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Unique experiences in New South Wales

Renew your love of art and discover a thriving gallery scene; explore the history of the region on an eye-opening heritage tour; ignite your sense of wonder with an unforgettable stargazing experience; recharge in the iconic Priscilla Suite or renew your view and sleep beneath your feet in an underground motel.

Recharge in the Priscilla Suite

Broken Hill has been associated with drag since the Australian movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was released in 1994. Scenes were filmed in the historic Palace Hotel, and you can book the same room that the characters stayed in, which has been renamed the Priscilla Suite and decorated flamboyantly. The pub has regular drag bingo nights, and each September the best queens from around Australia descend on the town for the Broken Heel Festival. Mad Max 2, released in 1981, was also shot around Broken Hill. Visit the Mad Max Museum in Silverton, a 20-minute drive to the north-west.

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Discover outback art

The Broken Hill region has a long history of producing and attracting artists, inspired by the surreal landscape. Two of the best known painters were Pro Hart and Jack Absalom, both of whom have galleries in Broken Hill. The Willy Nilly Art Gallery houses the paintings of local artist Amanda Johnson, and the Broken Hill Regional Galley has an excellent calendar of exhibitions, a highlight of which is the annual Maari Ma Indigenous Art Awards, displayed between February and April. In Wilcannia, a two-hour drive northeast of Broken Hill, the Queens Head Hotel has been transformed into a gallery.

Head to the Living Desert

Photography enthusiasts will love capturing the golden light in the Broken Hill area — especially at the Living Desert State Park, with its 12 sandstone artworks created by artists from all over the world. Also in the reserve is the John Simons Flora and Fauna Sanctuary: 180 hectares of native plants and wildlife, with a cultural trail and Sturt’s desert pea wildflower display. You can stay overnight in the park at the Starview Campsite.

Explore an ancient history

Aboriginal culture is strong in the Broken Hill region: the Wilyakali people have occupied the lands around Broken Hill for thousands of years, while the Barkandji people are from the lower Darling River and Menindee Lakes. Explore Mutawintji National Park with Aboriginal-owned and operated Mutawanji Heritage Tours. Half-day tours visit restricted-access sites featuring different styles of Aboriginal art, including rock engravings and ochre stencils, and you can combine a tour with a bush tucker or art workshop.

Dive deep underground at White Cliffs

The outback is opal country, and the oldest commercial opal field is at White Cliffs, a small town about a three-hour drive north-east of Broken Hill, known for its ‘pineapple’ opals with a spiky shape. Many dwellings here have been built underground to escape the heat. A White Cliffs Bus Tour will give you a good overview of the town and its history. If you want a subterranean sleep, stay at the White Cliffs Underground Motel, which provides a honeycomb of whitewashed rooms.

Soak up the night skies

Outback skies are something to behold. Make sense of what you see with Outback Astronomy. Just outside Broken Hill, the venue offers Sky Shows that introduce you to stars and constellations through knowledgeable guides. You can also stay in a glamping tent made for two (loan of binoculars included), and join a Dinner and Sky Show event, such as the Moon Graze, which combines dinner at the on-site Sky Dome Café with telescope and binocular gazing at the full moon.

Satiate your hunger

The Silly Goat café is an on-trend spot for breakfast, with a frequently changing menu that might include granola bowls and smoked salmon bagels. Bread comes from the nearby Sufi Bakery. Trinders Restaurant at The Astra has a modern Australian menu as well as more casual tapas and gourmet pizza. It’s also home to the Red Lush cocktail bar. You’ll find upmarket pub fare at The Palace Hotel and The Broken Hill Pub. For a classic Aussie milk bar, head to Bells Milk Bar — it’s been open since 1892 and much of the décor remains the same as it was in the 1950s.

Dream outback dreams

In Broken Hill, stay in a stone miner’s cottage at A Miner’s Rest, enjoy deluxe or superior rooms at the Art Deco Royal Exchange Hotel, sleep at The Astra, in a restored 1890s heritage building in the centre of town, or in a restored 1911 church: Broken Hill Outback Church Stay. The Broken Hill Outback Resort just out of town has spa cabins, caravan and camping sites, a bistro and restaurant.

You could also stay at the iconic Silverton Hotel, 20 minutes out of town, or at Eldee Station farm stay, 45 minutes north of Broken Hill. The historic homestead Bindara Station is two hours south of Broken Hill.

Or spend a night or two in the region’s national parks. In Paroo-Darling National Park, three hours north-east of Broken Hill, explore the Darling River and stay in the Coach and Horses bush camp. The Kinchega Shearer’s Quarters in Kinchega National Park, an 80-minute drive south-east of Broken Hill, offer basic but air-conditioned guest rooms and a fascinating insight into Australia’s pastoral history.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Telegraph.

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  1. We’ve been to NSW twice already and had superlative trips both times. We’re keen to go again. Putting in some of these suggestions into our itinerary would freshen things up.

  2. Art is always so good for feeling the soul of a place. I’d love a visit to the Willy Nilly Gallery to check-out the region’s artistic pulse.

    1. I was so useless at art that the school made me give up when I was 14. In spite of that I like looking at art when I’m travelling. For me it’s often the art memories that last longest.

  3. At first you think that a desert is a desert. Deserts seem really alien and inhospitable. Then, if you take your time it is amazing how much life there is and how much is actually going on.

    Living deserts are environments that reward slow travel. I can see the attraction of spending some nights in the living desert state park.

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