Coordinates: 31°15′S 149°16′E / 31.250°S 149.267°E / -31.250; 149.267
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New South Wales
Town centre/ Imperial Hotel
Coonabarabran is located in New South Wales
Coordinates31°15′S 149°16′E / 31.250°S 149.267°E / -31.250; 149.267
Population2,537 (2016 census)[1]
Elevation505 m (1,657 ft)
LGA(s)Warrumbungle Shire
State electorate(s)Barwon
Federal division(s)Parkes
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
23.7 °C
75 °F
7.4 °C
45 °F
748.4 mm
29.5 in

Coonabarabran (/knəbærəbrən/)[2] is a town in Warrumbungle Shire that sits on the divide between the Central West and North West Slopes regions of New South Wales, Australia. At the 2016 census, the town had a population of 2,537,[1]and as of 2021, the population of Coonabarabran and its surrounding area is 3,477.[3] Local and district residents refer to the town as 'Coona'. Coonabarabran is the gateway to the Warrumbungle National Park, Siding Spring Observatory and the Pilliga Forest.


The origin of the name Coonabarabran is unconfirmed. It may derive from a person's name or from the Kamilaroi language word 'gunbaraaybaa' meaning 'excrement', translated earlier as meaning, 'peculiar odour', this is possibly a bowdlerisation.

Another possible meaning is derived from the Wiradjuri word for an inquisitive person, ‘gunabaraburan’. 'Coolabarabran' was the name of a station owned by James Weston in 1848.[4]


The area around Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles has been occupied by the Kamilaroi people for approximately 7,500 years. In 1818, the area was opened up for European settlement, when the surveyor-general for the Colony of New South Wales, John Oxley, made an expedition through the north-west areas of the colony. Oxley surveyed the area around the Warrumbungles mountain range, which he named the "Arbuthnot Range".[5]

The former convict, James Weston (1800–1883), who was assigned to the Cassilis area in the Upper Hunter Region before being granted his freedom in 1843, acquired the agricultural area known as "Coolabarbyan" in the district in 1843.[5] Weston was among the first permanent settlers in the district, cultivating 20 acres of wheat and constructing a water-powered mill to make flour from his crops on the southern bank of the Castlereagh River (now Neilson Park), being appointed postmaster in 1849, and establishing the first inn, the "Castlereagh Inn" in the early 1850s.[6] In 1859, the town was first surveyed by Lewis Gordon, with the first sale of land recorded in 1859.[5] European sttlement continued to grow from the 1860s, as the wheat industry moved from coastal areas to further inland, encouraged by the Robertson Land Acts.[6] A Police watch house was completed in 1857, and the first Court House was completed in 1861. The Village of Coonabarabran was gazetted on 2 May 1860.[6] In 1870, the Public School was opened.[7] After construction of a new stone courthouse in 1878 the original courthouse was demolished and a post and telegraph office constructed on its site in 1879.

The Coonabarabran Shire was proclaimed on 7 March 1906, with the enactment of the Local Government (Shires) Act 1905.[8] With incorporation, the town continued to grow with the construction of the railway line through Binnaway to Coonabarabran in 1917 (extended to Baradine and Gwabegar in 1923) and the establishment of the Forestry Commission in 1916, both of which facilitated the growth of agriculture and forestry as the primary industries of the region.[9]

In 1926–1928, a local committee organised the development of the town memorial to the First World War in the form of the Coonabarabran Memorial Clock Tower at the central town intersection of John Street and Dalgarno Street. Built from local sandstone by Edmund Pye of Gunnedah at a cost of £1,300, the clock tower was officially dedicated on 23 August 1928 by Major General Charles Frederick Cox.[10][11]

Heritage listings[edit]

Coonabarabran has a number of heritage-listed sites, including those listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register (SHR), State Government Agency Section 170 Registers (s.170), and the Warrumbungle Local Environmental Plan (LEP). The first heritage listings occurred under the now-defunct national Register of the National Estate in 1978, and the Coonabarabran Local Environmental Plan 1990, but no further local level studies have been undertaken since.[12]

  • Coonabarabran Railway Precinct (s.170)[13]
  • Dalgarno Street: Coonabarabran General Cemetery (LEP)[14][15]
  • John and Dalgarno streets: Coonabarabran Clock Tower (LEP)[16]
  • John and Dalgarno streets: Coonabarabran Courthouse (LEP & s.170)[17][18]
  • Main Road, 55: Flags Inn Site (LEP; Archaeological)[19]
  • Oxley Highway: Burra Bee Dee Mission and Cemetery (SHR & LEP)[20][21][22][23]
  • 4km west of Bulgaldie: Chalk Mountain Area (LEP)[24]


According to the 2016 Census, there were 2,537 people in Coonabarabran.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 15.7% of the population.
  • 82.8% of people were born in Australia and 87.5% of people spoke only English at home.
  • The most common responses for religion were Anglican 25.2%, No Religion 23.8% and Catholic 22.8%.[1]


Coonabarabran is the closest town to the Siding Spring Observatory, which is home to the 3.9-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope, the largest optical telescope in Australia. It is operated by the Australian Astronomical Observatory (formerly the Anglo-Australian Observatory). A dozen other telescopes are on Siding Spring Mountain, a number of which are operated by the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Australian National University. Siding Spring is also home to the Uppsala Telescope where Robert H. McNaught discovered his now famous daylight comet C/2006 P1 in August 2006. The Mopra Observatory, which is home to a 22-metre radio telescope owned and operated by the CSIRO is also near the Siding Spring Observatory, but is operated remotely from Narrabri. A recent addition to the town was the construction of the world's largest virtual solar system drive[25] on the roads leading to the observatory. Coonabarabran markets itself as the "astronomy capital of Australia", many of the businesses and government buildings in the town feature astronomically themed information plaques.

Shops, Services and Recreation[edit]

The exterior of the Coonabarabran post office from the street. It is red brick with white detailing.
The Coonabarabran Post Office

Being a small country town, Coonabarabran has limited shops. There is a major chain shopping centre, Woolworths and a new IGA has opened after a major redevelopment of the Dalgarno St site (formerly Foodworks, Coles, Bi-lo, Tuckerbag, Payless, Permewans, and many others over the years), plus the fast food store Subway.


Coonabarabran Unicorns rugby league team play in the Castlereagh Cup.


The Anglican Christ Church at 94 Dalgarno Street was opened in 1939 by Bishop Arnold Wylde to a design by Lindsay Gordon Scott.[26][27][28]

Other Churches include St. Lawrence's Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church, Uniting Church and Seventh Day Adventist Church.


Coonabarabran has a subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with hot summers and cool winters. On average, 56.6 mornings (including 16.3 in July) fall below 0 °C or 32 °F; and in July 2002 the monthly mean minimum was as low as −3.5 °C or 25.7 °F. Rainfall is greatest from December to February with summer thunderstorms. Temperature extremes have historically ranged from 44.0 °C or 111.2 °F to −9.0 °C or 15.8 °F.

Climate data for Coonabarabran (Showgrounds, 1991–2020, extremes to 1957); 520 m AMSL; 31.28° S, 149.28° E
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 44.0
Average high °C (°F) 32.0
Average low °C (°F) 15.8
Record low °C (°F) 3.6
Average rainfall mm (inches) 91.4
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 8.3 6.7 6.7 4.2 5.8 8.2 8.5 6.8 7.0 7.7 9.2 8.6 87.7
Average afternoon relative humidity (%) 40 44 41 41 48 55 52 44 42 39 39 39 44
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[29]


Independently owned and operated, the Coonabarabran Times newspaper circulates throughout the Warrumbungle Shire area. Approximately 2700 copies are distributed each Thursday across the townships of Coonabarabran, Binnaway, Baradine, Coolah, Dunedoo, Mendooran and Mullaley. The Coonabarabran Times was founded in 1927 as an amalgamation of The Bligh Watchman (1877–1927) and The Clarion (1910–1927). It continues to be a solid publication, consisting of local news and issues facing the community, sport, events and advertisements.

Coonabarabran was one of the earliest towns to have a dedicated website after registering in 1999 and creating a website in 2001.[30] The site was closed and the domain sat idle after mismanagement of the domain after the closure of the Coonabarabran Technology Centre in 2013. A local individual then created in 2013 which now hosts Coonabarabran News,[31] an online curation of local news and interest stories.

Coonabarabran also has a Facebook page and Twitter account under the Coonabarabran name.

The area is currently served by a small community radio station, 2WCR FM. This station broadcasts on 99.5 FM. It has a good broadcasting range but it can be a bit scratchy due to the hill-like terrain.

Old Coonabarabran Court House
War memorial at Coonabarabran
Castlereagh River


In Coonabarabran are three schools:

Coonabarabran Public School[edit]

Coonabarabran Public School (established 1870) is on John Street, on the Oxley Highway and is Government funded. It has approximately 330 students from kindergarten to Year 6.[32]

Coonabarabran High School[edit]

Coonabarabran High School (established 1962) is on the Oxley Highway and is Government funded providing secondary education to the surrounding area. It has approximately 380 students.[33]

St Lawrence's Catholic Primary School[edit]

St Lawrence's Catholic Primary School is on Dalgarno Street, founded in 1888 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. It caters for kindergarten to Year Six and has approximately 110 students. Education is based around the Catholic faith and is across the road from St Lawrence's Catholic Church.[34] The high school part of the school closed at the end of 2009.[35]

Notable residents[edit]


The township is on the Newell Highway and the Oxley Highway, approximately halfway between Melbourne and Brisbane and can be reached in about six hours by car from Sydney. It is on the main inland truck route between Queensland and Victoria.

The Gwabegar railway line passes through the town. Passenger rail services were replaced by coaches in the 1970s. The section of the Gwabegar line between Binnaway and Gwabegar is booked out of use, from 28 October 2005 for safety reasons.[36]

Coonabarabran Airport is 12 km south of the town.


  1. ^ a b c Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Coonabarabran (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 20 November 2016. Edit this at Wikidata Material was copied from this source, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License Archived 16 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition (2005). Melbourne, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-876429-14-3
  3. ^ "2021 Coonabarabran, Census All persons QuickStats | Australian Bureau of Statistics". Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  4. ^ "Coonabarabran". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 3 August 2013. Edit this at Wikidata The GNB quotes Place Names of NSW their origins & Meanings by A.W. Reed, and also Appleton 1992 which presumably refers to the Cambridge Dictionary of Australian Places, Richard & Barbara Appleton, 1992.
  5. ^ a b c Sheehan, M.V. (28 February 1934). "Along the King's Highway: Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles". The Sydney Mail. Sydney, New South Wales. p. 42. Retrieved 20 August 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ a b c Christison, Ray (2006). "Thematic history of the former Coonabarabran Shire" (PDF). Warrumbungle Shire Council. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  7. ^ "COONABARABRAN". The Maitland Mercury And Hunter River General Advertiser. New South Wales, Australia. 9 August 1870. p. 4. Retrieved 20 August 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "PROCLAMATION". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales. No. 121. New South Wales, Australia. 7 March 1906. p. 1606. Retrieved 10 March 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ Christison, Ray (2006). "Report on the Community Based Heritage Study of the former Coonabarabran Shire". Warrumbungle Shire Council. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  10. ^ "LOCAL NEWS". Mudgee Guardian And North-western Representative. Mudgee, New South Wales. 16 February 1928. p. 23. Retrieved 20 August 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "COONABARABRAN SOLDIERS' MEMORIAL". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, New South Wales. 24 August 1928. p. 14. Retrieved 20 August 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING AND ASSESSMENT ACT 1979 – Coonabarabran Local Environmental Plan 1990". Government Gazette Of The State Of New South Wales. No. 18. New South Wales, Australia. 25 January 1991. p. 752. Retrieved 20 August 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "Coonabarabran Railway Precinct". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  14. ^ "Coonabarabran General Cemetery". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  15. ^ "General Cemetery". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  16. ^ "Coonabarabran Clock Tower". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  17. ^ "Coonabarabran Courthouse". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  18. ^ "Courthouse". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  19. ^ "Flags Inn Site". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  20. ^ "Burra Bee Dee Mission". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Department of Planning & Environment. H01688. Retrieved 18 May 2018. Text is licensed by State of New South Wales (Department of Planning and Environment) under CC-BY 4.0 licence.
  21. ^ "Burra Bee Dee Aboriginal Mission Cemetery". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  22. ^ "Burra Bee Dee Cemetery". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  23. ^ "Burra Bee Dee Mission". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  24. ^ "Chalk Mountain Area". NSW State Heritage Inventory. Heritage NSW. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  25. ^ "World's Largest Virtual Solar System Drive". Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  26. ^ "C. of E. Notes". The North-western Watchman. New South Wales, Australia. 25 March 1937. p. 3. Retrieved 8 August 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  27. ^ "Christ Church". The North-western Watchman. New South Wales, Australia. 28 September 1939. p. 10. Retrieved 6 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  28. ^ "New Church Overcrowded". The North-western Watchman. New South Wales, Australia. 24 August 1939. p. 1. Retrieved 6 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  29. ^ "COONABARABRAN (SHOWGROUNDS)". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  30. ^ "". Archived from the original on 22 April 2001. Retrieved 20 September 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  31. ^ "Coonabarabran News". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  32. ^ "Coonabarabran Public School". NSW Department of Education. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  33. ^ "Coonabarabran High School". NSW Department of Education. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  34. ^ "St Lawrence's Catholic Primary School Coonabarabran". Catholic Education, Diocese of Bathurst. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  35. ^ "Parents lose battle to save Coonabarabran high school". ABC News. 15 May 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  36. ^ "Gulgong-Kandos rail line to be suspended from use". ABC News. 25 May 2007. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2017.

External links[edit]

Coonabarabran travel guide from Wikivoyage

Preceding station Former Services Following station
towards Gwabegar
Gwabegar Line Ulamambri
towards Wallerawang