A true outback city in every sense, Broken Hill is a living, breathing time capsule where the great mining prosperity of yesteryear blends seamlessly with a rising modern art scene, all set amid a sprawling desert landscape.
It’s a place of huge skies, red rocky earth and a fascinating and internationally significant history. It is, after all, Australia’s fist heritage-listed city, and its secrets are just waiting to be discovered.
With its roots in the silver, lead and zinc mining industries, Broken Hill experienced great prosperity during the 19th century and the architecture of that period lives on to tell the tale. Grand, ornate buildings are dotted around the city and some residential streets are still lined with original miners’ huts, creating a palpable sense of history as you wander around this outback city.
The Broken Hill Proprietry (that would later become BHP), boomed in the 1880s, and the population reached 20,000 by 1891. And an outback culture took root in the very worst of conditions, with a stubborn refusal to lay down to nature, that became the bedrock of the Broken Hill psyche.
In the 70s and 80s, the dominant workers’ culture gave way to a local passion for the arts. Artists like Pro Hart and Jack Absalom, and films such as Mad Max 2 and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert were filmed on location in and around Broken Hill, giving the place a world-wide reputation on the silver screen.
So Broken Hill’s new era emerged; as a place much more than a mere engine of blood, sweat and stone. People – both from Broken Hill and 'Away' – began to regard the town as a culture in its own right, a place with a definite outback soul.
These days, Broken Hill is a cultural hub, home to more than 30 art galleries exhibiting work inspired by the stunning landscapes of outback NSW, countless museums encapsulating the city’s rich history, mine tours and even the opportunity to buy jewellery from a local silversmith.
Art deco shopfronts welcome customers straight out of a bygone age, and all over town are monuments to men and women who suffered and died so the town could survive.
There are perhaps few places in the world where one can stand in a street at the urban boundary, some 20,000 people and all their dwellings immediately at one’s back, and view nothing but red desert in front, as far as the eye can see.
There’s a broad variety of accommodation options, from hotels and self-contained cottages and apartments to bed-and-breakfasts, backpacker hostels, farmstays and camping. You won’t be short of somewhere to buy a good coffee or a gastronomical pub meal, with Broken Hill’s local cafes and restaurants rivalling the three capital cities that sit within a day’s drive.
This is Australia’s most accessible outback city, and certainly its richest in terms of history and culture. So what are you waiting for? Your authentic Australian outback experience awaits.