Wilcannia was once a thriving river port on the edge of the Outback, transporting wheat and wool by paddle-steamer along the Darling in the 19th century. Today, its dusty streets are still lined with a remarkable collection of heritage buildings and there’s an emerging movement of local artists.
Art in Wilcannia
The 140-year-old Queens Head Hotel has been reborn as an art gallery and cultural space, with regular exhibitions from members of the local Indigenous community. Local indigenous man and renowned artist, Eddy Harris has a gallery and studio at Warrawong, a hidden gem on the Darling, just outside of town.
Walk the streets of Wilcannia today and you’ll see a legacy of colonial buildings quarried from local sandstone in the late 1800s, when the town had a peak population of 3,000. Historic buildings include the Wilcannia Athenaeum, the post office, police station and courthouse, and the Wilcannia Golf Club.
Things to do
The historic town of White Cliffs is less than an hour from Wilcannia. Explore Australia's oldest commercial opal field, visit opal showrooms and spend a night in the Underground Motel. The tiny town of Ivanhoe is 4hr 30min south. Founded in the 1870s, it’s an authentic Outback experience off the beaten track.
Paroo-Darling National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty, almost two hours’ drive northeast of Wilcannia. Walk around Peery Lake, see amazing birdlife and if you wish to spend more time in the area pitch a tent at Coach and Horses campground.
Mutawintji National Park, 200km north of Wilcannia, is home to incredible and historic Aboriginal sites. Take a guided tour of hand stencil art of local Aboriginal communities at Mutawintji Historic Site. Follow the Homestead Gorge walking trail to see scenic vistas and ancient Aboriginal rock engravings.
Getting there & where to stay
Wilcannia is an 11hr drive from Sydney and Melbourne, 10hr from Canberra and eight hours from Adelaide. You can fly into Broken Hill and hire a car for the two-hour drive. You may need a 4WD for unsealed roads and national parks. While there’s very limited accommodation in Wilcannia itself, you can stay at the White Cliffs Underground Motel, an hour away, or at the very good Warrawong on the Darling caravan park just outside of town.