Narrabri is situated 560km north west of Sydney on the Kamilaroi Highway and 560km south west of Brisbane on the Newell Highway. The town's name means 'forked waters’, which aptly describes the splintering waterways you will see as you pass over the Namoi River, the Narrabri Creek and, finally, the creek's sub-branch, Horse Arm Creek.
The term derives from the language of the original occupants, the Kamilaroi tribe, which still constitute a portion of the local population. In 1818, John Oxley became the first European to explore the district. Allan Cunningham explored the Boggabri Plains in 1825 and escaped convict George Clarke roamed what is now Narrabri Shire from 1826-1831. His tales of a vast inland river prompted the expedition of Thomas Mitchell into the district, thereby opening it up to settlement.
The first squatting run was the 'Nurrabry', taken up in 1834. A town site was first recommended in 1848 at what had become a road junction to the south and west. A hotel was licensed in 1858 and the town was proclaimed in 1860. A post office and police station were established but a catastrophic flood devastated the township in 1864.An early sign of the town's importance was the transfer of court services from Wee Waa and the building of a courthouse in 1864-65. A coach service commenced in 1865 and the first public school opened in 1868.
After the Robertson Land Act of 1861 the area was slowly opened up to smaller selectors and wheat-growing began in 1873. Consequently, the population climbed from 313 in 1871 to 1977 in 1891. The town’s growth in size and prosperity is evident if one compares the two surviving courthouses, one built in the 1860s and the other in the 1880s .Bridges were built over Narrabri Creek in 1877 and over the Namoi in 1879. The railway arrived at Narrabri West in 1882 and a settlement began to develop around it. Narrabri was declared a municipality in 1883.
Today Narrabri is the administrative heart of the second richest agricultural Shire in Australia. Located at the centre of a major cotton growing industry, agricultural industries in the area also include wheat, beef and lamb.
Set against the backdrop of the Nandewar Ranges and on the banks of the Namoi River, Narrabri is an energetic regional centre offering a wonderful selection of shops, restaurants, museums and a large array of tourist attractions. These include Mount Kaputar National Park, the Australia Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory (administered by the CSIRO) and a number of agricultural centres. Just to the south of town is the Pilliga Forest, the largest remnant temperate forest in eastern Australia. In addition, Narrabri boasts The Crossing Theatre, a 1000-seat auditorium and cinema complex of a standard normally only found in larger Australian communities.
Narrabri Shire was named “Australia's Sportiest Town” by Channel 7's “Today Show”, as a result of the large number of shire residents who have represented their sport on a state, national and international level. This title is also evidenced by the shire’s large number of ovals and sporting clubs.
Narrabri has a wide selection of eating experiences and is known for local produce such as olives and olive oils, sundried tomatoes, wine and tea.
Accommodation is plentiful and of excellent standard. It includes motels, caravan parks, hotels and farm stays
Pronunciation: Wee War
Situated 576km north west of Sydney on the Kamilaroi Highway, Wee Waa is the birthplace of Australia’s modern cotton industry.
It is renowned as the oldest settlement along the meandering length of the Namoi River, bearing a history as unique and diverse as the area it encompasses. Although Wee Waa now sustains a diverse and powerful agricultural industry, the town initially grew out of the need for a centre of justice. From as far back as 1846, Wee Waa serviced its locality and the greater region in all court and judicial matters. It fulfilled this role for more than 10 years before court proceedings were moved to nearby Narrabri and farther west to Walgett, as the surrounding region became settled.
Although the town’s early development stemmed from its judicial responsibilities, Wee Waa soon became a supply centre for rural settlers grazing cattle and sheep. Then as land was cleared, cereal crops became a valuable livelihood for rural families and remain so today.
The introduction of rail services in 1901 further aided the town and district’s development.
As the community evolved, residents sought a way to share their expertise and display the land’s productive capabilities. Hence the Wee Waa Show movement was initiated in 1912, but despite abundant support, war and depression delayed the inaugural show until 1927.
The town continued on its leisurely pattern of growth despite suffering recurrent flooding and loosing main street buildings to fire. It soon acquired educational facilities, parks, retail outlets, pubs and clubs, sporting grounds and other facilities that create a leisurely and social environment.
Of particular interest is the town’s architecture. The Imperial Hotel in Rose St was the first three-storey structure to be built in north west NSW and features magnificent iron lace adorned balconies, conjuring up scenes of the days when Cobb and Co coaches were familiar sights. The Wee Waa Court House in Rose St provides another reminder of Wee Waa’s early history, and the unique sloped roof of the local police station injects variety into the built landscape.
In the early 1960s, two Californian families recognised Wee Waa’s untapped potential for growing cotton. The Hadleys and Kahls brought to Australia the expertise and technology of the American cotton industry and plunged the district into frenzied expansion. Other local farmers soon “cottoned on” and the industry gained local, regional and national momentum. Today, the Namoi Valley is synonymous with cotton and Wee Waa is recognised widely as the “Cotton Capital of Australia”.
Together, the people of the Namoi and the industries they live by not only sustain, but also strengthen Wee Waa and the wider region.
Located on the Kamilaroi Highway east of Narrabri, Boggabri is a small and historic country town with big community spirit.
Before settlement, the area was home to notorious English criminal George ‘the Barber’ Clarke, a convicted armed robber sentenced to farm work near Singleton in 1825. Clarke escaped, painted his skin darkly, took two Aboriginal wives and wandered the north west stealing cattle before the authorities caught and hanged him in 1831. Barbers Lagoon and Barbers Pinnacle, both east of Boggabri, were frequented by the convict.
Clarke’s creative tales of a navigable river, known as the Kindur, flowing into a vast inland sea prompted Sir Thomas Mitchell to lead an expedition into north west NSW in 1831. Although he never found the Kindur, he discovered the region’s fertile plains. A site was settled in the 1830s, but was relocated 20 kilometres north after a flood washed it away in the 1850s. Boggabri was then proclaimed a town in 1860 and is now the only town in the Narrabri Shire that does not flood (although a levee bank built in the late 1970s now protects Wee Waa from flood). The town came into its own when the railway opened in 1882.
Boggabri’s central business area has been located in three different streets over the years, creating an interesting mix of architecture that can be explored by foot along the Boggabri Heritage Trail. This trail unearths the varied history behind 31 local sites. More local history can also be discovered at the Boggabri Historical Museum.
The town also boasts a nine-hole golf course, bowling club and RSL club, swimming pool, sporting oval, tennis court and three parks. Accommodation includes serviced apartments, a motel, caravan park, and two hotels. Fuel and motor repairs are also available.
A social highlight is the annual Drovers Campfire, which celebrates Boggabri’s rich agricultural history and showcases the community’s unmatched hospitality. This unique five-day event brings more than 1200 visitors to the Boggabri Showground in April. They ‘camp’ in their mobile homes, get hands-on in billy boiling and shearing competitions, watch rural demonstrations such as heavy horse pulling, working dogs and wood turning, browse antique machinery, tour cotton farms, cattle stations, woolsheds and local attractions, and then relax around the campfire for traditional camp oven dinners and evening entertainment. Local mining tours also expose visitors to the ins and outs of coal and coal seam gas exploration.
The event evokes the camaraderie of Aussie drovers sharing a hot meal and conversation around a warm open fire, underneath the twinkling night sky. The number and range of displays, tours and demonstrations grows every year, ensuring there is always something new to entice return visits. And hundreds of people do in fact return year after year to reclaim friendships and reconnect with the Aussie bush.
A must-see natural attraction near Boggabri is Dripping Rock, a beautiful waterfall set within a lush melaleuca forest. After a short walk from the carpark, visitors emerge from the trees to find a semi-circular cliff towering over a small, serene rock pool. Water seeps through sedimentary rock to drip and billow down the 50-metre high wall.
Gins Leap on the Kamilaroi Highway between Boggabri and Narrabri also has an interesting history as a stopover hotel between 1854 and 1867, and as the site where two Aboriginal lovers leapt to their deaths to escape a promised betrothal and tribesmen. An historic grave site marks the spot, and a picnic area and interpretive sign are provided.
One of the state’s largest suppliers to the Honey Corporation of Australia is also nestled in this friendly community. Nelson’s Honey Factory produces honey from white and yellow box and narrow leafed iron bark. This sweet spread is available for purchase at the Visitor Information Centre in Narrabri.
Pronunciation: Barn Bar
Located approximately 30km north west of Boggabri on the Kamilaroi Highway, Baan Baa had early beginnings as a squatting run. Little remains of this previously bustling railway village, which once boasted its own bakery, two general stores, a stock and station agent, butchery, ice cream shop, hotel, two churches and a service station.
Baan Baa is now primarily a grain terminal, feeding in from the rich grain country surrounds. Consequently, this sleepy town starts to buzz during grain harvest. Newly opened coal mines in the vicinity may foster growth in the village, with brand new tennis courts perhaps serving the advantage back to Baan Baa’s court.
The recently renovated Baan Baa pub offers accommodation and counter meals that are well worth stopping for. Local markets are also held on the second Sunday of the month.
Fast Fact: The village of Baan Baa once boasted the longest railway platform in country NSW.
Maules Creek is a hamlet burrowed in the picturesque foothills of Mt Kaputar National Park. It is accessed from Narrabri by taking Old Gunnedah Road, crossing the Harparary Bridge and then turning onto the Maules Creek Road to head for “the hills”. The rugged and enchanting landscape hides a deep rich black soil, perfectly suited to farming. As a result, the region harbours some of the country's leading cattle studs.
Water flows from the mountains, trickling through Melaleuca-lined creeks to arrive crystal clear. Many beautiful locations along the river provide captivating hideaways for picnics or quiet time in the presence of nature. The size and grandeur of the Nandewar Ranges viewed from the Maules Creek area is spectacular.
To the South of Maules Creek is Leard Forest, which predominantly features pine, iron bark and gum trees. Parts of the forest are being mined for high quality coal deposits.
Whitehaven Coal started building its open cut coal mine in the Leard Forest in January 2014. Whitehaven also runs the nearby Tarrawonga coal mine, and Idemitsu operates Boggabri Coal, also an open cut coal mine.
Pilliga, located 105km west of Narrabri and 60km north west of Gwabegar, was once an important stop on the Cobb and Co route, but today is renowned for its delightfully hot Artesian Bore Bath. The town sprung into existence in the early days of the timber industry, with early squatters settling in the 1830s. It was gazetted as a town in 1885 and was the base for Indian trader Nabob Allem and his family in the 1950s. The Allems peddled their wares in a horse-drawn wagon to grazing families in the western district. Nabob made quite an impression on the town, with the Coonamble Times writing after his death: “Nabob Allem died last Friday. And the people of Pilliga, HIS people, are mourning his loss. For Nabob Allem was the ‘King of the Scrub’, ‘King of Pilliga’, and unofficial Mayor”. A wander in the cemetery reveals a fascinating montage of the lives and trials of the past. Of particular interest are the rough–hewn graves of the Indian traders.
The scenic drive from Narrabri is sealed and takes about one hour, while the journey from Gwabegar is unsealed. The CommunityLink Centre is a good place to start your visit. Staff will be happy to direct you to such attractions as the Pilliga lagoons, a bird watcher’s paradise, and the soothingly hot waters of the nearby artesian bore bath.
The location of this small village, deep in the Pilliga Forest, is key to its existence. Known as the “Heart of the Pilliga”, it is roughly the geographical centre of the timber industries that grew and flourished in the Pilliga’s western region. Linked by rail to Baradine and borne from the prosperous timber trade, Gwabegar once sported no less than 12 sawmills! In the early 1900s, the town was integral in the 'sleeper cutting' process that largely enabled the creation of a railway across Australia. Sleeper cutter camps and koala colonies are points of interest in the Gwabegar area. The local forestry industry shut down several years ago but Gwabegar remains a vibrant town.
The modern Community Link Centre provides an excellent meeting spot for village members and visitors.
Camping and caravanning are permitted free of charge at Anzac Park, a designated primitive camping ground. Please note that this park has no facilities and that rubbish must be taken with you.
Bellata, located 42km north of Narrabri on the Newell Highway, is a rich agricultural region known for its natural minerals, such as petrified and opalised wood and agate, and its farming productivity. Situated in the “Golden Durum Triangle”, the Bellata area is responsible for producing some of Australia’s best "prime hard" wheat and is also home to several large olive groves. These delicious olives are available for purchase at the Visitor Information Centre and various other outlets throughout the shire.
The Little Gem Caravan Park is the perfect base for those wishing to soak up the scenery, while the owners have been known to share a few insider tips on the area’s best fossicking spots.
Bellata is also the former home of Bellata Gold Milling, an award-winning, family-owned business that produces durum semolina and flour. While the business is now based in Tamworth, all durum wheat is still sourced from the Golden Durum Triangle.
Edgeroi lies just 26km north of Narrabri on the Newell Highway and is built on some of the country’s richest agricultural land.
The village is named after the famous 150,000-acre Edgeroi Station, which was one of the largest stations in north west NSW from the early 1880s until just after World War II, when it was divided into soldier settler blocks. The station’s woolshed was once the largest in the southern hemisphere, with a 52-stand capacity. Remains of the old woolshed are visible on the left hand side of the road, 4km north after leaving Edgeroi.
Today, Edgeroi is an agricultural village and farmers in the area grow wheat, sorghum, dry land summer crops and cotton, and graze cattle and sheep. The surrounding country consists of flat and rich black soil, framed by the magnificent Nandewar Ranges. The Edgeroi "Fuel Shop" (which boasts the cheapest fuel on the Newell) sells snacks, takeaway foods, general store items and liquor. A splendid picnic area with sheltered picnic tables, toilet facilities and a children’s playground make this a convenient rest stop.
Information supplied by the Narrabri Visitor Information Centre