Country hospitality rules in Coonamble, home to Australia’s biggest rodeo and campdraft, as well as a raft of pubs that locals love to hang out at. It’s also the gateway to three natural wonders: the Warrumbungle National Park, the Macquarie Marshes and Pilliga Forest. Visit and you’ll also discover this is Australia’s nickname capital, too. 



Things to do 

Follow the lead of locals and stroll along the banks of the Castlereagh River to the Museum Under the Bridge. Housed in a former colonial police station, the gallery is packed with artefacts, photographs, implements and household utensils used in Coonamble's early history. The Outback Arts Gallery is a great place to take the pulse of the region’s creative talent, housing works by local and regional artists including up-and-coming Indigenous artists. The space hosts regular workshops and classes, as well as the Outback Archies Annual Art Prize and Exhibition. 

Stables at Museum Under the Bridge, Coonamble

Museum Under the Bridge, Coonamble - Credit: Coonamble Shire/Amber Hooper

More art prevails at the 25-metre-high Coonamble Water Tower, painted by John Murray and Sooty Welsh and featuring Australian pink and grey galahs, fence posts to signify the rural aspect of Coonamble, plus the sun, moon and the Southern Cross. Aboriginal Dreamtime artwork is also a feature on the water tank – this part was completed by local artist Sooty Walsh. If you still want more, in nearby Gulargambone you can take a selfie with corrugated iron galahs and admire vivid murals by 10 acclaimed artists. 

Artwork by NSW artist John Murray on the exterior of the Coonamble Water Tower, Coonamble

Coonamble Water Tower, Coonamble

Nowhere are nicknames thicker on the ground than across Australia's remote rural regions, and Coonamble is the capital. You have entered a realm where the 'real' names of most locals have been forgotten. To celebrate the quirk, Coonamble created the Nickname Hall of Fame: take a stroll of the city’s streets to see billboards adorned with portraits of local characters with their nicknames. 

Visitors looking at the Hall of Fame illustrations at Nickname Hall of Fame, Coonamble

 Nickname Hall of Fame, Coonamble - Credit: Coonamble Shire Council

Ride the wave of the rodeo 

Join more than 1,000 cowboys and cowgirls at the  Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft, held over a thrilling long weekend every June and recognised as the largest combined rodeo/campdraft in the Southern Hemisphere. From bull riding to steer wrestling and calf roping, the event attracts thousands of spectators. Campdrafting is uniquely Australian and involves riders and their magnificent horses separating a steer from a herd. 

Want to rub shoulders with locals? Head to one of the town’s pubs for a hearty meal and a cool drink. The Sons of the Soil, Bucking Bull and Terminus are all in Coonamble, while just to the west you’ll find the Sundowner Hotel in Quambone, near the Macquarie Marshes. 

Girl competing at the Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft, Coonamble

Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft, Coonamble - Credit: Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft

Outdoor adventures 

When flowing with water, the Macquarie Marshes are one of Australia’s most significant waterbird nesting sites. A kayaking or birding tour is a great way to explore the Ramsar-listed wetlands, giving you a front-row seat to threatened brolga, the painted snipe and the Australasian bittern, among other species. 

Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve in Warrumbungle, Country NSW

Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve, Warrumbungle - Credit: John Spencer

East of Coonamble is the legendary Warrumbungle Range, 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. 

Getting there & where to stay

Set by the beautiful Castlereagh River, Coonamble is halfway between Dubbo and Lightning Ridge. The scenic drive north from Dubbo, on the Newell and Castlereagh highways via the charming towns of Gilgandra and Gulargambone, is less than two hours. The drive from Sydney is a little over six hours. You can also fly into Dubbo and rent a car to drive to Coonamble. Places to stay in Coonamble range from a riverside caravan park to hotels and motels. 

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