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Outback New South Wales — 5 popular summer destinations you can’t miss


New South Wales is Australia’s oldest state and according to recent figures, the most toured. With so much rich history both on the coast and inland, there are many interesting places to explore and serene environments to soak in. Often, when you think of NSW, you think of the coastal destinations of Sydney and Byron Bay, but there is much more to this massive state, especially when you’re brave enough to explore inland. With natural beauty and cultural and historical sites in spades, not to mention the many quintessential Aussie small towns, it’s easy to see why many consider this outback region one of their favourite places.

Read on to discover five of our favourite summer destinations, which offer countless draws away from the busy NSW coast. 

Broken Hill region

There’s no better place to start your NSW touring adventure than in the historic town of Broken Hill. Many consider the Broken Hill region the place where the ‘real’ outback officially begins. Whether you agree with this or not, there’s no denying the area’s rich natural and cultural history. Here you have the chance to see mobs of massive red kangaroos on the move, sweeping views over plant-dotted plains and breathtaking sunsets that bring the area’s rich red soil to life. 

Also known as the ‘The Silver City,’ Broken Hill started out as a mining town in the 1880s, boasting one of the world’s richest sites for large lodes of silver, lead and zinc. Despite still being a mining town at heart, it’s become quite the tourist attraction and great place from which to absorb Australia’s history and outback way of life. 

Popular attractions we recommend include:

  • The Living Desert Sanctuary — a 2400-hectare reserve 10km from the city.
  • The Sculpture Symposium — only a further 1.2km from the Sanctuary, featuring 12 sandstone sculptures.
  • The Pro Hart Gallery and Sculpture Park — the late Kevin ‘Pro’ Hart is credited as having fathered the outback painting movement and here you can see many of his works.
  • Silverton — a semi-ghost town 23.5km from Broken Hill makes for an interesting side trip.
  • Kinchega and Mutawintji National Parks — both within reach of the Broken Hill area and offer tranquil camping and hiking opportunities.

Around Back O' Bourke

In 1835, Thomas Mitchell constructed a log hut — dubbed Fort Bourke — near which the town of Bourke was constructed. Despite the area appearing like a quiet, mysterious expanse, there’s a surprising amount to see and do. The Darling River (which flows through the town) has played a major part in Bourke’s history as a river port, with plenty of historic sites for visitors to explore. With almost 200 years of rich history, you have to check out the Heritage Trail if visiting, which will take you back in time past many of Bourke’s most interesting heritage buildings. 

Heading south from Bourke towards Louth
Heading south from Bourke towards Louth

Popular attractions we recommend include:

  • Back O’ Bourke Information and Exhibition Centre — sits on the banks on the Darling River and offers a diverse range of audiovisual presentations and artefacts that help tell the area’s story.
  • PV Jandra River Cruises — departing from Kidman’s Camp on the outskirts of Bourke, the Jandra offers a leisurely cruise along the Darling River. Designed and built by Russ Mansell, a local fruit farmer, the Jandra was completed in 2000 and was the first paddleboat to cruise the Darling River in more than 60 years and is a tribute to the bustling river traffic this remote town once enjoyed. The running schedule is dependent on the Darling’s water levels, and further information and tickets can be organised through the information centre. 
  • The Darling River Run — a 2740km 4WD experience that cuts through the very heart of outback NSW. (Access to the road is free and open year-round, but the roads are mainly dirt and can be treacherous after rain.)
  • Gundabooka National Park — covering 43,000ha of wide-open plains and ancient, craggy cliffs. The location holds special significance for the Ngemba Aboriginal people and several significant pieces of rock art can be explored throughout the park. 
  • Mount Oxley — located only 32km from Bourke and offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape, Mount Oxley is the perfect place to experience a panoramic outback sunset or sunrise. There’s a camp kitchen and toilet on the summit, and visitors can camp if booked in advance. 

Dubbo and surrounds

Nestled in the Macquarie Valley, Dubbo is the vibrant hub of the region with lots of history and culture on offer. Those interested in exploring Dubbo’s convict past can walk down Macquarie Street and pay a visit to the Old Dubbo Gaol, which has been preserved to give visitors a taste for life in a Victorian-era prison. Despite the numerous historically significant places of interest (more below), the area has a growing wine culture that can be tasted at several cellar doors. There is also a range of delicious cuisine and no shortage of parks to enjoy walking through.

Haunting images from the Gallow Gallery - Old Dubbo Gaol
Haunting images from the Gallow Gallery, Old Dubbo Gaol

Popular attractions we recommend include:

  • Western Plains Zoo — Australia’s leading open-range zoo that houses a whopping 1500 animals. 
  • Dundullimal — 7km south of Dubbo, this timber-slab homestead dates back to the 1840s and is the oldest homestead of its style in Australia.
  • Narromine — first settled by Europeans in 1835, the town is rich in agriculture and Aussie aviation history (visit the Narromine Aviation Museum for a full rundown). 
  • Wellington Plains Complex — visitors can view coral stalagmites and stalactites studded with the marsupial bones and teeth that make up the largest deposit of Plio Pleistocene fossils in Australia.

Griffith Region

The beautiful region of Griffith is land of contrasts — from dry, windswept plains to fragrant orchards and verdant, irrigated farmland. The area offers plenty of cafes and delicious cuisine that show off the Italian heritage weaved deftly into the area’s culture by migrants who arrived starting in the 1900s. Griffith, the main town in the Riverina, is the place to sample some wine — as it should be, the region’s wineries make about a quarter of the country’s wine. There’s no shortage of wineries where you can have a tasting, including the famous De Bortoli Wines, and many more. But there is more to the Griffith region than wine, with plenty of historical sites and nature to explore — including the Two Foot Heritage Trail.

Griffith Yarran Wines, NSW
Griffith, Yarran Wines

Popular attractions we recommend include:

  • Cocoparra National Park — an exceptional place to glimpse the area’s unirrigated underbelly of orchids and wattles. Nearby Lake Wyangan offers camping and fishing. 
  • Leeton — southeast of Griffith, this town is a food-producing dynamo filled with orchards and leafy parks. There’s also some quirky art deco architecture worth checking out. 
  • Fivebough Wetlands — only 11km from Leeton, this is one of the best places for birdwatching, especially the rare migratory birds that show up in spring and depart in late summer. 
  • Hay — northwest of Griffith, the town is a busy hub for sheep shearing and cattle farming. Locals pride themselves on their merino wool, a pride put on display at Shear Outback — The Australian Shearer’s Hall of Fame. 

Mungo National Park

Mungo National Park is right in the thick of the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area and is rich in Aboriginal history. The Park surrounds the famous Lake Mungo, which is an ancient lake dating back some 50,000 years but has not held water for about 15,000 years. The landscape is as dramatic and impressive as it is fragile — featuring lunette sand structures, calcified plant matter and artefacts of human existence stretching back for thousands of years. 

Lake Mungo at sunset
Lake Mungo at sunset

Mungo Man and Mungo Woman — carbon dated to be 40,000 years of age — were discovered in the national park and are of particular significance because they make this area the oldest of human occupation in the southern hemisphere. (The park is open year-round, but please be advised that it may be closed when it rains.)

Walls of China Lake Mungo
Walls of China, Lake Mungo

Popular attractions we recommend include:

  • Lake Mungo and Lake Garnpang — these dry lakes feature shimmering white sand hills to the east and red ridges to the west. They are magnificent sites where some of Australia’s oldest human remains and footprints have been found.
  • Walls of China — this 33km crescent created by erosion just after the last ice age is sculptured and crafted in a way that make it a spectacular sight at any time of day.
  • Mungo Woolshed — this historic woolshed stands adjacent to the Mungo Visitor Centre.

Next steps

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1 comment

  • Ray Dahlhaus: January 18, 2024

    Great thanks

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