Sculptures in the Scrub walk (Image Andrew Pearson)
Tucked away in the north-west of New South Wales, the Narrabri Region is renowned for its breathtaking rugged landscapes, wide open skies, rich history and welcoming communities. Towns in the region include Narrabri, a small, charming spot with a population of approximately 7000 people, as well as Wee Waa (the Cotton Capital of Australia), Boggabri, Pilliga and many more.
From the rolling hills and cliffsides of Mount Kaputar National Park, to the semiarid beauty of the Pilliga Forest, there is plenty to keep visitors busy for as long as they want to keep adventuring. Enjoy bushwalks and hikes, birdwatching and the various unique camping locations, or head into the surrounding towns that call this region home and delve into their unique cultures – past and present.
The Gamilaraay people, also known as the Gomeroi, Kamilaroi, Kamillaroi and other variations, are the traditional owners throughout the Narrabri Region, and are one of the four largest Indigenous nations in Australia.
European settlers arrived in the area in the 1830s and the town of Narrabri was officially established in 1860. Its economy was and continues to be driven by agriculture, particularly cotton and wheat farming. Much like its neighbouring towns, Narrabri has retained its smalltown charm, with a close-knit community and strong sense of local pride.
Narrabri Old Gaol Museum (Image Andrew Pearson)
NARRABRI REGION VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE
Starting at the information centre is always a safe bet for any intrepid traveller wanting to get the most out of what a region has to offer – and uncover some attractions or activities that might otherwise have been missed. Learn more about the region’s local history, farming practices and the best spots to enjoy the local and regional produce.
An experience in and of itself, the Narrabri Region Visitor Information Centre also features a cotton display, complete with a genuine cotton picker that guests can climb into and ‘operate’.
Take the time to wander and immerse all the information you can – and be sure to leave some room in your bags to add a few souvenirs to your collection – whether they be the traditional magnet or sticker, or a jar of Nelson’s honey or the Centre’s own product: cottonseed oil.
The visitor centre is open 9am-5pm weekdays, and 9am-2pm weekends. The centre is closed some public holidays, so be sure to check online first.
P: 02 6799 6760
Enjoy a fun day at the Old Gaol Museum (Image Andrew Pearson)
THE NARRABRI OLD GAOL MUSEUM
As the name would suggest, the Narrabri Old Gaol Museum is housed in the historic gaol that was built in the late 1800s, and boasts an extensive collection of artefacts of historical, archival and cultural significance compiled by the Narrabri Historical Society.
Visitors can walk through the historic building’s cells, exercise yard and tracker’s hut and get a glimpse of what life might have been like for those who worked and stayed within the gaol.
The women’s cell is now used to display the ‘Dalway Collection’, that includes an intriguing collection of documents, uniforms, paintings and other articles that were once owned by an influential Irishman who journeyed to Australia in the early 1800s. A guide accompanies this display, walking visitors through the history of this early pioneer, who even changed his name when he arrived to solidify his new Australian life.
The Old Gaol Museum is open Wednesdays from 10am-2pm, and Saturdays 9am-1pm. Other times must be made by appointment.
P: 0428 995 700
Boggabri Tractor Shed (Image Andrew Pearson)
BOGGABRI TRACTOR SHED
The perfect destination for the whole family, the Boggabri Tractor Shed is a community-run facility, and local volunteers are happy to guide you through the large collection of vintage machinery and tractors. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the mechanical history of Boggabri and speak with some of the locals who help make this region so welcoming. There is a small entry fee to help keep the facility running.
The Boggabri Tractor Shed is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10am-1pm, but other times can be arranged by appointment.
P: Geoff Eather 0448 011 940 or Ron Boxsell 0427 434 487
The ATCA demonstrates just how beautiful Narrabri’s night sky is (Image Jamie Condon)
THE AUSTRALIAN TELESCOPE COMPACT ARRAY
Operating since 1988, this world-class radio astronomy facility is located just outside of Narrabri and is used by astronomers to study the structure and evolution of our universe. Visitors can take a guided tour of the ATCA to learn about the history of radio astronomy and view the six 22-metre antennas in use. The Compact Array is one of the most advanced telescopes of its kind and visitors can appreciate it from the outdoor viewing area.
The large open skies of the Narrabri Region are one of the many features that appeal to the locals and visitors – and what better way to appreciate it than at night. The ATCA is closed to the public at 5pm daily, but roughly once a month at a time when the Milky Way and the stars are at their brightest, the site opens to visitors until 11pm. The event is free, but bookings must be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
P: 1300 363 400
Pilliga Bore Bath (Image Andrew Pearson)
PILLIGA ARTESIAN BORE BATH
Open all year round, the Pilliga Artesian Bore Bath is an absolute must for any visitors to the Narrabri Region. The 37-degree mineral-rich waters are the perfect way to relax after a busy holiday exploring the region’s other attractions and have become a popular location for both locals and visitors.
The bore was constructed in 1902 to supply the town water after a severe drought, then in 1980 it was transformed into the present pool. Ongoing improvements have included the roof covering, dressing sheds, toilets as well as barbecue and picnic facilities.
Sit back, relax and stay and watch the sunset – or even rise. The site is open 24-hours a day to ensure true appreciation of this unique location. Utilise the campsites for $5 per night (bookings required) and stay for up to 21 days. There are no powered sites, and basic facilities, but with Wee Waa just a 30-minute drive away it’s a great spot for a self-sufficient traveller who wants to enjoy an extended stay.
P: 02 6799 6760
Narrabri Fish Farm (Image Andrew Pearson)
NARRABRI FISH FARM
Located on the Newell Highway, only 10km out of Narrabri, the Narrabri Fish Farm offers guided tours, fish feeding, yabbying and fishing – and last but not least – camping for self-sufficient campers.
Covering 250 acres and containing 100 dams, the Narrabri Fish Farm is the largest hatchery-based aquaculture farm in NSW and breeds golden perch, Murray cod, eel-tailed catfish, silver perch and yabbies.
Take part in a daily fish feeding tour to learn more about how the farm operates, help feed the fish, and take a picture on ‘Wal’ the giant sculptured cod. Or enjoy a day of fishing or yabbying surrounded by the natural landscape and perhaps spot some wildlife spectators.
There are three self-sufficient and animal-friendly camping areas throughout the fish farm, and bookings are essential.
If you’re after truly unique views of the region, you can organise a Scenic Helicopter Flight to pick you up from the farm. Maximum of three passengers. Visit www.northwesthelicopters.com.au to organise.
P: 0428 749 606
Come see the cotton pickers in action (Image Andrew Pearson)
WEE WAA: THE COTTON CAPITAL OF AUSTRALIA
Only a half hour drive from Narrabri, Wee Waa has claimed its pride of place as the ‘cotton capital of Australia’ – and for a good reason. While the claim might seem quite mighty considering the history of cotton in Australia, Wee Waa is the place in which cotton was established as a commercially viable crop in the 1960s.
Over the century, Wee Waa’s ‘cotton boom’ has helped the town grow and develop and continues to be a major power player in continuing the prosperity and advancement of the town. Cotton production in the Wee Waa district generates approximately $140 million for the Australian economy, representing $34 million of the state’s total production.
Visitors to Wee Waa can see the cotton-picking season in March-June – simply drive along the highways and watch the green cotton pickers and other machinery at work in the fields of white fluffy cotton.
Namoi Echo Museum (Image Andrew Pearson)
THE NAMOI ECHO MUSEUM
The Namoi Echo Museum in Wee Waa is an enriching visit for anyone to the area, with displays of machinery, documents and various items that offer insight to the history and culture of the Wee Waa district. This includes exhibits that honour its history of agriculture in cotton, wheat and wool. Items include a spray plane, one of the original two row cotton pickers and Aboriginal artifacts.
The museum is open Thursday and Friday 10am-3pm, and on Saturdays from 10am-4pm.
P: 0427 668 932
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Written: Sat 01 Apr 2023
Printed: April, 2023