Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published September 11th 2021
A Crossroads to Everywhere?
If I had to nominate any town as a crossroads it, would be Cobar. A town of around 4,600 people in Central New South Wales, about an hour and forty minutes from Sydney by air. You can travel from Cobar to Broken Hill in the west, Dubbo in the east, Bourke (of back-of-Bourke fame) in the north and Griffith to the south. That said, don't, at least not until you've experienced all this interesting and historic place has to offer. My husband and I visited as part of a longer road trip. We spent three nights here, exploring and experiencing, and it did not disappoint.
A penny-farthing bicycle in a front yard - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
We drove up from Griffith on Kidman Way and our first stop on arriving was at the entrance to Cobar at the big 'Cobar' sign. The sign is a must for a travel photo; dare I suggest a selfie. Erected on a concrete retaining wall at the side of a slag heap, and spelling out the town's name, giant letters that appear to be rusted metal, it is undoubtedly the most unusual welcome sign I have seen.
The big sign at the town entrance on the Kidman Way - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
There is a characterful shopping strip on the Barrier Highway. Prominent on one corner is the Great Western Hotel, built in 1898. At 100 metres, its lacework verandah is the longest in the southern hemisphere.
The Great Western Hotel - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Up the road just above the entrance to the Grand Hotel is the 'Big Beer Can'. A Toohey's can, they say it could hold over 22,000 litres of beer. So there you go, the two most prominent features in Cobar's main street are pubs. Who would have thought?
To our delight, there were plenty of coffee shops. We stopped at one called Country Simplicity that was also an upmarket gift shop. At the coffee counter, they have trays of fudge. Fudge I tell you! Butterscotch fudge, French vanilla fudge, Malteser fudge (ah ha), choc mint fudge, rose and vanilla fudge; just too many to name. I chose Butterscotch. (Sorry, I got a bit carried away there, but–FUDGE!)
Country Simplicity Tea Room and Gift Shop - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
We took a leisurely walk along the main drag and into a couple of the side streets. Some of the shops were surprising for a small town. They have a large office supply, two IGAs just a street apart, and a shop dedicated to sewing called 'Needles, Pins and Material Things'. Many of the buildings are more than 100 years old.
3. Drummond Park, the Lone Pine and a Historic Streetscape
As we walked to Drummond Park, we passed an old house with a penny-farthing bicycle in the front yard. On the nature strip, a magnificent Moreton Bay Fig Tree, believed to have been planted in the 1890s, with giant roots trailing along beside the path. We passed the old municipal chambers and courthouse, erected in 1904.
Moreton Bay Fig Tree believed to have been planted in the 1890s - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
At Drummond Park, on the corner of Linsley and Harcourt Streets, we sat for a while in the shade of some tall palms. We were glad we stopped in this park because there is a pine tree, grown from seeds collected from the original Lone Pine in Gallipoli in 1915; just a bit special. Drummond Park is beautifully maintained, with neat paths traversing expansive lawns and pretty garden beds. I noticed a playground where a couple of mums chatted while they watched over their toddlers.
We never miss the museums when we visit a town; you can't imagine what little treasures you might find. (We once came upon a barbed-wire bird's nest with an accompanying note that a magpie had made it–hmmm?) The Great Cobar Heritage Centre, a spectacular Edwardian building erected in 1912, goes a step further as it sits on the site of an old open cut mine.
The Great Cobar Heritage Centre - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
This well set out museum in a heritage mansion relates the town's mining history with loads of information and rock and ore samples. Storyboards and old photos adorn the walls. Read about Norm Ferson, who was born in 1800, there is a transcript of his appearance before a magistrate in 1903 to prove his birth date for a pension review. See a photo of the eight-hour day procession held in Cobar in 1914. You get the idea, allocate time, there is a lot to Cobar's history.
Doing the washing the old way - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Also on display are the everyday things from the past. In one corner, a lever-operated washing 'machine', washboards and a painting of women hard at work at the wash troughs. Children's tin toys, a pedal car and a tricycle show the lost paint and the rust of their age. Grey nomads will recognise these which will undoubtedly bring a smile to their faces. Early board games, snakes and ladders and checkers sit in a glass case with homemade children's blocks. In another glass case is a hand pump 'Mortein' fly spray can.
Who remembers these manual pump fly sprays - sad to say I do - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
A section of the Heritage Centre is set aside for indigenous history which includes displays of stone tools, a model of a bark hut and other artefacts from the area. Here too, an unexpected exhibit, an ironstone xylophone, one you are invited to try out. The storyboard reads "This instrument was invented by Bob Harris, an elder of the aboriginal community from the district. The principle of this xylophone is an adaptation of the European style, but the use of small slabs of ironstone as musical instruments, is a local activity."
At the back of the building there is more on display in the yards; horse carriages, rusty machines, and a mobile dental clinic train, to mention but a few. Wander through to the original open cut mine, which is filled with water now and is very picturesque. We walked the rock face and I could only marvel at the colour, texture and shape of the rocks.
The old open cut is a small lake now - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
The Great Cobar Heritage Centre is on the Barrier Highway and is also the Visitor Information Centre. They can be contacted on (02) 6836 2448, email@example.com or click here to visit their website. The centre was closed for renovations in 2020, so you may want to call ahead to check the status of these.
5. Fort Bourke Hill Lookout and New Cobar Open Cut Mine
We took a quick afternoon trip to Fort Bourke Hill Lookout. This is an open cut/underground gold mine. The mining was open cut from 2000 to 2004 with over one million tonnes of ore removed. In 2004, the mining operation moved underground. There are storyboards on a wall at the lookout, detailing the history dating back to 1887; with Cobar's first successful gold mine. From the lookout platform, we peered through a wire fence down into the open cut. The pit is 150 metres deep. As we watch, a car winds its way down a circular road and finally disappears into a tunnel at the base of the pit. To reach Fort Bourke Hill Lookout, turn off the Kidman Way, 2kms south of Cobar.
The mine open cut and entrance to the undergound works with the town in the background - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
I popped out in the morning to do the parts of the Cobar Heritage Walk we missed on our previous meanderings and followed a mud map around the streets looking at old buildings. The mud map, which is available from the Great Cobar Heritage Information Centre, is actually a ten-page booklet with details of over forty heritage locations and all within easy walking distance. It also details a number of day tours. I start in the shopping area where there is still a butcher operating in a shop front with a declaration of having been erected in 1910 and suggesting there has always been a butcher here.
The Cobar railway station was completed in 1892. It sits at the back of town, behind a large unpaved expanse, and looks rather lonely today. On the road to the station outside another old building is a veteran petrol pump, painted in pink, which I imagine is not its original colour.
A reflection of austere styles, the Cobar masonic lodge building, formerly the Band Hall, erected in 1910 is a stark white with duck-egg-blue doors and windows. Also, I suspect, not the original colour!
There was a surprising amount of birdlife to be seen. I spotted some red-rumped parrots at the Cobar Caravan Park and then, a first for me, some mallee ringnecks. There were a variety of birds in the park's trees and they didn't seem to like each other; there were some standoffs in play. Some of them didn't care much for me either and since I wasn't wearing my hat, I make a strategic retreat to our cabin.
A Mallee Ring-Neck at the Cobar Caravan park - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
For a while, I stalked a bird I hadn't seen before, keen to get a photo and identify it. I had received a Field Guide for Christmas. Turned out it was an Apostlebird. There were many crested pigeons too. They have some lovely purple and emerald colouring in their wings. I come upon a pair cooing and posturing; perhaps romance was afoot. One had fanned out its tail but was getting no reaction from the other.
After an overnight rain we sat on the verandah watching Mallee Ringneck Parrots; such beautiful birds. We guess people often feed the birds here as a bold Noisy Miner flew onto the rail and had to be shooed away. It was closely followed by two Apostlebirds, a great close-up view, but they also had to be shooed away.
Getting There, Accommodation and Visitor Information
Where to Stay. We stayed in a cabin at the Cobar Caravan Park on 101 Marshall Street, a pleasant and spacious park. They can be contacted on (02) 6836 2425 of click here to visit their website. It is only one option of many for your stay. Click here for the Cobar Council's accommodation listing which links to the websites for each site, which includes motels, cabins and a farm stay.
The old municipal building and court house - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Getting There. Cobar is located in the central west of NSW, around 690 kms from Sydney. Flights from Sydney are available. NSW TrainLink Regional coach services run between Dubbo and Broken Hill Town, via Nyngan and Cobar. From Dubbo, NSW TrainLink Regional train and coach service connect to most major centres. Click here to make a booking. By road Cobar can be reached from Sydney via Dubbo, from Griffith in the south, Broken Hill in the west and Bourke in the north.
There are many interesting homes in the streets of Cobar - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Visitor Information. Visitor Information is located at the Great Cobar Heritage Centre on the Barrier Highway. They can be contacted on (02) 6836 2448, emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org Click here to visit their website where menus step you through to:
The Tours and Itineraries page has sample itineraries for 24 hour, 48 hour and long weekend stays as well as a number of suggested day tours. Click here to check them out and start planning your holiday.