Broken Hill is the most diverse, inclusive, arty and vibrant outback settlement in Australia, states Steve Madgwick. It is for these reasons that Broken Hill landed in at no.14 on your list of Top 50 Aussie towns.
Find the complete list of the Top 50 Aussie Towns here.
Steel yourself for the deep, rich vein of far-out experiences and panoply of paradoxes that define Broken Hill, starting with its unmissable ‘mullock’ heap, which rises over a town centre crisscrossed by streets named in honour of dug-up bounty such as silica and sulphide.
Australia’s first heritage-listed city is also known for its sculptures dotted around the Living Desert State Park. (Image: Destination NSW)
As the birthplace of (long-gone) BHP, the heritage-listed Silver City is certainly comfortable in its industrialised skin, with more underground traffic lights controlling the subterranean economy (about 100) than on the streets above (just three). Yet The Hill is the very antithesis of the ephemeral modern FIFO mining town.
Booming with vibrant culture and arts scene
Perhaps due to the Priscilla effect (partly filmed here) and a buoyant arts scene, it is arguably the most diverse, inclusive outback town full stop, fostering a ‘Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be’ spirit. The drag scene here is vivacious – centred on the fabled and fabulous Palace Hotel, with its kitschy murals and fancy-pants Priscilla Suite – reaching a crescendo each year at the Broken Heel Festival in September.
A high-spirited drag scene at the Palace Hotel. (Image: Destination NSW)
Artists of a motley ilk are drawn to and inspired by the extreme western NSW landscape (which actually adheres to a South Australian time), gifting visitors an eccentric gamut of arty options, from the Broken Hill Regional Art and Pro Hart galleries to the 100-metre-wide in-the-round Big Picture inside Silver City Mint and the Living Desert State Park rock sculptures on a remote outcrop outside the city limits.
Go on exhilarating adventures to the other side of the town
Food and drink offerings are finally gaining momentum, enlivened by refined cafes and newcomers such as the Broken Hill Distillery, and The Old Saltbush Restaurant: its menu is blessed with innovative Indigenous bush-food fusions aplenty.
It’s the low-key quirks, however, that glue together Broken Hill’s inimitable character. A back-street wander unearths untold random delights, from the Titanic Bandsmen Memorial and one of Australia’s last cameleer mosques, to a local radio station shaped like a vintage wireless and the alien-topped, chequer-floored Bells Milk Bar (and museum), which elevates milkshake flavours (think pineapple and custard) and retro charm to another galaxy.
Driving off to Broken Hill’s hidden gems
Outback road-trip treasures unfurl whichever way you point your chariot. The ‘road of 39 dips’ leads north-west to Silverton, where you can ride camels, savour chilly beverages at the enduring Silverton Hotel, and gawk into filmic dystopia at the Mad Max 2 Museum (the movie was filmed nearby).
Breathe in the open spaces like never before at Mundi Mundi Lookout. A Mutawintji Heritage Day Tour takes you north-east to a landscape that’s been described as the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of Indigenous hand stencils and petroglyphs.
Check-in at the Palace Hotel before strolling around Broken Hill. (Image: Destination NSW)
It’s all enough to have you seeing stars, which you can do in the evening at Outback Astronomy Sky Shows, based at a former-RFDS building outside town. (You can visit the working RFDS Broken Hill Outback Heritage Experience in town, too). The Alpha Centauri system makes much sense when viewed from a sun lounger sipping a Mudgee cab sav. Far out indeed.