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- Copyright © Simon Bayliss 2008-20 Simon Bayliss
- Last Updated: 16 July 2020 16 July 2020
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Broken Hill, NSW
Broken Hill is a true icon of Outback Australia, sitting on an iron-rich red landscape under a big Azure sky... remarkable colours and contrasts that are synonymous with Australia's Corner Country (and area radiating out from Cameron Corner, the place where the states of NSW, QLD, and SA meet).
Broken Hill, its name conjures up so much that we identify with Australia. Henry Lawson once stated "if you know Bourke, you know Australia", an adage that could apply equally to Broken Hill as it does to Bourke (but with a slightly more modern context). While Bourke grew out of the river-trade, Broken Hill grew out of mining and iron and is where to Big Australian (BHP) was born.
The icon, and Heritage Listed, Broken Hill has a BIG history with wonderful attractions and unique experiences.
Broken Hill (also known as 'The Silver City'), is one destination that should be on any travel list. Not only is Broken Hill a beautiful town with wonderful architecture (and of course people), but also provides the perfect base for exploring some of the best attractions in this region of Australia.
While over an hour from Menindee and the Darling River, Broken Hill is a must-see destination while travelling the Darling River Run as well as up to the Corner Country towns like Milparinka, Tibooburra, across to Cameron Corner.
Where is Broken Hill Located?
Broken Hill (31.9539° S, 141.4539° E) is located in the west of New South Wales near the South Australian border, surrounded by what is known as the Unincorporated Far West Region (it is not part of any NSW local government area).
Broken Hill is located on the eastern flank of the Main Barrier Range at the crossroads of the Barrier Highway (the east-west route from Nyngan to the SA border) and the Silvercity (the north-south route joining Buronga/Wentworth in the south to Wari Gate north of Tibooburra on the NSW/QLD border).
It is a major transport hub that is serviced by the major bus, rail and air links.
As the crow flies, Broken Hill is :
- 420km from Adelaide
- 710 km from Melbourne
- 935 km from Sydney
- 1,220 km from Brisbane
- 100 km from the Darling River (Menindee and Menindee Lakes
- 335 km from Cameron Corner
Driving to Broken Hill
Driving to Broken Hill from any of the major east coast capitals can be thought of a long drive (Adelaide is very lucky to be in such close proximity to the Silver City), but there are wonderful touring adventures along the 'road less travelled' to really make visiting Broken Hill a real outback experience.
**The following are the more common/direct routes from the eastern capitals to Broken Hill. Below them are some adventure routes along the 'road less travelled for the more adventure-minded**.
Drive Sydney to Broken Hill
The drive from Sydney to Broken Hill can be as varied of the outback itself. The most direct route is across the Blue Mountains, worthy of a stopover, then out to Nyngan and along the Barrier Highway to the Silver City. Alternatively, the Sturt Highway route through the Riverina and along the Murray is a wonderful way for this who like the ‘road less travelled’.
Blue Mountains - Barrier Highway
Often, the most direct touring route is not always the most exciting, but not so in this case as this drive to Broken Hill can include a stopover at the world-famous Blue Mountains.
For those who have not experienced the majestic Blue Mountains, the area offers a perfect stopover for a day or two exploring Echo Point, the Three Sisters, and Wentworth Falls.
From the Blue Mountains, the route heads out to Mudgee via the Castlereagh Hwy and onto the Nyngan via the Mitchell Highway before heading west along the Barrier Highway to Broken Hill.
- Sydney <> The Blue Mountains <> Mudgee <> Dubbo <> Nyngan <> Cobar <> Wilcannia <> Broken Hill
The Riverina - Murray River
While it may seem a much longer way to go, the route from Sydney to Broken Hill via the Riverina is only about 150km longer; and in many ways easier as it avoids the often congested road over the Blue Mountains.
The route begins south along the Hume and then heading west along the Sturt Highway (Wagga Wagga exit) for a wonderful tour through the Riverina via Darlington Point, Hay, and Balranald, before meeting up with the Murray River at Euston.
From there, it is onto the ‘fruit bowl’ orchards around Mildura (well worth a stopover) and Wentworth.
Getting to Broken Hill from Wentworth is a straight run up the Silver City Highway but a great alternative is via Lake Mungo (Mungo National Park) and onto Pooncarie before following the path of the Darling River up to Menindee and Menindee Lakes.
From Menindee, is a little over 1 hours’ drive.
- Sydney <> Goulburn <> Wagga Wagga <> Hay <> Mildura <> Wentworth <> Broken Hill
Drive Melbourne to Broken Hill
The drive from Melbourne to Broken Hill can easily be done in a day; but where is the fun in that? With some many things to do along the way, why not turn a trip into a journey?
The most direct route is via Mildura, Wentworth and straight up to Broken Hill along the Silver City Highway.
Alternatively, for the more adventurous, the Long Paddock from Moama (Echuca) to Wilcannia is an iconic route and from there it is an easy drive west to Broken Hill.
The Long Paddock
The Long Paddock: this great touring route takes in the Murray River at Echuca (a wonderful stopover), before joining the start of the Cobb Highway at Moama and running up through Mathoura, Deniliquin, Wanganella, Booroorban, Hay, Booligal, Ivanhoe Wilcannia. The route then joins the Barrier Highway for the run westwards to Broken Hill.
Echuca is one of those destinations that everyone should put on their list of places to experience. The Port of Echuca is Australia’s paddleboat capital and one of the best places to experience the Murray River. The history of the river and its contribution to opening up the pastoral country has been beautifully preserved and showcases the majestic nature of this region. A wonderful way to start (or finish) a journey along The Long Paddock.
- Melbourne <> The Northern Highway <> Echuca <> Deniliquin <> Hay <> Ivanhoe <> Wilcannia <>Broken Hill
The Calder Highway
The Calder Highway route is the most direct route to Broken Hill from Melbourne and allows the traveller to experience a pleasant drive through the Western District of Victoria, up through the Mallee, onto Mildura then following the Murray westward to Wentworth (where the Murray and Darling Rivers Meet) before joining the Silver City Highway for the run-up to Broken Hill. or alternatively via Lake Mungo or straight up the Darling River to Menindee then across to the Silver City.
A great alternative is via Lake Mungo (Mungo National Park) and onto Pooncarie before following the path of the Darling River up to Menindee and Menindee Lakes.
From Menindee, is a little over 1 hours’ drive.
- Melbourne <> Echuca <> Mathoura <> Deniliquin <> Hay <> Ivanhoe <> Wilcannia <> Broken Hill
Drive Brisbane to Broken Hill
There are many ways to drive from Brisbane to Broken Hill, but the two of the most popular seems to be either via the Darling Downs and down the Darling River or the Corner Country for the more adventurous (unsealed road around Cameron Corner). Even though it seems a long way round, it is in many ways the best way to experience Outback New South Wales… and the trip back can be via the Darling River Run.
Somewhat of a grand tour, but one that is worth the extra distance, the route from Brisbane to Broken Hill via the Corner Country takes in the beautiful Toowoomba, through the Darling Downs and onto iconic Dalby, St George and Cunnamulla via the Balonne Highway.
From Cunnamulla, the route continues west along the Adventure Way through Thargomindah before heading south to the remote town (well pub) of Noccundra.
From Noccundra, it is a 180km drive south to the New South Wales-Queensland border (Warri Warri Gate) and into the amazing Sturt National Park, before continuing south through Tibooburra and past Milparinka (a ‘must-see’ experience for Depot Glen, Poole’s Cairn and Poole’s Grave).
From Milparinka, it is a nice run (sealed/gravel 50/50) down the Silver City Highway to Broken Hill.
- Toowoomba <> The Darling Downs <> St George <> Cunnamulla <> Thargomindah <> Noccundra <> Tibooburra <> (Milparinka) <> Broken Hill
Down the Darling
The route from Brisbane to Broken Hill via the Darling starts of the same as the Corner Country route above with a great drive through the Lockyer Valley and onto Toowoomba.
From Toowoomba though, the drive heads south-west to Goondiwindi, Moree, and onto Walgett, and the start of the Darling River Run.
The Darling River Run, as part of the drive to Broken Hill, is via the iconic river towns of Brewarrina, Bourke, Louth and Tilpa and Wilcannia where the river meets the Barrier Highway. Most of the Bourke to Louth road is unsealed and the remaining route to Wilcannia is all dirt.
From Wilcannia, it is an easy drive west along the Barrier Highway to Broken Hill.
- Toowoomba <> Goondiwindi <> Moree <> Walgett <> Brewarrina <> Bourke <> Louth <> Tilpa <> Wilcannia <> Broken Hill
Distance: 1,445 km
Drive Adelaide to Broken Hill
Despite being the closest capital to Broken Hill, driving from Adelaide also provides some great alternative routes.
While the direct route is straight along the Barrier Highway is an easy way to get there quickly, the route via the Murraylands and Mildura is a wonderful way to get to the Silver City for those wanting more of the tour. Going via Mildura and Wentworth also provides the option of the Lake Mungo and Darling River Run side route.
Not much more direct than this… but that is not always a bad thing, especially when you consider the area around Adelaide that this route covers. To the east of the where the Barrier Highway starts/finishes in Adelaide is the Barossa Valley which is one of Australia’s premier wine-growing regions.
Not far from the Barossa Valley, and on the other side of the highway is the Clare Valley, regarded as one of Australia’s most beautiful wine regions. Not a bad start/finish for the Adelaide-Broken Hill tour.
- Gawler <> Burra <> Barrier Highway <> Broken Hill
Barossa Valley - Sturt Highway
The Sturt Highway route is a little 'limited' by comparison as the route only travels through the Barossa Valley. With only one, and probably the best, wine regions to pass through; this route is complimented by crossing the Murray near Blanchetown and re-joining it at Waikerie and Renmark, and a drive east to Mildura before crossing the Murray River near Curlwaa and heading west to Wentworth.
From Wentworth or Mildura there are two choices; straight up the Silver City Highway, up to the Darling River (the Darling River Run), or via the awe-inspiring Lake Mungo in Mungo National Park. (The Darling River Run and Lake Mungo require driving on unsealed roads).
- Adelaide <> Barossa Valley <> Mildura <> Broken Hill:
Distance: 674km (874km if going via Lake Mungo and Menindee
The following are some adventure routes along the 'road less travelled for the more adventure-minded when travelling the eastern capitals of Australia to Broken Hill.
Driving to Broken Hill - Route Details and Options
Driving from Sydney to Broken Hill can be a one-day highway drive or a 2-3 day adventure...
Driving from Brisbane to Broken Hill offers many touring route options with two distinct...
Driving from Melbourne to Broken Hill can be a one-day highway drive or a 2-3 day advent...
The history of Broken Hill is the stuff of legends!
In 1883, Charles Rasp, who was a boundary rider on Mount Gipps Station (1+ million acres), discovered mineral outcrop that had been exposed by erosion. Suspecting the mineral was tin, Rasp and some of his follow station workers formed the ‘Syndicate of Seven’ consortium and staked their claim. It was later that it was revealed as the world’s most significant lead-silver-zinc ore deposit.
Forty-odd years earlier, explorer Charles Sturt passed through the area in 1844 on his expedition to the interior of Australia, crossed the Barrier Ranges at a section that he noted in his diary as the Broken Hill. The actual hills that Sturt saw and crossed were actually several hills that appeared to have breaks in them. The broken hill has been mined away and no longer exists.
The extent of the boom that miner brought to Broken Hill is evident in the grand buildings along Argent Street, Broken Hill wide main thoroughfare as well as its most prominent feature, the giant mullock heap that runs parallel to the main street. The mullock heap is the result of a century of digging the mines; quite remarkable when you ponder that it all came from underneath the town.
Today the city sits on one of the world's largest known silver-lead-zinc lodes; a deposit which is 7 km long and over 220 metres wide.
Over the years it has become the state's premier desert centre known for its outstanding Outback artists, rich indigenous culture, unique Living Desert Reserve with the amazing Sculpture Symposium, and its easy access to a rich diversity of desert landscapes.
Broken Hill Outback Resort | Unexpected luxury in a breathtaking rugged outback setting. Offering a unique combination of nature and luxury, Broken Hill Outback Resort is designed for anyone seeking quality accommodation in the heart of the Australian Outback.
North of Broken Hill - Breathtaking county in the heart of the outback and only 40km from the heritage-listed and iconic town of Broken Hill. We offer various accommodation options including private cottages, caravan sites, shearers quarters and camping.
Things to do in Broken Hill
Broken Hill See and Do:
There are many significant Broken Hill attractions, and two 'must-see' ones are the Living Desert and The Sculpture Symposium. Nestled neatly among the red hills of the Barrier Ranges is the Living Desert, a 2,400-hectare reserve about ten kilometres from the city centre, complete with several breath-taking walking trails. Within this reserve is an amazing Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.
The surreal Sculpture Symposium, located on Sundown Hill in the centre of the Living Desert Sanctuary, it is made up a collection of twelve commissioned Sandstone Sculptures completed by local and international sculptors. It is a fantastic experience any time of the day but especially poignant at sunset.
No visit to Broken Hill is complete without a visit to the Pro Hart Gallery. Pro Hart is one of Broken Hill's favourite sons, and his famous painted Rolls Royce is also at the gallery.
Broken Hill Visitor Information:
- Broken Hill See & Do:
- Royal Flying Doctor Service - Visitors' Centre
- Living Desert / Sculpture Symposium
- Bell's Milk Bar
- Miner's Memorial / Line O Lode
- Historic Daydream Mine
- Getting to Broken Hill (Car):
- From Brisbane: 1,540km
- From Sydney: 1,150km
- From Melbourne: 840km
- From Adelaide: 515km
- For more information see our Driving to Broken Hill itinerary
- Broken Hill Visitor Information Centre:
- Cnr Blende and Bromide Street, Broken Hill NSW 2880.
- Telephone: 08 8080 3560
Safe Outback Travel
Driving Outback Australia
Safe Outback Travel
The Outback is easily accessible and a safe place to travel. Like any journey, correct planning, preparation and common sense will ensure a memorable and wonderful experience.
Safe outback travel is about common sense and potential dangers come from the hot & dry summers and distances between towns & services.
The Outback experiences very hot and dry summers. Travel is safer and more enjoyable March – October.
The best advice for any traveller is.. “it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”
Some signs in the outback may seem peculiar to the uninitiated but most are there for a very good reason and must be abided by:
- TOTAL FIRE BANS: Our country is precious and fires can easily get out of hand (especially in National Parks). If fires are prohibited or Fire Bans are in place, this applies to all people.
- FRUIT FLY EXCLUSION ZONE: necessary for the protection of crops in the area. Please dispose of fruit and vegetables before entering the Zone.
- ROAD CLOSED: Sometimes unsealed roads are closed after rain. This is for personal safety and to prevent the roads from being damaged. Fines apply if driving on Closed Roads and car insurance will void if something happens to your car on closed roads.
Before You Leave
- Plan and research where and when to go (Google search and maps, VICS)
- Talk to others who have travelled the area (Online forums like ExplorOz)
- Organise contacts/accommodation details before leaving.
- Determine if your vehicle is appropriate for the intended journey.
- Ensure your vehicle is fully serviced before embarking on your holiday.
- Take spare parts that may be needed. (Fuses, tyre, belts etc)
- Carry spare fuel.
- Buy a first aid kit (and pack it so it is easily accessible)
- Do not overload your car – especially if using roof racks
- Water – carry a large container of water. (20+)
- Communications – Mobile coverage: Determine the coverage of your mobile and if a necessary upgrade for maximum coverage for your trip. For more remote travel, consider VHF/UHF and EPIRB device.
- Remember the adage about ‘the journey and the destination’. Plan to stop and explorer the areas you are travelling through. This will break the trip up and keep you fresh. Plan to do this every 2-3 hours.
- Be aware when approaching livestock as they will not necessarily keep off the road and can cross when you least expect it.
- Try avoiding driving at sunrise and sunset as many native animals (Roos and Emus) will be active then and will be attracted to your headlights and can jump in front of your vehicle – and cause serious damage.
- If you wish to overtake trucks, a quick flash of your lights is often appreciated.
- Road trains (double semi-trailers) are long and will take twice as long to overtake than a normal truck. Plan to overtake with caution.
- Drive at a safe speed (10-20kms less) as conditions on unsealed roads can change quickly.
- If approaching another vehicle, slow down and move to the left as this will reduce stone damage (windscreen and paint) and reduce dust which may inhibit vision to what is behind their vehicle and yours.
- Slow when approaching cattle grids as some may be raised or dropped and can be hazardous if crossing at speed.
- Don’t drive on closed gravel roads.
- If stopping for some reason, pull over and don’t stop in the middle of the road. If venturing off the main road, take care as the side drain may look dry but maybe wet underneath.
- Approach creek crossing with caution… they may be washed out and can cause serious damage to your car.
- If for some reason your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck. STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE. Someone will always come by.
- Country people are renowned for their hospitality but remember that their property is their home and livelihood and not all are amenable to random access of their properties; in the same way, you would not be at your home or office.
- Always leave gates as you find them not as you think they should be.
- Ask permission for camping at the homestead. Check with the station owner before camping and let them nominate a place for you.
- River and creeks can be great for a refreshing swim on a hot day. BUT be cautious as there can be steep slippery banks, undertows and submerged trees.