The Aussie Outback. Wide open spaces, red dirt and seasonal wetlands. It’s a pity you have to fly over to the Northern Territory to experience such a uniquely Australian environment.
Well that’s what I used to think. Did you know that out west, over the Great Dividing Range, there’s hundreds of kilometres of Outback New South Wales to explore. Did someone say road trip?!
Whether you’re looking for star-studded camping, boundless horizons, a cheeky wetland paddle or a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture, the national parks of Outback New South Wales and the Riverina have you covered.
Not all of the outback requires a 4WD, but there’s unsealed roads that make it difficult to pass after rain, and it can be a long way between stops. When driving in the outback some extra precautions and planning is necessary:
- Take heaps of water – a jerry can or big container from the supermarket is best.
- Pack a detailed paper map – it has unlimited battery life and data.
- Download the Emergency Plus app and Fires Near Me app before you go.
- Don’t drive in the dark or at dusk – this is when wildlife is most active.
- Stay with your vehicle if your car breaks down.
- Check local warnings for bushfires and flooding.
- Give someone your itinerary and for longer trips or remote fill in a trip intention form and take a personal locator beacon.
- Check your car’s spare tyre.
- Ensure you have plenty of fuel.
Here are three road trip ideas to whet the outback appetite.
Road Trip Idea 1 - An Intro to Outback NSW
Traditionally Bourke represents the end of farmland and the start of the outback, this is where the phrase “Back O’ Bourke” comes from. What better place to begin your outback adventure?
Rest up from the long journey in town, then head to the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition Centre to get acquainted with the local history. Stuffed with knowledge, you’ll be ready to experience the incredible local national parks.
Head South to Gundabooka National Park. On the Valley of the Eagles walk you’ll stroll to the base of Mount Gundabooka and feel its hunkering form gazing down on you from 500 metres above the plain. Fit walkers can complete a rugged 5.7 kilometre round trip to the summit.
If you’ve got power at all four wheels, head to Toorale National Park for an in-car adventure. The Darling River drive is perfect for soaking up those wholesome floodplain vibes. Check out the lookout at Mount Talowla for a real-life panorama. You could also head down the ‘River Road’ on either side of the Darling River to experience the wide open spaces of the floodplain and Paroo-Darling National Park before reaching the old river port of Wilcannia.
Road Trip Idea 2 - Way Out There
Already acquainted with the outback? Or looking to link your road-trips into a multi-day odyssey? It’s time to head west, WAY west.
Mutawintji National Park is north-east of Broken Hill, about 16 hours west of Sydney. You’ll see 50 shades of ochre (a natural earth pigment containing hydrated iron oxide) as reds, browns and yellows dominate the soil and the rock formations of the Bynguano Ranges. The Mutawintji Gorge is a must see, cutting deep into the ancient landscape.
North from Mutawintji, you’ll hit Sturt National Park. The park’s arid landscape hints at the desert nearby, the Strezlecki is within spitting distance (if you have any spit left!).
It’s not all horizontal though, “Jump-Up” country features the flat-topped remains of an ancient mountain range. Experience the wonder on the Jump-Up walking track, or drive the Jump-Up Loop Road, it is a road trip after all.
Don’t miss: Cameron’s Corner – the intersection of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia sits at the north-western corner of the park (so its one of the few places you can celebrate the NYE in three states in one night).
Road Trip Idea 3 - Water Sourcin’
The outback isn’t all sand and dust. Head a little south to the Riverina and you might even find enough water to paddle your canoe.
First stop, Murray Valley National Park. The park features canoe trails to suit all skill levels. There’s no white water – think sliding under shore-dwelling red gums and stealth-paddling past unaware waterbirds. It’s BYO canoe for this one, or rental is available.
Head inland to Yanga National park to explore the vastness of Yanga lake. This permanent water source is a haven for eagles and cormorants, and you’ll be sure to see land dwellers like kangaroos, goannas and even emus at the lake’s edge. Don’t forget to check out the Yanga Homestead when you’re done so you can answer mum’s post-trip quiz.
Lake Mungo dried up thousands of years ago, but the chance to explore an ancient lakebed can’t be missed. In fact the Mungo Lady and Mungo Man was found here, the oldest human remains to be discovered in Australia. Take a tour of the eerie landscape on a walk through the “Walls of China” or explore at your own pace on the Foreshore Walk. Finally, spend a night out at the remote Belah Campground to really soak up the age of the land. If you’re looking for a deeper experience, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Aboriginal guides give tours and manage the Mungo National Park.