A 3-day itinerary in Broken Hill for art & culture
The red dirt landscapes and outback heritage of Broken Hill has made it an oasis for artists and art lovers. Here's how to experience the desert city's creative cache in 72 hours.
Immerse yourself in an artistic world inspired by outback life in Broken Hill, where art galleries outnumber pubs and show off bold local personalities, sculptures come with incredible desert views and you can get up close to iconic film locations that have become part of the town’s culture. This 72-hour art and culture itinerary proves that Broken Hill is an art destination unlike any other: feel the inspiration of the landscape, meet the artists and be welcomed like a local.
DAY ONE: Broken Hill
DAY ONE KEY FACTS:
The Living Desert Sculptures is located at:
- Nine Mile Road, Broken Hill, NSW 2880
- A 17-minute drive (12.9km) from Broken Hill centre
On your first day in the Silver City, it’s time to absorb the region’s talent with a self-guided gallery tour. Get prepped with a coffee and croissant at Sufi Bakery, then take a walk down the town’s main strip of Argent Street, which is also home to public art such as the wood-carved Aboriginal Story Poles, and human canoe sculpture by local artist Geoff De Main. Make time to explore the oldest regional art gallery in the state, Broken Hill City Art Gallery, which houses an incredible array of important works, from local and central Australian Aboriginal artists, as well as modern pieces by Margaret Preston and Arthur Boyd. A morning spent within these walls is a thorough grounding in the region’s prolific artscape. Pick up a copy of the free Art & Culture map at the gallery or at the Visitor Centre to guide you to 54 other creative attractions in the city.
An appetite for art requires sustenance, so meander across the road to the Silly Goat Café, Broken Hill’s coolest place to refuel and recaffeinate with smoothie bowls, smashed avo and excellent coffee. Next, stop at the Pro Hart Gallery, where you can marvel at the world-renowned artist’s most iconic works and recognisable depictions of outback life that are often as brightly coloured as the characters of the desert itself. You can even pick up a brush yourself in a painting class led by Pro’s daughter, Marie.
Sunset is the perfect time to stand among the The Living Desert Sculptures, one of the most photographed sites in Broken Hill. Created by 12 international artists in 1993, these magnificent sandstone sculptures stand proudly on a hilltop with an incredible backdrop of the endless expanse of the desert beyond. Tread the 900-metre track from the picnic area to fully appreciate the majesty of these works and snap them in their best light.
Back in town, check into the historic Palace Hotel. This 1889 institution has stood as a grand portrait of outback life for more than 130 years, including a starring role in The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and resulting cult adoration. Each year in September, the hotel is the epicentre for the Broken Heel Festival, which is celebrated throughout the city. You’ll also find yourself spellbound by the hotel’s fantastically vivid murals, most of which were painted by Aboriginal artist Gordon Waye, each featuring water with the intent to create the illusion of a desert oasis. Upstairs, there are well-groomed rooms to bed down in, including the Priscilla Suite.
Before you retire, though, there’s fun to be had downstairs, head to the Front Bar before strolling 600 metres to The Old Salt Bush for dinner, where executive chef Lee Cecchin plates up seasonal fare using locally sourced produce and native ingredients such as finger lime, bush tomato, and, of course, saltbush.
DAY TWO: Silverton
DAY TWO KEY FACTS:
John Dynon Gallery is located at:
- 2 Stuart St, Silverton, NSW 2880
- A 33-minute drive (37.5km) from Broken Hill
Start your day in a delightful time warp with a visit to the beloved Bells Milk Bar. This hallowed Broken Hill café has been serving up sweetness since 1892, but it was a renovation in the 1950s that catapulted it into the city’s cultural canon with its ‘futuristic’ style. It’s been lovingly preserved through the decades, so swing by and scoff down some peaches and cream waffles and a coffee and wander its adjoining museum full of Aussie milk bar heritage.
Your next destination is Silverton, and your first stop is Silverton Photography Gallery and Garden, where you can enjoy Helen Murray’s vignettes of outback life and stroll the ‘secret garden’. Follow up with a visit to the John Dynon Gallery with its colourful bicycle façade and equally vivid works by the iconic painter, who you may just meet onsite.
After trailing along in the dust in pursuit of fine art, you’re likely ready for a frosty beverage. Steer yourself on a two-minute walk to the remarkable Silverton Hotel. This outback public house has been operating since 1884, but took up residence in the town’s post office in 1918 after the original pub burnt down. It’s been here ever since, playing host to bush wanderers, film stars and anyone in need of a cold beer and robust meal.
Try not to settle in, though, because your afternoon is scheduled for Australian film history on a visit to the Mad Max 2 Museum. Just a five-minute stroll from the hotel, pop in to ogle collectibles from George Millar’s hugely popular movie franchise Mad Max, some of which was filmed in the region.
As the afternoon gives way to dusk, jump in the car for the five-minute drive to Mundi Mundi Lookout to absorb the otherworldly vastness of the Mundi Mundi Plains. With the horizon so unobstructed, you can see the curvature of the planet as you stare out to the distance, making it feel like you could be at the ends of the earth. It’s little wonder the plains made a perfect post-apocalyptic setting for Mad Max 2.
As darkness steals the view, return to your accommodation at The Palace Hotel in Broken Hill or spend the night at the onsite accommodation at Silverton Hotel and partake in the evening’s revelry.
DAY THREE: Aviation & astronomy
DAY THREE KEY FACTS:
Outback Astronomy is located at:
- 18817 Barrier Highway, Broken Hill, NSW 2880
- A 9-minute drive (8.4km) from Broken Hill
Your third day in the Silver City begins at Soul Café and Espresso Bar, before you jump in the car for a 10-minute drive to discover the history and ongoing legacy of one of outback Australia’s most incredible services, The Royal Flying Doctor Outback Heritage Experience. Take a guided tour to learn about past- and present-day operations and the logistics of providing medical care to remote regions and the moving stories that go with it, or walk yourself through the hangar and control rooms from which aid is dispensed to 640,000 square kilometres of outback.
Head back to town and swing by Willy Nilly Art to pick up a token of your stay. The studio gallery of local artist Amanda Johnson is also a retail store, where you can buy original works and prints, as well as painted décor, clothing and cards. Then pop into the family-run Amanya Mitha Indigenous Gallery to admire and purchase an authentic artefact made by Aboriginal owner Clint Kemp and his father, Paul. The gallery, which opens Wednesday to Saturday, also houses pieces from local NSW and central Australian Aboriginal artists, including jewellery, woodwork and paintings, and runs regular holiday programs for kids to create their own artefacts and learn about culture.
Spend the afternoon sipping local spirits laced with outback aromatics at Broken Hill Distillery. Work your way through a tasting flight enjoyed with a delicious meal outdoors or take a tour of the distillery to learn how they make their quandong-infused gin and Outback Moonshine.
If you’ve been paying attention come nightfall, you’ll already be awestruck by the brilliance of the diamond-studded desert sky. But to truly comprehend the beauty and gob-smacking distances of those celestial bodies above, spend an evening with Outback Astronomy. Peer through telescopes and binoculars at the Milky Way, while your host fills you with astronomical amazement. Book in for a dinner before the show to spend the entire evening with the stars. It’s a fittingly glittering farewell to this heart-stealing desert city.
Broken Hill is a 13-hour drive from Sydney, 11 hours from Canberra, nine hours from Melbourne, and less than six hours from Adelaide. Otherwise, fly into Broken Hill Airport and hire a car to tour the region. Keeping in mind, you may need a 4WD to explore some unsealed roads. You can also take the Broken Hill Outback Xplorer train from Sydney or a daily connection with Transport NSW via XPT/Coach from Sydney.