Broken Hill epitomises the raw Aussie outback experience. Captivating indigenous history, spectacular night skies and untamed desert landscapes put this region high on the bucket lists of road trippers everywhere.
Broken Hill is often seen as the gateway to Outback NSW. The town itself has all the amenities to make your outback experience a breeze, but journey an hour or so into the wilderness and you’ll feel a million miles away from it all.
Broken Hill is an old frontier mining town, often referred to as the Silver City. It’s also the first Australian city to be included on the National Heritage List. Broken Hill’s mining history is on full display at the Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum, and in nearby Silverton at the site of the now inactive 19th-century Daydream Mine.
Broken Hill may be remote, but the town is always humming with a mix of locals and visitors. Families will find dozens of great restaurants, cafes and bakeries, as well as popular attractions beyond the natural ones. The renowned Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum at the airport and real life ghost town, Silverton, should be high on your Broken Hill to-do list.
Artsy kids will appreciate the murals in the Palace Hotel, as well as the collection of artwork in the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and Pro Hart Gallery. Street art is also popping up around the town, with intriguing sculptures and bold murals depicting Broken Hill’s heritage.
Beyond the hub of Broken Hill, the outback offers endless opportunities for fun and exploration. The Living Desert State Park plays host to a spectacular sunset and is also home to the Sculpture Symposium. The initiative began in 1993 when 12 artists from around the world each created their own sandstone sculpture to celebrate the strong connection between art and environment.
In Mutawintji National Park, you’ll see plenty of vibrant red rock formations, stencil painting from local communities and tranquil billabongs. Kinchega National Park is known for its river red gums and varied birdlife around the Menindee Lake system. Another great sunset spot, or sunrise you don’t mind an early wake up.
Things to do for every age
0-4 year olds
Broken Hill has more than 30 parks and reserves that provide idyllic spots for families to play. One of the best for littlies is Twin Lakes. The park has a sprawling grass area, a pretty lake and an excellent adventure playground. Families can take a stroll or watch the ducks after enjoying a picnic in the shade. Part of the Perilya Mine, one of the few operating mines in the region, it makes for a great day out.
Sturt Park sits in the centre of Broken Hill and is dotted with plaques and memorials to commemorate its long history. It has been a football oval, swimming pool and popular meeting place for Broken Hill locals. These days, it has a skate park, picnic areas and two excellent play spaces, including one fenced playground for kids five and under.
5-8 year olds
Visit the Living Desert Reserve for an extraordinary outback experience the kids will love. The reserve is home to two major attractions, the previously mentioned sculpture trail and the Flora and Fauna Sanctuary. Animal lovers will enjoy exploring the 180-hectare park where native wildlife thrive within the safety of a predator-proof fence.
The designated trails shed a light on the Indigenous culture of the area. Discover modern aboriginal story poles, and an animal viewing area to spot wallabies, red kangaroos and wedge tail eagles. The Living Desert Park is just 9km from the town of Broken Hill.
9-12 year olds
A visit to the intriguing ghost town of Silverton is not to be missed. You won’t solve any Scooby Doo-style mysteries, but you will be able to feed the friendly Silverton Donkeys and discover why this little desert town has starred in so many films. Parents should keep an eye out for familiar scenes the next time they watch Mission Impossible II or Mad Max II.
You don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate the tales and relics of heritage-listed Broken Hill. It’s like a living museum; you can wander inside historic buildings or join a tour of the nineteenth century Daydream Mine. The historic Kinchega Woolshed is another must see, with its preserved wool presses and machinery. The Bruce Langford Visitor Centre at the Royal Flying Doctor Service is also a great place to stop in at. The museum, theatre and interactive displays will keep families entertained for a few hours.
Older kids with an interest in photography will enjoy visiting the Living Desert State Park around sunset. The photo opportunities are unreal. The sculptures scattered around the desert cast long shadows along the ground as the sky fades from blue to a fiery red, then settles into dusk.
A great spot to do some hiking is Mutawintji National Park, north east of Broken Hill. The area is rich in Aboriginal history, with dozens of culturally significant art sites. The centerpiece of the park is the Bynguano Range, a startling landscape of twisted pines and trickling streams.
For those who prefer to rough it, pitch a tent beside the Darling Rover at Kinchega National Park. Visit the wetlands of the Menindee Lakes and marvel at the stunning wildlife. Nearby, kids can explore the Kinchega Woolshed and Old Kinchega Homestead, or enjoy a billy tea with the Barkindtji Aboriginal Elders on an Indigenous discovery tour.
Best time to go
The best time to visit Broken Hill is when the average temperatures are mild. Spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) are popular times to visit as the weather is quite pleasant. Winter tends to be peak season as the skies are clear and the stars are bright. But the temperature can dip to 5 degrees, sometimes less. Summer is stinking hot with average temperatures in the mid 30’s, and not the best time for outdoor activities.
Either side of peak season is when you will find the best deals on accommodation. It is worth noting that there aren’t a huge number of hotels available, so consider pitching a tent or opting for a cabin in a holiday park.
If you’re pressed for time, be sure to it these highlights in Broken Hill:
- Visit the spectacular Living Desert Sculpture Symposium
- Enjoy a meal and check out the murals at the Palace Hotel
- Make the pilgrimage to the iconic Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum
- Explore real life ghost town, Silverton
- Peruse the collection of art at Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
- Trek and camp in Mutawintji National Park, spiritual heartland of the local indigenous people
- Check out the Mad Max Museum
- View the amazing artworks at the Pro Hart Gallery
- Pitch a tent beside the Darling River in Kinchega National Park
- Visit the Broken Hill Miner’s Memorial
Where to eat
The Palace Hotel is the oldest pub in town and serves classic Aussie pub food. The murals around the hotel are fascinating, so plan to stay a little longer. Café Alfresco has a good all-day menu that caters to all tastes. For a good coffee, try Silly Goat or thom, dick & harry (td&h). For a casual meal or takeaway, Hocko’s chicken shop is popular for its incredible fried chicken and burgers, and the locally-famous Bells Milk Bar will whisk you back to the 1950s.
You might prefer to stock up at a local supermarket for a picnic out with the sculptures or in one of the parks. If you are taking a day drive anywhere, just remember to take plenty of water, no matter what time of year.
Free things to do
The Living Desert Sculpture Symposium is a set of sculptures created in 1993 along Nine Mile Road in the Living Desert State Park. There’s wheelchair access to the sculptures from the top car park, gas barbecues, picnic tables and several walking trails. While the Sculptures are free to see, there is a $6 fee per person to enter the State Park.
Browse the murals in the Palace Hotel and take a stroll along the streets to admire the historic buildings in the heritage listed town. The Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, located in the beautifully restored Sully’s Emporium, has a fabulous collection of artworks, and the awesome Pro Hart Gallery is also free.
Venture a little further out to explore Silverton and the national parks – just remember your National Parks pass.
I was blessed with parents who really saw the value in travel. After our first family trip abroad to Thailand, I became obsessed. I was hungry for anything new and different. I yearned to be in the middle of a city on the other side of the world with a suitcase in one hand and google maps in the other, stumbling around trying to figure out where I was going; literally and spiritually.