On the road: Broken Hill – expect the unexpected
WORDS: Paul Guerin, The Feel Good Family PHOTOGRAPHY Paul and Katie Guerin, The Feel Good Family
Outback Australia is experiencing a flood-like never before – a flood of Aussies seeking adventure. The contrast the outback brings to the normal coastal getaway is not only epic in landscape – it brings wide open spaces, new horizons and friendly faces who love to share a cold beer and a yarn.
KNOWN as the capital of the NSW Outback – and the only city in Australia to be heritage listed – Broken Hill is incredibly vibrant and full of surprises.
With more than 65 visitor experiences to choose from, we are sharing our round-up of the best attractions and things to do to fill your days and make your stay truly memorable. From world-class art galleries to quirky pubs, a rich history and passionate locals, you can expect the unexpected in Broken Hill.
Our first stop, before we headed to The Broken Hill Pub for a cold drink and bite to eat, was the Visitor Information Centre, where we grabbed a touring map to mark out our Top 10 must-do experiences.
BROKEN HILL REGIONAL ART GALLERY & PRO HART GALLERY
Opened in 1904, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery is the oldest regional gallery in NSW. The beautifully restored emporium displays a selection of permanent works, a quality program of temporary exhibitions by local, state and national artists and touring exhibitions.
A highlight for us was viewing the collection from the famed Brushmen of the Bush, a group of artists, including Jack Absalom, Eric Minchin, John Pickup, Hugh Schulz and Pro Hart, who collaborated in the 1970s and ‘80s.
A trip to Broken Hill is incomplete without a visit to the Pro Hart Gallery. This multi-level building and studio is jam-packed with hundreds of impressive and colourful artworks by Pro himself, and several other artists. It’s a wonderful homage to the life and work of one of Australia’s most iconic and unassuming artists.
The gallery is housed alongside Pro’s original studio and home and includes many of Pro’s sculptures and his impressive car collection, including a hand-painted Rolls Royce.
THE PALACE HOTEL
A must-see, you might recognise this iconic hotel from the 1994 hit Australian movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The scale of this building is incredible, with its three levels and 52 accommodation rooms, and of course, the famed Priscilla Suite that we were lucky enough to have a tour through. Remarkably, this building was originally erected in 1889 as a coffee palace to set it apart from the licenced hotels that were already abundant in Broken Hill. Unfortunately, the venture was just not profitable, so it morphed into a licenced hotel in 1892. The hotel is incredibly quirky and unique, with murals painted across every wall and ceiling transforming it into an oasis in the outback.
BELLS MILK BAR
For generations, people have been coming from far and wide to taste the famous sodas, spiders and milkshakes on offer at Bells – Australia’s oldest continuously running milk bar. Established in 1892, it’s literally like time has been paused somewhere in the 1950s. Enjoy old-school service, more than 50 original recipe drinks and listen to the old-school favourites through the jukebox.
SULPHIDE STREET RAILWAY AND HISTORICAL MUSEUM
A highlight for our little train enthusiast was the Sulphide Street Railway and Historical Museum, which houses the Silverton Tramway Company (once the richest railway in the world) locomotives and railway memorabilia, all set in the original 1905 railway station. We had a guided tour with the incredibly passionate Christine, who also shared the Broken Hill Migrant Heritage Museum and the fascinating stories of struggle and resilience that led to the dynamic, multicultural community that Broken Hill is today. There is also a Hospital Museum, an impressive mineral collection and an antique amusement park but the highlight of course is being able to walk through the Silver City Comet engine and carriages.
THE BIG PICTURE
Another fascinating art installation you can’t go past is The Big Picture, located within the Silver City Mint and Art Centre. Home to the world’s largest acrylic painting on canvas by a single artist, at 100m long, 12m high and crafted with more than nine tonnes of paint, The Big Picture is an incredible and immersive experience that sure is a spectacular sight to behold.
THE LINE OF LODE MINERS MEMORIAL
A dominating presence that forms the backdrop of the city, the Line of Lode Precinct and Miner’s Memorial recognises the life and work of more than 800 miners who have tragically lost their lives working on the Broken Hill mines, dating as far back as the 1880s. Sitting dramatically on a huge mullock (the gigantic pile of rock and earth mine waste material) that overlooks the city, the adjoining Broken Earth Café gives you the opportunity to enjoy a cuppa and take in the view across the city.
The absolute highlight for us was the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tour, at the Broken Hill Airport. The interactive museum celebrates the history of the RFDS, the school of the air, and the lifesaving services that this incredible organisation offers the people of the outback (and visitors too). The tour incorporates the history of how Rev. John Flynn created this service more than 100 years ago and how this is recognised on Australia’s $20 note. The highlight was getting to walk among the planes in the hangar to hear the rich stories that are a part of this iconic and remarkably free service for all Australians.
In its heyday, Broken Hill was known as Australia’s first mining town, with an impressive 75 pubs to keep those thirsty miners happy. Many of those pubs remain today. The Broken Hill Pub, which recently underwent an incredible renovation that transformed it into a surprisingly sophisticated architectural triumph, is our pick for a great meal and a satisfying cold beverage.
There are numerous options for every type of traveller but for an authentic outback experience, our favourite spot was the Star View Primitive Campsite, located within the 2400ha Living Desert State Park. What an incredible experience it was. The campsite offers 15 unpowered sites for RVs, a separate wood-chipped area for tent camping, modern amenities, free gas BBQs – and two star gazing beds for you to take in the five billion stars at night. The Living Desert has a range of experiences including the popular Sunset Sculpture Walk, a 180ha Flora and Fauna Sanctuary and a 2.2km Cultural Walk that showcases the region’s Aboriginal Heritage, desert wildflowers, native plants and free-ranging fauna including emus, wallaroos and red kangaroos.
You’ll need to allow five to seven days to enjoy and explore this incredible region and have enough time to soak up the richness of this original outback city.
Visit www.destinastionbrokenhill.com.au for details.