Cobar is a town in central western New South Wales, Australia whose economy is based mainly upon base metals and gold mining. The town is 712 km (442 mi) by road northwest of the state capital, Sydney. It is at the crossroads of the Kidman Way and Barrier Highway. The town and the local government area, the Cobar Shire, are on the eastern edge of the outback. At the 2016 census, the town of Cobar had a population of 3,990.[1] The Shire has a population of approximately 4,700 and an area of 44,065 square kilometres (17,014 sq mi).[2]

New South Wales
Marshall Street, the main street of Cobar with, on the right, the Great Western Hotel. Cobar retains much of its late 19th-century architecture.
Coordinates31°29′0″S 145°48′0″E
Population3,990 (2016 census)[1]
Elevation260 m (853 ft)
LGA(s)Cobar Shire
State electorate(s)Barwon
Federal Division(s)Parkes
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
25.3 °C
78 °F
12.7 °C
55 °F
396.1 mm
15.6 in

Many sights of cultural interest can be found in and around Cobar. The town retains much of its colonial 19th-century architecture. The Towsers Huts, 3km south of town but currently inaccessible to the public, are ruins of very simple colonial dwellings from around 1870. The ancient Aboriginal rock paintings at Mount Grenfell are some of the largest and most important in Australia.


Indigenous origins

The name Cobar is derived from the Aboriginal Ngiyampaa word for copper, Kuparr, Gubarr or Cuburra, meaning 'red earth' or 'burnt earth', the ochre used in making body paint for Corroborees.[3] [4] The name also represents an Aboriginal attempt to pronounce the word 'copper'.[5] Some of the most significant Aboriginal rock art in NSW is found within the Cobar Shire. The indigenous Ngiyampaa/Wangaapuwan traditions of this diverse bio-region are best represented in the rock art of Mount Grenfell, 40 km west of Cobar. Over 1,300 depictions of humans and animals, as well as hand stencils are found at this site.


Pastoralists began to settle the area in the mid-1850s.


One of these pastoralists, a man known as 'Papa Cornish', rescued a party of Aboriginal trackers from near-certain death in the early 1870s; in gratitude, they guided him to Australia's largest copper deposit. This led to settlements being founded with Australia's European and Asian gold rush immigrant arrivals. The Great Cobar Copper Mining Company Limited was established in 1878. It and subsequent companies operated a number of light railways[6] carrying ore and similar material, as well as timber for mine supports. Cobar and many mining outskirts accommodated the miners who travelled to the area in the late 1880s. The overwhelming majority of these were of Cornish Australian stock at the time.[7] Several fine heritage buildings from the late 1880s/early 1900s settlement are still in existence, including the Great Western Hotel (1898), claimed to have the longest iron lace verandah in New South Wales,[8] the Cobar Post Office (1885), the Cobar Court House (1887) and Court House Hotel (1895) in Barton Street, as well as the Cobar Heritage and Visitor Information Centre, located in the former Mines Office (1910). On Hillston Road southeast out of town is Fort Bourke Hill, which affords a view of the town, as well as the historic Towser's Huts, a series of stone miners' cottages dating back as early as the 1890s, possibly even the 1870s, and built by an Italian miner by the name of Antonio Tozzi.

At its peak, Cobar had a population of 10,000. However, copper mining operations slowed in 1920, and by the 1930s the town's population had dropped to little over 1,000, only to rise again and stabilise at around 3,500 through the 1970s and early 1980s. Copper mining was intermittent until 1965 when full-time operations resumed.[9] In the 1980s, Gold, silver, lead and zinc were discovered in the area, which led to a further population increase. The town's current positive economic development is due to the affluence of the mining boom. Three important mining belts are operational in the Cobar area: the Cobar belt, the Canbelego belt and the Girilambone belt. Visits to mine sites may be arranged through the Cobar Heritage and Visitor Information Centre overlooking the open cut mine. The Festival of the Miners' Ghost, held during the last weekend in October, is a festival celebrating the spirits of the old miners.

Heritage listings

Cobar has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:

  • Nyngan-Cobar railway: Cobar railway station[10]
  • 47 Linsley Street: Cobar Post Office[11]
  • Nyngan Road (Barrier Highway): Cobar Visitor's Centre / Great Cobar Heritage Centre (also known as Cobar Pastoral & Mining Museum; Mining Administration Offices, Great Cobar Mines)[12]
  • Nyngan Road (Barrier Highway): Mines Office (former)[13]

New Occidental Hotel fire

The New Occidental Hotel was a pub located on the edge of town and was built in 1879;[14] it was known as the Star Hotel at that time. It became a significant local spot for miners as well as a common meeting place for groups and clubs in the area.

In August 2014,[14] a fire engulfed the building and resulted in the death of Daniel Howard, a firefighter called to the incident who later died at Dubbo Base Hospital.[15]


According to the 2016 census of Population, there were 3,990 people in Cobar.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11.8% of the population.
  • 78.5% of people were born in Australia and 83.4% of people only spoke English at home.
  • The most common responses for religion were Catholic 33.8%, No Religion 18.9% and Anglican 17.1%.[1]


The Cobar economy relies heavily on trade with the local mines and their employees, and consequently on world metal prices and hence is subject to great fluctuations. During 2008, after a fall of 75% in world zinc prices, one local mine cut 540 of its 655 jobs, with flow-on effects felt by many other businesses. Over the course of that year Cobar's workforce reduced by 10%.[16] The town has increasing benefit from being the seat of the local government area. Cobar has two primary schools, a high school, an activities youth centre and a 31-bed hospital for acute care.

Cobar Quid

The local council supports a local currency called Cobar Quid. Established in 2003[17] by the Cobar Business Association Inc (CBA), Cobar Quid is a currency that encourages its residents to shop locally. This local curreny is a minted medallion that can be exchange for goods and services with accepting local businesses.

The CBA sells the coins to the local business in values of $5, $10, $20 and $50 values, and the medallions are minted by the Royal Australian Mint.

Business can redeem the medallions for cash which is controlled by the Cobar Shire Council.


Cobar has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh) with hot summers and cool winters. It has a median annual rainfall of 390mm. Rainfall is extremely variable, particularly in late summer and early spring. The highest rain falls have been in excess of 200mm in any one month. Rainfall is generally only about 4 days per month.

The average relative humidity in Cobar during the summer is about 30% in the afternoon and about 50% at 9am. In winter it is about 45% at 3pm, and about 75% at 9am.

Annual mean wind speed at 9am and 3 pm is about 12.2 km/h with lesser speeds on winter mornings.[18][19]

Climate data for Cobar
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 47.0
Average high °C (°F) 34.1
Average low °C (°F) 20.6
Record low °C (°F) 10.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 45.7
Average precipitation days 5.8 4.8 4.9 4.3 6.2 6.8 6.7 6.0 5.9 6.5 6.0 5.2 68.5
Source: [19]

Notable people


Train and Bus Services

NSW TrainLink operates a coach service from Dubbo. The train line through Cobar is today used primarily for industrial train services. See Cobar railway line.


Cobar Airport is a small, local airport located 5.6kms southwest of town.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Cobar (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  2. Archived 28 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 7 January 2010
  3. Donaldson, Tamsin. "Ngiyampaa". Macquarie Aboriginal Words. Sydney: Macquarie Library. p. 38.
  4. Reed, A.W. Aboriginal Place Names. Sydney 1967: Reed New Holland. p. 26.
  5. "Cobar". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  6. Shoebridge, J.W. The Railways of The Great Cobar, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, September 1969 pp. 189-218
  7. Jupp, James; Jupp, Director Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies James (1 October 2001). "The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins". Cambridge University Press. Archived from the original on 28 October 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018 via Google Books.
  8. "Great Western Hotel". New South Wales Heritage Database. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  9. "About Us - CSA". Archived from the original on 30 March 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  10. "Cobar Railway Station and yard". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H01114. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  11. "Cobar Post Office (Place ID 106178)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  12. "Great Cobar Heritage Centre & Cobar Miners Heritage Park". New South Wales Heritage Database. Office of Environment and Heritage.
  13. "Mines Office (former),Nyngan Rd, Cobar, NSW, Australia (Place ID 534)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment.
  14. Wilson, Cameron. "Old miners' pub destroyed by fire in country NSW". ABC Radio National. ABC. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  15. "Firefighter killed while fighting pub blaze in Cobar". Northern Star. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  16. From boom town to bust Retrieved 24 January 2009
  17. "ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT". Cobar Shire Council. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  18. Archived 30 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine Climate of Cobar, Retrieved 24 January 2009
  19. "BOM - Cobar weather statistics". Archived from the original on 31 March 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2009.

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