When most of your friends are adventurers, group chat messages are more about the places we want to see next rather than a new bar opening up in the city. Often, we discuss easily reachable locations outside of Sydney for our up-and-coming weekend trips. On a particularly boring Friday, the hot topic was Mungo National Park. More specifically, we had to plan a roadtrip from Sydney to Broken Hill.
Mungo National Park looked like the surface of the moon and promised mind-blowing sunsets and star panoramas. Why Broken Hill? This infamous mining town spoke to our imagination. While being within a day’s drive from Mungo National Park, it also created the perfect route for a few other amazing stops. Hence deserving a spot on our -very long- to-do list.
As if the universe was providing for us, my trusty roadtrip buddy Lindsay (who gets props for organizing everything!) and I jumped in the car only a few weeks later. We were generously being hosted by Out Of The Ordinary Outback to explore their home turf. Boy, were we ready for it!
An Epic 9 day outback roadtrip from Sydney to Broken Hill!
Sydney to Broken Hill Day 1: Sydney to Mudgee (4h, 290km)
Starting the road trip in a gorgeous stop such as Mudgee allows you to get your first taste of the Australian outback and stock up on a road trip necessity. I can’t imagine a road trip without it…wine of course! While the Hunter Valley is the most well-known wine region in New South Wales, it’s definitely not the only one.
A 4h drive out of Sydney, Mudgee is well-known amongst the locals as a much appreciated little town for wine and local produce. With over 35 cellar doors, you can drive past a few cellar doors, taste a few wines and stock up for your next few nights ahead.
Sydney to Broken Hill Day 2: Mudgee to Cobar (4.3h, 424km)
Animals On Bikes
While I highly recommend a stop in Mudgee during your first visit to rural NSW, you can also drive straight from Sydney to Cobar (11 hours). Driving past Mudgee, you will spot Dubbo. Famous for its zoo, it also marks the start of some quirky outback entertainment for drivers. ‘Animals On Bikes’ is a 120km ‘paddock art’ sculpture tourist trail. It goes through the towns of Cumnock and Yeoval. We decided to stop in Cumnock to admire the giraffe on a bike or the rooftop with echidnas paddling their little hearts out.
For the love of ‘schnitty’ burgers
Reaching Cobar, its famous sunset will greet you into the town. With mining in their blood and a love for ‘schnitty’ burgers, we were instantly captivated by the friendly locals upon arrival. Vegetarian kebab? No worries, we’ll figure out how to make it and we’ll even grill the cheese for you!
Cobar or Copper City is best known as a copper mining town (go figure) on the edge of Outback Australia where the famous Barrier Highway and Kidman Way cross. Compared to Mudgee, you can really feel the dryness of the outback in this town. We were enthralled by the gorgeous buildings that grace Cobar, dating back from 1910!
In its heyday and at the hight of the Australian Gold Mine Rush in the 1880s, Cobar was one of the biggest copper and gold mines in existence. Due to the 500 men who had found work in the mine, over 3000 people lived and worked in the outback settlement.
I can only imagine what it must have been like to travel through the hot and dry outback back in the 19th century. With no running water or electricity, working in and around the mines must have been so hard.
Stay in Cobar
We stayed in the Copper City Hotel/Motel while staying in Cobar. The U-shaped motel offers clean and spacious rooms right on the edge of the town. We loved arriving here after a very long day of driving and had a wonderful rest! For those of you not used to Aussie lingo, the hotel next to the motel is not actually extra accommodation. It’s the town’s newest pub! You see, the Aussies tend to refer to the local pub as the ‘hotel’. One of the few Aussie words that may confuse foreigners like ourselves.
Sydney to Broken Hill Day 3: Cobar to White Cliffs (4h, 360km)
An ode to Quirky Roadhouses: Emmdale
One of my favorite parts of the outback is the quirkiness of outback pubs and roadhouses. All around Australia, you can find roadhouses that more or less provide the same. They are your source of fuel, drinkable tap water (if you’re lucky), a cold drink, ice cream, more junk food than you’ll ever be able to eat and some kind of fried food. Another common denominator? They are all ‘the best’ at something completely random.
Emmdale Roadhouse, about 1h drive from Cobar, is one of those roadhouses. This particular roadhouse’s specialty? The self-claimed best coffee in the area! As the Sydney coffee snobs we are, we had to agree that they had the best coffee in at least a 400km radius, maybe even 600km! We were, however, still very thankful for their cold beverages and sweet little roos in the backyard.
For those who don’t know, in 2018, New South Wales struggled with a severe drought that plagued rural New South Wales. Whilst I wasn’t the happiest when the owner fed these roos a piece of white bread (please don’t feed wildlife), we quickly realized that this extra food and water probably saved these little creatures from an all too common faith of becoming roadkill. And it gave us the perfect time to take the cutest photos!
White Cliffs: The White Hills of Rubble and Opal
If anybody asked me what my highlight of this trip was, White Cliffs is definitely in the top three! White Cliffs is the smaller cousin of Coober Pedy, a more well-known Opal mining town. White Cliffs is what I imagine Coober Pedy would have been like 10 years ago. Before tourism and commercialism hit the town. If you want to learn about the hard-core life of opal miners, I can only highly recommend visiting White Cliffs.
With its scorching heat and nowhere to hide, White Cliffs was both fascinating and exhausting to visit. We couldn’t get enough of all the photo-ops! At the same time, it was so hard to walk more than 20 minutes in the desert heat.
Straight out of Vogue Living
A must while visiting White Cliffs is the White House, locally known as Cree’s House. Straight out of Vogue living, this underground home blew our minds! The home is dug out in solid rock with an interior consisting out of 90% recycled materials. It is filled with ingenious innovations to circulate air and light. This magnificent house is the work of innovator and dugout home builder Lindsay White and the artist Cree Marshall. I’ve never seen a more beautiful combination of art and recycling in one place, simply out of this world!
Read more on White Cliffs in Lindsay’s elaborate report.
Stay in White Cliffs
The Underground Motel is the place to stay in White Cliffs. As White Cliffs is burning hot all year round, I would not recommend camping. The underground hotel offers a very welcome 22 degrees Celsius all year round through its underground dwellings. While some think staying in a rock face can be claustrophobic, we had great fun exploring the hotel. Getting lost had never been this fun!
If you are looking for a camping location out of the desert landscape of White Cliffs. Stay in the Warrawong on the Darling in Willcania, located 1 hour back. Right next to the Darling River, you can pitch your tent in the shade or stay in one of the local cabins. Keep an eye out for the local Emu, Rissole, for the many kangaroos that live in the area and drive around the ‘mudmap’ to witness a spectacular sunset in the billabong. If you don’t feel like cooking, Willcania has a Chinese restaurant at the local Golf Club and a cute little coffee bar, Miss Barrets, as well as an IGA.
Looking for more Australian adventures? Find out where the locals hang out in Byron Bay!
Sydney to Broken Hill Day 4 & 5: White Cliffs to Broken Hill (3h, 270km)
You’ve done it, you’re over the hump. You have driven across the state of New South Wales! Welcome to Broken Hill, a unique city in the middle of the outback. Unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Enjoy a day exploring Broken Hill itself and relaxing from the trip. Start your day at the gorgeous Silly Goat Cafe for one of their amazing coffees. Stroll through one of the many art galleries and have a quick stopover at the fascinating Palace Hotel. Make sure to end an inspired day at the Living Desert & Sculpture Symposium for sunset. You see, Broken Hill really is a destination on its own and it worth at least two days or more!
Silverton: Mad Max and Endless Roads
You’ll regret not heading out to Silverton when visiting Broken Hill. With its endless roads (head to Mundi Mundi lookout for these), donkeys, scorching heat, even more quirky art and Mad Max cars, Silverton was another favorite.
Accommodation in Broken Hill
Broken Hill is quite a large city (for its location) offering many options for accommodation. If you prefer to stay in a hotel or motel, there are plenty on offer. We stayed at the Argent Motel at the end of the main street.
If you prefer camping, I can say that camping in Broken Hill is quite a unique experience. We camped at the brand new Broken Hill Outback Resort. As lovers of camping and open skies, I can wholeheartedly recommend the latter for your stay. The facilities are all brand new, the showers are beyond epic to wash the red dirt off plus you can experience the outback at its fullest. You might even wake up with a goat or kangaroo next to your tent!
Sydney to Broken Hill Day 6: Broken Hill to Mungo National Park via Wentworth (4.5h, 420 km)
The road to Mungo National Park
This is it guys, the long-awaited Mungo National Park! There are two routes from Broken Hill to Mungo National. If you are running short on time, I would recommend the faster route which goes through Wentworth and allows you to have a quick and easy picnic next to the water before driving back into the dry desert. This road is mostly along bitchamun road allowing you to drive faster (prepare to see more than a few roadkill kangaroos!) and will take you around 4.5h, depending on how comfortable you are driving on the dirt road after Wentworth.
If you have more time, I would recommend driving most of the way along the dirt road. While this will be a slower and bumpier ride, you can see Menindee Lakes with the famous dead trees and perfect reflections.
Sand Dunes on The Moon
Dust roads, sand dunes and the famous clay lunettes are iconic to Ancient Mungo National Park. We wanted to visit the park for it natural beauty, amazing sunsets and star skies and to, of course, take lots of photos.
The added bonus of our visit was learning about the site being one of the world’s most important cultural and archeological treasures. Mungo Lake was formed around 100.000 years ago and therefore archeologists have found remains of the humans who have lived here about 45.000 years ago! Small treasures such as bones and fireplaces have been invaluable for researchers who visit and love Mungo National Park.
The Walls Of China
Let’s be honest, most of us will visit the park to see the famous “Walls Of China”. These are the clay lunettes that are dotted around on the dunes of the national park. We were surprised to find out that you need to join one of the tours in the area to walk amongst the formations. Many photos on Instagram show people exploring the area by themselves, which is not allowed in the park. The formations are very fragile and important to the local communities and are therefore protected.
If history and culture is your thing, book the morning tour. However, if you want to experience and photograph the sunset in such a magical country, sunset is your go-to! I know the lodge also does additional guided tours for people that want to take more photos, but you will have to inquire in person about pricing and timing at the lodge itself.
The Self-Guided Drive Tour
The park is much more than just the clay formations. During the self-guided drive tour, you can circle the park at your own pace. The loop is only 70km long and will take less than half a day to see it all, depending on how many stops you choose to do.
Stay in Mungo National Park
There are three options if you want to stay close to or in the Park. We stayed in Mungo Lodge where you have several options for accommodation, ranging from camping to shared dorms and private cabins. The National Park also offers the option of staying in the Shearers Quarters, are located at the visitor center of the park and offer form style beds and a kitchenette for $60 per night.
In my personal opinion, the shared dorm options are overpriced and I would recommend camping in the area! How many times will you have the opportunity to camp in an area so remote at Mungo National Park?
Both Mungo Lodge and the National Park offer a campsite close to civilization. If you would prefer to experience the park in all it’s glory, I would opt to stay in the campsite located halfway the Mungo self-guided Drive Tour, called Belah Campground. This will set you back $8.50, which is peanuts.
Broken Hill to Sydney Day 7: Mungo National Park to Mildura (2h, 122 km)
Mildura is an easy drive from Mungo National Park across dirt roads and marks your return back to Sydney. It’s surprising how lush Mildura is thanks to the glorious Murray River. Mildura is known for its houseboats, local produce, and wines. It’s a true cultural hub within rural Australia with hip cocktail bars and amazing coffee.
If you only have one day in Mildura, start it at Blk.Mlk Specialty Coffee, which serves better coffee than most cafes in Sydney, and explore the main street after. Drive around the area and pick up some olive oil at Varapodio Estate and wine at the famous Trentham estate or discover one of the smaller vineyards. Enjoy your newly purchased goodies at one of Mildura’s many picnic spots. Finish the day at one of the great restaurants the town has to offer and a local bear.
Stay in Mildura
There several options to stay in Mildura as there are many hotels and a few hostels. I would recommend keeping your accommodation within walking distance from the town center and I can also highly recommend booking a pool. It gets hot out here!
Broken Hill to Sydney Day 8: Mildura to Wagga Wagga (6h, 560km)
Today is a driving day my friends. Put on a funny podcast to make the time pass by faster. While most people skip Wagga Wagga, it has a few surprises up its sleeve. You can go for a dip in the river, explore the closeby mountains (Wagga Wagga is a great entryway to the Snowy Mountains) or indulge in authentic Lebanese food. Make sure to stop by the fairytale tree in Victory Memorial Gardens after dark.
Broken Hill to Sydney Day 9: Wagga Wagga to Sydney (4.45h, 460km)
While today is a slightly smaller driving day than yesterday, it won’t leave you with much time for exploring. For one last stop on your trip, I would recommend taking a detour into the Royal National Park or exploring one of the Shellharbour or Kiama beaches.
Here are a few more images from our trip, many more to come in future posts!
Road tripping through Outback NSW
Road trips through the outback, such as the Sydney to Broken Hill road trip or Drive, require more care and attention than driving along the coastlines of Australia. To help you, I put together a quick list of my top practical tips:
- Buy food in Cobar & Broken Hill. Wilcannia only offers a more expensive IGA. Cobar and Broken Hill have a big supermarket.
- Get fuel at every stop. If you want to explore more of the outback towns and dirt roads, bring a jerry can of fuel (10 liters should do).
- Bring at least 20 liters of water. These locations are very dry and you never know when you get stuck on the side of the road.
- Bring enough food for 3 days. Traveling across outback roads is exhausting on any car. Again, you need to prepare to be stuck on the side of the road with no reception.
- Download podcasts and songs, most of this journey will be out of phone reception.
- Learn how to replace a tire and make sure you have a spare tire.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen at all times!
If you’re planning a trip to Broken Hill, don’t forget to pin this image:
Most of the accommodation of this trip and transport was kindly sponsored by Out Of The Ordinary Outback Tours which was greatly appreciated. It did not influence my opinions by any means.
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