It’s likely that your first impression as you drive into Cobar may be summarised in two words – neat and clean. And when you consider that Cobar is predominantly a mining town in the red dirt of the NSW Outback, neat and clean is quite a feat.
The logical place to begin a visit is the Great Cobar Heritage Centre, which serves as a major attraction and a Visitor Centre under one roof. It’s housed in a majestic building constructed in 1910 as a Mines Administration Office of the Great Cobar Copper Mining Company Ltd. The building was sold to Cobar Shire Council in 1968 for a consideration of one dollar.
At the top of the impressive staircase is not just a museum, but a heritage experience that unfolds the history of the Cobar district in a series of impressive displays reflecting the Aboriginal communities of the Ngemba and Wongaibon people, the struggle to maintain a water supply to the town and the bush skills developed by European settlers in order to survive the inhospitable land. The CSA copper mine and the Peak Gold Mine feature in comprehensive displays. More information can be found at: cobar.nsw.gov.au
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Opposite the Heritage Centre is Heritage Park, where a bronze sculpture of Rick the Miner operating his air leg and rock drill, and a fifteen metre high headframe and winder are displayed to commemorate the miners who lost their lives in Cobar mines.
From the Heritage Centre the Centenary of Federation Walking Track takes you south along the edge of the golf course and winds around “The Newey”, a water sports and recreation area, before completing the loop back to town. The walk is flat and can be completed comfortably in a couple of hours.
The golf course is an 18 hole, irrigated fairway, sand green course with a bonus pair of bowling greens and a well equipped clubhouse where visitors are more than welcome.
For a perspective on the New Cobar Open Cut Gold Mine, the Fort Bourke Lookout, minutes from town, provides a safe observation platform built on the edge of the pit and gives a bird’s eye view of the road winding down 150 metres to the pit bottom, where the haulage trucks disappear into the mountain and negotiate the decline which takes them to the current workings 1.5 kilometres under the town.
The Mt Grenfell historic site, 70 kilometres from town on the Barrier Highway (including 32 kilometres of gravel road), is a significant Aboriginal art site with over 1300 motifs displayed over three locations. Walking tracks and picnic facilities are provided but there is no provision for camping.
On the list of annual events the Festival of the Miner’s Ghost takes the lead role. Held on the last full weekend in October each year, it focuses on family entertainment with art and crafts, live music, sporting events, street theatre, clowns and buskers, and culminates with fireworks over the Great Cobar Open Cut Mine.
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Other events include the Cobar Races in May, and the Agricultural Show, also in May.
The Cobar Caravan Park, at the western end of town, offers a shady and well organised haven for travellers, with over sixty powered sites, camping areas adjacent to the camp kitchen, motel suites and cabins.
Free camping around Cobar is available under the big ‘Cobar’ sign at the eastern entrance to town, and is suitable for an overnighter. For longer free camping stays, waterside spots are scattered around the Newey on the southern outskirts, where a myriad of bird species will entertain even the most reluctant of bird watchers.
Cobar may be regarded by some as “just another town on the way to Broken Hill” but it offers much more than that. It is a thriving and progressive town with a rich and diverse history. And well worth including on your Outback “must see” list.