Brewarrina is the kind of place that humbles – in the best possible way. Nature is writ large in this town, about 800km inland from Coffs Harbour in northern NSW. The region is home to one of Australia’s most important Aboriginal sites: ancient fish traps that show the ingenuity of the world’s oldest civilisation. And then there are the museums, heritage trails and adventures to be had fishing and swimming in the Barwon-Darling River. 



Aboriginal heritage 

Travel to the very north of NSW to the town of Brewarrina to discover how the world’s oldest civilisation have changed the course of Australia’s environmental development – quite literally. The World Heritage-listed Brewarrina Fish Traps (Baiame’s Ngunnhu) here are astounding in their own right, the complex network of stones in the Barwon River arranged to form ponds and channels to catch fish as they travel downstream.  

The fact that this ingenious system was devised more than 40,000 years ago makes it even more jaw-dropping. Your Ngemba guide to this ahead-of-its-time construct – spanning half a kilometre – explains that this is one of the oldest human-made structures on the planet. According to Dreamtime lore, Baiame (the ancestral creator) came up with the design by throwing his net over the river and, with the help of his two sons Booma-ooma-nowi and Ghinda-inda-mui, built the fish traps to their current shape.  

Stones in the Barwon River that form the ancient Aboriginal Brewarrina Fish Traps

Brewarrina Fish Traps, Brewarrina

To learn more about the original custodians of the land and their history, visit the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum, overlooking the fish traps. The collection of authentic Indigenous artefacts and artwork tell Creation Stories through to colonisation and recent history. 

People visiting Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum and Fish Traps, Brewarrina

Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum and Fish Traps, Brewarrina

Colonial history

Brewarrina was once the highest point that paddle-steamers could reach on the Darling River system. Straddling the Barwon River, the Historic Brewarrina Barwon Bridge was built in 1889 to allow paddlesteamers to pass below – it lifted in the centre and allowed paddle steamers to continue up and down the river. It’s one of only two surviving examples of NSW’s first lift bridges. Visit at sunset to capture stunning images over the water.  

This historic town was also a base for the Cobb & Co stagecoach company, which carried mail and passengers through the goldfields and towns of NSW. Heritage buildings include the Brewarrina Court House and Royal Hotel. If you need to refuel between exploring the town’s attractions, stop in to the Muddy Waters Coffee Shop for excellent burgers and brews, or the Brewarrina RSL, to meet the locals.

Just north of Brewarrina, is the site of the tragic Hospital Creek Massacre, where up to 400 local Aboriginal people were killed by settlers in 1859. The Aboriginal Land Council of Brewarrina has erected a series of stones as a monument on the historic site to commemorate those killed. 

Aerial overlooking Hotel Brewarrina located in the centre of  town, Brewarrina

Hotel Brewarrina, Brewarrina

Fishing & swimming 

A few kilometres east of Brewarrina, Four Mile Camping Reserve is a top spot for fishing and swimming along the Barwon River. If you’re here on the June long weekend, be sure to partake in the Bre Big Fish, an ecologically friendly sporting event held annually by the Brewarrina Fishing Club. It’s a fun-filled, family festival celebrating the region’s bountiful water resources. 

The Barwon River home to the traditional Aboriginal fish traps - Brewarrina (Ngemba Country)

Barwon River, Brewarrina

Getting there & where to stay

From Sydney, it’s a nine-hour drive north to Brewarrina. Alternatively, you can fly into Dubbo and hire a car for the four-hour drive. 4WD vehicles are recommended for unsealed roads and many of the national parks. There are a number of places to stay in Brewarrina, including motels and camp grounds, plus stylish riverfront cabins at Beds on the Barwon

Cabins available for bookings at Beds on the Barwon, Brewarrina in Outback NSW

Beds on the Barwon, Brewarrina


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