Destination: Coonabarabran

As promised earlier, this is the first in a multi-part series on Coonabarabran, where I had an amazing experience on rural placement for Community Rotation in the Sydney Medical Program. So without further ado, my first post about my time in that wonderful little town the locals call “Coona”… how on earth I managed to get there!

The New South Wales Geographical Names Board database (circa September 2009) entry for Coonabarabran includes the following comment:

“A town of on the Castlereagh River and in the Warrumbungle Mountains. It is 465 km from Sydney having good road, rail and air facilities.”

Whilst the comments regarding transportation may have been true some 20 years ago, alas this is no longer quite accurate. Commercial flights no longer operate to Coonabarabran Airport and the railway service ceased in 1990 (replaced by a CountryLink coach service from Lithgow). There is a good road connection, however, with national highway A39 (Newell Highway, the main Melbourne–Brisbane route) running through town. It was clear that the best option for me was to drive to Coona.

Former Coonabarabran Railway Station
Waiting for the train that never comes… Former Coonabarabran Railway Station

Getting there from Sydney, however, is somewhat indirect. There is no way to drive to Coona on A-roads without lengthy detours via Bathurst/Dubbo or Maitland/Gunnedah. The only reasonably direct routes involve travelling mostly on B-roads and minor roads – the two main routes used by Coona locals are via Mudgee or the Hunter Valley, which I’ve outlined below. Travelling time is around 6–6.5 hours by either route (depending on traffic/breaks).

N.B. The information below is provided as a general guide only and driver discretion is advised – both routes involve driving on minor roads of variable quality.

Sydney to Coonabarabran via Mudgee

West on M4 Western Motorway and continue on A32 Great Western Highway via Blue Mountains, exit onto B55 Castlereagh Highway and continue north-west via Mudgee and Gulgong, west on B55/B84 Golden Highway via Dunedoo, north-west on B55 Castlereagh Highway via Mendooran, north on Mendooran Road* via Mollyan, north on A39/B56 Newell Highway into Coonabarabran.

M4 Western Motorway
Heading west on M4 Western Motorway, near Penrith NSW

Sydney to Coonabarabran via the Hunter Valley

North on M1 Pacific Motorway, exit onto B82 Freemans Drive and continue north-west on B82 via Cessnock and Pokolbin, west on Broke Road, north on Wollombi St, north-west on Charlton Road, briefly east on Singleton Road, north-west on Wallaby Scrub Road, north-west on B84 Golden Highway via Denman and Merriwa, north on Vinegaroy Road and continue on Cassilis Road via Coolah, north on Black Stump Way, north-west on Warrumbungles Way via Binnaway, north on A39/B56 Newell Highway into Coonabarabran.

B84 Golden Highway, Merriwa
B84 Golden Highway directional signs, Merriwa NSW