I would consider myself more of the off-the-beaten-path type of traveler. While I love the iconic attractions of most places, the idea of heading somewhere less well-known really gets me going, which is why I was so adamant about talking my boyfriend into going on a road trip out to the sparser region of New South Wales. Final destination: Broken Hill.
We did the trip in a total of 9 days, but something like this is definitely better done with at least 11 days since it will give you more time between driving to relax. Also, we drove in a normal car, which – although sufficient – did limit our ability to drive to certain attractions and take a shorter route. We also learned from our route mistakes to recommend a different route than the one we took out from Sydney in order to catch the best of the outback in less time.
Day 1: Drive to Wagga Wagga from Sydney
If you’re strapped for time and want to make the most of the outback, then you’ll probably want to skip over all those cute little country towns that are closer to Sydney. However, if you have extra time, I highly recommend having a peek at places like Goulburn on your way out of the city on the Hume Highway.
Day 2: Drive to Mildura from Wagga Wagga
Mildura is actually a town in Victoria just near the border that you can head to to spend another evening in the outback areas. You can also choose to stop in Wentworth instead, a small town that is situated on the junction for the beautiful Darling and Murray Rivers. The sunsets over the waters and looming trees are said to be glorious. From here you can have a nice fish or just hang out on the water’s edge, although a river boat is quite nice, too.
Day 3: Drive to Broken Hill from Mildura (Wentworth)
The drive to Broken Hill will take you approximately 3.5 hours, so once you arrive, you will have plenty of time to check out the town, have a great dinner and maybe even peruse an art gallery or two before relaxing the evening away at your Broken Hill hostel or Broken Hill hotel. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one with a pool.
Day 4: Living Desert Reserve & Sculpture Symposium
From Broken Hill, the Living Desert Reserve is a nearby day-trip taking only around 30 minutes to get to. However, if you are driving, you will need to pick up a gate key for the day from the main Broken Hill Tourist Information site. After that, you are free to head off to check out some interesting artwork and then marvel at the collection of desert plants and flowers on site.
Day 5: Silverton
Another day trip is in order, but this time to the awesome ghost town of Silverton, home to the shooting such films as Mad Max and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Silverton has such a unique vibe – very barren, arty and antique-filled. You can catch a glimpse of the Mad Max car out front of the Silverton Hotel (where you can also get drink or spend the night), eat some delicious cafe grub at the Silverton Cafe, or you can hang out at the Coin Carvery. Camel rides are also on offer in this dirt-laden town.
If you have extra time and really want to experience a different place, Menindee could be the stop for you. When there isn’t extreme drought, the waters of the region’s 4 lakes and the river make it a hot spot for fishing and camping. Getting here, however, is difficult unless you have a 4WD vehicle. There is a good, sealed road from Broken Hill to Menindee, but you have to backtrack to Broken Hill after that stop unless you are willing to go on unsealed roads. Visiting Mungo National Park also involves the use of unsealed roads, which can wreak havoc on a normal car.
Day 6: Drive to White Cliffs from Broken Hill
The drive from Broken Hill will take you around 3.5 hours depending on how fast you drive, and the road is sealed on the way to this small, remote, opal mining town called White Cliffs. Experience the feeling of total seclusion as you actually sleep underground, a method of keeping cool from the extreme summer heat discovered from the practice of mining itself.
Day 7: Drive to Cobar from White Cliffs
If you want a little extra time in White Cliffs to hang out, then you can relax for most of the morning before heading back on the road. You’ll hit the Great Barrier Highway towards Sydney after stopping in Wilcannia for a fill-up. This part of New South Wales is sparse, except for the kangaroos, so if you’re driving in pairs be sure to have one person on roo-watching duty.
I recommend stopping in Cobar or Nygen for the night.
Day 8: Drive to Dubbo from Cobar (Nygen)
Dubbo is a country New South Wales town that is know for the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. You should try and get to Dubbo early from Cobar or Nygen so that you have sufficient time to check out the city and the zoo. There’s even the Old Dubbo Gaol (Jail) to give you a taste of the old country town life.
Day 9: Drive to Sydney from Dubbo
The final stretch of the trip is that last drive to Sydney, which can be completed in one day, or if you have more time, I’d recommend stopping off at such country towns as Orange and Bathurst, perhaps stopping in the Blue Mountains for a night.
Nine days for a road trip like this would be the absolute minimum in my mind, and it is still rushing it. Unless you have multiple people who can take over the driving, it is just not safe to drive on those outback roads for long periods of time. Remember: stop, revive, survive!
For further reading, check out: 6 Special Places in Outback, NSW