With the Covid-19 pandemic making domestic travel in Australia more appealing than ever, we decided to hit the road and discover Outback NSW. We loaded the car, hit the road and headed west.
*Note: Our trip was slightly affected by the damaging rain and floods that NSW received just a week before we set off. We were supposed to end our trip with a visit to Jenolan Caves but they were inaccessible due to landslides, as were some of the Blue Mountains’ roads.
When planning our itinerary, we made sure to consider how many hours we’d be driving. We didn’t want to be spending more than 4-5 hours on the road so that we had time to stop along the way, and more importantly, so that we could avoid driving at sunrise and sunset when wildlife is more prevalent on the roads.
Day one: Central Coast – Hunter Valley (1 hour)
We started off light because it was the day after our wedding and because we’d planned to start day two nice and early. So, we checked into a nice hotel in the Hunter Valley, went to a lovely dinner and relaxed for the evening.
Day two: Hunter Valley – Dubbo (4 hours)
We kicked off day two with a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Hunter region. It was a great experience and a great way to get a taste of what’s on offer in the area. After breakfast (which was included) we headed west to Denman for a coffee break, then on to Dunedoo for a toilet break, before finally checking into the Zoofari Lodge in Dubbo Taronga Zoo. Our stay at the zoo included dinner, a night time and sunrise tour of the zoo, breakfast, and zoo entry for two days.
Day three: Dubbo – Lightning Ridge (4 hours)
We said our goodbyes to the elephants and giraffes and headed north, through Gilgandra, to Lightning Ridge. We reached the old mining town in the early afternoon so we headed to some of the unique local attractions including Amigo’s Castle, Stanley the Emu and Bottle House Museum.
Day four: Lightning Ridge – Bourke (3 hours)
We started day four with a very bumpy drive over unsealed roads to Grawin where we visited the club in the scrub and watched a round of golf played on the outback golf course. Then we headed to Bourke through Walgett and Brewarrina. We stayed near the Darling River where we checked out the Old Bourke Wharf.
Day five: Bourke – Cobar (3 hours)
After a late morning start, we headed south to Nyngan for lunch by the Big Bogan, then west to Cobar where we spent the night. In Cobar we visited Fort Bourke Hill Lookout, Peak Gold Mines and the famous Cobar sign at the Cobar Free Camp Truck Stop, before heading into town for a spot of shopping and dinner.
Day six: Cobar – White Cliffs (3.5 hours)
On day six, we headed further west into White Cliffs where we checked into the White Cliffs Underground Motel for the night. The drive to the underground motel took us along the Barrier Highway where we saw plenty of wildlife including emus, feral goats, wedge-tailed eagles and kangaroos. The road also took us through Wilcannia, but being Good Friday, everything was closed. The road from Wilcannia to White Cliffs brought even more wildlife and a lot of wild cattle, so take it easy along this road! The best part about staying at the underground motel for us were the uninterrupted and unspoiled views of the sunrise, sunset and night sky.
Day seven: White Cliffs – Broken Hill (2.5 hours)
After our night underground, we headed to Broken Hill where we visited the Line of Lode Miners Memorial which offered amazing views of the town, the J P Keenan Lookout, the Big Ant, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and the Silver City Mint & Art Centre. After a bite to eat at The Broken Hill Pub, we drove out to the Living Desert Sculptures but we didn’t wait for sunset because we didn’t want to risk driving back to the other side of town with the kangaroos around. Then we stopped off at White Rocks Historical Site before checking into the Broken Hill Outback Resort for the next three nights.
Day eight: Silverton day trip (40 mins return)
After exploring Broken Hill the previous day, we decided to head out to Silverton, the original outback town. In Silverton, we visited the Mad Max Museum, the Silverton Hotel, the John Dynon gallery and the Silverton School Museum. After lunch at the pub we stopped off at Mundi Mundi lookout before driving out to Cockburn on the South Australian border so that we could stand in two states at once (yep, we’re those tourists). Then we headed back into Broken Hill to rest up for another big day to follow.
Day nine: Kinchega National Park and Menindee Lakes day trip (3 hours return trip)
About one and a half hours south of Broken Hill is Kinchega National Park. After grabbing some breakfast on the go, we drove down and paid the $8 entry fee to the park. Thankfully we got really lucky following the rain and had access to the whole of Kinchega National Park via the self-drive loop. We explored the woolshed, Old Kinchega homestead and drove along the river loop. After exploring the national park, we dropped in at Menindee Lakes, before heading back into Broken Hill.
Day ten: Broken Hill – Mungo National Park – Gol Gol (5.5 hours)
This was probably the biggest day we had in terms of kilometres travelled and it was because we hadn’t properly planned ahead. Originally we had planned on camping in Mungo National Park, but the rain that the region received two weeks prior to our visit and the Easter school holidays meant there was limited availability that had already been booked out. So, instead we had to drive back out of the national park to find us a spot in one of the nearby towns.
Our day started with a long, straight drive to Wentworth where we stopped for morning tea at the point where the Murray and the Darling Rivers join. Despite what Google Maps might tell you about there being a shortcut through Menindee, this is actually the best way around as the roads are sealed until Mungo National Park. We heard many stories about visitors trying to follow Google Maps and not being able to navigate the hundreds of kilometres of unsealed roads into the park the other way around. Just be careful along Silver City Highway, there was a lot more wildlife to dodge along this road. After a brief stop in Wentworth, we continued onto Mungo National Park where we did part of the self-drive tour (unfortunately the majority of the park was closed due to recent rain). We then headed into Gol Gol to find ourselves a motel and stayed the night. The drive into and back out of Mungo National Park added 2.5 hours of driving to our day, but it was definitely worth it.
Day 11: Gol Gol – Griffith (4.5 hours)
We took our time navigating our way through the green south of the state to Griffith, enjoying the scenery along the drive. We stopped for lunch in Hay before making our way to Hermit’s Cave in Griffith. We spent the night in Griffith, enjoying an Italian dinner the region is celebrated for.
Day 12: Griffith – Parkes (3 hours)
We didn’t have any stops planned on our way to Parkes, and we had no idea what to expect. We came across the The Big Tennis Racquet in Barellan, dedicated to Australian tennis player Evonne Goolagong, before passing through the home of the Kelpie in Ardlethan. We also stopped at Touts Lookout before having lunch in Grenfell and passing through Forbes for afternoon tea.
Day 13: Parkes – Mudgee (2.5 hours)
This day took us back through the Dubbo region where we drove through Molong where Dave had one of the best bakery pies he claims to have ever eaten, Wellington where the school holiday crowds kept us from doing much in town other than refuel, and Gulgong. When we arrived in Mudgee, we visited Mudgee Brewing Company and Three Tails Brewery.
Day 14: Mudgee – Blue Mountains – home (4 hours)
This was the day we would’ve finished off at Jenolan Caves, but the rain and flooding was still causing problems on local roads. Instead, we visited Hassans Walls Lookout at Lithgow, Mountain Culture Brewery in Katoomba for lunch and then drove home. The cold top of 15 degrees and icy winds were simply too much for us to handle after spending the rest of the trip in 30+ degree heat.
Outback NSW has so much to offer, from native wildlife to incredible night skies and wide open spaces. Remember to plan ahead and prepare yourself for driving in the outback!
Where’s your favourite stop in Outback NSW? Let us know in the comments below!