Travel

Back o’ Bourke and beyond

Broken Hill to Longreach – 1585 kms of sealed road

Embark on a breathtaking journey through the heart of Australia, from the historic mining town of Broken Hill to the outback oasis of Longreach, exploring iconic landscapes and rich cultural heritage along the way. Prepare to be inspired and captivated by the beauty and history of this remarkable region alongside writer Margaret McKay, and then start planning a trip of your own.

By Margaret McKay

Broken Hill – the journey begins

 Some 1100km west of Sydney, at the intersection of the Barrier Highway and the very aptly named Silver City Highway, there’s a town that punches well above its weight.

Mining operations mean underground traffic

With its huge reserves of lead, zinc, and silver, Broken Hill set the company known as The Big Australian (BHP) on its path to international renown. Underground mining operations are so large here that there are more trucks and traffic lights below ground than above.

Aboveground, right next to the main street is a massive hill of mine waste, because, well, it looks just fine there. Atop the mound is the Line of Lode Miner’s Memorial, a poignant tribute to the 800 miners who have lost their lives in mining operations.

Line of Lode Miner’s Memorial

Broken Hill is more than mining

While mining established Broken Hill, it’s now a tourist destination. Just 26 kms away is the historic silver mining town of Silverton with its beautiful old buildings, museums, and a chance to relive the making of Mad Max 2.

 

Closer to town is the unique and quite amazing Living Desert attraction, which includes 12 sculptures created in 1993 by artists from around the world.

Living Desert sculpture

Within the city, museums and art galleries abound, including those of legendary artists Pro Hart and Jack Absalom. When it’s time to relive the day or plan the next, several cafes and restaurants beckon, including the historic Bells Milk Bar, where your malted milk will be served in a metal container reminiscent of the 1950s, or The Silly Goat café that claims to serve nothing boring.

The historic Kidman Way

Bidding farewell to the birthplace of The Big Australian, we head east through Wilcannia and onto the copper and gold town of Cobar on the historic Kidman Way, stretching from Jerilderie in the south to Bourke in the north.

Darling Downs, here we come!

Having crossed the wonderful Darling River at Wilcannia, we meet up with it again as we arrive at Bourke. The once mighty Darling, some 1470 kms long from its origins in the Darling Downs of south-west Queensland, to where it joins the Murray at Wentworth, still has a famous paddle steamer as in the glory days of the massive pastoral holdings.

Fall into a four-poster bed in Bourke

We find unique accommodation in Bourke at the Bourke Riverside Motel, which offers several room types, including some fabulously decadent historic rooms with super-high ceilings, antique furniture, and magnificent beds.

Toorale Station: 3.25 million-acres of history

Bigger than some countries, we learn about the largest sheep station ever, a holding built up by Sir Samuel McCaughey. The history of his Toorale Station, of Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Captain Starlight, Cobb & Co, Fred Hollows’ memorial, and countless other tales from Bourke history can all be found in this fascinating corner of Australia.

Time to mix with the locals at the local beer garden

A short stroll down the street from the motel is the quintessential Port of Bourke Hotel. We opt for glasses of the best tall cold beers around, followed by an outback barbecue and salad feast in the rear beer garden, before ambling back to our welcoming bed. Tomorrow we’ll be heading further north.

On the trail of our explorers

Heading north on the Mitchell highway, named after the famous explorer, the remote vastness of this beautiful country and the feats of those early pioneers becomes apparent.

While Longreach is our next major destination, it’s much too far for one leg, so a stop at Cunnamulla, Charleville, Blackall or Barcaldine is called for.

Warrego River Cunnamulla

Longreach Tourist Park

Feeling like modern-day adventurers, we finally pull into the Longreach Tourist Park, where our cabin awaits. Situated on the eastern edge of town, it’s a perfect location for the two attractions that have drawn us here.

Brolgas walking together in Longreach

Qantas Founders Museum

The founders’ museum tells the story of Qantas from its earliest days with the Avro 504K display, through to more modern times, with VH-EBQ, a Boeing 747-238 that was delivered to the site in 2002 after its working life of more than 82 million kms of flight.

Stockman’s Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame occupies our second day in this major pastoral hub of western Queensland. The static displays tell the fascinating story of this aspect of outback culture, but it’s worth allowing time for the live show as well, and a chance to really get to know the 4-legged part of this tale.

The Hall of Fame live show

What would we do differently?

Our 1600 km journey was spectacular, but this awe-inspiring country should not be rushed so we’re planning to return. It has evolved over aeons and should be savoured over time.

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