Coonamble is home to Australia’s biggest rodeo and campdraft and near three natural wonders, the Warrumbungle National Park, the Macquarie Marshes and the Pilliga Forest. The small country town of art deco buildings, classic country pubs and rural hospitality is Australia’s nickname capital, too.
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.
In Gulargambone, take a selfie with corrugated iron galahs and admire vivid murals by ten acclaimed artists. On a water tower is Jenny McCracken’s Lucky Dip, a diving kingfisher. There are quirky emus on a bus stop by John Murray, who also helped paint a stunning mural on a Coonamble water tower.
Places to stay range from a riverside caravan park to hotels and motels. Stroll along the main street for art deco delights and galleries. The Outback Arts Gallery has works by local and regional artists, including indigenous artists. The Outback Arts and Creative Centre hosts 11 exhibitions each year.
Billboards on the main street are adorned with portraits of local characters with their nicknames – this is the town’s endearing and unconventional Nickname Hall of Fame. Enjoy a wander along the Coonamble Riverwalk and visit the Museum Under the Bridge, in a former colonial police station.
A thrilling spectacle every June Long weekend is the Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft. 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.
You’ll have no trouble finding a pub for a hearty meal and a cool drink. The Sons of the Soil, the Commercial, the Bucking Bull and the Terminus are all in Coonamble. South of Coonamble is the Gulargambone Hotel and west is the Sundowner Hotel in Quambone, near the Macquarie Marshes.
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. East of Coonamble is the iconic Warrumbungles’ volcanic formations and the ruggedly grand Pilliga Forest.