I had been planning a trip to Phuket these holidays and then with a passport taking longer than expected we opted for a trip to Adelaide. My dear girlfriend lives there and we have chosen a road trip to the Flinders Ranges. Which is great. I have always wanted to go but the alternative was Broken Hill and I can’t say I am not a bit devastated at not going there. My lovely friend Kate has just returned and boy does she make it look fabulous and I am so grateful to her in being able to share her insight into Broken Hill.
Broken Hill – the background you need to know.
Broken Hill is the epitome of Australian Outback towns, with big country pubs on streets so wide they revile Paris. The sky here is like nothing else (well nothing except possible the entire outback of Australia) and you will delight in the sky full of stars from one horizon to the other.
In its heyday, Broken Hill was a thriving capital and economy. Having grown up in a sheep/ wool family I have always been very aware of Broken Hill. Huge pastoralists settled in the area circa 1860. Over 200,000 camels arrived to help transport the wool from these stations between 1850 and 1900. The Darling River was then used to transport the wool to Melbourne via Albury on paddle steamers. The river was at time so dry the steamers would sit for months on a dry river bed until the rains came.
It’s a fascinating place. Added to all that history you have thousands of years of aboriginal history. In Broken Hill during the 1870’s you would have seen ‘Afghan’s’ (these were the men working with the camels. Rarely actually from Afghanistan but that was the name they were given) Chinese station workers and many European immigrants. It was possibly Australia’s first multi-cultural city.
Today there are many mining tours. With the discovery of copper, gold, silver and opal all found in Broken Hill, there is plenty to learn. Not to mention many artists in the town. Pro Hart Gallery can be found here and his influence on members of the community is apparent. The Dessert Sculptures are breathtaking.
I hope you enjoy Kate’s story. Broken Hill is definitely on my list.
From the Ocean to the Silver City
Kate Evers lives in Sydney, but is well-travelled, having lived and worked all over the world. She currently runs global accessories retailer hanker.com ( taking her to all four corners searching for new artisans and crafts-people. But she says: “nothing quite beats rediscovering your own back yard”.
In the dead of the Australian winter, she took her family (husband Hugo, 2 year old Edward and a 4 year old Audrey) to her home town of Broken Hill, often referred to as the “Silver City” reflecting its founding as a mining town or as the “gateway to the outback” reflecting its role as a launch pad for desert adventures.
She stayed in her Mum’s cottage on a nature reserve just outside the town. “This meant the kids were occupied almost 100 per cent of the time running around the bush chasing kangaroos and indulging in Mum’s cooking and garden fresh produce. Heaven!”
If you aren’t staying with friends or family, she recommends one, the charming old hotels such as “The Palace” that was featured in the film Priscilla.
You can drive or get the Indian Pacific train to Broken Hill, but it takes a couple of days so with kids it’s easier just to do the 3 hours flight with REX airlines (unless you have a lot of time). The flights are expensive at circa A$1,000 for a family of four, but the train is about the same, so there is not much way around.
The most amazing experiences of the trip for Kate were the simplest of pleasures:
- The stunning vistas of the desert in full bloom after much awaited rain: “seriously, I have rarely in my life seen it so beautiful. The sculptures hill on 9-mile road is a great vantage point for seeing the country”;
- Sitting on the rocking chair by the fire eating her mum out of house and home;
- Broken Hill has recently become world heritage listed and you only have to drive around the streets and cop an eyeful of the residential architecture to see why, “it makes you think you are in an episode of The Jetsons” she says;
- The sheer delight of seeing the kids roam free for hours in the bush discovering new shapes and textures and smells;
- The kids falling asleep in a swag under the stars with Grandma. “We cant even see stars in Sydney”; and lastly
- Bells milkshake bar “out the south” was a highlight for the kids. With over 50 milkshake flavours and no discernible change in the menu or décor since the 1950s, it’s a must.
Broken Hill and surrounds, is a great place to visit in winter (summer is too hot) as it has those beautiful crisp blue days, though the nights are cold. You definitely need to take plenty of warm layers and stay somewhere with heating or a fire.
In addition, you need to have a car to get around and see things. This needs a bit of pre-planning with a hire company if you have small kids that need car seats installed.
The best coffee (The Silly Goat) and best pizza (Alfresco’s) can be found in the main street, Argent Street.
And a day trip to the old boomtown of Silverton is great for kids with camel rides, ruined cottages, old film sets and art galleries to explore, as well as some great bush tucker in the local café. Be sure to go about 5km beyond Silverton to see the most amazing views across the Mundi Mundi Plain to the centre of Australia, “simply breathtaking”.
More photos of Kate’s travels to Broken Hill and beyond can be found on her Instagram account at @kateelizabethvi