Jacinta Counihan escapes the city for outback adventures in Broken Hill and beyond.
Article as it appears in Holidays with Kids magazine, issue 54, 2018. Written by Jacinta Counihan
The world is silent as the sun sets over the curving orange horizon. The distractions and busyness of the city are far away as we join Tri State Safaris for a taste of the real Australia in Outback NSW.
We buzz into Broken Hill by propeller plane with Rex Airlines. The iconic outback town is located in the inner northwest of NSW, 50 kilometres from the South Australian border. We meet up with the Tri State Safari crew and are whisked away by 4WD to Silverton, a small mining town established in the 1880s. This once-flourishing silver-mining hub is now home to just 40 residents, lending it a ghost town vibe and as we reach the main street, I feel as if I am being transported into an old Western. The town has in fact starred in several movies, including Mad Max 2, which had such a huge impact on the region, there’s a museum in town dedicated to the film.
A desert oasis
As we head east to our next destination, I try to imagine how life must have been for the early explorers trudging over the harsh, barren landscape in hope of finding wealth and fortune. Luckily, we don’t have to walk this distance, instead kicking back for the comfortable two-hour drive to listen to stories of these early explorers, such as Burke and Wills, told by our friendly and knowledgeable guide, Clark.
We fall a little in love with Warrawong on the Darling, our accommodation for the night, which is an oasis in the desert. The park is a fantastic place for families to experience a true outback camping experience, with bush camping, powered sites and modern cabins scattered throughout the red gums and along the river banks. There are campsite meet-and-greets every afternoon and weekly barbecues offered in peak season, which makes socialising for the kids even easier.
After settling into our cabin, we are treated to an Aboriginal art showcase by Eddy Harris before enjoying dinner beside the picturesque billabong as the sun sets and the wildlife comes alive around us. The waterhole is a magnet for kids, and we watch on as they fish, canoe and explore the open wilderness.
After a restful night, we’re back on the road and passing through the historic town of Wilcannia, known for being the third largest inland port during the paddle steamer era, despite it being almost 960 kilometres from the ocean.
Our next stop at White Cliffs turns out to be the highlight of my trip. In this opal mining town, its 200 residents live underground in dugouts to escape the summer heat.
It’s a simple life with limited mobile reception, one shop, a pub and the closest town – Broken Hill – three hours away. But it provides an incredible opportunity for the kids to see first-hand the realities of regional Australian life and teaches them to appreciate the basics.
We stop at the home of Cree and Lindsey, a couple who have turned empty mining shafts into their own underground mansion, and head off an opal tour with Graeme, owner of Red Earth Opal tours. As we delve 12 metres underground through the tunnels of the mining shafts, the kids rummage through rubble and collect shards of shiny blue and purple opal fragments. A small boy is crouched down next to me and points out potential opal rocks, clearly a lot more experienced than I am at this mining gig. It is doubtful they’ll strike it rich, but the kids still enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
Our adventures continue into the night at the subterranean White Cliffs Underground Motel. Built in 1989, it is so big it would fill a football field and it’s easy to get lost in the cave-like tunnels. The property stays a constant 22–23 degrees year-round and includes a swimming pool and an upper-ground viewing site where we watch the sun drop below the horizon, turning the sky a blazing shade of orange.
We wake early to venture to Mutawintji National Park where our tour guide gives us a deeper understanding of the area’s Aboriginal community. A kangaroo casually bounces by as we attempt to comprehend the age of the 42,000-year old rock engravings and the kids listen, enraptured, to incredible Dreamtime stories.
We return to Broken Hill to The Argent Motel, where we are welcomed by a classic sausage sizzle and ice-cream dinner – a kiddy crowd pleaser. Then we’re off into the night for an Outback Astronomy experience, the enormous open sky bright with stars and incredible constellations.
As our adventure comes to its inevitable conclusion, we’re happily filled with a new affection for Outback NSW, its blend of adventure and its lovely people.
Travel in Jacinta’s footsteps with Tri State Safaris 3 Day Outback Exposure Tour. Book now or read the full itinerary here