Calling all culture kids! If your idea of the perfect road trip involves packing your brain full of more facts than a 1980s Encyclopedia Britannica, then these itineraries are for you.
Heads up! Travel may be affected by COVID-19 restrictions and flood damage. Head to the Visit NSW Travel Alerts page for the latest information.
You’re on a quest for knowledge and we’re with you every step of the way. Whether it’s Aboriginal heritage, mining town history, colonial architecture, or archaeological wonders, NSW has got a helluva lot to choose from.
We out here
On the Central to Outback NSW route, Indigenous and colonial history meets Hollywood glamour with locations from films including Mad Max and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The Darling River Run meanwhile quite literally has it all, no matter your niche cultural obsessions. Unexplained addiction to historical transport? Check. Love looking at loads of heritage buildings? Check. Keen to check out ancient fossil-clad rock formations? Check. Check. Check.
The 880km Mighty Murray River Drive is for the true history buffs amongst you – you know, the ‘oh-my-god-this-fence-post-is-from-1823’ types. From pioneering towns to archaeological sites and Indigenous history, you’ll wish the drive was double the length just so you can keep learning.
Itching to start expanding ye old upper story? Make sure you read these outback safety tips before you hit the road. Skull some coffee for optimum brain power, grab a notebook, and get ready for a journey that’ll expand your mind and soothe your soul.
1. Central to Outback NSW
Stretching from Dubbo to Broken Hill, the Central to Outback NSW road trip will keep even the most diehard culture geeks happy. Complete with a side of thrill-seeking adventure, of course.
The route takes four days and fits in so much history you’ll wish your brain had some extra IKEA-esque storage to keep it in.
Cruising through the rolling savannah of the Great Western Plains you’ll already feel like you’re starring in your own Hollywood blockbuster. The first stop is sun-kissed Dubbo, which was settled as a roadside inn in 1829. To get the true history of the area, walk with a Senior Wiradjuri Elder and book onto the First Lesson Cultural Tour.
Another place of deep Indigenous importance is Nyngan, with rivers and wetlands just waiting to be explored by kayak or paddleboard. Back on dry land be sure to check out the historic Railway Station Museum which preserves the lives of the locals.
Once you hit the town of Cobar – which used to be one of the biggest mining operations in the world – you’re fully in the outback.
Grab a map and walk the Heritage Trail, soak in the golden sunsets and take the short walk to Mount Grenfell Historic Site. This is where the Ngiyampaa people lived and sheltered thousands of years before the Europeans first stepped foot in the area.
Architecture frothers, the next one is for you. Wilcannia’s colonial buildings are well worth a stop and a quick photo (or 50).
Film buffs, the Central to Outback NSW route has you covered too. In Broken Hill – the trip’s final destination – you’ll discover the Palace Hotel where Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was filmed. Just down the road in Silverton is the Mad Max Museum, a memorabilia packed tribute to the movie that was filmed there.
Mad Max Museum, Silverton
Silverton, in all its glory
Once a mining town, Broken Hill is now a vibrant heritage town packed with restaurants, museums, cafes, and art galleries.
The Living Desert Sculpture Trail is well worth a visit. And you can’t visit the desert without riding a camel, right? For a truly epic way to end the trip, book onto an outback camping tour, because the stars out here are unlike anything you’ve seen before. We promise.
Watch the sun set by the Living Desert and Sculptures trail, Broken Hill.
Believe it or not, that’s just a teeny taste of what the Central to Outback NSW road trip covers. While learning about the diverse history of this country, you’ll be making your own history too. Now that’s a road trip worth remembering.
2. Darling River Run
We’ve got a long one for you here – over 900km across four unforgettable days. Long it is, boring it ain’t because the Darling River Run is packed with thermal springs, historic outback must-sees, and ancient Aboriginal sites.
Following the Darling River to the mighty Murray, the Darling River Run is known as the ‘accessible outback’. And, after nearly 1,000km, we’re pretty sure you’ll agree.
The gateway to the Darling River Run is the town of Walgett, a former paddle-steamer port and home to the Artesian Bore Baths, the deepest and largest artesian basin in the world with therapeutic waters over two million years old. It’s the perfect place to sit back and plan out the rest of your itinerary.
Interested in Indigenous culture? Visit the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum and the Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps (Ngunnhu), which archaeologists reckon is the oldest man-made structure on Earth. Given that Australia’s Indigenous history dates back upwards of 65,000 years we reckon they might be on to something.
Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps
Colonial period gets you hot under the collar? Stop off at Bourke or Wilcannia for some time-warping colonial architecture. Love a bit of port history? Louth is your new best friend and the heritage paddle boats of Wentworth have your name all over them.
Archaeological sites make you swoon? Make sure you stop off at Pooncarie, the gateway to Mungo National Park, which is famous for Mungo Man and Mungo Lady who were buried 42,000 years ago in the world’s oldest ritual burials. Just down the road, the fossil-clad rock formations of the Walls of China are waiting to blow your mind.
Mungo by starlight
Mungo at sunset
We reckon a stop off at the huuuuuuge 320,000 acre Trilby Station is one of the best ways to connect with true outback life. There are walking trails along the billabong and river, an open-air museum, and onsite accommodation.
Whatever cultural experiences float your (paddle) boat, the Darling River Run has it all. The question is, are you ready? Because trust us, you ain’t seen nothing like this before.
Just getting here is an adventure
3. Mighty Murray River Drive
The Murray River is Australia’s own Amazon. Forming the border between NSW and Victoria, it’s the longest river of its kind in Australia and one of the longest navigable rivers in the world.
The Mighty Murray River Drive follows the Murray for four days. It’s a not-so-little slice of culture-fuelled heaven.
Think history-laden country towns and Aboriginal culture, washed down with wineries, Aussie wildlife, and perfect paddling.
First up, it’s the Howlong History Trail with 28 significant sites including the 1857-built Howlong Hotel and Howlong Bridge System. Next, head to Corowa, where you can lose yourself in the Corowa Federation Museum and find out the town’s role in creating Australia’s modern-day federal parliament.
In Tocumwal, your historic knowledge will reach new heights thanks to the Historic Aerodrome Museum, and in Echuca, you can relive the town’s steam-boat heritage on one of the paddlesteamers.
Cruise the Murray River on the EmmyLou paddlesteamer
To step even further back in time stop in at the Tocumwal Blowhole, which the local Ulupna and Bangaragn Aboriginal communities believe is connected to the Murray by an underground stream.
At the end of the route, in Wentworth, you can get your final history kicks at the Pioneer Museum, with over 3,000 artefacts on display.
Even the biggest culture geeks need a bit of downtime though, and the Mighty Murray River Drive has relaxation and outdoor adventures in spades.
Lake Mulwala, Mulwala
Wagirra Trail and Yindyamurra Sculpture Walk, Albury
You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t explore the waters of the Murray by kayak or canoe at least once, and kicking back at a winery is pretty much mandatory.
We’d have to have a serious word with you if you didn’t stop at Mungo National Park, a World-Heritage listed landscape that looks like a place that ET hangs out on the reg.
The park’s giant dry lake beds, red sand dunes that shift with the winds, and maaaasive rock formations are literally begging you to explore them.
Whatever stops you make, and whatever facts you learn along the way, the Mighty Murray River Drive will never disappoint.
For more epic NSW road trip ideas head to the Visit NSW website!