Last updated August 12, 2022
Situated in the New England Region on the banks of the beautiful Macintyre River, Inverell is a historic and picturesque town renowned for its vibrant, supportive community and the spectacular Inverell sapphire.
The town sits on the Gwydir Highway, which connects Western NSW with the east coast only 3.5 hours’ drive away. Known in the region as a fabulous destination for retail therapy, Inverell is a thriving tourist, commercial, service, and agricultural centre.
Nestled in a scenic valley at the foot of the Great Dividing Range, the surrounding area features swathes of national park wilderness, tranquil, meandering waterways, outstanding recreational areas and highly productive cropping, grazing, mixed farming, and mining land.
The rich, volcanic soil has provided the perfect environment for gems and minerals and by the 1950’s, Inverell had become the world’s biggest producer of sapphires, leading to the town’s title as Sapphire City. The area is popular with fossickers who regularly unearth not only sapphires, but topaz, diamonds, emeralds, quartz, garnets, citrine, rhodonite and tourmaline.
Inverell has a wonderfully pleasant climate and escapes the sweltering highs and alpine lows of other parts of the region, with a clear distinction of the seasons– crisp, frosty winters and warm, partly cloudy summers, with temperatures over the year typically varying from 4°C to 31°C.
Inverell Shire local government area covers an area of over 8,000 square kilometres right to the Queensland border and includes the villages of Gilgai, Stannifer, Elsmore, Bukkulla, Ashford, Bonshaw, Yetman, Wallangra, Graman, Oakwood, Delungra, Mount Russell and Tingha. The Shire is home to an estimated 16,800 residents, with a median age of 42 years – 84 per cent of residents were born in Australia and the majority claim Australian, English, Irish, Scottish or German ancestry.
The first inhabitants of the Inverell district were members of the Kamilaroi (Gomeroi) and Anaiwan (Eneewin) Nations. With many tribes making up each nation, traditional dialects spoken include Gamilaraay, Yuwalaraay and Yuwalayaay (Kamilaroi nation) and Nganyaywana (Anaiwan nation). The first white people to appear in the district may have been convicts who had escaped chain gangs in the Hunter Valley.
Following explorer Allan Cunningham’s first official European steps into the area in 1827, squatters moved in, establishing large sheep and cattle stations. Many of the first property owners heralded from Scotland and bought with them their Presbyterian faith, customs, and Gaelic language, including the town name, meaning the meeting place of swans.
Early settlers founded the town in the 1850s to support the surrounding agricultural properties and teamsters heading north to the Darling Downs. And the discovery of tin, then diamonds, bauxite, lead, silver, sapphires, zircons, and silver saw people flock to the area in the hope of finding their fortune.
Commercial sapphire mining commenced in 1919 at nearby Frazers Creek and experienced a boom in the 1970's when there were over 100 different mines operating in the area. Today, gorgeous gems are still being discovered, with many fossicking sites around the district to try your luck!