Small in population but big in personality, Coolah sits pretty in the central west of NSW, around 400km northwest of Sydney. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place as this is the gateway to all manner of adventure activities – bushwalking, mountain biking, camping – in the vast Coolah Tops National Park. And then there’s the infamous Black Stump…  



The famous ‘black stump’ 

Coolah is one of a number of towns that claims bragging rights to the ‘black stump’, a reference to the limits of colonial settlement. The Australian colloquial saying ‘Beyond the black stump’ – beyond European civilisation or deep in the outback – is closely associated with Coolah and has ties all the way back to Governor Darling’s 1826 limit on authorised settlements. 

Legend has it that the term was popularised by the Black Stump Wine Saloon, which (in the 1850s) stood where two horse-drawn coach routes met near Coolah. The saloon took its name from the earlier Black Stump Run, the boundary limit set by Governor Darling. 

A fire burnt the saloon down in 1905. Today, the Black Stump Rest Area marks the location of the colonial boundary. There are picnic shelters, an electric barbecue and other amenities at this historic site, just on the outskirts of town. 

Black Stump Rest Area, Coolah

Black Stump Rest Area, Coolah - Credit: Black Stump Rest Area

Things to do 

Coolah locals are a creative bunch, and their works are proudly showcased at the Pandora Gallery. Drop in here to browse regularly changing exhibitions or to pick up arts and crafts – the perfect gift to take home. When it comes time to refuel, The Stump Coolah offers a diverse range of refreshments, from rice-paper rolls to ham-and-cheese croissants and pretty-as-a-picture cupcakes.  

The Warrumbungle Range is a dramatic chain of mountains that cuts through this part of the state. Follow the trail of colonial explorer and botanist Allan Cunningham and stop at the Cunningham’s campsite before discovering Pandoras Pass, a natural break he found through the chain of peaks. It’s a distinctive sight in Warrumbungle National Park, a hauntingly beautiful reserve that was named Australia's first Dark Sky Park – on clear nights you will encounter the starriest of skies here. 

Giant grass trees, tall eucalypt forest and huge snow gums characterise Coolah Tops National Park, where the Warrumbungle and Liverpool ranges meet. There are trails for bushwalking and mountain biking throughout: take on The Falls, Racecourse or Grasstrees tracks to glimpse thundering waterfalls, or explore the Bundella and Mullion tracks on two wheels. Keep watch for wallabies, eagles, gliders and rare owls. There’s a lot to do, so it’s a good thing there are campgrounds you can linger in and spend the night stargazing.  

A four-wheel drive vehicle is parked amongst the ironbark gum trees at Coxs Creek Campground, Coolah Tops National Park

Coxs Creek Campground, Coolah Tops National Park - Credit: Nick Cubbin/DCCEEW

Getting there & where to stay

Coolah is in the Warrumbungle region, 70 minutes’ drive south of Coonabarabran, Australia’s astronomy capital. Dubbo is 85 minutes to the southwest and Mudgee is 80 minutes to the south. The drive from Sydney to Coolah is five hours, via either the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley. You’ll find plenty of country hospitality and convenient accommodation in Coolah, including two classic country pubs – the Black Stump Inn (also home to a standout bistro) and the Coolah Valley Hotel

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