Outback NSW travel guide and things to do: Nine must-do highlights


Only a few months ago, the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra remained one of the last two unsealed major roads in NSW. Now, with the final dirt sections of the highway bituminised, a new, safer and more reliable 332-kilometre NSW outback touring route for vehicles of all kinds has been opened up. The highway, named after Broken Hill’s nom de plume, extends a further 296 kilometres south to the border of Victoria at Mildura, creating a new gateway to the outback through NSW and near to the Queensland border.


Tucked away in the far north-west corner of NSW, 1182 kilometres from Sydney, is Tibooburra, the state’s remotest township. Although a sign as you enter Tibooburra registers the population as 150, the real number of people in this one-main-street-town is about half that. But that still makes it the largest town in this part of NSW. Stock up on supplies at the Corner Country Store, right on the main street, and it’s also the best place for breakfast (not that there’s much choice). See visitnsw.com


A round-trip of 300 kilometres from Tibooburra (a mere trip down the road, really, in these far-flung parts), Cameron Corner is where the NSW, South Australia and Queensland borders meet. It’s a lonely place and the drive out there on the unsealed road is classic outback, but the area encompasses Sturt National Park and there’s also boasting rights to earn. Unfortunately, at the time of writing the Cameron Corner Store, slap-bang on the Queensland side of the border, could not be visited by NSW travellers due to the ongoing border closure. But you can still say hello to Yummy, the owners’ pet calf, over the fence (no patting, please). See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au


A two-hour drive north of Cobar is the 130,000-hectare Trilby Station, a true taste of outback life with the bonus of an amazing setting literally right beside the gum-shaded and water-flowing Darling River. There’s a choice of secluded riverside camping spots, powered caravan sites and comfortable quarters including the new Mitch’s Hut, a luxuriously-appointed cabin, with its own fire-pit for sundowners overlooking a billabong. See trilbystation.com.au


White Cliffs is a small town in outback New South Wales in Australia, in Central Darling Shire, known for Opal mining. .Photographed Thursday 24th September 2020. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH TRAVELLER 200924

Photo: James Brickwood

The opal mining town of White Cliffs, 1018 kilometres from Sydney, is the stark setting for the Underground Motel, one of the most unconventional motels in NSW. Inside you’ll enjoy a constant temperature year round in the early 20s compared with the high 40s outside (even worse in summer). Each of the 30 dugout rooms, which provide a sense of how the miniscule population of locals live, were excavated by hand using jackhammers. Pack a bathrobe as there are no ensuites, only shared facilities (this is the outback). See undergroundmotel.com.au


You haven’t been to Tibooburra if you haven’t been to the rather innocently-named Family Hotel. Built in 1882 and chalking up no less than 18 owners in that time, it is most famous for the Clifton Pugh and Russell Drysdale paintings that adorn its walls. The two artists produced the works while on an outback pilgrimage in the 1960s, though some of the friendly local characters who frequent the public bar are fascinating studies in their own right. There are motel units across the street and the restaurant in the pub does a good outback feed. See tibooburra.com.au


Mutawintji National Park, 278 south-west of Tibooburra on an unsealed road off the Silver City Highway, is one of the true treasures of the far west of NSW. It’s the location for one of the state’s most outstanding displays of Indigenous stone engravings and hand stencil paintings. Take a tour escorted by an Indigenous guide who vividly interprets the spectacular features of this open-air gallery. In its magnificent desert setting See visitnsw.com; nationalparks.nsw.gov.au


It’s hard to believe that tiny Milparinka, a lonely outpost off the Silver City Highway 42 kilometres south of Tibooburra, was once a thriving 19th century gold-mining centre. Among the modern-day ruins is the Albert Hotel, the only one of four pubs to have survived. Next door is the main attraction, an interesting folk museum at the former 1896 sandstone courthouse, designed by Scottish-born James Barnet, architect of the Sydney General Post Office. See visitnsw.com


How can you not stop at a place called Packsaddle? The Packsaddle Roadhouse, one of the most remote in NSW, is located about half-way between Tibooburra and Broken Hill and an ideal place for a stop along the long drive. Fill up on fuel and food here with motel and camping accommodation available if you fancy breaking your journey. See packsaddleroadhouse.com.au



Scenes from around the small town of Tibooburra along the Silver City Highway in NSW. Cloud storms remained for most of the day after the region experienced its best rain in over 5 years. Photographed Saturday 19th September 2020. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 200919

Photo: James Brickwood

Since many roads remained unsealed, you’ll need a fair dinkum four-wheel drive to fully and safely explore outback NSW (leave the glorified SUV at home). Always have adequate water and snacks aboard (as well as a serviceable spare tyre) and in the event of a mishap don’t leave your vehicle. Be aware, too, that mobile coverage ranges from patchy to non-existent.

The writer and photographer James Brickwood travelled courtesy of Destination NSW. See visitnsw.com

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