Top 6 experiences found only in the real Outback of NSW

28 May 2014

This post was written by one of Tourism Australia’s Best Jobs winner Elisa Detrez.

After five days of driving through Outback NSW, I’ve experienced some of the best things the region has to offer: amazing landscapes, an abundance of wildlife, and a deep sense of history.

I share with you only la “crême de la crême”.

1. Jump photo at sunset in an open air art gallery!

Experience a breathtaking sunset among 12 massive sandstone sculptures in the Living Desert of Broken Hill. Wait for the precise moment when the sun passes through the middle of the most famous sculpture, Bajo el Sol Jaguar, by the Mexican artist Antonio Nava Tirado.

The open air gallery was conceived 20 years ago when the Broken Hill City Council asked a dozen artists from around the world to sculpt sandstone in the Living Desert Reserve.

Broken Hill - Living Desert Sculpture

Broken Hill – Living Desert Sculpture; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

2. Experience tranquility at the Menindee Lake System

After many years of being dry, the Menindee lakes are back to life thanks to the recent rain. Driving around the Menindee Lake System is both a relaxing and impressive experience. The scenery is unlike anything I’ve seen. This is a real photographer’s paradise as the reflections are simply perfect. Sitting here to capture this timeless landscape was pure joy.

Kinchega National Park - Lake Menindee

Kinchega National Park – Lake Menindee; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

3. Play bowls with desert melons in red sand dunes

Travelling south of Broken Hill, towards Wentworth, we reached the Perry Sandhills. 4WD parked, I take off my shoes (it’s winter time, so the sand doesn’t burn!) and jump straight onto the red sand dunes. The contrast with the brilliant blue sky is stunning.

Suddenly, we notice what appears to be small watermelons growing out of the sand – hundreds cover the dunes and the bush. Our tour guide informs us they’re called “desert melons” – unfortunately they don’t taste very good. They’re very pale inside and full of seeds… what a pity! So what can you use them for?…

My French roots resurface and we decide to play “petanque” (lawn bowls) with them! It proves a difficult challenge on the surface of the sand dunes, but it’s fun!

Desert Melon - Perry Sand Hills

Desert melon and Elisa Detrez – Perry Sand Hills; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

4. Walk on the oldest evidence of modern humans in the world!

Discovering Mungo National Park for the first time is very special. Set within the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area, the park holds traces of at least 45,000 years of Aboriginal life. We meet Tania, an Aboriginal ranger,  at the entrance of the park and she takes us for a stroll on the lunette. Deriving from the word “lunar”, the lunette landscape is what you might imagine the moon’s surface to look like. It’s made up of many layers of sand and clay that have risen and been eroded over time.  Tania tells us fascinating stories about her ancestors. If I were on my own, I could not have seen all that she sees: fireplaces, the debris from the manufacture of stone tools, remains of animals bones and much more. She loves the place and it’s easy to see why. We watch all around us: the clouds travel through the sky, the sun begins its descent, and the scenery is spectacular as sunset approaches and the clay becomes red. Make sure you have enough space on your camera’s memory card!

Mungo National Park

Lunettes in Mungo National Park; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

Mungo National Park

Talking with Tania in Mungo National Park; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

5. Meet the locals

I love Outback NSW for its wildlife: abundant and diverse. Birdwatching enthusiasts have much to see. Pink and red tailed black cockatoos call loudly, galahs fly together on the side of the road, and pelicans are out looking for fresh fish.

The emu, Australia’s biggest flightless bird, is well-camouflaged but found in every corner of this bushland. They are very interesting to observe, but it’s important to keep noise to a minimum, otherwise you quickly frighten them away.

Emus in Mungo National Park

Emus in Mungo National Park; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

Do you know why the emu and the kangaroo are on the Australian Coat of Arms? Because neither can go backwards! Symbolically, Australia is therefore positioned to always progress. Very interesting!

Mungo National Park Roo

A kangaroo in Mungo National Park; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

If you are more into reptiles, keep an eye on the dirt road while driving. We meet a shingleback lizard just crossing the “street”. Its head looks similar to its bottom and he has a blue tongue!!

Kinchenga National Park; Shingleback Lizard

A shingleback lizard in Kinchenga National Park; Image Credit Maxime Coquard

6. The scenic route

To reach the remote areas of Outback NSW it’s convenient to leave the driving to a local. Our trip was awesome thanks to the wonderful team at Tri State Safaris. As one of four guests, I enjoyed a personalised tour with a guide in a luxurious 4WD. To add to the experience, our guide Irving always knew the best and most quirky spots to stop along the way.

Elissa - Best Jobs

Love this old car left in the middle of nowhere – or the car suspended in the air…

Mungo National Park

Mungo National Park – Image Credit Maxime Coquard

Where to stay in Broken Hill? The town has a lot of accommodation on offer. If you like something new and convenient, the Red Earth Motel is great. If you prefer something more characteristic, stay at The Palace Hotel – a few movies were filmed here, including Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

A trip to Australia is not complete until you’ve spent time in Outback NSW and its incredible remote areas.

Broken Hill - Living Desert Sculpture

Broken Hill – Living Desert Sculpture – Image Credit Maxime Coquard