The iconic Warrumbungles is a mountain range created over millions of years from an extinct shield volcano. Unrivalled in Australia, the jagged volcanic silhouette rises sharply from eucalypt-dotted ridges amid surrounding plains. This is a spectacular destination for bushwalking and stargazing.
The nation’s largest optical telescope is just inside the Warrumbungle National Park, the first Dark Sky Park in Australia. Galaxies of stars shimmer in the pristine night sky, free of artificial light. The town closest to the wilderness is Coonabarabran, known as the astronomy capital of Australia.
You’ll discover other charming country towns and magnificent national parks in this wonderfully diverse region of NSW. There are art galleries to visit, fascinating museums to explore and thrilling rodeo to watch. You’ll see vivid murals on water towers and eye-catching sculptures by the road.
You’ll find plenty of heritage pubs and oodles of country hospitality. Coonabarabran is 100 minutes’ drive northeast of Dubbo, which is five hours’ drive from Sydney. You can also fly to Dubbo and rent a car at the airport. Alternatively, drive to Coonabarabran via the Blue Mountains or Hunter Valley.
Check out the events calendar for festivals, exhibitions and traditional agricultural shows in the region. The celestial StarFest is on the October long weekend when the Siding Spring Observatory opens its optical telescope to the public. The Exploratory exhibition at Siding Spring is open all year.
For an earthly journey into the past, visit the Australian Museum Diprotodon Exhibition in Coonabarabran and see the skeleton of the largest marsupial to have ever lived. A short drive northeast of here is the vast Pilliga Forest. Pop into Pilliga Pottery for lovely gifts or a master class.
The nickname capital is Coonamble, northwest of Coonabarabran. The town hosts Australia’s biggest combined rodeo and campdraft every June long weekend. Billboards on the main street are adorned with portraits of local characters with their nicknames – the unconventional Nickname Hall of Fame.
Accommodation ranges from camping and caravan parks to motels, B&Bs and pubs such as the Hotel Dunedoo in Dunedoo, home of the Dunedoo Bush Poetry Festival and 65 minutes’ drive from Dubbo. Nearby is Coolah, a popular stop on the way to the Coolah Tops National Park’s mountain bike trails.