Coonabarabran is a small town with just over 3,000 residents. It is situated on the Newell Highway, about 450km north west of Sydney.
The name is said to come from the Aboriginal word for 'inquisitive person'. It is the service centre for the area, and is famous for its proximity to the Warrumbungles National Park. There are many reasons to visit, and here are five:
1. Visit the Warrumbungles National Park
There was a devastating bush fire in the Warrumbungles in January 2013, with severe damage to property, livestock and flora and fauna in the park. The area is recovering, and research into the effects of the fires is on-going. There are spectacular views of the so-called "Crooked Range", especially from the White Gum Lookout which is only a 500m walk from the car park. Doing some of the short bush walks is rewarding for the views and wildlife, especially the birds and wildflowers.
2. Spring Siding Observatory
This is a short drive from Coonabarabran, and is worth it for the spectacular views from the car park (1128m above sea level) as well as inspecting the telescope building. We didn't notice the lift, and climbed the four floors to the viewers' gallery! This impressively large telescope is involved in astronomical research. The coffee shop on the ground floor has refreshments and souvenirs.
3. Call at the Coonabarabran Visitors Centre
Apart from receiving information about the area's attractions, we enjoyed the Diprotodon fossil display, the Art Gallery and the Aboriginal Keeping Place which are also part of the centre. The Diprotodon was the largest marsupial that ever lived and weighed up to three tonnes. The first mega-fauna fossils found in Australia were discovered at the nearby town of Wellington. They had been washed into the cave system there, and no intact skeletons have been found in the area.
In autumn, the coloured leaves are spectacular in Coonabarabran.
4. Visit the Pilliga State Forest
Drive to Baradine, about 45km from Coonabarabran and explore part of this famous forest, which covers 500,000 hectares. Call in at the Pilliga Discovery Centre in Baradine to see their impressive exhibits and obtain information about the things to see in the forest. There are many different drives and walks, and picnic areas and toilets. Obtain a bird list from the visitors centre. Perhaps the best known attraction is "sculptures in the scrub".
The forest roads are un-sealed and can be quite corrugated. Watch for logging trucks.
5. Browse the Crystal Kingdom
This large collection showcases the minerals found in the Warrumbungles. You can read about the two volcanoes that formed the spectacular scenery in this area. There are more than 500 samples of local minerals and fossils on display, and you can purchase gemstone jewellery, crystals and fossils. We chose a piece of unusual red tiger eye as our souvenir of Coonabarabran.