Sydney – Goulburn – Crookwell – Cootamundra – Echuca – Swan Hill – Mildura – Wentworth – Broken Hill – Silverton – Dubbo – Sydney
An area of NSW that we didn’t know well was the Murray River and Broken Hill region so we did a driving trip along the Murray River, out to Broken Hill, returning to Sydney via Dubbo.
After a late start we headed out of Sydney on the M5. First stop was Goulburn for lunch. We love the Paragon Cafe in the main street (174 Auburn Street). It reminds us of the cafes found in many country towns in the 1960’s. It’s great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
We had heard a lot of good things about Crookwell and the drive out from Goulburn on Crookwell Road was very scenic. There is an excellent Tourist Information Office in Crookwell where we were given maps and suggested routes to the Murray River.
Crookwell is a very charming historic town. At the time we were there accommodation was fully booked due to the many visitors attending a Camp Drafting competition. We plan to return to Crookwell for a weekend to see the sites and try the restaurants. It appears to be a busy place – especially on weekends – so booking accommodation in advance is advisable.
Drive to Cootamundra
Taking Binda Road, then left onto Narrawa Road to Narrawa, Rugby and Boorowa, we headed for Cootamundra.
Boorowa is a very pretty little place. The countryside is beautiful – farmlands, blue hills and big skies.
From Boorowa we took the Lachlan Valley Highway south, then right onto the Boorowa-Harden Road – a beautiful drive. When we came to Burley Griffin Way we turned right and into the towns of Harden and Murrumburrah, which have some very fine historic buildings.
By the time we arrived at Cootamundra it was time to find a place to stay. We chose the Cootamundra Gardens Motor Inn at 96 Sutton Street. It was spotlessly clean and fresh, had comfortable beds and was inexpensive. The rooms look out onto a large, central garden area with swimming pool and BBQ. It would be ideal for families with children. We really enjoyed our stay.
Cootamundra – Junee – Echuca
From Cootamundra we headed down to the Murray River town of Echuca. We took the Olympic Highway out of Cootamundra towards Junee.
What a gorgeous town Junee is! Beautiful historic buildings and the largest and most attractive railway station we’ve seen in a NSW country town. Junee has been on the Sydney-Melbourne railway line since 1878.
It is worth stopping for a while in Junee to visit the supposedly haunted mansion of Monte Cristo, tour the Junee Liquorice & Chocolate Factory or visit the Roundhouse Rail & Transport Museum.
From Junee we continued on (via Narrandera and Morundah) to Jerilderie where we stopped for lunch.
Jerilderie is a very interesting little town as it was the only town in NSW visited by Ned Kelly and his gang of bushrangers. There is a Ned Kelly trail which is quick and easy to do. There are information signs at each point of interest relating the exploits of the bushrangers. We had a simple lunch at the Jerilderie Bakery at 58 Jerilderie Street. Good sandwiches, pies and pasties.
From Jerilderie we drove (via Deniliquin) to Echuca where we spent the night. We found the accommodation in Echuca relatively expensive, probably because it is such a tourist town. People come to see the Murray River paddle-steamers and historic township.
Accommodation was very hard to get. We ended up in the Paddle Wheel Motel at 385-389 High Street, Echuca. It is listed as 4 star accommodation however we found it very basic and over-priced. Our particular room was a Standard Room with queen bed. The room had a terrible smell but was the last one available. If you stay at this motel, we suggest you ask to see the room first or consider upgrading to the refurbished rooms.
Found a wonderful place for dinner – the Moama Bowling Club at 6 Shaw Street, Moama, just across the river from Echuca. This was the best club we have been to in Australia! It has been beautifully renovated – it is contemporary and tasteful. After dinner at the Bistro, we sat by the fire in the Pavillion listening to a local band. Definitely worth a visit.
For a light lunch or snack, there is an outlet of the Beechworth Bakery at 513 High Street, Echuca, open 6am-6pm daily.
While in Echuca we did a one-hour cruise on the Murray. We chose a cruise on PS Emmylou, a beautiful replica of the 19th century paddleboats. Although built between 1980-82 it is driven by a restored 1906 steam engine. It is a very comfortable vessel with a little café on the back deck. Overnight cruises are also offered on PS Emmylou. Enquires can be made by phoning Murray River Paddlesteamers on (03) 5482 5244.
The old part of town near the Murray River Port is worth walking. Many old buildings have been restored and you get a feel of what it was like when it was one of the busiest inland river ports in Australia. When we were there (May 2011) the wharf itself was being restored.
We left Echuca at about midday with a view to staying in Mildura that night and stopped in Swan Hill for lunch. We can recommend lunch at Café 202 at 202 Bevridge Street, Swan Hill, telephone (03) 5032 1200. It is popular with the locals for its great food and coffee.
If you are looking for something more upmarket, we recommend Spoons Riverside, Horseshoe Bend, Swan Hill, telephone (03) 5032 2601.
Swan Hill has an excellent information centre at the corner of McCrae and Curlewis Streets, telephone (03) 5032 3033.
Riverside park is worth a visit. You can take a cruise on the Murray, see the loch in operation or visit the Pioneer Settlement.
In the afternoon we followed the road along the Murray from Swan Hill to Mildura. The drive was very pretty with orchards, vineyards and farmland along the way.
In Mildura we stayed at the Best Western Chaffey International Motor Inn at 244 Deakin Avenue, Mildura, telephone (03) 5023 5833. This is a 4.5 star property and we found it to be excellent. Because there were three of us, we stayed in a fantastic two-bedroom apartment with full kitchen, a laundry, bathroom and living room. It was the best accommodation we had found on our trip and good value for money.
From Mildura we had hoped to visit Mungo National Park (or Visit Mungo) however we arrived late in the afternoon and the tourist information centre was closed. The part of the Park we wanted to see was the Walls of China.
We went back to the tourist information centre first thing next morning only to find that one can only visit the Walls of China with a ranger – either on a tour or as a tag-along tour. We were too late for either option. Also, due to wet weather conditions, the roads into the Park were very rough. So, if you are hoping to visit this area, it is a good idea to do some research before you go as to road conditions and times of tours.
There are some interesting accommodation options near Mungo National Park which you might consider – the Shearers Quarters (located in the Park, contact 03 5021 8900), or Mungo Lodge and Turlee Station nearby. We have been told to avoid school holidays when accommodation rates increase significantly.
We loved the Swan Hill-Mildura region and plan to return to visit Mungo National Park and spend more time in the area visiting wineries and the numerous national parks.
From Mildura we drove to Wentworth – about a 30-minute drive.
We recommend stopping at the Visitor Information Centre (66 Darling Street) in Wentworth to get advice on what to see and do plus pick up a National Trust Heritage Drive Trail brochure which features a map and 32 points of interest in and around Wentworth. These places of interest include Old Wentworth Gaol, the Court House, St Ignatius Convent School and St John’s Anglican Church.
While in Darling Street, try to visit the old Wentworth Wharf (in 1890 Wentworth was a very busy river port), Jade’s Gallery & Café (47 Darling St) and the Artback Australia Gallery & Café (cnr Adelaide St/Darling St).
Wentworth is probably best known as the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. We climbed the observation tower in the park off Cadell Street to see the confluence of these two beautiful rivers.
Other places of interest include the paddle steamer ‘Ruby’ (Fotherby Park), Pioneer World museum (Beverley St opposite the old Wentworth Gaol) and Lock 10 and weir (off Cadell Street). Details available from the Wentworth Visitor Information Centre, telephone 03-5027-5080.
About 5kms outside of Wentworth we stopped at the Perry Sand Dunes. These red sand dunes date back thousands of years and were once part of the Willandra Lake System. We climbed the sand dune and loved the textures and colours of the landscape.
Leaving Wentworth on the Silver City Highway, it was a long 268km drive to Broken Hill with just Coombah Roadhouse at about the half-way point.
The Coombah Roadhouse is one of those places in country Australia that you don’t often find these days. The roadhouse itself has a couple of petrol pumps, a few tables and chairs and was stocked up with the basics – soft drinks, chips, lollies, ice creams.
On the counter was a rusty old rabbit trap, jaws set open with a painted red button inside with the words “Press Here”! We were told “you can’t use the toilet unless you buy something mate”. Fair enough. We bought our ice creams and were given a small key on a large, heavy, metre-long chain that looked like a lethal weapon, and went to the loo – ‘Sheilas’ or ‘Blokes’. The fellow looking after the place was a likeable character and regaled us with stories about his life in the bush.
The scenery along the Silver City Highway was beautiful – outback Australia – with all the space and colour that we love about Australia.
We drove into Broken Hill in the late afternoon. First stop was the Visitors Information Centre where we found that trying to get accommodation was going to be difficult – there was a basketball tournament in town and most places were fully booked.
After much searching, we found the Daydream Motel, well located near the centre of town, with two rooms left. The Daydream was an old-fashioned, budget motel however it was clean and comfortable. Between the three of us we had a refurbished room and one of the older rooms – everyone was happy, especially with the price! If you aren’t worried about the décor, we can recommend the Daydream Motel.
With a little light left in the day, we drove up to the Line of Lode Miner’s Memorial and restaurant, situated on the top of the mullock heap that divides Broken Hill in two. It is a spectacular setting. The beautiful, stark, steel and concrete structures on top of this toxic heap capture the essence of the dark side of mining. A visit to the memorial is a moving experience.
The building housing the restaurant has fabulous views across Broken Hill and beyond. It features a gift shop and artworks are on display.
We stayed a couple of days in Broken Hill. There was quite a lot to see and do.
Pro Hart Gallery
We can recommend a visit to the Pro Hart Gallery, located at 108 Wyman Street, about 5 minutes drive from the centre of town. The gallery is built next door to Pro Hart’s home and houses the largest collection of Pro Hart works in Australia. As well as artworks you will see Pro Hart’s paints, brushes and easels plus a collection of vintage cars and a video about his life.
The Living Desert
The Living Desert Reserve is located about 10 kms from Broken Hill and covers an area of 2,400 ha. Our first stop was at the Living Desert Flora and Fauna Sanctuary where we took the 2km Cultural Walk Trail – an easy walk in cool weather.
We then drove up to Sundown Hill to see the Sculpture Symposium – a series of 12 sandstone sculptures created in 1993 by a group of international artists. The Hill overlooks Broken Hill in the distance and the sunsets here are spectacular. It is well worth a visit.
Silverton is about 26kms from Broken Hill. Silverton, as its name suggests, was once a silver mining town. It is now a collection of historic buildings, many of which have been used in television commercials and movies such as A Town Like Alice, Razorback, Mad Max 2, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Mission Impossible 2.
You are sure to recognise the Silverton Hotel when you see it. We had lunch there. It is still a working pub serving light snacks such as hot dogs and sandwiches. There is an interesting collection of photos at the hotel showing its history as a film location.
Apparently Mad Max 3 was supposed to be currently filming in the area however due the unseasonal rainfall the landscape was too green and lush! It has been rescheduled for 2012.
There was not too much going on in Silverton the day we were there. You might like to visit the Mad Max Museum and the Silverton Gaol Museum. The Silverton School Museum appears to be only open during school holidays so we didn’t see that.
A short drive on from Silverton is the Mundi Mundi Plains lookout. You can see for miles over the desert country – the view is fabulous.
Broken Hill – More Sights
We headed back to Broken Hill as we were keen to visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service base. There we found an interesting museum followed by a film and a tour of the base.
On the way back into the centre of town we took a drive down Patton Street. It was like stepping back in time. The houses have remained unchanged since the 1950s. We visited Bells Milk Bar (an authentic 1950s milk bar) and enjoyed an old fashioned ice-cream sundae. Apparently the malted milkshakes and soda spiders are fantastic too. We loved the little museum attached to the café and can recommend a visit.
At the end of the day our favourite place for dinner was the Musicians Club at 276 Crystal Street, telephone 8088 1777. It appears to be the most modern and up-to-date club in town and has a good menu. We also liked the look of the restaurant in The Astra at 393 Argent Street, telephone 8087 5428.
We spent two nights and one day in Broken Hill. If you have more time there is still lots to do and see: take a mining tour at Daydream Mine, do a walking tour of Broken Hill, visit White’s Mineral Art and Living Mining Museum, the School of the Air and the Silver City Mint and Art Centre, and the many local art galleries. Be sure to call into the Tourist Information Office (corner Blende and Bromide Streets) for advice.
Broken Hill to Sydney via Dubbo
From Broken Hill we had to start back for Sydney. We planned to stay in Dubbo, an eight-hour drive (742kms) from Broken Hill made up as follows:
Broken Hill to Wilcannia – about 2 hours drive (196kms)
Wilcannia to Cobar – about 2 hours 40 mins (260kms)
Cobar to Nyngan – about 1 hour 25 mins (132kms)
Nyngan to Dubbo – about 2 hours (166km)
We had been told that Wilcannia was not a good place to stop however we were still shocked to see buildings boarded up and the place virtually a ghost town. The shop in the main street was a fortress of bars.
The small towns of Cobar and Nyngan have historic buildings and places of interest. Unfortunately we didn’t have time on this trip to stop and appreciate either town.
We were very impressed with Dubbo. It has an attractive town centre and park along the river. Accommodation was hard to find as there was a bowling tournament on in town! We eventually found a two bedroom unit at the Across Country Budget Motor Inn on the Newell Highway, telephone 6882 0877 for $175. It was spacious but overpriced. Dinner was Chinese take-away from the Golden Dragon around the corner on the Mitchell Highway (generous servings).
For us Dubbo was just an overnight stop on the way back to Sydney. However from previous visits we can recommend a visit to the Dubbo zoo – Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
We made a quick visit to Mudgee where we enjoyed lunch at a little café in Market Street. There are plenty of good eating places to choose from.
We have been to Mudgee before and it is a destination on its own – there is so much to see and do in the area.
We left Mudgee and headed home for Sydney – about a three and a half hour drive (268kms).