The Outback of New South Wales

Stay in an underground Motel

Even most Australians are fascinated by the romance and history pervading the Australian Outback and one region that most folk can reach with the minimum of difficulty is the south west of New South Wales, where BROKEN HILL is the major town. It can be accessed by road or bus from Adelaide in South Australia, or by car or bus from Mildura in north western Victoria. It can also be reached by road, coach, train and air from Sydney, on the central east coast of New South Wales. If arriving by self drive car or camper van, it helps if one has a four wheel drive vehicle to get around the more remote areas. This region was near barren desert, with nothing much more than dry saltbush here and there and frequent ferocious dust storms two centuries ago. It was inhabited only by sparse groups of Aborigines and a few intrepid gold seekers and pioneering settlers in the mid-19th century.

A small white settlement known as Silverton took shape once silver was discovered in 1876, 30 kilometres from where the city of Broken Hill now stands. The majority of the diggers came up from South Australia's copper mines which were then petering out. The Broken Hill ore body was first pegged by a German boundary rider and six fellow station hands (ranch or farm workers). His name was Charles Rasp; he was employed on Mt Gipps Cattle Station and he was prospecting for gold as he rode the boundary lines. The specimens he found excited his fellow riders and the rest of the story is now history. Their claim proved fabulously rich in silver and many other minerals and by 1888 the mining township was in full swing on 'broken hill'. By 1900, ore to the value of 90 million pounds sterling had been extracted and levels were being tunnelled out lower and lower all the time.

The area around the town soon resembled a moonscape, but the owners and shareholders of the 10 major mines were becoming bigger and richer all the time, while the very active Mining Union was a powerful force in the town. It ensured the men got the best wages and conditions possible at that time. Because so much silver, zinc and other metals were found there, it became a very prosperous town, with fine civic buildings galore, most of which are still standing and not the least of which is the Trades Hall, with its remarkable architecture. Many of the miners' cottages can still be seen today, in excellent condition and privately occupied and of course there are poppet heads to be seen above the major mine shafts and UNDERGROUND MINE TOURS to be taken, if you enjoy that sort of thing. There are a number of quite spectacular two storey hotels that date back to the early days of prosperity, with excellent balconies of intricate iron lacework. There's also the old GAOL, the POLICE STATION, some great modern murals to be seen along various town walls, the SYNAGOGUE, the CONVENT, various churches, the MOSQUE, the old BREWERY and more.

Visit the excellent VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE by the ornamental poppet head with a giant ant on top in the centre of town. (PRO HART, Broken Hill's most famous artist, always portrays the miners as ants working underground). Here there are clean toilets, a cafeteria and heaps of useful free brochures on what to do and see and where to stay in the area. Ask for a pamphlet on the HERITAGE WALK, which will take you past most of the town's most famous buildings. More modern attractions include the ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE BASE and the SCHOOL OF THE AIR. Then there's the DAYDREAM and DELPRAT MINES which welcome visitors. There's a RAILWAY MUSEUM, some top class art galleries, including Pro Hart's and Jack Absolom's, a plethora of tours that can be taken in air conditioned four wheel drive vehicles (it's often blisteringly hot out here and usually desperately dry too, although it can be very cold at night). There are several MUSEUMS, the excellent GEO CENTRE and the exciting SCULPTURE GALLERY spread across a hillside just out of town.

Out at Silverton, people like to visit the old sets of various movies that have been filmed there, including "A Town Like Alice". "Mad Max", "Razorback" and many more. They also enjoy a drink in the quaint old pub here too, take a CAMEL RIDE, or drive out to the colourful Breakers and the longest fence in the world, known as the Dingo Fence, to stop dingoes (Australia's native dogs) moving from one part of the country to another. There is a wide choice of accommodation in Broken Hill, from the caravan parks, motels, cottages and bed and breakfast establishments to the older hotels and guest houses. You pays your money and makes your choice. A hundred and ten kilometres south east of Broken Hill are the many and totally natural MENINDEE LAKES, which are a popular Outback holiday spot, with caravan parks, weekend cottages and excellent boating and fishing facilities. There's also MUTAWINTJI NATIONAL PARK, with its ABORIGINAL ORIENTATION CENTRE and its ABORIGINAL ROCK CARVINGS and ROCK ART.

WILCANNIA is 195 kilometres north east of Broken Hill and although small and remote, it does possess a number of fine historic buildings. Plenty of extra petrol (gasoline) and water should be carried at all times in this territory and the conditions of all roads and tracks should be ascertained before departure. Kangaroos and emus will be seen in the wild and care must be taken while driving at all times, as these animals have no road sense. It is out here you will encounter the mighty road trains too, which must be given right of way at all times. While fossicking for gold, boulder opal was found 100 kilometres north west of Wilcannia. The area became known as WHITE CLIFFS and this inhospitable desert area is still one of the richest opal fields on earth, where everyone lives very comfortable in homes burrowed out of the stony ground. White Cliffs is a "must" if you get as far as Broken Hill.

You can either drive out there yourself if you have a four wheel drive vehicle, or you can book on a one, two or three day tour from Broken Hill, with comfortable underground accommodation in this tiny township, as required. PJ's B&B is a particularly good place to stay, as is the UNDERGROUND DUGOUT MOTEL and the sunsets from both are truly spectacular. (The motel has a swimming pool and PJ's has a huge spa in a delightfully cool underground fernery). One of the most spectacular things to visit is the SOLAR POWER STATION, then there are underground opal mines to explore, such as JOCK'S PLACE. (PJ's has their own mine running from the rear of the home). There's a SPORTING CLUB, ART & CRAFTS GALLERIES (with plenty of opal jewellery for sale) a pub, cafes, a very small caravan park alongside the modest sized civic swimming pool and a whole OPAL FIELD on which to fossick among the mullock heaps. All this and more awaits the traveller with a touch of adventure in his or her heart. For more information on this area, contact the Broken Hill Visitor Information Centre,
P.O. Box 286 Broken Hill, NSW 2880,
Tel: 08 8087 6077
Fax: 08 8088 5209
tourist@pcpro.net.au
www.murrayoutback.org.au

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