On the Oxley Highway, 76km west of Tamworth, GUNNEDAH was the inspiration for the Australian poet Dorothea MacKellar (1885–1968) and her ode to this drought-stricken land, My Country, penned while staying on her family's property here.
Today, Dorothea MacKeller lends her name to Gunnedah's nationally recognized poetry award (Web:www.dorothea.com).
Gunnedah is often referred to as Australia's koala capital, and the visitor centre (Mon– Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–3pm; Tel:02/6740 2230 or 1800 562 527, Web:www.infogunnedah.com.au) in Anzac Park on South Street has updated information from local spotters on the whereabouts of the town's bears. Otherwise, you have a good chance of seeing the bears on the Bindea Walking Track, a 7.4-kilometre walk from the visitor centre, or a 4.5-kilometre trek through the bush from the car park at Porcupine's Lookout in the porcupine reserve, just southeast of the centre. Directly behind the visitor centre in Anzac Park, the Old Water Tower (Sat & Mon 10am–4pm, other days by appointment; $4) has exhibits on the town's indigenous and European settlement history including some of Dorothea MacKeller's childhood dolls, as well as a panoramic viewing deck.
Gunnedah is a major beef cattle-selling centre, with auctions on Tuesdays; there are also markets on the third Saturday of the month, at Wolseley Park in Conadilly Street. The Waterways Wildlife Park (daily 10am–4pm; $5), 7km west of Gunnedah on Mullaley Road (the Oxley Highway), is a green lakeside spot which makes an inviting break from the highway and is home to emus, kangaroos, wombats, lizards and possums.
A daily Countrylink train stops in Gunnedah on its way from Sydney to Moree. Should you want to stay, try the friendly Regal Hotel at 298 Conadilly St (Tel:02/6742 2355; under $50), which has a guest lounge with an open fire and good bistro meals and comfortable rooms (all a/c; some en suite), or RoseneathManor at 91 Maitland St (Tel:02/6742 1906; $76-100), a historic nineteenth-century B&B. Eating out is confined to pub and club meals; otherwise, head for Conadilly Street for a couple of decent daytime cafés including the Redgum Outdoor, The Verdict, on the corner of Chandos Street, and the excellent, Aboriginal café Footprints, which serves tasty fare such as cheese melts and burgers in airy, art-filled surrounds.