Border control was no issue for the tourist group which descended on Tenterfield last Wednesday. They dropped from the sky in a fleet of light air planes to spend a few days in town, although impending bad weather did curtail their trip.
Gunter Schreiber said the group of pilots and partners are based at Shell Harbour south of Woolongong, collectively calling themselves the Illawarra Flyers. He said they're private pilots with a love a flying.
For the past decade or so they've been getting together over a beer on a Friday and deciding 'where will we go next?'
They generally take three or four trips a year -- short ones if the focus is flying but longer stays if the partners are in tow -- but the pandemic has hampered the itinerary somewhat.
Intrastate travel is now the order of the day. We have Peter Allen to thank for putting Tenterfield on the Flyers' radar, coupled with some Sky TV advertising by Tenterfield Lodge and Caravan Park.
Gunter said he Googled Tenterfield tours and got, not so surprisingly, Tenterfield Tours run by Kevin Santin. The group was very well looked after, Gunter said. He was very impressed with the private bus tour with Peter Reid, visiting Deepwater Brewery, and Splitters Swamp Vineyards ("and buying a few bottles, as you do"), and landmarks like Doctor's Nose and Mt Mackenzie Lookout.
He said they were a bit surprised to find the coffee shops closing up mid-afternoon when the group walked down from their lodgings at Settlers Motor Inn looking for lunch after they arrived, and were also disappointed to find the Tenterfield Saddler closed. Dinner that night at the Commercial Boutique Hotel, however, went down well as did morning tea at the Courtyard Cafe and a private tour of the Sir Henry Parkes School of Arts Museum.
"We were amazed to learn that Henry Parkes only spent three full days in Tenterfield," Gunter said.
He's keen to return for the next BeerFest, whenever that may be once international travel is allowed. He said he may have to return earlier.
"We certainly enjoyed it."
Gunter said flying holidays used to be more common for such clubs, but general aviation costs have made it a bit expensive. Around 80 per cent of the Illawarra Flyers are retirees but last week's venture included a practising doctor and engineer.
For the aeronautically-include, the fleet included two Bundaberg-manufactured Jabirus, an Italian Storm Rally and a Brumby from Cowra (all two-seaters), plus Gunter's four-seater French-made Tobago and a Piper Arrow from the US. Each also had plenty of room for souvenirs, Gunter said.
Just as he did for the recent centenary of the first official airmail flight into Tenterfield, Peter Harris was at Tenterfield Airstrip to welcome the visitors, using his smartphone to track them in from their refuelling stop in Moree.
Gunter said Tenterfield has a great little airstrip that suited their purposes, although perhaps a grading to remove the bumps wouldn't go astray.
"The strip's easy to spot from the air, it's plenty long enough and well-positioned between two ridge lines, making it easy to get in and out."
He said the group liked to get out and support country towns. Tenterfield's the richer for their visit, and may there be more of it.