The wide-open spaces, rusting landscapes and eccentric bush characters of the Australian outback are part of our national mythology, and few places provide so condensed a version of it as the Broken Hill region.
In Broken Hill you can explore national parks rich in wildlife and Aboriginal stories, colonial-era towns steeped in history and heritage, and the majestic Darling River. You’ll be captivated by iconic outback sights from rock art to big red kangaroos and campfire stars.
Yet the Broken Hill region doesn’t just supply the happy stereotypes every Aussie should experience. You’ll also find a thriving arts and movie scene, great dining and eclectic outback communities – including a vibrant drag culture – that reflect contemporary Australia. Here’s how to spend an amazing week that offers a holiday with a difference in an outback full of surprises.
Get arty in Broken Hill
With its heritage buildings, lively cultural scene and friendly vibe, there’s much more to Broken Hill than just silver, lead and zinc. Admire the architecture of Australia’s longest running mining town and Australia’s only heritage-listed city, which combines cosmopolitan cool and outback edginess.
The Flying Doctor Outback Heritage Experience relates the fascinating history and work of the RFDS. And fans of the TV series will recognise the locations and maybe the occasional local from the series.
Meanwhile, Broken Hill has dozens of art galleries that display the bright colours inspired by magnificent landscapes. Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery is the oldest regional gallery in NSW.
The night skies, free from light interference, are fantastic. Take in the celestial show with Outback Astronomy for a guided tour of the Milky Way. Ten kilometres beyond town, Living Desert Reserve features huge modern sculptures and sensational sunsets over 360 degrees of saltbush-dotted plains, purple hills and rocky red ridges.
To make the most of the sculptures at sunset and sunrise, bed down at the Starview onsite campsite.
Where to stay
The Astra is a four-star hotel housed in a restored 1890s building, and has a good restaurant, wine bar and cafe.
Outback Church Stay, an award-winning restoration of a heritage church, has luxury accommodation with plenty of character.
Three nights, or four if not staying in Silverton.
Go quirky in Silverton
Silverton wins top prize for outback quirkiness. It has train tracks to nowhere, abandoned cars, a quintessential outback pub and a burnt-orange landscape that bends on the horizon over the Mundi Mundi Plains. Don’t be surprised if it seems familiar: dozens of Aussie TV commercials and movies have been filmed here, from Mad Max 2 to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and more recently Buckley’s Chance which was shot throughout the region despite the story happening in WA.
Mad Max Museum is crammed with movie props, costumes and vehicles that will bring back memories of the movie’s high-adrenaline adventures. Meanwhile, Silverton is dotted with remnants of its 1880s’ silver-mining boom, including the Silverton Gaol Museum and Day Dream Mine, which runs tours. Surviving buildings, a photographer’s delight against orange earth and blue skies. Among the old and newer structures are cafes, art studios, eccentric boutiques and the revealing School Education museum.
Just outside town is the Mundi Mundi plains look out, see if you can spot the curvature of the earth from the top.
Where to stay
Eldee Station has a variety of accommodation and camping overlooking Mundi Mundi Plains, and great 4WD tracks.
One night, but Silverton is 25 kilometres from Broken Hill and also easy to visit on a day trip.
Find your Darling in Menindee
Menindee is graced with the legacy of its time as the first European settlement in western NSW. The Darling River that runs through it was a crucial transport route for the opening up of inland Australia. Drive beyond town to visit Old Kinchega Homestead, an 1880s sheep station with a historic woolshed that recalls the region’s early pastoral heritage. There are several tour options to explore Menindee and Kinchenga. At the time of writing the NSW National Parks tours were closed due to COVID restriction. There are also day tour options from Broken Hill.
Fill up on classic pub grub at Maiden’s Hotel, the second-oldest hotel in NSW; explorers Burke and Wills stopped here before vanishing forever into outback Australia. And take a cruise on the Darling River, from which dead river gums stick up like modern artworks and provide a magnificent perch for egrets as pelicans paraglide above.
Menindee lies 113 kilometres southeast of Broken Hill, and is best visited on a day trip.
Connect with ancient culture in Mutawintji
The colourful gorges and rock pools of Mutawintji National Park in the faded orange Bynguano Ranges provide a reliable water supply that supports spectacular flora and fauna, including the only known colony of rare yellow-footed rock wallabies in NSW.
Water and wildlife have made this place the perfect camping spot of the Malyankapa and Pandjikali people for 8000 years. They came here to perform the initiation rites and rainmaking ceremonies of a culture thousands of years old. Like all the Indigenous people of the Broken Hill region, they’re keen to share their stories and sacred places. Take a guided tour to rock shelters glorious in layers of ceremonial paintings, engravings and stencils.
Mutawintji Gorge provides a good walk that ends at a permanent rockpool, while the more rugged Bynguano Range walking track rewards you with rocky scenery over a magnificent collision of gorges and valleys.
Mutawintji is almost midway between Broken Hill and White Cliffs; stop over while travelling between the two.
Join the underground movement in White Cliffs
White Cliffs is full of eccentric characters hoping to dig up a king’s ransom of opals, with tall tales to match. Listen to their stories in the cool of the underground, where most of the action happens in this town. The pub, general store and Australia’s oldest solar power station are among the few regular buildings. Head underground for photographers’ and artists’ studios, opal shops and a tour into Red Earth Opal Mine.
An hour east is Paroo-Darling National Park, whose lakes and wetlands support tens of thousands of water birds, from bright-green mulga parrots to pink cockatoos. This is the traditional home of Malyankapa and Pandjikali people, whose quarries and middens dot the landscape millions of years in the making.
Where to stay
Fossickers Den Dugout allows for a soundless underground sleep; try your luck with free fossicking in its opal field.
Trapper’s Dugout Accommodation is a family-run bed and breakfast with laundry facilities and a full shared kitchen.
Two nights, with a day for town and another for its surrounds.
Get out to Tibooburra & Milparinka
Tibooburra is a former gold-mining town in Corner Country where the straight lines and dingo fences of NSW, Queensland and South Australia converge at Cameron Corner. Learn more about Indigenous history at Tibooburra Local Aboriginal Land Council Keeping Place.
The big attraction is Sturt National Park for undulating sand hills, Indigenous sites, red kangaroos and flighty emus. The indolent or overheated can take a 4WD loop-road drive through the national park, but Sturt’s Tree walking track gets you among the massive red river gums and brash landscapes.
The new Sturt’s Steps Touring Route is a 1100-killometre trail of sealed and dirt roads between Cameron Corner and Broken Hill that takes in big skies, orange earth and rich outback stories. Among the stops is Milparinka. Have a drink in the classic outback pus, the 1880s Albert Hotel and celebrate the outback spirit at your journey’s end.
Where to stay
An overnight at Tibooburra’s friendly 1881-built The Family Hotel breaks your driving time. The attached pub is an outback classic.
Mount Wood Shearers Quarters provide basic but historic accommodation in Sturt National Park some 20 minutes outside town.