Cootamundra is a town of about 6,800 people and is situated around 430 km south-west of Sydney. It is located in the Riverina region on the south-west slopes, and is a rich and fertile agricultural area. The Wiradjuri are the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of the lands and waters of the area.

There were pastoral stations established in the district in the late 1840s, and the village was marked out by government surveyors in 1860. Similar to the town of Young, there was a gold rush in the Cootamundra area in the 1860s, with many people staying on after the gold ran out. It is known as the birthplace of cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman, and his Birthplace Museum is located in town. It is also famous for its wattle display in winter, with a festival held on the last Saturday in August to celebrate the Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana). The town is often referred to as simply ‘Coota’.

I was able to have a wander through Cootamundra, and was particularly impressed by the heritage buildings. As I drove into the town centre, it was hard to ignore the Cootamundra Post Office, shown above. It was designed by the Office of the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, and built in 1881. The four-storey tower was built in 1887, and raised in 1894. There were living quarters for the postmaster and his family upstairs. This landmark building is in the Victorian Italianate style.

Similar to Junee, the town is located on the Sydney-Melbourne railway line, which has supported rural prosperity over the decades. The majestic railway station was undergoing renovations when I passed through, but I was able to visit the Cootamundra Heritage Centre which is located in the adjacent old railway barracks and rest house, built in 1927. There are various displays available, offering glimpses into the town’s history. This includes an overview of the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls.

By chance I drove past the Old Cootamundra District Hospital complex. It is associated with the early provision of health services in the area, and was the second district hospital, opening in 1910. The hospital was in operation until 1987, and parts of it are still used by community groups. It is built in the Federation (1890 – 1915) style, and highlights the importance of Cootamundra as a regional centre at the time it was built.

Another reliable indication of town prosperity, prospects and pride is the court house. Like the hospital, the court house is the second one built in Cootamundra, replacing the original court house which dated back to 1879. The current court house built in 1901 was designed by Walter Liberty Vernon, and is a fine example of a rural court house constructed during the Federation era, and is still in use. The heritage buildings of Cootamundra can be further explored using the Heritage building trail guide.

One of the joys of being able to walk around an unfamiliar place is you never know what you might come across. From lovely old buildings to beautiful maintained gardens, if you are able to explore at least a little on foot, you can see things from a different perspective. A bright bird call caught my attention and I was able to pause and watch a yellow-rumped thornbill (Acanthiza chrysorrhoa) exploring the nooks and crannies of tree bark as I walked past.

You can find more information about Cootamundra on their visitor information site. There is an older but interesting article about Cootamundra from the Sydney Morning Herald available here. Another great resource is the Two Minute Postcards video, supplemented by additional information on their website.

Have you had a chance to have a wander around Cootamundra?

Photo: one of the wattle-themed street signs in Cootamundra