A Travellerspoint blog

Coonabarabran to Pokolbin

...including Hunter Valley wineries

sunny 38 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

Before we left for Australia we had watched a programme called Sky at Night Down Under and it was based at the observatory in the Warrumbungles. Naturally we had to include this on our itinerary, hence the stop at Coonabarabran. For the derivation of Coonabarabran's name, I am going to cut and paste part of an entry from Wikipedia:

"Nobody really seems to know the source and meaning of the word Coonabarabran. It may derive from a person's name or from the Kamilaroi language word 'gunbaraaybaa' meaning 'excrement', translated earlier as meaning, 'peculiar odour', this possibly is a bowdlerisation. Another meaning is derived from an Aboriginal word for 'inquisitive person'. 'Coolabarabran' was the name of a station owned by James Weston in 1848."

Warrumbungles has a simpler and more obvious meaning from the Aboriginal word for 'crooked mountain'.

With so much about the Warrumbungles, our first foray in the area had to be to the park. Before reaching the park 'proper', we stopped at Whitegum Lookout which gave some great views over the Grand High Tops, Bluff Mountain and Exmouth (another peak), after a pleasant walk through Red Gum and White Box woodland into an area dominated by Narrow-leaved Ironbark and Scribbly Gum. We called in at the Visitor Centre and followed their advice to drive along the road and park to walk along the Wambelong Nature Track - even though it was by now quite hot. It was a lovely walk beside a creek with a close canyon of volcanic rock walls and we enjoyed seeing many birds and even a lace monitor, not a common sight on our travels. On the way there and back we saw some quirky postboxes at the end of people's drives. Judith has made a collage of a selection of these.


On the way back to Coonabarabran we stopped at Siding Springs Observatory which was fascinating and gave more good views of the mountainous scenery. We walked up to the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) and were allowed in to see the telescope itself, from the safety of a viewing gallery (safe for the telescope not us!). Inside we saw some great photos of star trails and Judith copied one, so don't be fooled! On our way in, we passed, in reverse order, boards with scale representations of Earth, Venus and Mercury. I understand the distances between the boards is to scale which is quite staggering as we came across board for Mars and Jupiter on our way back to Coonabarabran but the other planets had to wait until we left Coonabarabran - Saturn was between Coonabarabran and Binnaway (I do expect readers to check their maps!), Uranus some way beyond Binnaway, Neptune in Coolah and Pluto (not now regarded as a planet) nearly in Merriwa. Other boards feature planets on other routes out of Coonabarabran. I took photos of all of these, for the record but will only include a few for illustration.


The next day, we drove out to Baradine where there was a good Forest Discovery Centre which provided an introduction to the Pilliga Forest which is renowned for its variety of birdlife. We did see a fair variety of birdlife but as it was hot and the 'wrong' time of the year, we saw fewer birds than we had hoped for, other than at one well-frequented waterhole. We took a few photos which were suitable for identification but not for publication!

On our 'planetary drive' we stopped at Coolah which lays claim to being the home of the 'Black Stump'. We found their claim nowhere near as convincing as Blackall's so did not waste time there but drove on to Merriwa where we enjoyed a pleasant lunch break. The countryside had been fairly varied from the mountainous Warrumbungles area to a large area of fairly flat pastoral country until we reached the Great Dividing Range. We crossed the range and were heading down into the Hunter Valley when, with about 50km to go to Pokolbin, Judith decided to pull over for a driver change and found a police car right behind her. He must have popped out of a side street as he hadn't been there before and, to my amusement and Judith's well-contained fury, he claimed that he had watched her on CCTV 'weaving all over the place'! With a big beast like our Land Cruiser on poorly maintained roads, it is very difficult to maintain a smooth and even course but Judith didn't argue but batted her eyelids and the cop departed. An amusing interlude. Once we got past the collieries, the Hunter Valley was very pretty.


While based in Pokolbin (a lovely little 'village'), we visited Morpeth which we loved and even fell in love with a house on the main street - well out of our price bracket unfortunately! Just outside the town we went to an old water works which had some delightful parkland and interesting birdlife.


Naturally we also visited a few wineries and a charming little town, Kurri Kurri, whose main claim to fame appears to be the many murals scattered through the town, mainly celebrating various local people. Recently (February 2018) they have added to their attractions by holding the Inaugural Mulletfest (that's hairstyle, not fish!). A few years ago the aluminium smelter closed down with the loss of 400 jobs and this is one of the ideas the locals have come up with to help their economy. They hope it will be an annual event and to judge from the news stories they will probably succeed. Sadly we have no photos of the Mulletfest but include a few murals and the rather attractive old hotel.


The Army museum at Singleton was also a very interesting place to visit with some really excellent displays. Our last trip in Pokolbin was to a viewpoint behind the village - a dusty drive but worth it.


Posted by SteveJD 03:14 Archived in Australia

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Brilliant photos, I just love those old houses, one cannot imagine those still exist today

Thanks Lorraine - you are so speedy! We have seen so many lovely old houses in Australia (no bombing from the wars!) but sadly some are being lost. Today in the Barossa Valley, we saw some quaint old German-style houses in a little village called Bethany (or Bethanien on the other side of the town name sign!)

by Lorraine Wilson

Hey What some great sights-Certainly having a trip of a lifetime. Wonder how many rooms in the Kurri Kurri Hotel are still funtional. Magnificent buildings. Really enjoy your blogs-keep up the good work.
Won't want to be getting back to "Blighty" in a hurry. Place has just about shut down!

Thanks Kev. Kurri Kurri Hotel was like so many other corner pubs we have seen on our travels - some alive and kicking others not even pubs anymore - shame! We have very mixed feelings about Pongolia - Judith is sorry she missed the snow (I am not!) and there are many things that we are looking forward to getting to grips with but it is fun travelling - mostly!

by Kevin & Jasmine Thompson

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