New South Wales
Be charmed by these country towns in Outback NSW
July 29, 2021 • Matt Cheok
6 min read
As we dive deep into the Aussie winter, now’s the perfect time to embark on an outback adventure. The cooler months offer a friendly respite from the swarming flies, which means you won’t have to worry about a bug net over your head when sightseeing, or consuming your meals. Along dusty red dirt highways, you’ll be completely charmed by the country towns scattered in between. Here are a few that you can look forward to seeing on your trip.
This small mining town’s filled with old heritage facades and its streets are graced with spectacular colours around dawn and dusk. You’ll truly fall in love with the town’s ambience, especially when walking up and down the Barrier Highway as the sky bleeds pink and purple. To steal a quote from the iconic film, American Beauty: _“_Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.” And it’s oh so true. Just see for yourself…
Dusk on the Barrier Highway, Cobar
At the edge of town, you’ll want to drive up to Fort Bourke Hill Lookout to capture a view of the open pit and gold mine entrance below. It’s a timely reminder of the lengths that humans will go, all in the pursuit of prized minerals.
If you’re sticking around for an evening (which I’d highly recommend), why not drop into the Great Western Hotel for a schooner and pub feed. The Chicken Parmi with avocado (strange combo, but trust me on this) will fill your belly, and the serving sizes are hearty.
It’s just as easy to pull up at the truck rest stop (by the Cobar town monument sign) overnight for some essential hours of shut-eye before continuing on your outback journey.
Cobar Town Monument
There’s a whole lot of life in Bourke — the town that rests on the banks of the Darling River, which has recently been filled by this year’s March floodwaters. After years of devastating drought, the fresh river flows have reinvigorated the environment and it’s a terrific sight to see.
Hop aboard the Jandra paddle boat and take a ride down the river, or simply stroll by Old Bourke Wharf and enjoy the serene sounds of wildlife and the leafy foliage around you. In town you’ll find ‘Cooee for Coffee’, a cute little cafe (social enterprise) serving delicious barista-made beverages. Better yet, every dollar that you spend here goes straight back into supporting local jobs and combatting community issues.
Jandra Paddle Boat On The Darling
Bourke’s got a new mural and it’s a majestic one with colours that blend into the sky. It portrays hometown hero, Percy Hobson high jumping an impressive 2.11 metres to claim gold at the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games. As the first Indigenous Australian to do so, it’s a fantastic tribute and something you’ll marvel at when you see its grandeur in person. The masterpiece was completed in May this year over a period of four weeks. It’s just another mighty addition to the Australian Silo Art Trail.
Percy Hobson Mural, Bourke
On the outskirts of town, stop by Bourke’s Historic Cemetery and stroll across its red parched soil to see (amongst others) the graves of Australian Writer and Bush Poet, Henry Lawson and renowned eye surgeon, Fred Hollows.
And as Mr Lawson aptly once said: "If you know Bourke, then you know Australia." It’s truly a town to remember!
As a once thriving river port, Wilcannia’s now regularly used as a stopover for those travelling onwards to Broken Hill. When you arrive into town, I’d definitely recommend taking a lunch break at Baker Park to enjoy the spectacular water views in front of you, especially now that the river’s full!
Views from Baker Park
Around town you’ll notice dilapidated sandstone buildings and scattered street art, though for the majority of its visitors, it’s simply a place to refuel one’s vehicle. A word to the wise — at self-service petrol stations, many travellers mistakenly line up for the diesel bowser, when there’s a separate pump for unleaded fuel. So if you’re like me and driving a vehicle that uses unleaded fuel, you’ll be able to skip the queue of traffic and avoid the pile up of RVs.
Tip: use Campermate’s maps to filter and find road trip essentials while exploring NSW's outback towns.
Mural Art, Wilcannia
Do you know about the outback roadhouses?
Between country towns, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, you’ll encounter the eclectic one-stop shops — they’re essentially your version of an outback service station, which are a godsend. Here you can refuel and purchase hot food, snacks and booze. Between Cobar and Wilcannia you’ll pass by the quirky Emmdale Roadhouse. Head inside, browse its funky interior, grab a tasty bacon and egg roll and enjoy your food in the front yard. It’s totally worth it!
Honorary mention... Dubbo
I mean technically it’s not an outback town, but for those travelling from Sydney, you’ll want to add it to your list when venturing to Outback NSW.
No trip to Dubbo is complete without visiting Taronga Western Plains Zoo. I’d recommend walking (rather than driving) the 5km circuit. Not only is it a chance to stretch the legs, but if you drive, you’ll probably find yourself starting and turning off the ignition every five minutes, which can be rather inconvenient.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Waking up in a new location is just one of the many perks of van travel. Terramungamine Reserve, on the outskirts of Dubbo, and its serenity (particularly at first light) is seriously underrated. It’s definitely worthwhile to pull over and spend a night here. Best of all, the site is free. Here, you’ll also encounter a short walking trail where you can view the old Aboriginal rock grooves.I
If you’re after some zen time, head over to Dubbo’s Regional Botanic Gardens. It’s filled with well-maintained lawns, vibrant flora colours and the calming echo of its streams. Inside the precinct, the Japanese Shoyoen Gardens are the major highlight of any visit.
Did you know...
The word Shoyoen translates to ‘strolling and refreshing garden'.
Shoyoen Gardens, Dubbo
An outback road trip through NSW will truly moisten the ol’ retinas. The country landscapes are wonderful and the long drives are relaxing (so long as you’re not driving on bumpy corrugated road). Make it part of your next winter escape!