving distance of town. They belong to the country’s newest officially classified wine region, New England, and are open each weekend for tastings and sales.
Just south of Uralla, birdwatchers can take cover in the bird hide at Dangars Lagoon, a pristine wetlands area that has been protected as a wildlife reserve for the hundreds of bird and animal species that call it home.
Around fifteen minutes drive north-west of town, an easy walk of three kilometres takes hikers along the granite slopes of Mt Yarrowyck, to where ancient Aboriginal artworks adorn the rock walls of a cave.
Visitors to the photogenic creeper-clad Gostwyck Chapel, on the scenic drive towards Dangars Gorge and Falls, could be forgiven for thinking that they had suddenly been transported to rural England. Just past this, though, the unique Deeargee Station woolshed is a reminder that this is truly the Australian countryside.