Europeans came to Northern New South Wales in two broad streams.
In the inland, settlement moved from the newly settled areas in the Hunter Valley up through the Western Slopes and the Northern Tablelands and then onto the Northern Rivers and the Moreton Bay (now Queensland) district.
On the coast, settlement went from river valley to river valley by sea. Transport routes mirrored settlement patterns: on the coast shipping was dominant, whereas inland (at least from about Armidale south and west) the main routes ran overland to the river port of Morpeth on the Hunter River. From Armidale north, transport went south and also east over the rough eastern escarpment for shipment by sea, largely from Grafton which was the major river port on the Clarence.
These early transport and settlement patterns created enduring social and economic links.
The Hunter Valley, Western Slopes and, to a lesser degree, the Northern Tablelands formed one embryonic unit. This overlapped with a second grouping consisting of the Tablelands and the Northern Rivers.South of the Northern Rivers, the coastal zone had progressively less contact with either the Tablelands or the Northern Rivers; by Taree the coastal orientation was exclusively south.
The coming of the railways during the second half of the 19th century strengthened the north-south axis (the inland grouping) at the expense of the east-west (the Northern Tablelands-Northern Rivers), but otherwise left the basic pattern unchanged.
This pattern forms a core underpinning in New England history