I always hear people talking about “The Great Australian Dream”. Although I’m not so sure what that “dream” includes for them, to me it only ever meant one thing: Visiting Broken Hill!
Broken Hill is Australia’s longest-lived mining city and located in the far west of outback New South Wales, near the border of South Australia.
I’m not so much interested in mining, but ever since I was a little child, I was a huge fan of the TV series “The Flying Doctors”, which was filmed in… yes, that’s right, it was filmed in Broken Hill.
Plus, it’s in the outback (or at least at the beginning of the outback)! A very foreign and extremely exciting area for an European like me.
Combine the two things together and you’ll definitely are on your way to an unusual vacation.
Getting to Broken Hill
It takes you about a day or two by car, to drive up from Melbourne to Broken Hill. Passing Swan Hill, Euchuca, Mildura, the Murrey River, Darling River, it is a scenery road to travel and you should take your time to stop once in a while and soak it all in and enjoy a picnic down by the river.
One of my personal highlights on the way though, are the Perry Sandhills outside Wentworth – 10 hectares of striking red sandhills that were once part of the huge Willandra Lakes System and date back to an ice age 40,000 years ago.
Right after Wentworth starts your true outback journey, a long road that leads to Broken Hill, also known as Silver City Highway. From Wentworth the Silver City Highway runs 240 kilometres to Broken Hill. In the 240 kilometres between Wentworth and Broken Hill is only one refuelling point, so make sure to make good use of it.
Apart from the gas station, you won’t see a single house or even a shed on the way. So turn up the music and enjoy your ride. Just make sure you’ll get to Broken Hill by sunset, otherwise you will face the challenge of driving during the night, and you certainly are not keen on hitting one of the many roos and emus that frequently cross the road.
What to do in Broken Hill
Royal Flying Doctors
That’s why we came here for, right?!
Broken Hill is the only RFDS base in Australia where visitors can see a working RFDS Base in action every day of the week. Guided tours are available describing the full extent of the aeromedical services. Visitors can view the communications room and, via a viewing platform, they can see the medically outfitted aircraft and the hangar.
Living Desert & Sculptures
The park displays all the breath-taking beauty the NSW outback has to offer. Taking three hours to complete, the parks paths wind through the peaceful flora and fauna sanctuary, while the cultural walk trail educates on local Aboriginal heritage.
The Sculpture Symposium was created in 1993 by 12 international sculptors. It took shape with names like Under the Jaguar Sun and Moon Goddess . The colours of the stone change constantly with the light and let me tell you, up there you’ll see the most diverse and most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever seen in your life. Bring a glass of wine and some nibbles and you’ll have a perfectly romantic night up there.
Get the keys for the gates from the visitors centre and drive up to the top car park, where there’s also wheelchair access to the sculptures. Or it’s a 20-minute climb to the sculpture site from the lower car park.
The Musicians Club
Broken Hill has not much to offer, when it comes to your nightly entertainment. The musicians club is one of the few places to wine, dine and have fun though. A jolly place with a heaving mix of young and old. Country, blues and rock-and-roll music bands play at weekends while the drinks flow. Two-up (a very traditional Australian game) is played on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm to 2am.
A Day trip to Silverton
A living, breathing part of Australia’s history.
Even people who have never been there will recognise it, as Silverton has starred in countless films, such as Mad Max II, television shows and commercials in all mediums. Nestled in the Far West outback of New South Wales, Silverton was built by miners in search of fortune and is now home to the worlds most filmed pub, a rebuild of a Mad Max II car and a lots of art galleries.
Day Dream Mine
History will come alive as you drive along the road through the Appollyon Valley thinking “how did they find this mine?”.
As you head underground, you’ll go through 3 levels, never knowing what’s around each corner… viewing tiny drives (tunnels) the miner dug & seeing the rocks the picky boys sorted & returned as backfill. It’s a mine where if you let your imagination run, you can almost hear the miners swinging their hammers hitting the chisels.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Many people don’t know it, but parts of the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert were filmed in Broken Hill, or to be more specific, Mario Palace Hotel. Mario’s is an impressive old pub (1888) with an elaborate cast-iron veranda. With the passing of the legendary Mario, the hotel has fallen into troubled times (and disrepair) but the extravagant murals can still be viewed. Anyone wanting an experience as opposed to comfort and service can try for a room ($37), although accommodation is usually reserved for workers. Ring the buzzer on the door for a peek at the murals.
Bells Milk Bar and Museum
For an old fashioned treat, head to Bells Milk Bar and Museum. The unique and authentic retro bar has still its original setting from the 1950sIt serves all your favourite old fashioned drinks, such as sodas, spiders and milkshakes and they are still made from Les Bell’s original recipe syrups and cordials made right there on the premises, in two gallon batches, just like they have been doing for decades.
Bonus: Free WiFi is available.