I have enjoyed a couple of work-related flying visits to the iconic outback village of Silverton and when the opportunity arose to return as a ‘proper’ tourist, I couldn’t resist.
Even though Silverton is tiny and officially in the Middle of Nowhere, it delivers history, scenery and serenity in spades.
Walking the dry, dusty ‘streets’ of Silverton really is, as the ol’ cliché says, like stepping back in time. With no work deadlines or meetings to attend, it was possible to wander slowly and let my mind do the same, imagining the hustle and bustle of Silverton in its prime.
Established in 1880, Silverton’s whole reason for being was the discovery and subsequent mining of silver. In a short boom and bust period it was home to 4 000 people and countless pubs. Now only one classic pub remains and around 50 hardy souls…on a good day.
Standing in the main street the only sound was the gentle breeze in the few parched trees lining the edge of the road. There was no traffic. Being a Sunday there was even less than zero cars about and the only movement on the streets were a few ambling tourists and a small mob of donkeys moseying around looking for a free snack.
Silverton is a history-lover’s idea of Paradise. Unfortunately many of the glorious old buildings have been pulled down or have fallen down and their bricks and materials stolen away for other uses. The remaining buildings (mostly) have been lovingly restored or preserved in their dilapidated form and many are protected by a State heritage order which, theoretically, provides an extra layer of protection.
The Silverton Gaol was built in 1889 and now houses a museum paying tribute to the residents of Silverton and Broken Hill, their lifestyle and economy. Room after room of the gaol is chock full of:
- Matchbox covers
- Mining equipment
- Bed pans
- China sets
- Wedding dresses
- Movie posters,
- And more.
Every room is like diving down a rabbit hole of miscellany.
I started out committed to reading every label and explanatory note. After about 30 minutes and I had not made it out of the first room, I gave up and just scanned the displays to get the general gist of the families, events and memories. There was simply not the time to absorb it all. We had also left our visit a little late in the day and the Museum Volunteer, while appreciative of our patronage, was keen to close up and go home. The entry fee is $5 per person – a small price to pay for the deluge of Australian social history.
Back on the streets again we wandered past the Municipal Chambers, The Court House and the old school house – all important and imposing buildings. Many of these buildings have been converted for public use ie. for meetings and events and the Court House is now part of a hostel-style accommodation facility. Perfect for large groups, family reunions and car rallies.
It seems that wherever you look there is a restored or falling down church and these are substantial buildings. No rough shacks for bush christenings or to save Outback souls. I marvel at the positivity of the religions and religious to build such significant buildings in a flash-in-the-pan-economy. Maybe they thought the multiple houses of worship would go some way to balancing out the multitude of debauched and sinful pubs?
While there is much to see in Silverton, walking around you can’t help but cast your eyes out over the surrounding landscape. The new wind turbines covering the neighbouring range of hills jar in their newness and tilt at modernity, but that is progress for you I guess.
There is nothing delicate or gentle about the surrounding environment. It is hard, arid, rocky and dusty. It is Outback Australia in all its glory. The harshness of the landscape is perfect inspiration for both painters and movie makers, and the village boasts a diverse array of art galleries (open sporadically) and a Mad Max museum for devotees. Truly something for everyone.
As we were nearing the end of our loop of the village, we could no longer resist the magnetic pull of The Silverton Hotel. Pushing through the front doors, we were given a warm Outback welcome. It seemed only right to perch up at the bar, the timber worn shiny and smooth from many other elbows and arms, with a cold beer.
Once the temperatures dropped a little and the setting sun painted the surrounding buildings golden, we took our beers outside to watch the passing parade of nothing. A couple donkeys wandered up to say ‘hello’ and to munch on their daily feast of carrots, lettuce and other pub kitchen cast offs. Recycling at its best.
We kicked back and chatted to some fellow travellers from Orange (875km away) and Warrnambool (845km). Obviously we were not the only wanderers keen to experience some classic Aussie hospitality and history, and prepared to travel great distances to get it.
If ever you are in the neighbourhood, make sure you allow yourself enough time to step back in time and enjoy the amazing history of Silverton. Or simply relax with a cold beer on the verandah of The Silverton Hotel and let the history come to you.
Both are good plans.
Where is your favourite historic village?
What: We stayed at The Silverton Hotel. They have seven fabulous rooms, built to look like shearer’s quarters, from $120 per night. Air-conditioned, coffee/tea making, super comfy beds and blissfully quiet.
Where: Silverton is located 26km north-west of Broken Hill. An easy 14 hour drive from Sydney!
When: If you are visiting Silverton on the weekend, allow yourself plenty of time to visit all the places you want to see well before closing time. Some attractions have a flexible approach to their opening hours and, if the village is quiet, they will give themselves an early mark and close up.
Why: Silverton is a bucket list destination for Mad Max fans, grey nomads, history lovers and beer drinkers. Don’t miss it!
How: You will need a car to get to Silverton or a bicycle or on foot. There is no such thing as public transport out here.
Who: See my previous comments about Mad Max fans, grey nomads, history lovers and beer drinkers.
Related Posts: For a more gentle and general introduction to the NSW Outback, have a look at my road trippin’ post. Check it out here.
Related Blogs: For some beautiful blue sky photography of Silverton and surrounds, check out the Sue Sinko’s visit in 2019.
Read About It: How can I resist recommending Bill Bryson’s witty review of Australia and his travels through the Outback, in his best seller, Down Under – Travels From a Sunburned Country? Available from Book Depository.
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