A Deeper, Dustier Visit to Silverton, Outback NSW.

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.

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Walking through history in Broken Hill

When visiting Outback Australia on the cusp of Summer, it pays to get outside early and then disappear inside under an air conditioner for the rest of the day.

That was our plan when we signed up for the Broken Hill Heritage Walk Tour.

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Why Go to White Cliffs?

A very good question and one I asked myself continually during our 17-hour visit.

White Cliffs, in Outback NSW, is located approximately 1 020km West of Sydney and 268km North East of Broken Hill. When we jumped in the car in Broken Hill to head towards our destination it was already 34°C and leapt to 38°C in three minutes and it was only 938am!

We were in for a long day…

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Get Your Rainbow On in Outback Australia

When you think of Outback Australia, you may think of wide open spaces, searing heat, endless miles of nothingness and dust. Lots of dust.

What may not immediately spring to mind is big hair, sparkly sequins and endless rainbows of feather boas.

That’s until you step through the front door of The Palace Hotel in Broken Hill.

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Menindee – Exploring Small Towns in Remote New South Wales

Menindee? Where’s that? I hear you ask.

Head West out of Sydney. West over the Blue Mountains. West through Dubbo and past Cobar until you nearly drive into Wilcannia. So far you are a mere 960km from the Sydney Opera House.

Turn left on a dusty, bumpy dirt road and head south-west from Wilcannia and after about 160 dry, sandy kilometres, with any luck you will hit the tar again and be enjoying the bright lights of the thriving metropolis of Menindee. Population 551 (on a good day).

Your next question, “Why on Earth would you want to visit Menindee?

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In the Outback & Up to My Armpits in Art

Broken Hill is located around 1 150km west of Sydney and 520km from Adelaide and is officially in the middle of Nowhere! Despite its remote location, the city does have a fascinating history (which I will share in a later post) and its other huge selling point is the depth and diversity of artistic talent.

Here is a small taste of the 27 art galleries that can be found in, and around, Broken Hill.

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Hitting the Road to the Australian Outback

When I am traveling overseas and I tell people that I live in rural New South Wales, they immediately assume that I come from Outback Australia.

Not by a long shot!

This is what Outback Australia really looks like…

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Mad Mel in Silverton

Travelling out to Silverton is a commitment, not only in time but also in dollars. But rather than just a commitment, it is also an investment in my Bucket List.

Silverton is 26km northwest of Broken Hill. Flights leave Dubbo twice daily and that is where the financial-commitment part kicks in. A return flight Dubbo-Broken Hill is at least $715, and that is the cheapie, inflexible fare. Perhaps that buys you a share of the ‘x’ in Rex Airlines. The alternatives, though cheaper, are much longer road trips via car or bus, or by hijacking a grey nomad. For the time poor, the plane is the best alternative.

It was mesmerising to watch the colours and terrain change we as we flew ever westward. The patchwork paddocks changed from dusty brown on the edge of Dubbo to vivid ochres closer to Broken Hill. The ‘patches’ became significantly larger and long, straight dirt roads disappeared into the haze of the horizon. The sparseness and bareness of the flat terrain may not appeal to everyone but to me there is beauty in its simplicity. The sense of openness and just plain space is a beautiful thing and, in my eye, ‘is’ Australia.

Silverton is an easy 20 minute drive out of Broken Hill, which provides an opportunity to get even closer to the Outback colours. The dusty blue/green/grey of the low, scrubby bushes contrasts neatly with the red earth and the tawny brown of the emus. It is not as flat as it appears when airborne. A myriad of gullies and small, rocky outcrops add interest and depth to the landscape.

Silverton is a scattering of dusty streets only hinting at the town’s former glory. In its Pub front - old 1heyday in the late 1800s, it was a thriving community, with 2000 people in the town itself and a further 2000 in the surrounding district. Its career was short-lived though, and its boom-to-bust period lasted only eight years. These days, Silverton is home to around 35 dedicated residents.

The reason for my (literally) flying trip to Silverton was a work project related to the Silverton Hotel. How lucky am I?

Patsy and Peter Price took over the Silverton Hotel in 2010. A plumbing career may not be Bar - people 1the usual background for pub owners, but they have taken to their new lifestyle with gusto, improving both the physical facilities of the pub and also reawakening the business. The latest addition to the complex features seven accommodation units sympathetically designed in the style of typical shearers’ quarters but far more comfortable than anything you would normally find adjacent to a shearing shed.

The Hotel appears to be the heart and soul of the community and a natural meeting and rest place for visitors. A constant stream of grey nomads and school-holiday families came through the door from early morning until late evening, all receiving a hearty welcome. Also coming to the pub, but not quite making it through the doors, was a family of DSCF4584 (3)donkeys. You can imagine the interest and amusement their arrival created amongst the tourists. Is this where I say something like, “only in Outback Australia…”

The Silverton Hotel has featured in so many movies it is tricky to know where the pub finishes and the movies start. Throughout its long and colourful life the pub, has been featured in Wake in Fright, A Town Like Alice, Dirty Deeds and of course, Mad Max II, plus many more.

Believe it or not, as I drove away from the pub the next morning the lingerie company Victoria’s Secret was setting up for a photo shoot using the Hotel as a backdrop. No, they did not ask me to help out by modelling a few pieces of strategically-placed lace. Disappointing really….

Silverton falls within the Unincorporated Far West Region of NSW and is managed by a Village Committee. These passionate individuals have worked hard to keep the village interesting and relevant, producing a range of tourism information and coordinating a heritage walk. This 2-hour walk takes in many of the village’s historical highlights and truly gives you the ‘lay of the land’. Make sure you wear a hat, sunscreen and take some water with you.

The remaining buildings in Silverton have stood the test of time and climate. Most of the stone buildings like the Courthouse, Municipal Chambers, and Gaol appear almost grounded in their surroundings – solid and immovable. I can only imagine their glory days and the string of colourful characters that would have passed through their doors.

Some of the buildings are now artists’ homes and galleries, adding a nice creative and DSCF4593cultural aspect to the community. For culture of a completely different sort there is the Mad Max Museum featuring props and memorabilia from the movies shot in the region – or you could get underground and deep down amongst the history of the region by visiting the Day Dream Mine.

One must-see, I am told, is sunset at the Mundi Mundi lookout. I missed it this time, since the crystal clear sky guaranteed an unspectacular evening, but I will keep it in mind for future visits.

I think the bucket list just got that little bit longer again.

April 2016