Experience otherworldly landscapes along the incredible Kidman Way.
A good pub marks the beginning and end of every great Aussie Outback drive, and the Kidman Way between Cobar and Hillston is no exception. At the Cobar end of the road you will find the spectacularly beautiful iron lace verandah of the Great Western Hotel, which they claim is the longest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. At the Hillston end you get to enjoy the charming brick façade and old-style timber furniture of the Clubhouse Hotel. This drive goes one better than most though – the Royal Hotel at Mount Hope is the perfect distance between the two towns to stop by there at lunch time.
The Kidman way is a 644km stretch of sealed road that goes through the heart of Outback NSW from Jerilderie in the south to Barringun in the north. The stretch between Cobar and Hillston covers 255km and in this relatively short distance it takes you through a kaleidoscope of otherworldly landscapes.
Driving north out of Hillston, you travel through the flat monotony of the plains landscape that stretches for hundreds of kilometres to the south. Fields line both sides of the road and soon the horizon is broken by the dark blue lines of a low range of hills rising in the distance. The red soil rises into thin funnels of swirling air that the locals call whirylwinds. Sometimes they dance through the fields in the distance, other times they wait for you on the road ahead, most likely disappearing into thin air by the time you reach them.
A bridge crosses the Lachlan River at Willanthry, and here there is a good rest stop from which you can enjoy the banks of the wide river and the shade given by the towering river red gums.
From here on the red and gold fields are dotted with the black trunks and dark green foliage of cypress pines. The termite resistant softwood from these trees was a boon for early settlers in the NSW outback, and if you look carefully, you will see huge eagles perched amongst their branches, waiting for their prey.
Further north, past the Royal Hotel, mallee scrub takes over the landscape, and it is here you will first see goats grazing by the road in this harsh country where sheep cannot survive. If you are lucky you may see the large nesting mound of the elusive mallee fowl, which allows them to incubate their eggs at a constant 33°C.
Just before you reach Cobar, take the right turn that leads you up to the Fort Bourke Hill Lookout. From the viewing platform you can look hundreds of metres down into the shockingly huge open cut mine, while giant trucks wind their way up the roads built along the edges of the scar like busy insects. Not far beyond the mine you can see the town of Cobar spreading out amongst the soft foliage of the trees. This is a view that defines Cobar’s settlement and the lives of its present day inhabitants. To learn more about it you should visit the Great Cobar Heritage Centre, and share a yarn over a schooner with the miners who line the stools at the Great Western Hotel at happy hour.