Broken Hill, also known as ‘The Silver City’, was shaped by underground riches.
Today this quirky mining hub in the far west of New South Wales also boasts a thriving cultural and artistic scene. Here are six must-dos for a first-time visitor to Broken Hill. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
1. Unearth the city’s arty side
There’s a particular reason the Living Desert State Park, a 15-minute drive north of Broken Hill, is on every visitor’s must-see list: the reserve features a dozen striking sandstone sculptures that glow red as the sun sinks over the stark semi-arid landscape. Smart visitors bring along a chilled beverage and glasses so they can toast this memory-making moment in style.
Broken Hill is home to about 50 working artists and many welcome visitors to their home studios. Fans of the late great Pro Hart, one of the Brushmen of the Bush, should visit Pro Hart Gallery, located on a suburban street in the city’s north, or track down his Big Ant sculpture on the corner of Beryl and Bromide Streets. Another cultural must-visit is the Regional Art Gallery, which is housed in a picturesque former emporium on Argent Street.
2. Ogle the Line of Lode
First-time visitors will be astonished by the giant mullock heap (waste rock) bisecting the city. The landmark is a constant reminder that Broken Hill was forged in the mining of an enormous boomerang-shaped deposit of silver, lead and zinc known as the Line of Lode (the mullock heap is known by the same name). That mining history is bittersweet. A poignant memorial crowning the heap honours more than 800 miners who have died while working here. The memorial includes a lookout that offers sweeping views over the city and beyond.
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3. Party at The Palace
For a sassy night out, head to The Palace Hotel on a Wednesday for drag karaoke hosted by desert diva Amanda Screetly. You can also pop in at other times to inspect the hotel’s extraordinary murals – including a re-creation of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus – which cover the walls and ceilings. The one-of-a-kind hotel found fame when it starred in the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
4. Drink in the nostalgia
You could spend days photographing Broken Hill’s historic buildings such as the ornate Victorian-era Trades Hall and the corrugated iron miners’ shacks that line many streets. Another much-photographed building, Bells Milk Bar in South Broken Hill, exudes vintage glamour. Order an old-fashioned soda spider or malted milkshake, made with original recipe syrups and cordials. Happy days, indeed.
5. Grab a bite
Broken Hill knows how to do a potato justice. Two of the city’s must-try snacks are pasties from Old McLeod’s Bakery (available from several outlets) and crinkle-cut Rag’s chips (from Ragenovich Brothers Chickens in Oxide Street). For something fancier, head to The Silly Goat for breakfast, brunch or lunch (if it’s 40 outside, try the cookie waffle ice-cream sandwich!). The café’s sourdough comes from Sufi Bakery – swing past its window to pick up a pastry. One of the most elegant evening dining rooms is found within the Royal Exchange – a grand Art Deco hotel.
6. Plan a side-trip
Silverton, 24 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill, is known as the ‘Hollywood of the Outback’. Head to the Mundi Mundi Lookout just out of town to see why the former silver mining town attracts filmmakers and photographers. Return to tiny Silverton to visit the post-apocalyptic Mad Max 2 Museum, run by obsessed Yorkshireman Adrian Bennett, the studio-gallery of affable artist John Dynon, known as the Emu Man for his caricatures of the birds roaming the countryside, and the photogenic Silverton Hotel.
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Another side-trip can be made to Sunset Strip, 90 kilometres south of Broken Hill. Here, weekenders front the currently dry Lake Menindee. Take in the strange view or play a round of golf on the red-dirt course. The village is planning to create a Walk of Fame to honour stars such as Broken Hill-born actor Chips Rafferty.
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Inn Crystal is located right in the heart of Broken Hill and offers easy access to the city’s key heritage sites and attractions. There are 42 comfortably furnished rooms on offer, and guests enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi.
About the writer
Katrina Lobley grew up in Queensland, moved to New South Wales after university, and stayed put. She worked as a writer on regional newspapers in Grafton, Orange and Wollongong, before relocating to Sydney in 1997 to take up a role at The Sydney Morning Herald. Katrina turned to freelance writing in 2001, and today she writes about travel, arts and culture for a variety of newspapers, magazines and online sites. Her favourite time of year is November, when the enormous jacaranda tree in her backyard finally breaks into bloom.