Bounded by the Ottley Creek and surrounded by picturesque bushland,
Coolatai is a tiny settlement with some big surprises.
Coolatai lies on a popular touring route that extends from Warialda to Brisbane, via Yetman, avoiding heavy traffic and winding roads.
In easy reach of larger centres, including Inverell, Coolatai makes a good base for the self-contained traveller wanting to explore the region. The Kwiambal National Park, McIntyre Falls and Lemon Tree Flat are great day trips and provide the chance of a swim. Originally an employees’ settlement for the once massive Coolatai station, it had a school, two churches, store, telephone exchange, race meetings and sporting clubs, as well as the all important and still flourishing Wallaroo Hotel. Stories of the Coolatai panther persist, and the beast just keeps growing. First ‘seen’ in 1958, by 1970 it was said to be breeding. A local resident wrote to the Inverell Times to record his sighting, and another reader responded that the person seeing it had been drinking.
The visitor of today can walk through the groves of rough barked apple, camp close to the creek and enjoy an evening in the hotel. Probably not a good idea to go walking afterwards if you are scared of big cats! More seriously, the surrounding bushland, with plenty of hollow trees and fallen logs is home to a wide variety of birds, reptiles – including the long-lived social lizard known as Cunningham’s Skink – amphibians, mammals and many types of tree. Several small cemeteries are to be found near the town, and the village has its own war memorial.