The final leg of our recent trip was through Outback New South Wales. After driving across the Simpson Desert, exploring the Oodnadatta Track, and taking a look around Innamincka, we welcomed a change of pace. For years I’d been fascinated from afar by towns such as Broken Hill and Bourke and was keen to see them for myself.
Entering Outback New South Wales
After leaving Cameron Corner we headed towards Tibooburra. Keen for a pub meal on a rather chilly night, we decided against camping in the surrounding National Park and headed into town. After being unsuccessful finding accomodation in town we elected to keep driving south. We regret not having more time to explore the area as the town was full of character and we’d heard great things about the National Parks nearby. It’s certainly on the list to visit again.
As the night rolled in and we realised we wouldn’t reach Broken Hill by a reasonable hour, we had to consider our alternatives. Using the WikiCamps app we came across the Milparinka Hotel. The historic town of Milparinka is being restored by volunteers, similar to the project at Farina. A gravel camping area is available, complete with fire pits. Otherwise, camping is allowed down by the creek behind the pub. We elected to camp on the creek – yes, in the tent – and were one of only two couples camping the night we were there. We did indulge in a pub meal that night in front of their open fireplace. While the bar area has an atmosphere typical of any country pub, the dining area is nicely restored.
Exploring Broken Hill
We made it to Broken Hill the following day. Spending some time in a larger town was our chance to relax and catch up on mundane activities like laundry and car maintenance. We stayed at the Presbytery Outback Church Stay on AirBnB – a very cosy place to call home for a few nights. It’s also only a short walk from the iconic 1950’s style Bell’s Milk Bar.
The Living Desert and Sculptures were every bit as special as I’d expected them to be. Having seen many photos of the Sculptures prior to heading off on this trip it was one of our “must do” destinations. We arrived at sunset to a large crowd all hoping to snap a photo of the iconic site at the perfect time of day. Despite crowds not being our thing, we’d still recommend a quick visit to this spot if you’re passing through the area.
We also took the time to do a tour of the Royal Flying Doctors Base. Learning about the history and present-day activities of the organisation was enlightening. We are certainly grateful we have such a service in this large and often remote country of ours.
After camp cooking for a couple weeks we were keen for a “fancy” dinner. We dined at Silvers Restaurant inside the Junction Hotel. Don’t be put off by the country pub exterior if you’re looking for a nice meal. Our evening here gave the high-end Brisbane restaurants a run for their money on food, ambiance and service! It was a truly enjoyable night out.
I’m sure a trip to Broken Hill wouldn’t be complete without taking a detour to Silverton. Despite being known for the various movies and commercials filmed there – most notably Mad Max – the little town has a lot more to offer. From the historic buildings, to the art galleries, or even the horses and donkeys roaming freely through the town, there is something here for everyone.
If you make the drive across to Silverton from Broken Hill we’d recommend the Daydream Mine Tour. We tossed up whether or not we thought it’d be worth going to, but we weren’t disappointed. It was incredible hearing about the conditions of the miners who worked here while it was operational. It really opened our eyes to how much occupational health & safety laws have changed for the better! Finishing the tour with fresh scones and a cuppa was a nice touch, too.
The Darling River Run
The Darling River Run is a well-known road trip following the river’s path between Walgett and Wentworth. As we planned to travel from Broken Hill to Bourke, then on to Lightning Ridge, we took this as a good excuse to drive the stretch between Wilcannia and Walgett. We followed the north west road between Wilcannia and Louth, then crossed to the south east road to Bourke before finally following the highway to Walgett. We camped at the Tilpa weir along the way and enjoyed the peace and serenity of having the spot to ourselves. Being back in the tent and out of a big town was once again welcomed.
We managed to time our following night in Bourke perfectly to line up with the Poetry on a Plate night held at the Kidman’s Camp caravan park where we stayed. Before this experience, neither of us would have thought a poetry night was our thing. However this night changed our view! Andrew is a natural entertainer and had us all laughing. The hearty meal and warm campfire topped off the night. If you’re heading to Bourke you really must experience Poetry on a Plate for yourself.
Bourke itself was a different experience. We knew the town had a reputation for being a little rough around the edges, but seeing it first-hand was eye-opening. With bars on the shop windows and graffiti throughout the town it wasn’t somewhere we felt particularly safe. We were happy to move on after only one night.
Quirky Lightning Ridge
Lightning Ridge was our next destination. While you could easily spend a few days exploring this quirky and unique part of New South Wales, we only had one night but made the most of it. The best way to see the sights is to head to the Information Centre and pick up the Car Door Tour maps. With this information in hand you can head off on a self-drive tour to find the likes of Amigo’s Castle and the non-operational KFC Drive-Thru.
If you’re after opal jewellery Lightning Ridge is the right place to find it! With countless jewellers in town there’s no shortage of options. Unsurprising, given that Lightning Ridge is known for its opal mining and home to the black opal. We learned about solid opal and doublet and triplet alternatives. I managed to find myself a pair of nice, small opal stud earrings.
It felt bittersweet crossing the border back into Queensland. On one hand, it was nice knowing we were nearly home and would soon see our dog again. On the other, the adventure was nearly over.
We spent our last night on the road at the Nindigully Pub. With rain forecasted and knowing it was our last night on the road we took the easy way out and paid for a room. The pub room was very comfortable, the showers were clean (albeit “bush-specification” complete with concrete floors), the meals hot, and the drinks cold. We decided against trying the infamous Road Train Burger that night, instead opting for a delicious and perfectly cooked steak. Out of the country pubs we’ve visited in our travels, Nindigully fast became a favourite.
As we packed the car we came across a tree with the words “Be happy all day” – a nice sentiment for our last day of driving. We headed to St. George, then to Dalby, before picking up the Warrego Highway back to Brisbane.
We saw a lot this trip. Fell in love with places we didn’t expect to. Felt homesick, missed our dog. And, at the end of it, we couldn’t wait to hit the road again. For now we’ll have to settle for short trips away, just the odd weekend here and there. That is, at least, until our next adventure. We’re planning something big for 2018 – a life on the road. We know full-time travel will come with its challenges, especially with our four-legged furchild in tow, but we’ve got time on our side to plan.
We hope that you’ll continue to follow along on our journey, maybe even offer some advice if you’ve done what we’re planning to do. Have you travelled full-time? Or perhaps been to any of the places we visited as we travelled through outback New South Wales? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.