If you have grown up in suburban Australia, you may not have ever experienced a true outback experience. Now, in the era of the Internet and smartphones, be prepared to be struck by the isolation, restful quietness and passionate heat of NSW’s Far West. Full of rich histories, memorable sunsets, ever-changing sceneries and fun encounters with local characters, Broken Hill and surrounds are the heart of outback NSW.
The entrance point to the wide open spaces of outback NSW, Broken Hill has emerged as a culturally rich hub and has been listed as Australia’s first heritage city, despite the mountainous slagheap that casts a shadow over town. Having once had the world's richest silver–lead–zinc mineral deposits, the Silver City is making a name for itself in its arts and geo-tourism.
Take in the city by foot and see the lovely quaint buildings and 19th-century architecture that line the streets. And while it may appear as though every corner you turn there is a pub, you’ll be surprised to hear that there are actually more art galleries in the town.
Not far from Broken Hill is the still bank of Lake Pamamaroo. Initially struck by the lush grassy sites of the sequestered park, this serene and peaceful area allows visitors to park their caravans, fish, swim, and go for a paddle – a popular camping destination for locals.
However, one of the most famous attractions of the Menindee Lake waterways is Lake Wetherell, which is home to magnificent dead red gum trees with their twisted limbs standing submerged in water.
The hour-long boat cruise with ‘River Lady’ provides an up-close encounter with the gnarly skeleton sculptures which are ‘brought to life’ by the diverse birdlife. Pink-headed cockatoos, perching pelicans and black kites are just some of the creatures that inhabit these branching structures.
Further along the track (around 2.5 hours from Broken Hill) sits the remote town of Wilcannia, which is home to many heritage stone buildings built during the 1800s, including the local hospital, the post office, police station and courthouse. While Wilcannia is one of the NSW’s most economically disadvantaged regions, it is vibrant in its culture and creative expression – there’s even a drive-through art gallery at Reconciliation Park, making it an area that could easily grow to become the new hub for Indigenous art in NSW.
Camping on the Darling
Three kilometres east of the Wilcannia township, just off the Barrier Highway, is a popular spot to experience unspoilt tranquility for caravaners and campers alike. Located nearby on the banks of the Darling River, Warrawong on the Darling is a sought-after caravan park with spacious grass camping grounds and comfortable, modern cabins, making it perfect place to relax and leave behind the distractions of city life. Sunrises and sunsets are a big drawcard at Warrawong where colours of purple, pink and gold paint the skyline.
The opal-mining community of White Cliffs is just over an hour drive from Wilcannia, where you can discover the exciting wildlife that makes its home in the desert. The bright blue morning sky welcomed some chirping lorikeets and soaring wedged-tail eagles, but the highlight to any outback trip was spotting a mob of ‘roos hopping about and driving past a daddy emu with his three chicks strutting behind on the side of the road.
More than average rainfall in 2016 meant that the desert had a lot more shrubbery than usual, and fuller lakes. Travelling along the wide stretch of dirt road, the flat, semi-desert plains expand beyond your gaze. The terrain is scattered with pearl bluebushes, low trees and green shrubbery with speckles of yellow button flowers, but as you head to the Historical Diggings of the 1890s, the landscape transforms into a sandy stretch of hills. The opal field look like giant ants’ nests excavated once by hopeful miners.
One of the must-do activities when in White Cliffs is the Red Earth Opal mine tour. The outdoor classroom takes visitors 45 feet underground in opal-miner Graeme Dowton’s little patch of heaven where the passion for his work gives you a real sense of what made this town first tick. The area is best known for its seam opal — milky white crystals — and was Australia’s first viable commercial mining field for about 30 years. Graeme has been lucky to unearth some remarkable opal “pineapple” finds (pictured above).
Mutawintji National Park
North east of Broken Hill, Mutawintji National Park harbours collections of rock art that depict pre and post colonial Aboriginal history, many of which are protected within the Historic Site and only accessible with a guide.
The special site, which is a ceremonial ground for Aboriginal clans, makes for a unique experience as it takes visitors on a historical journey back to the dreamtime origins of the area. The tour takes guests on a bush walk through the mulga plains and saltbushes to large overhanging caves with hand stencils and paintings.
Continue around the rocky-bedded trail up into the ranges to displays of Panaramitee-style rock art on sheets of flat beds rock with engravings of kangaroos and emus.
The indigenous history of Mutawintji is extensive and the rugged landscape is breathtaking – especially when taking in the scenery from high up.
You'll be surprised by how much there is to see and do, and what better place to go on an adventure than the Aussie outback road.
Want to check off an outback adventure from your bucket list? Tri State Safari’s 3-day Outback Exposure tour is available any time on demand for a minimum of two passengers. Out of the Ordinary Outback operates tours ranging from one to 18 days in the NSW Outback.
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