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Outback NSW might not be an area that you have previously considered worthy of a visit. But it is right at the top of my list of favourite places to visit. It is both unique in its appearance and vast in its size. When you are planning your next trip, why not add these three towns to your itinerary.
Lightning Ridge is the opal mining capital of NSW. Much of it has remained unchanged over the last 50 or more years. You don’t have to drive very far out of town to see the relics of days gone by littering the landscape, which often takes on a lunar-like appearance. Mullock heaps, old equipment, mine shafts and miners’ humpies nestle into the sparse bush. Some of the mines are still in use, but many more seem to be abandoned
To navigate your way around the best parts of Lightning Ridge, I suggest you pick up a Car Doors Tour Map from the local Visitor Information Centre. A series of coloured and numbered car doors will guide you around the best locations to explore.
It is well worth doing a tour of an opal mine whilst in Lighting Ridge. It is a great way to learn about how opal is located and extracted from underground. Another must see is Amigo’s Castle. This hand-built stone castle is a true labour of love. It was built by Amigo himself, but due to difficulties with the local council it has never been completed.
To continue your exploration of this fascinating corner of NSW, make sure you take a drive to the outlying area known as The Grawin. Here you will find three unique ‘pubs’ – The Sheepyard, complete with a pink train carriage, which houses a bakery. The Glengarry Hilton and The Club in the Scrub complete the trio. The Grawin is dotted with mines, cottages and even more relics of days gone by and there are certainly a few locals about who are real characters.
On your way out of Lightning Ridge don’t miss stopping to check out ‘Stanley’. A giant emu crafted from scrap metal and car bodies by renowned local artist John Murray. Standing at around 18 metres tall he is certainly a sight to behold. You can also visit the artist’s local gallery which is located in the main street.
There are numerous accommodation options available in Lightning Ridge including motels, caravan parks and farm stays, all at a reasonable price.
The next stop I recommend you make on your outback journey is Bourke. Situated just over 300 kilometres south west of Lightning Ridge, it sits right on the banks of the Darling River. The Darling River flows through most of outback NSW until it joins the Murray River at Wentworth, making it the third longest river in Australia.
To truly appreciate the size and beauty of the Darling River take an afternoon cruise on the P.V Jandra. The Jandra is a replica paddle steamer just like the ones that plied their trade along the Darling River in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Captain of the Jandra gives an extremely interesting and informative talk about the history of the Darling as the Jandra makes its way slowly up the river.
If you want to learn more about the history of Bourke and its surrounds, then a visit to the Back ‘O’ Bourke Exhibition Centre is a must. It showcases the pioneers of the area like renowned Australian poet Henry Lawson, and aviation pioneer Nancy Bird Walton. Lawson was once famously quoted as saying, ‘If you know Bourke, then you know Australia.’ I think he may have been right.
Bourke has a limited number of accommodation options, but I would highly recommend a stay at Kidman’s Camp. Located just eight kilometres from Bourke, it offers cabin accommodation as well as caravan and camp sites. The grounds are beautifully kept and include a swimming pool and large camp kitchen. An added bonus is the regular Poetry on a Plate evenings that are held during the tourist season. Here you can enjoy a campfire dinner under the stars whilst being entertained with renditions of Australian poetry.
This is also the spot that the P.V Jandra leaves from.
Prior to visiting Cobar all I knew is that it was a mining town. But you will find plenty to see and do in the area. With its history centred in the mines that surround it, the town would undoubtedly not be the size that it is today without them.
The best place to start your visit to Cobar is at the Great Cobar Heritage Centre. Here you will find the Visitors Information Centre as well as a very interesting museum spread out over the two floors of the historic building and outside as well. From there it is just a short drive to the Fort Bourke Lookout where you have an excellent view of the New Cobar Gold Mine. Now it may not be as big as the ‘Super Pit’ in W.A but it is still an impressive sight and a very long way to the bottom!
Cobar also has some lovely ‘green spaces’, including the Mining Heritage Park and the New Tank Recreation and Water Sports Area. This is a popular spot for water skiing and has plenty of lovely shady trees and picnic areas.
Make sure you stop for a photo in front of the giant COBAR sign as you drive into town. It will make for a memorable souvenir of your trip.
Many thanks to Melissa & Brendan Chambers from All Around Oz for this terrific guest post. I don’t know about you but I’m now definitely looking forward to exploring some of Outback NSW.
About Melissa and Brenden: they have been travelling together for over 20 years. They are passionate about sharing their adventures as they travel All Around Oz. Nowhere is to big or small for them to explore.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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budget janMay 12, 2017
I always thought Bourke was desolate but in this photo at least it looks green and inviting. I also didn’t realize the Darling River flowed through it. Enticing photos.
KathyMay 13, 2017
I haven’t been to outback NSW so was also surprised to see how beautiful it was. Mel’s article has now brought a whole new light to travelling to the inland regions of Australia. :)
Melissa @ All Around OzMay 13, 2017
The Darling River certainly does make Bourke an enticing spot to visit. The afternoon light along the river was incredible.
KathyMay 16, 2017
Yes it does look like a very pretty spot in the outback. I will have to get out here one of these days. Thank you for guest posting Mel. :)