I recently went to the airport....And got on a plane.... And went somewhere! …how many of you can say that??
Now, I know I have you sitting on the edge of your seat, positively drooling at the prospect of travelling once more, and wondering “where did she go?”… well, I went to a part of Australia that is rich with history, with scenery that is truly Australian and somewhere, when I talk about it, so many people do reply with THAT’S SOMEWHERE I WOULD LIKE TO SEE!
Broken Hill (Wiljakali Country) is where my flight bounced back in time (quite literally, as Broken Hill operates half an hour behind the rest of NSW). I picked up my hire car and proceeded to be a tourist for a bit.
So, before all the borders open, let's keep concentrating on “local” and you may be surprised at what our own backyard offers.
1. Bells Milk Bar
Yes, this was my first stop after collecting my car from the very friendly Hertz man. Bells Milk Bar originates back to 1892, has survived a few regenerations, the original 1950’s décor is where this stopped.
You come for the milkshakes and spiders…if like me, you have to visit twice… and buy some to bring home.
The syrups and cordials used for the old-style malted milks and soda spiders are hand-made onsite in two-gallon batches just like they always have. This means that the shop can produce a diverse variety of flavours that other larger companies can no longer stock.
2. Broken Hill Pasties
Trust me, I will get to the serious stuff, but hands down you will NEVER find a better pastie. Old Mcleods Bakery I do believe had the original recipe which was bought out here by Cornish Miners way back when,,, and this recipe has stuck.
Don’t be fooled by imitations. Don’t be embarrassed when you join other visitors in asking for them cold to take home to freeze.
Grap one hot and fresh – and don’t forget the tomato sauce!
3. Mining History
In 2015, Broken Hill joined 106 other places of outstanding value to the nation. On the list includes iconic landmarks such as Bondi Beach, Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, and the Great Barrier Reef.
There has been ongoing mining here since 1883, and there are so many physical reminders of its mining origins such as the Line of Lode, the barren mullock heaps, tailings, skimps and slagheap escarpment, and relict structures.
There was silver and lead discovered in Silverton, and around this time was the formation of BHP.
Did you know, that by 1907 Broken Hill had the 2nd largest settlement in NSW, with Sydney being the largest?
Take time to visit the Broken Hill Miner's Memorial, or pre-covid there were still some underground tours in operation.
Just leading off the mining mention, Silverton these days looks a little more like a ghost town. It is a 25km drive out of town, but still has its own history to share.
You will find a few historical buildings scattered around, the Silverton Pub (as I'm you will be a little parched), you can do a Camel Sunset ride out here,,, AND the Mad Max 2 Museum!!!
Now, not that I will harp on this point, but this is like a mini Hollywood set out here. This unique landscape has seen the film crews of Mission Impossible 2, A Town Like Alice, Razorback, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Mad Max 2, and probably about 20 other movies or miniseries that you would know (depending on various age groups).
You would also drive on a little further to view Mundi Mundi Plains.
5. Art Galleries
Pro Hart would be the best known of Broken Hills artists, but don’t just stop there….
In town and out at Silverton you will find a slew of artists and galleries to visit.
Howard Steer (The Flying Doctor Artist) and John Dynons galleries are found at Silverton, both of which I would describe as quirky, Australiana themed, full of bold colors. I know the Tourist Information Centre in town can provide a list to visit. You will also find some original indigenous works amongst your travels.
Though, with all of the facades of old pubs, and tin houses around, art can be found everywhere. (If you have seen the fantastic movie Last Cab to Darwin, you will get a true sense of the streets and houses that exist).
6. The Living Desert and Sculptures
Only about a 10-minute drive out of town, you will find this reserve. Made up of 12 sculptures, 12 artists with their own interpretations, and I great spot to see the sunset from.
Then there is a Flora and Fauna Sanctuary! A 1.5km walk through the Arboretum and Sturt Pea Wildflower display (there used to be sturt peas everywhere in town and beside the road, but no you are hard-pressed to find any!), Aboriginal attractions display the past culture and recent contemporary story pole artwork.
7. The Impact of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Not only a fabulous movie but made The Palace Hotel in Broken Hill a must-see destination. This old pub with its wall murals is now a piece of cinematic culture. Have a drink or stay in the “Priscilla Suite". Or visit in September when it is one of the host destinations for the Broken Heel Festival (https://www.bhfestival.com/).
Unfortunately did not go ahead in 2020, and still a fledgling event, but this is a weekend filled with drag queens, drag shows and of course a drag parade. Fabulousness galore!
(Well, in a time before COVID19) For most of the 20th century, an illegal Two-up school operated just metres off the main thoroughfare of Argent Street and when that was raided and shut down by police in 1984, City Council successfully applied for a permit to run the game.
In 1992, Broken Hill City Council successfully lobbied the State Government and was granted a permit for Two-up to be played every day of the year. In handing down its decision, the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing recognised that Two-up was “an established part of the cultural heritage of this mining city”…. WINNING!
9. Menindee Lakes and The Darling
An hour's drive from Broken Hill is Menindee (Barkindji Country)… historical significance of this town populated with only 500 … Well, supposedly the last stop for poor Burke and Wills. The Darling River runs through here (when there is water… and when there is water, you can jump on a little river cruise), Menindee Grapes (which you used to buy, now just expanses of dead vines) and of course, Menindee Lakes.
This lake system is huge! 3 and a half times the capacity of Sydney Harbour and home to many bird species. Most photos you will see will have the dead Black Box Trees jutting from the water… Travelling on the train between Broken Hill and Menindee over my lifetime, I have seen only the tips of those trees, and at other times the full trunks. Between droughts and water management (or mismanagement depending on thoughts), this area is tragically stunning and jaw-dropping at what once was.
So, keep Broken Hill in mind. Fly, train, coach, or drive. Or a combination… extend your adventure and head on to South Australia or head down to Victoria. Take your time, slow down and enjoy.
For questions or enquiries, please contact Tiffany on 1300 369 848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.