Travel period 29-31 July 2023
The ‘Silver City’
Broken Hill is a frontier mining town in the far west of New South Wales, in the Australian outback. Best known for its mining heritage, that began with the unearthing of the Line of Lode – one of the world’s largest ore seams of silver, lead, and zinc.
It is Australia’s oldest mining town, with a colonial history dating back to the 1880s. Its mining history is explored through geology exhibits at the Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum.
Getting to Broken Hill
Broken Hill is a remote town, with the nearest capital city being Adelaide. It is 6 hours (515 km) away travelling via the Barrier Hwy, north through Gawler and Burra, then north east to Broken Hill. The other option is, enjoying a leisurely 7-hour drive (674 km), and passing through the beautiful Barossa Valley on the way and pick up the Sturt Hwy, then east through Renmark on to Mildura, Wentworth and Broken Hill.
Sydney is an epic 13-hour adventurous journey from Broken Hill. Head west on to Great Western Hwy via Blue Mountains to Mudgee and Dubbo on to Cobar, Wilcannia and Broken Hill (1,144 km). Otherwise, the Broken Hill Outback Explorer train runs weekly every Monday to Broken Hill.
From Perth you can take the opportunity to catch one of Australia’s most iconic rail journeys – the ‘Indian Pacific’ train. On its journey from Perth to Sydney stops at Kalgoorlie, Rawlinna, Cook, Adelaide, Broken Hill, and the Blue Mountains before terminating in Sydney.
Melbourne is approximately 9 hours (836 km) from Broken Hill. Take the Calder Hwy to Mildura, then north through Wentworth and on to Broken Hill. Along the way with short detours, you can visit Sovereign Hill, Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, and Lake Wendouree. Other popular stops include Hanging Rock, Lake Daylesford, and Castlemaine Botanical Gardens.
With flights direct to Broken Hill from Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide, it is very accessible. However, no airlines currently offer direct flights between Perth Airport or Brisbane Airport and Broken Hill Airport. Most routes have one or more stops.
We travelled to Broken Hill from Melbourne via the Calder Hwy passing through Greater Bendigo, Sea Lake, Ouyen and stopped for the night at Econo Lodge Hotel in Mildura, a regional city in north-west Victoria. It sits on the banks of the vast Murray River.
The next morning, we crossed the border to NSW and made a short stop in Wentworth, where the Darling meets the mighty Murray! It is a town steeped in history and as a tourist area of great diversity, Wentworth has much to offer including:
- Junction Island – it is a narrow isthmus that sits as the confluence of two of Australia’s greatest rivers; the Murray and the Darling.
- Junction Viewing Tower – this steel spiral staircase, opened in 1991, has 35 steps leading to a viewing platform which gives you a great view of the confluence of the Darling and Murray Rivers. If both rivers are flowing, you will notice two different colours merging; the Darling River bed is clay based and the Murray River is sand based.
- Locks 10 and Weirs – situated 830 km from the Murray Mouth, the lock and weir were completed in 1929. The purpose of the weir is both to maintain a high level of water for irrigation in times of low water and to regulate water flow. The lock enables boats to pass from the upper stream to the downstream level of the Murray River and vice versa.
- Thegoa Lagoon – the lagoon area contains numerous archaeological sites displaying evidence of past Aboriginal habitation. Pick up the self-guided tour notes available at the Wentworth visitor information centre.
- The Old Wentworth Gaol – stands as a vivid reminder of those harsh and uncompromising days, the former Australian prison is the oldest of the Australian designed gaols. It was built during 1879-1881 and operated until 1927.
- Wentworth Court House – made from the local clay bricks it is a magnificent building that has stood the test of time and provides an excellent example of pioneer architecture and design. It is National Trust listed and still in used for local court sessions.
- Wentworth Pioneer Museum – with over 3,000 artefacts and relics, the museum supplying the history buff with information on much of Wentworth’s heritage.
- Perry Sandhills – a unique land formation of 400 acres of continuously shifting sand dunes.
If you like the history of the age-old formations, a side trip to Mungo National Park can be a good experience, take a tour to the Walls of China guided by an NPWS Aboriginal ranger. It’s one of the most spectacular outback landscapes in NSW. Unfortunately, time was not on our side as we had to keep going north and continue onto the Silver City Hwy to Broken Hill.
Accommodation in Broken Hill
When we arrived, Broken Hill was fully booked but we were fortunate to find Charles Rasp. This was our last resort, and we were lucky enough to locate it in the pamphlet we picked up from the information centre. What a find.
Welcomed by a lovely host who told us the story of Charles Rasp, and was very helpful in showing us where we could park our camper trailer for the night, safely off the road.
The room was clean and spacious. We stayed two nights here in one of their executive rooms while we explored the Broken Hill and surrounding areas. It was very central to everything with fast food nearby. Thoroughly recommended.
The next day, we were excited to explore Broken Hill and surrounding areas. Here are the highlights of our trip:
Line of Lode Miners Memorial
Overlooking the city, is the Line of Lode; a memorial to more than 800 miners who have died here since the 1800’s when the mines began.
The building itself is rather stark and tent-like but reading the names and ages of the miners, and how they lost their lives, is a very moving and sobering experience.
The Silver City Mint & Art Centre
It showcases everything from art and jewellery to metal sculptures, giftware and locally made chocolates and fudge.
The main area is free to walk through but there is an entrance fee to see other parts of the centre including the Big Picture – a landscape painted on canvas 100m long and 12m high by local artist Peter Anderson, completed over two years. It’s certainly impressive!
Worth a visit to see the painting of a beautiful depiction of the outback landscape.
Royal Flying Doctors Service
Head out to Royal Flying Doctor Outback Heritage Experience at Broken Hill Airport to learn about the dedicated doctors and nurses that have shaped the service.
The experience features a collection of early communication systems, photographs of momentous events in the service’s history and a complete history of aircraft that have been used by the RFDS. The RFDS is literally the life blood of the outback.
There is an interactive museum, where you can discover stories from the service’s past and get a glimpse at a real-life RFDS hangar in full operation, as the flying doctors deliver urgent care across this vast continent.
Albert Kersten Mining & Minerals Museum (Geo Centre)
The museum is home to an extensive collection of minerals found in the region. It also displays a famous collection of Broken Hill minerals and the ‘Silver Tree’, once owned by BHP founder Charles Rasp.
The Geo Centre not only walk you through the history of mining at Broken Hill with examples of exactly what they were getting out of the ground, there are also interactive displays, videos and row after row of dazzling crystals.
This is such an interesting and informative place to visit. You get to learn so much about the ground you standing on and the details of so much geology.
The Palace Hotel
You might know the Palace Hotel best for its starring role in the 1994 Australian movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
This glamorous three storey building on a street corner in the middle of Broken Hill was built in 1889 as a coffee house then becoming a pub in 1892. It is one of Broken Hill’s most iconic buildings.
The interior is covered with Renaissance-inspired art and Australian landscape murals painted by Indigenous artist Gordon Waye. The Priscilla Suite offers visitors the chance to stay where the movie characters stayed. It is a fantastic place for a meal or drink.
Living Desert Sculptures
Nestled amongst the Barrier Ranges, it is about 15 minutes from the centre of Broken Hill, the Living Desert Reserve offers a breath taking view of the wide-open outback plains.
On top of the highest hill inside the reserve are the 12 sandstone sculptures, created in 1993 by a group of artists from around the world as well as local artist Badger Bates. It is one of the very best spots to catch a spectacular outback sunset in Broken Hill.
An entrance fee applies to access the Living Desert and Sculptures. This can be paid at the pay bay located at the entrance of the Living Desert area.
Silverton – The ‘Original Outback’
A ‘must do’ day trip. Just 30 minutes from Broken Hill, Silverton, is the personification of Australia’s outback history. It is the original mining settlement in the region, boast some of the oldest colonial buildings from its heyday in the late 1800s.
Silverton today is also home to the quintessential quirkiness that can be found throughout the outback. It’s rich history, raw beauty and stunning vistas have attracted a myriad of artists, photographers and cinematographers among others over the years.
There’s a lot to explore so plan some time for your visit. Here are some of what to see and do in and around Silverton:
John Dynon Gallery
The gallery caught our eyes, with the corrugated and colourful tin shed, that is festooned with painted bicycles, a paint splattered car and a life-sized model of the Australian folk hero, Ned Kelly. It is one of the many places to visit when in Silverton. Sadly, the Art Gallery was closed when we visited.
The Original Silverton Hotel
The Silverton Hotel is the most famous sight in town. Sitting in the centre of the town the iconic pub has maintained its laid-back country life style even as it has flourished into one of the most filmed and photographed Hotel’s in the country.
They are open for an early breakfast right through until late into the evening. Tickle your taste buds with sensational pub food, cold beer on tap and world-class hospitality.
Mad Max 2 Museum
Whether you’re a Mad Max fan or not, you’ll be wowed by the size and scope of the collection.
Located in Silverton, the museum offers a large collection of original and replica cars, bikes, buggies, life-size characters in full costume, photographs and other memorabilia from the set of the 1981 movie. This is the ultimate Mad Max experience!
Silverton Gaol Museum
Originally constructed of timber and iron and consisting of four cells, it was replaced in 1888 due to appalling conditions. Completed in 1889, the Silverton gaol today is consisting seven cells, including two solitary cells and one padded cell.
The rooms in the Gaol building are filled to the brim with fascinating objects, including war memorabilia, Aboriginal artefacts and a collection of Bibles dating back to 1862. It is an interesting place to see.
Mundi Mundi Lookout
Mundi Mundi Lookout, offering panoramic views of the surrounding Outback landscape. From here we have the unique opportunity to see the curvature of the earth and the surrounding windfarms.
There is nothing quite like the experience we get when we stand at the Mundi Mundi Lookout, gazing over the seemingly endless expanse of barren land that rolls on before us. It really is quite awe inspiring and amazing to see.
Historic Day Dream Mine
On your way back from Silverton it is worth taking the turn off to the old Day Dream Mine. From the turn off it is about a 15 km drive on a dirt road, then coming over the hill to view the magnificent smelter built by the Daydream Mining Association and used by Broken Hill.
The best way to see and experience this remote and eerie old mine site is on fully guided tour. You will descend deep underground through tunnels and caves and get a first-hand experience of what life was like for miners working down here by candlelight. Tours run daily at 10:00 am and 11:30 am. Covered and sturdy foot wear needed.
Our Impression of Broken Hill
Broken Hill is a fascinating place to explore. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this ‘Silver City’ as well as Silverton. From the Geo Centre and the Living Desert Sculptures to the iconic Silverton Hotel and the awe-inspiring Mundi Mundi Lookout, the endless red-earthed outback is by far the main reasons to be explored.
Note: The information provided in this post was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service.