The Best of Broken Hill: Beautiful, Ground-breaking, and Bizarre

When many think of Australia, often the first iconic destinations that come to mind are the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Uluru. While these beautiful locations highlight the incredible diversity of Australia’s landscape, few can match the rugged beauty of Australia’s greatest wilderness, the Kimberley.

Located in New South Wales near the South Australian and Victorian borders, Broken Hill originated as a mining town, home to the world’s largest mining company, BHP. Over time, Broken Hill evolved into a hub of art, culture, and historical firsts, surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of desert.  

Here are some of the best — and most interesting — things to do in and around Broken Hill: 

Living Desert Sanctuary & Sculptures

Living Desert Sanctuary & Sculptures is the stunning result of a collective group of artists from around the world who produced 12 breathtaking sandstone sculptures from giant 50-tonne sandstone blocks in just six weeks. Located on Sundown Hill in the Living Desert Reserve, a 15-minute drive north of the city, this enchanted spot offers sweeping views of the outback landscape and is accessible via car or on foot via a walking trail. These inspiring sculptures transform throughout the day with the light; however, sunset is pretty hard to beat. Additionally, there is a flora and fauna sanctuary of 180 hectares, providing unique insight into the Indigenous culture of the region.

Bells Milk Bar

Bells Milk Bar & Museum, a Broken Hill Icon, will take you back in time and awaken your sense of nostalgia. The neighbourhood corner store was once a colourful and vibrant hallmark of Australian life. What began as a confectioner in 1892, was re-established as Bells Milk Bar in the late 1930s. It is now one of the last and longest-running milk bars in the country. Once inside, you’re transported to the 1950s, when vanilla malts and lime green sodas were regular requests. Sit back and relax while enjoying a beverage to a fantastic performance from Cindy and Johnny that’ll take you back to the birth of rock and roll.

Palace Hotel Broken Hill

Palace Hotel Broken Hill was erected as a coffee palace in 1889 and became a licensed hotel in 1892. Upon entry, floor-to-ceiling paintings create an Aussie-style Sistine Chapel, painstakingly rendered by Indigenous artist Gordon Wayne from Port Augusta. The hotel’s unusual ambience provided the perfect backdrop for the iconic 1994 Australian film, Priscilla Queen of the Dessert. You can book to stay overnight in the ‘Priscilla Suite,’ the room where the characters in the movie stayed.

Royal Flying Doctor Service Broken Hill Visitors Centre
Royal Flying Doctor Service Broken Hill Visitors Centre is one not to miss. For Australians living in rural and remote areas, there are few services more important than the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). The Broken Hill location is a working 24/7 RFDS base and airport —the only one open to the public. You can take a tour of the base, get up-close views of aircrafts in the hangar, and access the Mantle of Safety Museum and theatre, featuring over 80 years of outback history. All proceeds from admissions and merchandise sales go towards the purchase of new aircraft and vital medical equipment.

Broken Hill School of the Air
Broken Hill School of the Air was established in 1956 to provide geographically isolated children (within a radius of approximately 300km) access to a regulated education over the ‘air’. It still operates today and provides 8:15am daily tours during the school term, where you can talk with a teacher, learn about its contributions within the local community, and sit in on a live session with the students.

Big Bench & Line of Lode Memorial

Big Bench & Line of Lode Memorial are two unique landmarks steeped in history. The Big Bench is a well-known picturesque spot that sits in beautiful terrain. It is a favourite for Australian movie productions — scenes from Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert were shot here. The bench is two-and-a-half times bigger than a normal park bench, making for fun photo opportunities. The Line of Lode Memorial sits atop the big hill of dirt where Broken Hill was originally located. Its ‘mermaid tail’ appearance is a memorial to the 700+ miners who have lost their lives there since the 1800s, when the mines began. The name and cause of death for every fatality is listed in the memorial.

Daydream Mine
Daydream Mine, located in the Appollyon Valley, offers a glimpse into what life was like for the early miners in and around Broken Hill. You’ll descend underground and walk the same tunnels Cornish silver miners did in the 1880s on an informative 90-minute guided tour of three levels, with exciting twists and turns along the way. An above-ground tour includes a replica miners’ hut and a trip past the original smelter, after which you can relax with a delightful tea and scone in the on-site tearoom.

Silverton Village
Silverton Village is located just 25km from Broken Hill and was the birthplace of mining giant, BHP. In the late 1800s, mining claims were abundant, and the population quickly peaked at 3,000. Today, only a few dozen live in the area, but more than 120,000 tourists flock to Silverton each year. The town’s heritage is well-preserved through its historic buildings, including museums located at the gaol and school, and a Mad Max 2 museum, showcasing vehicles and other fun movie miscellany. Additionally, there are five studio/galleries filled with a range of arts and crafts, as well as a heritage walking trail, the tramway track, and a local pub, the Silverton Hotel, a hive of activity.

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