A feather boa adorns the welcome sign to Broken Hill. Credit: Destination NSW.
Broken Hill is one of those place names that fills your head with images of the outback, great natural resources and the industries that emerged from the earth to support their extraction.
It inhabits a large space in our national psyche as an engine of wealth and prosperity and pride driven initially by the discovery of silver and lead—and subsequently one of the world’s largest and richest orebodies—in the 1880s. If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘BH’ in ‘BHP’ stands for, well, now you know.
Line of Lode and Miners Memorial, Broken Hill. Credit: Destination NSW.
For a long time for most Australians, Broken Hill was simply ‘out there’ somewhere. But in more recent decades, the city and its surrounds burst into our cultural consciousness through films like Mad Max 2 and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
So, where is Broken Hill? What’s there now? And what is there for visitors to see and do? Join us as we take a look at this remarkable, iconic Australian city, and understand why the region’s latest clever tourism marketing is called ‘It’s Out There’. Yes, this is a different kind of outback.
Royal Flying Doctor Service Hangar, Broken hill. Credit: Broken Hill City Council.
If you’re planning to #HolidayHereThisYear, speak to an ATAS accredited travel agent about visiting Broken Hill. Your ATAS agent will have all the tools, support and expertise to piece together the perfect, unforgettable journey to suit your style and budget.
What to do?
An Ancient Living History
For thousands of years, the Wilyakali people have occupied the lands around Broken Hill. A day in the Mutawintji National Park is a uniquely Australian experience – along with the ruggedly beautiful desert landscape, you’ll find evidence of continuous use by Aboriginal people for millennia.
Engage with ancient history and local culture. Credit: Mutawintji Heritage tours.
Take part in a tour by Mutawintji Heritage tours – all are run by Aboriginal accredited guides. The half-day Kulluwirru Dreaming tour takes you to the historic site with rock engravings and ochre stencil, or join a full-day bush tucker tour.
Your ATAS accredited travel agent will have a range of day touring options for you to consider and book before you travel.
Culture lovers: Drag and Film
Broken Hill has been associated with drag since the iconic Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was released in 1994. You can stay in the same room that the characters stayed in at the historic Palace Hotel—now named the Priscilla Suite.
The Priscilla Suite at The Palace Hotel, Broken Hill. Credit: Destination NSW.
And be sure to grab your dabber and join in the drag bingo on the first Tuesday of every month!
Drag bingo at the Palace Hotel, Broken Hill. Credit: Destination NSW
Chat to your ATAS accredited travel agent about the full range of accommodation options in and around Broken Hill from bush campsites to rooms in simple pubs and fine heritage homesteads. For something unique, consider White Cliffs Underground Motel, a honeycomb of whitewashed rooms deep within the 120-million-year-old sedimentary rock—the world’s largest underground lodgings.
The Broken Heel Festival is a four-day extravaganza in September, where Australia’s best drag queens descend on the town. You can see comedy, live music, social activities and a street parade—Main Drag in Drag.
Broken Heel Festival 2017. Credit: Destination NSW.
Be sure to book early to avoid disappointment!
There’s even more for film buffs – Mad Max 2 (1972) was shot around Broken Hill. Visit the Mad Max Museum in Silverton and wander through the collection of photographs, costumes and memorabilia.
Mad Max Museum, Silverton. Credit: Destination NSW.
Sunsets and Night Skies
Photography enthusiasts will love capturing the golden light – especially at the Living Desert Reserve. In it are 12 sandstone artworks which highlight the skyline, each with its own story.
The Living Desert and Sculptures, Broken Hill. Credit: Destination NSW.
Broken Hill and the surrounding areas offer incredibly clear views of the stars. Discover the secrets of the night sky, stars, constellations and other celestial objects with a knowledgeable Outback Astronomy guide. Ask your ATAS accredited travel agent about the new glamping and stargazing experience with deck chairs, a stocked fridge and barbeque facilities.
Outback Astronomy, Broken Hill. Credit: Destination NSW.
The region has a long history of attracting artists inspired by the surreal landscape. Two of the region’s best-known painters were Pro Hart and Jack Absalom—both popularised Outback painting and have galleries in Broken Hill.
Pro Hart Gallery, Broken Hill. Credit: Destination NSW.
Broken Hill Regional Gallery has an excellent calendar of exhibitions—a highlight being the annual Maari Ma Indigenous Art Awards, displayed between February and May, which showcases artists residing in the Far West.
How to get there?
Australia’s first heritage-listed city, Broken Hill, lies beneath glittering night skies and, is not surprisingly, popular with stargazers, film and arty types, and history buffs. But how do they get here?
Broken Hill sits 1,150 kilometres west of Sydney. We did say it was out there. It’s a 13-hour drive from Sydney, 11 from Canberra, six from Adelaide, and nine from Melbourne. If you’re planning a road-trip, your ATAS accredited travel agent can help plan your journey including overnight stops in the gorgeous country and outback towns along the way.
The Outback Explorer train travels from Sydney to Broken Hill on Mondays, returning the following day, taking about the same time as driving. Alternatively, there is a daily XPT train service from Sydney to Dubbo and a connecting coach to Broken Hill—the entire journey taking about 16 hours.
If you’re a rail buff, be sure to speak to your nearest ATAS Accredited travel agent to discuss your options. And if you haven’t worked with a travel agent in a while, take a look at these 10 reasons why you should.
In June 2019, a NSW TrainLink coach service launched connecting Broken Hill with Mildura in Victoria, and Adelaide. Contact your ATAS accredited travel agent for details.
Broken Hill Airport is located just 6 kilometres from the town centre and is serviced by Regional Express from Sydney, Dubbo, Adelaide, Griffith and Mildura. Connections to other Australian cities are available. Again, speak to your ATAS accredited travel agent to discuss your various options.
Line of Lode Miners Memorial, Broken Hill. Image Credit: Destination NSW
Watch the sunset over the sandstone sculptures at Living Desert Reserve; visit the Pro Hart Gallery and classic milk bar, Bells, then take a day trip out to the Silverton Hotel. If you’re planning a trip to Broken Hill, be sure to consult your ATAS accredited travel agent for insights, tips and great deals.
Looking for more insights from ATAS-accredited travel agents? Try these on for size: TOKYO 2020: Travel Agents Tips for First-Timers; Australia’s most romantic places; and Long Layovers – A Survival Guide.
Don’t miss our information for travellers, for tips and advice on what to do before you depart on your holiday.
ATAS travel agents recommend that Australia passport holders register for travel alerts before they travel.