Glen Innes (commonly misspelt as ‘Glenn Innes’) is a town in the New England High Country of NSW, Australia, which is steeped in Celtic history, giving it the title of ‘Celtic Country.’
There are plenty of things to do in Glen Innes from exploring the old buildings and iconic antique lamp posts along the main street to trying your luck at pulling out the Sword in the Stone!
Head up the hill to wander around the Australian Standing Stones, catch a movie in the old Chapel Theatre on a weekend and then head out to the Red Lion Tavern for a drink and a meal.
We spent about three months in Glen Innes and really loved our stay in this unique little Australian Celtic town. But as our time there came to a close, we’d done it all and were itching to hit the road again.
It’s typical of a small town where everyone knows everyone. One night we went to the Services Club for dinner and a lady walked up to me thinking I was someone else. Then she said, “Oh no, you’re not from Glen Innes. You look a lot like Karen though!”
During our stay, we camped at the New England Highlands RV Park. It was a nice leafy green park with very large sites and situated conveniently in town.
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Things to do in Glen Innes, NSW
There are plenty of unique and interesting things to do while visiting the Glen Innes region. While some of the activities listed here can be found within the township, others offer the experience of a nice day trip.
|GLEN INNES QUICK FACTS
|Average Summer Temperatures
|12.5℃ – 26℃
|Average Winter Temperatures
|1℃ – 13.5℃
|Average Annual Rainfall
Map of Things to do in Glen Innes
All things to do in Glen Innes (listed in this post) can be found using the yellow pin drops on the interactive map below.
Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre
It’s a good idea to head straight to the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre to get all of the best local information.
There they can give you any current weather warnings and road closures. During our stay, there were a lot of bushfires around caused by the drought, so there were regularly different road and National Park closures.
You’ll also be able to grab any maps that will be helpful for the area, plus find out which local events and festivals are on during your stay.
Located within the Information Centre building is also a jewellery store showcasing local and imported Sapphires.
What to gather at the Information Centre:
- Info on current road closures & weather warnings
- Brochures for local activities and National Parks
- Current festival & event information
|Glen Innes Information Centre
|9am – 5pm daily
|152 Church Street, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Australian Standing Stones
The Australian Standing Stones were at the top of my things to do in Glen Innes bucket list! They were built back in 1991 – 1992 as a commemorative national monument to the people’s Celtic roots in Australia.
So, what the heck is the purpose of Standing Stones?
Well, the Celts were people who farmed and lived in Europe and the British Isles about 2,600 years ago. It was common for them to erect tall stones to use as a calendar device. The shadows that the stones made from the placement of the sun allowed them to mark the change of seasons. That was the best way to know when to sow and harvest their crops.
While you’re at the Standing Stones check out the Celtic Family Wall. It’s a place for individuals, families, clans and groups to showcase authentic stones from Celtic homelands and significant places.
We even spotted a few pieces taken from castle walls!
As you can see below, the land was incredibly dry when we visited. Glen Innes is renowned for being beautiful and green, unfortunately, a drought had taken hold leading up to our visit, so we didn’t get to enjoy that lush, green experience.
|The Australian Standing Stones
Watsons Dr, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Excalibur – The Sword in the Stone
For centuries, historians have been arguing about the mystery behind King Arthur. Is the legend real and did he actually pull the sword from the Stone? I’d like to think so as my all-time favourite childhood movie was The Sword in the Stone!
Of course you can imagine my excitement when we pulled up to The Standing Stones and saw Excalibur sticking out of a stone on the hill. We all gave it a crack, but unfortunately none of us could budge that sword.
Ahh well, looks like another Arthurian Age isn’t to be… yet.
|The Sword in the Stone
Watsons Dr, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Gawura Gallery is where you’ll find the internationally acclaimed Aboriginal artist Lloyd Gawura Hornsby, who is a Koori, descendent of the NSW Aboriginal Yuin People.
His work is a beautiful compilation of the traditional dot technique, sketching, drawing and bold colours. As a result, his works of art are recognised worldwide by the major galleries across Europe.
What’s at Gawura Gallery:
- Gift Shop (with an Australian/ Aboriginal theme)
- On-site Aboriginal artist for cultural and artistry talks
|10 am – 4 pm, Wednesday to Saturday
|9979 New England Hwy, Glen Innes NSW 2370
As you drive through the main street of Glen Innes you’ll notice that the streets are lined with very cool old buildings. Head to the Info Centre to grab yourself a map, which will take you through the history behind each building as you take a step back in time.
The best way to do the Glen Innes Town Walk is by foot, taking in the buildings on the opposite side of the road to get the full effect.
My favourites were the old style Pharmacy (although, unfortunately, it’s actually modern inside) and the Town Hall, which is generally open to the public. I was also fascinated with the old Banks along the way.
|Glen Innes Town Walk
|Grey Street, Glen Innes NSW 2370
The Super Strawberry
Just 2 kilometres out of Glen Innes is The Super Strawberry (strawberry farm). Enjoy fresh fruit and desserts, coffee, jams, honey, gifts and more.
What’s at The Super Strawberry:
- Strawberries & cream/ ice cream
- Strawberry milkshakes
- Pavlova, strawberries & cream
- Byron Bay coffees & teas
- Homemade jams, relishes & chutneys
- Local honey
|The Super Strawberry
|9 am – 5 pm daily (except Christmas)
|9922 New England Hwy, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Red Lion Tavern
If you want to step back into ye old world as one of the more Celtic things to do in Glen Innes, then head out to the Red Lion Tavern at Glencoe. It’s about a 15-minute drive south of Glen Innes along the New England Highway through the green, rocky landscape.
It was first built in 1885 and was dubbed the Glencoe Hotel. In 1969 it was rebuilt by a couple in the old English style that now sits there today, which is more suited to the Celtic countryside.
In true roadside tavern fashion, there are a few rooms upstairs for accommodation. The communal areas downstairs include a restaurant, plus a lounge area. Both common rooms have their own large wood fireplace for keeping warm in the freezing New England winters.
There’s also a nice outdoor area, shaded by large trees for relaxing in the summer. It’s well worth stopping in at the Red Lion for a drink or meal on your way through.
|Red Lion Tavern
|Wednesday to Sunday (closed Mon & Tues)
• 11.30 am – 2 pm
• 5.30 pm – 10 pm
|8025 New England Hwy, Glencoe NSW 2365
The Old Glen Innes to Grafton Road & Dalmorton Tunnel
Can you believe that until the 1960’s, the only way to get to Grafton and the East Coast was via the old dirt Cobb & Co coach road down through the mountains?! These days you can access the east along the bitumen Gwydir Highway.
But if you’re after a beautiful scenic route through Big River country, pack yourself some lunch and head down the Old Glen Innes to Grafton Road. You’ll also get to drive through the historic Dalmorton Tunnel, which was hand cut in the 1800s.
If you do the loop starting and finishing at Glen Innes be sure to pack plenty of food and water as it’s a big day. The old road is 180km long, while coming back along the Gwydir Highway adds an extra 159km to your trip.
A 4WD isn’t necessary. For more info, check out my full guide to Old Glen Innes/ Grafton Road (including times, km’s, map, essentials, history and more).
|Old Glen Innes – Graton Road
|Glen Innes Entry:
Gwydir Hwy & Ferndale Lane intersection, Glen Elgin NSW 2370
Land of the Beardies History House Museum
The Land of the Beardies is set inside the old Glen Innes hospital (1877 – 1956) and showcases artefacts from the early settlers in the district, incorporating the Celtic heritage.
This History House Museum & Research Centre was opened in 1970 as a folk museum and now shares an extensive collection of memorabilia, almost solely donated from the Glen Innes town and surrounds.
Although they didn’t have any initial Government funding or grants they did receive some substantial donations to get the project off the ground. In addition, a band of volunteers spent 6 months turning the old run-down hospital into the working museum that it is today.
Go for a wander through the Land of the Beardies History House Museum and grab yourself a complementary tea or coffee in the courtyard.
|Land of the Beardies History House Museum
|• 10 am – 12 pm & 1 pm – 4 pm (Monday to Friday)
• 1 pm – 4 pm (weekends)
|• Adult – $10
• Seniors/ Concession – $8
• Child/ Student – $2
|Cnr. West Avenue & Ferguson Street/ Gwydir Hwy West, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Visit a Book Shop
With book shops being shelved as a thing of the past, kind of like CD shops (remember those..?), it was surprising to find so many second-hand book stores in one little town!
If you’re a bookworm like me, one of the fun things to do in Glen Innes is to go for a rummage through some of the book shops scattered around the town.
Like most buildings in Glen Innes, this book shop that we found on the main street is old and pretty darn cool. It’s set in an old bank, giving it lots of character. My son was more interested in finding the Vault and the Manager’s Office than checking out the books though!
|Glen Innes Book Stores
|The Book Market
|245 Grey Street, Glen Innes
Ph: (02) 6732 6622
|The Big Book
|211 Ferguson Street, Glen Innes
Ph: (02) 6732 3677
|Glen Innes Bookworld
|182 Grey Street, Glen Innes
Ph: (02) 6732 4197
Australian Celtic Festival
If you want to experience one of the country’s biggest themed Celtic Festivals, then this is the place to be. Each year a different Celtic nation is recognised with 2024 being the Year of Scotland and The Isle of Man.
The Australia Celtic Festival is a 4-day event that’s held on the first weekend in May every year. You’ll find most of the action at the Australian Standing Stones from Friday until Sunday.
What’s at the Australian Celtic Festival:
- Street Parade
- Celtic Strongman Event
- Kirking of the Tartan
- Massed Pipe Bands
- Kids entertainment
- School concerts
- Themed food & beverage stalls
- Poets breakfast
- Fun run
I wished that my stay in Glen Innes coincided with the annual festival, but unfortunately, I missed it! Alas, the Australian Celtic Festival is still on my list of future things to do in Glen Innes.
|Australian Celtic Festival
|First weekend in May every year
|Australian Standing Stones
Watsons Dr, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Balancing Rock sits precariously in the suburb of Stonehenge, about 12km south of Glen Innes, NSW Australia. Stonehenge is aptly named after it’s British counterpart because of the surrounding landscape of (usually) green countryside, strewn with large granite boulders.
The big granite rock, aptly known as Balancing Rock, rests on a 300 millimetre point, enveloped by other rock formations.
It sits on private property, which means you can’t actually walk up to it or get too close. However there is a Rest Area directly adjacent to the Balancing Rock on the side of the New England Highway (150m away). The Rest Area is signposted with a ‘Balancing Rock’ sign.
Balancing Rock Tips:
- Located 12 km south of Glen Innes along the New England Highway
- Look out for the ‘Balancing Rock’ sign
- View the rock and get your photo from the Rest Area
- Take a good zoom lens for a closer photo
|12 km south of Glen Innes
New England Hwy, Stonehenge NSW 2370
As you can guess by the name, the Theatre in Glen Innes was formerly a Chapel, which has now been converted into a really cool theatre. hese days it’s regularly used for productions, concerts, touring groups and films.
The Theatre is run entirely by volunteers through the Glen Innes Arts Council. Throughout the year local budding directors, producers and actors can try their hand at theatre productions.
If you’re looking for one of the more relaxing things to do in Glen Innes, catch a movie in a quaint old church. We watched The Abominable Snowman leading up to Christmas, which the kids loved!
New release movies are shown most weekends and you can grab snacks and drinks from the canteen inside the Chapel when you purchase your tickets.
|See current session times
|• Adult – $14
• Child & Concession – $10
|143 Church St, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Glen Innes Aquatic Centre
Although it doesn’t often get super hot in Glen Innes, the kids still had a great time swimming in the pools at the Aquatic Centre. There’s a 25m lap pool, plus a shallower pool (0.9m) for the younger kids. Both pools are slightly heated to take the chill off the water, which is definitely nice in a higher altitude town.
The Aquatic Centre also has a great kids area with splash park and little slides, but it was closed during our stay as a result of the drought. Bummer!
|Glen Innes Aquatic Centre
|10.30 am – 6 pm (every day from October till March)
|• Swimmers – $5
• Non-swimmers – $2.50
• Children under 4 – FREE
|179 West Ave, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Gibralter Range & Washpool National Parks
If you’re looking for some beautiful National Parks for walking, picnics, camping, long hikes and lookouts, the Northern Tablelands of NSW has you covered.
Gibralter Range National Park and Washpool National Park are both part of the Gondwana Rainforest, which is filled with species that are descendants of the ancient world.
You can drive through the forests between Glen Innes and Grafton with Gibralter being about 79km north-east of Glen Innes. You’ll find signs along the way for various places to stop and have a look at.
Head to the Info Centre for more information or check out the NSW National Parks website.
|Gibralter Range & Washpool National Parks
|$8 per vehicle, per day
|Gwydir Hwy between Glen Innes & Grafton
Something I didn’t know before visiting the region is that one of the touristy things to do in Glen Innes is to go Sapphire Fossicking.
If you’re interested in fossicking (suitable for beginners) head to one of the tourist parks below, where you will be guided on how to find Sapphires right there within the park.
Sapphire Fossicking Parks near Glen Innes:
- Fossicker Caravan Park
- Bullock Mountain Homestead
For people with fossicking experience, head to the Information Centre where they will point you in the right direction. The nearby town of Emmaville sits on one of the world’s richest mineral belts, making it a popular spot for gemstone fossickers.
Here’s a full guide to sapphire fossicking in The Gemfields, QLD, for more information on how it all works.
|Sapphire Fossicking at Glen Innes
|Fossicker Caravan Park
|94-96 Church Street
Glen Innes NSW Australia 2370
|Bullock Mountain Homestead
|1192 Bullock Mountain Road
Yarrowford NSW 2370
Emmaville Mining Museum
Back in 1872 tin was discovered in the Emmaville area (56 km north of Glen Innes). This brought with it an influx of about 7000 people who wanted to strike it rich.
In actual fact the town was originally called Vegetable Creek due to all of the fields of crops planted to feed the miners and their families. The name was changed in 1872 to honour the Governor General’s wife Emma Augustus Loftus.
The Museum is home to mineral and gem collections, a replica Blacksmith’s Shop, an old Wood-fired Bakery, machinery shed, a hessian-lined Miners Hut and a bottle collection.
|Emmaville Mining Museum
|10 am – 4 pm (closed Thursdays & public holidays)
|Gold coin donation
|86 Moore St, Emmaville NSW 2371
For more information, head to the Emmaville Museum website.
Wind Farm Turbine Blade
If you’ve ever wanted to stand beside a wind farm turbine blade and get some perspective on its true size, you can do just that while visiting Glen Innes. This guy is one of the blades used at the nearby White Rock Wind Farm.
To see the wind farms in action, take a drive down the Gwydir Highway towards Inverell. As you gaze around the hills, you’ll see pockets of wind turbines spotted alongside the highway.
Glen Innes is home to the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere!
The giant 60-metre turbine blade sits at the Dumaresq Street and Gwydir Highway intersection as you head west out of town. The installation of the monument is a tribute to Glen Innes’ commitment to renewable energy.
|Wind Farm Turbine Blade
|Dumaresq Street & Gwydir Highway intersection, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Christmas in Glen Innes
We were lucky enough to be staying in Glen Innes over Christmas in 2019. It’s always great to see how different towns celebrate Christmas locally. I always dig around to see what I can find happening in the region as Christmas approaches.
Here are three additional things to do in Glen Innes if you’re visiting during Christmas time.
Christmas in the Highlands Festival
Held at the end of November each year, Christmas In The Highlands is where the Main Street of the town comes alive with the Christmas spirit to bring in the festive season.
It starts at 6.00 pm (dates change from year to year) with themed events near the Town Hall. Late-night shopping is lined up with food for sale and the local Christmas Markets along the street.
The Red Cross Christmas Tree Exhibition opens its doors, while the Christmas decorations in the Town Square are unveiled for all to see.
The kids can meet Santa at The Shop in Glen to pass on their Christmas wishes and enjoy the official turning on of the town Christmas tree lights.
|Christmas in the Highlands
|Time & Date
|6 pm – 9 pm
End of November – check website for dates
|Grey Street, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Red Cross Christmas Tree Display
The Australian Red Cross (Glen Innes Branch) host their annual Christmas Tree Display in the Town Hall each December. It usually opens on the night of the Christmas in the Highlands event.
Local families and community groups are all welcome to submit an entry of a creative Christmas Tree to be added to the display. Entering a tree into the display is free. There were 50 entrants when we visited!
The Red Cross raise funds via admission fees, viewers voting for their favourite tree ($1 per vote) and selling raffle tickets for locally donated prizes. There are cash prizes for the entrants who win 1st and 2nd in each category!
Christmas Tree Competition Entrant Categories:
- Family/ Individual
- Club, Agency, Community Group
- High School
- School Years 3-6
- School Years K-2
- School Years K-6
- Small Schools Years K-6
- School K-6 Interest Groups
- Preschool/ Family Daycare/ Childcare
|Red Cross Christmas Tree Display
|• Adult – $2
• Concession – $1
• Children – FREE
|$1 per vote (optional)
|Glen Innes Town Hall
265 Grey Street, Glen Innes NSW 2370
Local Christmas Lights
One of our family traditions is to drive around in the nights leading up to Christmas and check out some of the local houses that have been decorated with Christmas lights.
As Glen Innes is only a fairly small town, there weren’t a huge number of houses lit up for Christmas and we were disappointed to find that some of the ones on the list didn’t have them switched on early in December.
However when we went for a look on Christmas Eve there were plenty more to see.
Check out the Christmas Lights Glen Innes Facebook group for updates and street addresses.
Hopefully you’re now feeling inspired with lots of things to do in Glen Innes! If you’re doing other travel throughout NSW, be sure to download the Big Things Checklist (below) and see how many you can tick off during your travels.
NSW & ACT Big Things Checklist
Collect over 130 Big Things as you travel through NSW & ACT!
- 20-page checklist
- Pre-filled with 130+ Big Things
- Categorised into 13 regions
- NSW & ACT Regional Map
- Full street addresses