In good times and bad, some of the best destinations in Australia are often found in the dust and heat of the Outback.
Most people tour outback NSW between March and October to avoid the heat. This is like travelling to Thredbo in summer to avoid the snow. Baking sun, azure skies, empty roads, chalk-dry dirt and a crow’s lonely call form the romantic picture city dwellers have of the outback – and in summer that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Some of the best places to visit are now in areas the NSW Government has classified as suffering ‘intense drought’ – the highest on its six-level drought indication scale (see edis.dpi.nsw.gov.au). It’s not just Outback NSW going through the big dry; regions such as the Hunter Valley are also gripped by intense drought.
While donations to drought relief offer vital short-term assistance, domestic tourism will help ‘drought proof’ our small towns when the next big dry inevitably rolls around. Here are some of the best destinations in NSW currently in the grip of intense drought.
The Hunter Valley region usually conjures up images of grapevines and rolling green fells, but the Upper Hunter at the time of writing is dusty and yellow. The Hunter is, of course, heaven for connoisseurs of the grape, with more than 150 wineries dotted around the region. But, as our roving reporter Dorian Mode noted back in our May/June edition, it has loads of attractions for teetotallers as well.
Probably best known in pop culture as the birthplace of Shannon Noll, Condobolin is about to play host to the famous ‘Utes in the Paddock’ exhibition. Old Aussie utes – long past their roadworthiness – have been given a second life as murals thanks to Australian artists. The tiny village of Ootha, just off the highway east of Condobolin, featured Utes in the Paddock when it first opened in 2010. But back in May, the Lachlan Shire Council officially announced the outdoor gallery would be moved to a 25-acre block on The Gipps Way, south of the Condobolin town centre.
There’s an awful lot of not much beyond Broken Hill, but within the historic mining town there’s no shortage of things to see and do. Pay a visit to Bells Milk Bar, which harks back to a time of lino floors, aluminium chairs and malted milkshakes. It was already well established as ‘Pearly Bells’, an old soda fountain shop, before an overhaul and name change back in 1938. Just outside town, in that great tradition of cheesy tourist attractions, is the Big Bench, while the Mad Max Museum is in nearby Silverton and dedicated to Mad Max 2 (1982), sequel to the 1979 cult Aussie film.
Almost the entire distance of the 469km drive between Broken Hill and Cameron Corner is officially in the grip of intense drought. There are only three notable towns along the route – Packsaddle, Milparinka and Tibooburra – and they all have a pub, except Tibooburra which has two. Make the trek to the point where the states of NSW, Queensland and South Australia converge. A simple pillar marks the site, which was named after NSW surveyor John Cameron. The Dingo Fence, built during the 1880s, also passes through here along the NSW border.