Pleasant service town on the Manilla River
Barraba is an agricultural and pastoral centre on the
Manilla River with the Nandewar Ranges to the west, the
Horton Valley to the north-west and undulating tablelands to
the south-east and north. The district is concentrates on
the production of wool and sheep.
The town is situated 500 m above sea-level, 502 km north
of Sydney and 90 km north of Tamworth on the Fossickers Way.
Its population has risen from 1500 in 1986 to 2370.
The area was occupied by the Kamilaroi Aborigines before
white settlement. In 1827 Allan Cunningham crossed the
Manilla River, which he named Buddle's Creek, a little to
the west of the present townsite.
Barraba station was taken up in 1838. Its name derives
from an Aboriginal term, said to mean 'camp by the
riverbank'. In the mid-1840s Scotsman John McKid opened the
first store on the future townsite which was surveyed in
Later in the decade gold was discovered in the area at
Woodsreef, Ironbark Creek and Crow Mountain. Woodsreef
became a vital village at this time but virtually
disappeared when the gold was exhausted in the late 1860s.
In 1861 the first school was opened at Barraba in rented
premises. A post office was built in 1866, at which time the
population was 80. The first Anglican church was erected in
1874-75 and the first bank, the CBC, was established in
Another boom period developed when copper was discovered
at Gulf Creek in 1889. The first mine was established in
1892. At its peak, in 1901, 200 men were employed in
conjunction with the copper mine which was one of the
largest in the state. A prosperous village developed with
bark-hut residences, stores, a school, a hotel and a post
office. However, the last major company pulled out in 1911
although the mine teetered on for some years with a handful
of employees. The school eventually closed in 1957 and the
post office in 1965.
Barraba became a municipality in 1906 and the railway
arrived from Manilla in 1908, although it has long since
closed down with the tracks removed from town.
Asbestos was first mined at Woodsreef from 1919-1923.
However, it was not until 1972 that a large open-cut
asbestos mine was opened there, furnishing much local
employment, although it closed down in the 1980s. Diatomite
mining began north of Barraba in 1982. The area is also rich
in chromite, fireclays, gold, limestone, magnesite, copper,
chalk and quartz.
Local festivals are BarrArbor, the festival of Barraba,
held on the first weekend in November, the Frost Over
Barraba Art Festival on the second weekend in July, and the
Barraba Potters & Craft Guild Exhibition in September. The
local markets are held on the first Saturday of the month.
For summer visitors the town boasts a 70-m waterslide.
Things to see:
Tourist Information and Bird Watching
Barraba's information centre is located at 116 Queen St, tel:
(02) 6782 1255. They can provide material relating to 'bird
routes' which outline the best places for birdwatchers. The
Barraba area is home to a couple of rare species, the regent
honeyeater and the turquoise parrot.
Heritage Buildings - Queen Street
The tourist information centre is located in an Edwardian
structure which was originally a general store and garage,
built in 1908.
Other buildings in the main street are of interest. The
courthouse was erected in 1881 with additions in 1907 and
1936. The Dean and Smith Stores, with their old-fashioned
shopfronts, were built in 1900. They are now the Barraba
Shopping Centre. The Commercial Hotel (an old Cobb & Co
changing station) was built in 1890. The Central Hotel dates
from about 1908. The large and very prominent clock tower
was erected in 1924 in memory of local men killed in World
War I. The Methodist (now Uniting) Church at the Edwards St
corner was erected in 1898-99. The porch is a recent
addition. Barraba Antiques and Olde Wares at 101 Queen St is
located in a 1910 building with an ornate brick parapet.
The Victoria Hotel was built in the early 1890s. The
building was initially used by the Commercial Bank. In 1894
it was robbed. At the time the manager was having lunch with
his wife and six children in the dining room. Hearing a
noise he entered the banking section to find two masked men.
Ordered to bail up he refused and made a break for the
dining room. Prevented by a gunshot he grappled with one of
the culprits for the gun, in the course of which he was shot
in the head. When his wife screamed the robbers fired two
shots through the door leading into the dining room. The
bullet holes can still be seen in the door that divides the
lounge and bar of the hotel. The culprits were caught and
hanged. The building became a hotel in 1899. The second
storey was added in 1909.
Nandewar Historical Society Museum
Nandewar Historical Society Museum at 71 Queen St is housed
in a former shop, built in the 1890s. It is open by
appointment, tel: (02) 6782 1523 or (02) 6782 1212. The
town's first sale yards were once located behind it.
St Laurence's Church of England
St Laurence's Church of England (built of locally-made
bricks in 1908-1909), at the corner of Fitzroy and Maude
Sts, is one of the town's more notable buildings. The
19th-century pipe organ is a beauty. The vestry was added in
the early 1950s. The original church was designed by
distinguished architect J. Horbury Hunt and built in 1874-75
but was demolished in 1906.
St John's Catholic Church
St John's Catholic Church (1905-06) is at the corner of
Fitzroy and Savoy Sts. Additions were made in the late
Also in Savoy St is the Morrow Row, originally eight
identical drop-slab houses built of timber from the forests
around Narrabri in 1895 for the employees of store owner
William Morrow. Three retain their original structure.
Adams Lookout, 5 km north-east, is named after Alfred Adams
who purchased Barraba Station in 1850. To access the site
turn right off Fossickers Way at the signpost, 3 km north of
Barraba This is the access road to the old Woodsreef mining
site. There are fine views of the town and surrounds.
Woodsreef and Ironbark Creek
About 18 km from Barraba are Woodsreef and the Ironbark
Creek picnicking and fossicking area. Gold was discovered at
Woodsreef in the late 1850s and a thriving village soon
developed with a post office, stores and school, but it
virtually disappeared when most miners left in the late
1860s. A small number, employed by larger companies, stayed
on. Asbestos was mined here from 1919-1923 and a large
open-cut asbestos mine opened at Woodsreef in 1972,
furnishing much local employment, though it closed down in
Today there are some remnants of those various phases of
the village's existence, such as old copper, gold and
asbestos workings. There are only a few buildings extant.
The tiny wooden structure was built c.1895 and used as post
office. The little wooden church dates from 1923. The site
is open to the public at all times. Gold, agate, petrified
and opalised wood, and jasper have been found in the area
which is popular with fossickers.
The Cunningham Memorial, a roadside obelisk, is 7 km west on
the Trevallyn Rd. It marks the site where, in 1827, Allan
Cunningham crossed the Manilla River (which he named
Buddle's Creek), making him the first European in the area.
Little Creek is 21 km north-west of Barraba on the Trevallyn
Rd. It is attractively situated with picnic and toilet
facilities. There is a 25-ha recreation area adjacent.
Further along the road is Bereen Mountain which has
excellent views of the Horton Valley.
Horton River Falls
Just before reaching the Little Creek Reserve, there is a
turnoff to the left into Mt Lindsay Rd, 20 km from Barraba.
This road soon becomes gravel and can be affected by weather
so phone the Barraba Information Centre to check road
conditions before setting out. Follow this road for 10 km
then turn right at the signposted turnoff. 6.5 km will bring
you to the Horton River Falls which plunge a considerable
distance amidst rugged mountain scenery (but only after
decent rains). There are picnic and barbecue facilities,
bushcamping and bushwalks, including a steep and difficult
trail almost to the bottom of the gorge (over one hour
The last stretch of road to the falls takes you past Elembee
Fine Fibre Farm, a goat stud set amidst 500 ha of bushland
with bushwalks, pet farm animals, sales of cashmere products
made on the farm, barbecue and picnic areas, morning and
Mt Kaputar National Park
Continue west along the main road for another 13 km. Stick
to the right at the intersection and the road continues on
to Mt Kaputar National Park. The dry-weather-only road
concludes at a gate. From there you can walk the last 4.5 km
along Mt Kaputar (1524 m) to the Dawsons Springs campsite
where there is an amenities block, two cabins and
picnic-barbecue-toilet facilities. There is a camping fee
and a short nature trail. In all the park has a dozen
walking tracks (some are outlined in a pamphlet available
from the National Parks and Wildlife Service office at 100
Maitland St in Narrabri, tel: 02 6799 1740). The main access
route to the park is via Narrabri.
About 10 km north of Barraba along the Fossickers Way is a
turnoff on the right to the Barraba Diatomite Mine,
Australia's largest producer of the mineral. Viewing of the
operations can be arranged through the Barraba Information
Old Gulf Mine Site
Cobbadah is located 19 km north of Barraba on the Fossickers
Way. 5 km further north there is a turnoff on the right
which leads to the Old Gulf site where copper was discovered
in 1889. The first mine was established in 1892. At its
peak, in 1901, 200 men were employed in conjunction with the
copper mine which was one of the largest in the state. A
prosperous village, with a population in excess of Barraba,
developed with bark-hut residences, stores, a school, a
hotel and a post office. However, the last major company
pulled out in 1911 although the mine teetered on for some
years with a handful of employees. The school eventually
closed in 1957 and the post office in 1965. All that remains
today are the old school (built in 1896) and a poppet head.
Three Creeks Gold Mine
28 km north is the turnoff on the right on to a 22-km loop
road which, after 12 km, passes the Three Creeks Tourist
Gold Mine and Fossicking Site. In an area long worked for
gold there is also a working gold mine. Bushwalks and tours
of old mine shafts are carried out by the owner. There is
also bush camping, panning and fossicking and a small museum
of mining-related artefacts.
Split Rock Dam
The turnoff to the Split Rock Dam Recreation Area is clearly
signposted to the left, 30 km south of Barraba along the
Fossickers Way. There are toilet, barbecue, picnic, boating
and camping facilities. It is noted for its fishing and
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