This post is a collection of some of my thoughts and experiences living in Coonabarabran during my recent rural placement (and is by no means comprehensive or authoritative). Photos of Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles are available on my Flickr photostream.
Coona is a small country town with a population of 2,601 (2006 census). The town is classified RRMA 5 (“other rural area”) and ARIA+ 4.51 (“outer regional”) in the two major indices of rurality/remoteness used in Australia. That said, I love the country lifestyle in Coona! After living in Sydney for over 20 years, you really appreciate the friendly down-to-earth people, fresh air, wide open spaces and relaxed pace.
Kangaroo hazard sign on John Renshaw Parkway, Coonabarabran
In my travels around Australia I’ve noticed some regional variations in vocabulary/grammar, which is perhaps unsurprising in a country this size. In Coona, I noticed that most people substituted “in the” with “of the”. For example, a patient might come in stating that his cough “is worse of the morning” or that he takes “one tablet of the morning and one tablet of the night” of a particular medication.
Warrumbungle National Park
The nearby Warrumbungle Mountain Range, located within the heritage-listed Warrumbungle National Park, is perhaps the most important tourism drawcard for Coona these days. The volcanic rock formations and rugged landscape of the Warrumbungles are the result of millions of years of erosion of an ancient shield volcano. The national park is a great place for bushwalking, with a variety of tracks of various grades, and I plan to go back to try one of the more challenging trails next time. The easiest way to see the Warrumbungles, however, is either White Gum Lookout or from the deck outside the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.
White Gum Lookout, Warrumbungle National Park
Burbie Canyon trail, Warrumbungle National Park
Coona township was founded in 1860, but the greatest development of the town occurred during the economic booms of the early 20th century, as reflected in the Federation and Art Deco architectural styles that predominate on the high street (John Street).
Memorial Clock Tower (1926) and Imperial Hotel (1930s)
Coonabarabran Courthouse (1878)
Commonwealth Bank, Coonabarabran (1935)
There was formerly a railway service operating to Coona on the Gwabegar Line (a branch of the Main Western Line). The Gwabegar Line reached Coonabarabran in 1917 and became an important mode of goods transport. Regular rail services ceased in 1990 and the Gwabegar Line north of Binnaway (including Coona) was closed in 2005.
Gwabegar Line (abandoned), Coonabarabran
Surprisingly, there are two Chinese restaurants on John Street – Golden Sea Dragon Chinese Restaurant (金海龍酒家) and Golden Fountain Chinese Restaurant (金源酒家). Golden Sea Dragon has a very kitsch interior design, but is apparently more popular with the locals and seems to be a bit cheaper. Neither of them serves particularly authentic Chinese fare, but nor would you expect them to out this way. (And yes, you have to ask for chopsticks at both restaurants).
There are two main pubs (Imperial Hotel and Royal Hotel) in town, with the Imperial generally considered to be the better of the two. Both were described to me as “real” Aussie pubs, so it was perhaps unsurprising that the three of us medical students stuck out like sore thumbs when we walked into the Imperial one night!
Public bar – Imperial Hotel, Coonabarabran
Royal Hotel, Coonabarabran (1912)
There are three cafés on John Street, although only one of them actually calls itself a “café”. My pick of the three was Raquel’s Café (good foccacias), though apparently The Jolly Cauli is also quite good when the owners are around.
Cornucopia motif – The Jolly Cauli café (ex-Union Bank, c. 1920s)
More photos of Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles are available on my Flickr photostream.