G’day…Welcome to Broken Hill, Silverton and the inspirational outback!
Broken Hill looks like a classic outback town, with big country pubs on wide street corners, all under deep blue skies. Its look reflects all the characteristics that make the city so special – from its heritage and art to the warm welcome locals offer every visitor.
The vibrant earthy colours and magical light of this landscape have drawn film-makers and artists here to capture its special quality. It packs a powerful emotional punch – this dark red soil contrasting with clear blue skies where the wedge-tailed eagle soars – appealing to something deep in our human souls. There’s definitely a spiritual element in this country, as our Aboriginal ancestors knew. At sunset, when the wide horizon glows red and orange, we are lost for words. The distances are huge and the big red kangaroos can cover 200 kilometers in a night chasing a thunderstorm. And yet there’s a smaller scale – the petals of a Sturt’s desert pea, the eyes of a lizard, ancient rock etchings.
The city of Broken Hill is its own graphic testimony to the struggles of the mining pioneers. The ‘tower mullocks’ and headframes silhouetted at sunset tell the story of a treasure beyond the wildest dreams, a treasure that filled the coffers of a young nation.The explorers were on their way to the inland sea in the1840s and the graziers were already here. The Darling River was home to the paddle-steamers, and indigenous Australians looked on, as they had been here for thousands of years.
1. Living Desert Sculpture Park at sunset
2. Pro Hart Gallery
3. Royal Flying Doctor Service Base and School of the Air
4. Line of Lode (hilltop lookout)
5. Broken Hill Heritage Walk / Silver Trail Drive
6. Silver City Mint & Art Centre
7. Palace Hotel
8. Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
9. Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum
10. Whites Mineral Art and Mining Museum
Become part of an extraordinary history that helped define a nation. You’ll discover the Silver City is full of heroic stories – some so wild that no one could have made them up. Experience these stories straight from their source, in friendly conversation with locals over a cold drink or two.
Meeting Broken Hill’s many artists is a unique experience and all it takes is opening the door to any of the city’s 30-plus galleries. They range from the civic splendour of the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery to more intimate offerings that are part of artists’ homes and studios. Each gallery and the artists associated with them provide insight into the city’s character and encourages you to dig deeper.
Explore the Albert Kersten Mining & Minerals Museum, housed in the beautifully restored former Bond Store, made from locally quarried stone in 1892. The facility presents information on the formation of the world’s largest deposit of silver lead and zinc, as well as displaying a world class collection of Broken Hill minerals. The museum is also home to the iconic ‘Silver Tree’ once owned by Charles Rasp, the boundary rider who pegged out the first Broken Hill mining lease with his partners.
Another must see museum in the centre of town is the Sulphide Street Mineral and Train Museum, located diagonally opposite the Visitor Information Centre. This is actually four or more museums for the price of one: the Broken Hill Migrant Heritage Museum, Hospital Museum, the Ron Carter Transport Pavilion and the Triple Chance Mineral Collection. It also houses a range of railway attractions, including the Silver City Comet, and all sorts of gems from the Silverton Tramway Company.
Among many creative initiatives in Broken Hill, one stands out against the landscape with special drama, particularly at sunset. The Living Desert Sculptures are a celebration of the region’s powerful connection between art and environment. Located 9km from the city, it features 12 massive sandstone sculptures by artists from around the world, including Mexico, Georgia and Bathurst Island as well as local artist, Badger Bates.
Every bit as vital (and famous) as the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctor Service looks after 80 percent of Australia – an area the size of western Europe. Experience the remarkable scope of the service for yourself on a guided tour of its base. These tours run continuously so you won’t miss out. You can also watch RFDS activities showcased in film and in historic detail in the Mantle of Safety Museum.
Today, Broken Hill is a treat of diverse architectural styles. Stroll city streets and experience many a bygone era, from the grand atmosphere of palatial Federation and Victorian buildings founded on mining wealth to more workmanlike red brick and prefabricated structures and classic miner’s tin cottages.
Look closely at the facades of the city’s buildings and you’ll see more than bricks and mortar. You’ll see the vagaries of fortune; those made and lost by individuals and nationwide booms and busts. From the mining booms of 1906 and the 1950s, the population has expanded and contracted. There is also a surprisingly large number of examples of art deco architecture from the 1930s and others of Georgian influence. More than 350 properties are listed as locally significant and many feature on similar state and national lists.
Even a casual stroll down the main street, Argent Street, is special, where beautifully preserved architecture marks every step. Take one of the city’s fascinating walking tours, like the Broken Hill Heritage Trail, the Broken Hill Cemetery Walk, Broken Hill Guided Walk Tour or the City Sights tour. If you are keen to tour from the comfort of your car, there’s a choice of driving tours too, like the range of outback tours available through various Tour Operators.
Broken Hill’s comprehensive suite of walking and driving tours are detailed in individual brochures available from the Broken Hill Visitor Information Centre.
Today, radio communication has mostly given way to email, intranet and social media over satellitelinked internet, but the education connection between students and their teacher remains the same. The School of the Air classroom covers over a million square kilometres, with a student population of about 80 from outback stations. To listen in on a class, book through the Broken Hill Visitor Information Centre.
Unwinding is an art in Broken Hill, so join the locals in popular boutiques, distinctive gift stores and cafes. The Argent Street precinct caters to the whims and fancies of visitors and locals alike, as it has done for more than 100 years. The Clubs are a great visit and offer good value meals. Try a corner pub or a restaurant.
For a taste of something especially sweet head around ‘the hill’ to South Broken Hill’s pride and joy; Bells Milk Bar in the Patton Street village. Patton Street boasts a niche of charming shops, including some straight out of the 1950s. It was once the city’s most active commercial centre, alive with blacksmiths, boot-makers, fruiterers and even an undertaker.
Browse the city’s eclectic markets. The Patton Street Market is held every Sunday and the Community Market happens every second Saturday of the month.
Don’t overlook what’s between the city’s north and south. Perched on the mine tailings above the Line of Lode is an elegant restaurant where the food and atmosphere are every bit as spectacular as the view, not to mention the world-first of fine dining on a mullock heap!
Accommodation in the region is as diverse as the countryside. Try a ‘tinny’ home, these are classic ‘miner’s cottages’ some made of local stone, some of corrugated iron, a friendly bed and breakfast or go bush style in a cabin. Try a caravan park, guesthouse, station property or take your choice of motels, hotels, classy 19th century luxury, executive suites and backpacker bunks. The choice is yours.
However, remember if you wish a particular type of accommodation, Broken Hill can get very busy and booking your accommodation prior to arrival is recommended.