Escape to the outback with these NSW road trips
Enjoy feeling like you’re the only people on earth? Then grab a travelling partner, hop in the car and take a remote NSW road trip to feel alone, together.
For a bit of perspective on life, and an insight into just how ancient and vast this land really is, head out on a road trip into the NSW outback.
From desert sculptures near iconic mining towns to night-time skies that you have to see to believe, the outback has countless ways of making you feel like a small dot in a vast and very beautiful universe. Disconnect from the big smoke to experience something out of this world.
Mungo National Park via Griffith
A trip to the surreal beauty of Mungo National Park is a classic outback experience. Home to Mungo Man and Mungo Lady – the famous remains of people cremated here about 42,000 years ago – this land of dunes, mallee and dried-up lakes has a rich Aboriginal history. You can learn all about it as you join a National Parks Aboriginal ranger to discover the otherworldly landscape known as the Walls of China.
You can also explore by yourself on a 70km self-guided drive tour where you’ll have emus, red kangaroos and wedge-tailed eagles for company. To get to the national park by the most direct route involves an 11hr drive west from Sydney, via Gundagai (home to the Dog on the Tucker Box) and the multicultural foodie town of Griffith. Near the river port of Wentworth, don’t miss the shifting dunes of the Perry Sandhills: you can almost feel the footsteps of the megafauna that used to roam here.
Bourke and the Darling River Run
For an alternative route to Mungo National Park, hit the Darling River Run. On this iconic adventure, you’ll retrace the steps of explorers Burke and Wills as you travel from Walgett in the north of NSW to Wentworth in the south-west, via some unforgettable outback locations. This is unsealed road, best tackled by 4WD, over four or five days, or even more.
Jump aboard a paddle vessel for a trip up the Darling River at Bourke; call in for a coldie and a classic outback pub experience at the Tilpa Hotel; discover Aboriginal art and sandstone heritage buildings at Wilcannia; and revel in your freedom as you camp among river red gums and discover the birdlife of Kinchega National Park at Menindee, before arriving at one of the outback’s greatest treasures, magnificent Mungo National Park from the north.
Where to stay: Camp (or stay in a cabin), and fish, bushwalk, play golf and birdwatch by the Darling River at Nelia Gaari Station, between Wilcannia and Menindee.
Broken Hill via Cobar
If you’ve never been to Broken Hill, it’s time you did. This legendary mining town in the state’s far west is likely to turn any preconceived ideas you had about the NSW outback upside-down.
Visit The Palace Hotel (from the classic movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and play a game of drag bingo. Discover the local art scene at venues including the Broken Hill Regional Gallery and Pro Hart Gallery, head out of town to roam the glorious outback landscape of the Living Desert and Sculptures, discover Aboriginal rock art in Mutawintji National Park, visit the iconic town of Silverton, and camp beneath an endless sky with Outback Astronomy.
Where to stay: Camp, rent a swag or stay in a room or unit at Eldee Station, a working sheep and cattle farm near Silverton.
Lightning Ridge and the Great Artesian Drive
Take a trip up to northern outback NSW, and the opal-mining town of Lightning Ridge, where buildings are made of beer cans and bottles, and the local characters are as colourful as the gemstones. You’ll know you’re in the outback when you head to The Grawin, a working opal field, and have a cold beer and a dusty game of golf at the Grawin Club in the Scrub. Check out the underground sandstone carvings at the and have a soak at the Lightning Ridge Bore Baths while you’re here.
For more mineral-enriched bathing, explore the Great Artesian Drive, a touring route taking in towns including Moree and Narrabri. Near Moree, get out and focus your binoculars on the waterbirds of the Gwydir Wetlands State Conservation Area. And consider heading back to Sydney via Australia’s stargazing capital, Coonabarabran – outback skies don’t get much bigger or better than these.
Where to stay: Head to Lorne Station, a 4,000-hectare property with cabins and camping sites near Lightning Ridge.