Driving along the Silver City Highway, you don’t see Tibooburra until you land at its doorstep, and it rises from a landscape of red, silver and gold below an indigo sky.
Getting to Tibooburra from Broken Hill meant a five-hour drive through a landscape of mulga and spinifex along the Silver City Highway – a mishmash of sandy loam, stony gibber, and narrow blacktop – with a stopover at Mount Gipps Station. No matter what the surface, in good weather the drive along the full length of the highway is caravan-friendly – just take your time.
MOUNT GIPPS STATION
You will never know Corner Country without visiting Mount Gipps Station.
At 3400ha, this famous outback sheep station is around the size of Germany, yet it is just a fraction of its original size of almost 220,000ha way back in 1877. Mount Gipps was among the first properties settled west of the Darling River in the 1860s, and carried more than 70,000 sheep.
These days, John and Kym Cramp run the property as a station-stay and working sheep station, offering a first-hand experience of life in Corner Country. With its open plains and rocky outcrops, this is a vast and glorious patch of outback Australia.
The property, divided by the Barrier Ranges, has a rich geological history spanning 1.7 billion years, so rich that Mount Gipps is strewn with tin, silver, lead and zinc mineshafts and miners’ huts.
MUTAWINTJI NATIONAL PARK
Corner Country is so named because it straddles New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia around Cameron Corner. Named after the New South Wales Lands Department surveyor John Brewer Cameron, Cameron Corner became famous as a stopover on the road to more remote towns in other states. That makes Tibooburra a Corner Country crossroads marked by vibrant rolling red dunes, wide open spaces, clay and salt pans, ephemeral creeks, watercourses and sandstone escarpments.
On the edge of Corner Country, Mutawintji National Park is a short drive from Mount Gipps Station and not far from the Corner Country gateway, Broken Hill.
Drive into Mutawintji and you will enter a breathtakingly beautiful ancient land with an unbroken connection with its Aboriginal custodians. This continuing link means that, with the help of a tour guide and a well-crafted audio-visual display, you will find yourself absorbed by one of the best collections of Aboriginal art in New South Wales and some very rare stone etchings.
To get a good feel for the city of Broken Hill, take a drive to the Line of Lode Miner’s Memorial atop the mullock heap that bisects the city. It’s an eerie and poignant reminder of the long and sometimes tragic history of the city that established BHP.
Broken Hill is saturated with authentic outback experiences but also has a fascinating array of cafés and restaurants that would be at home in Melbourne’s funkiest café district, and a vibrant arts community equal to Sydney’s bohemian putsch.
The Living Desert Reserve in particular is worth a visit, as it boasts a collection of large rock sculptures located on a rise that looks back at the city and out towards the desert country. It has a connection with the land that is as strong and tangible as the flora and fauna the reserve protects – a rugged environment of delicate wildflowers and native creatures.
CORNER COUNTRY CAPITAL
Tibooburra sits near the apex of the intersection between three state borders. Along its dusty main street, you’ll find two roadhouses, two pubs and a caravan park.
However, the real treasure of the region is Sturt National Park and Cameron Corner.
Wanderers with a feel for bush travel should be confident to venture along the sandy and gibber tracks that lead through the ever-changing landscape to the 5000km dog fence, which was constructed to keep roaming dingos of the north and west out of the pastoral lands of the south. This country is a photographer’s heaven.
You arrive at Cameron Corner as if arriving at an oasis – a country roadhouse with a sandy golf course and a black dog ready to retrieve your golf ball. If you go, say g’day to owner Fenn; he’ll tell you a good yarn and offer a cold beer and a burger. As for being isolated, Fenn rejects the suggestion. “Everyone says you are in the middle of nowhere, but we’re in the centre of everywhere.”
For those with a real taste for outback history, take a drive from Tibooburra for about an hour and you’ll find the ghost town of Milparinka, which is on the verge of a tourism resurgence. The town’s allure is tied to its interesting history and a strong connection to Charles Sturt’s fruitless search for an inland sea in the early 1800s.
Your journey through Corner Country can also include a trip to Fowler’s Gap research station, an interesting working research and sheep station, and a stopover at Silverton, slightly north of Broken Hill and home to Eldee Station.
Quality accommodation, wonderful food, a breathtaking champagne hilltop tour and scenery that’d make a photographer drool make it hard to go past Eldee Station. If you’re after just a quiet spot to relax, Eldee’s pool, spa and coffee shop might just be the ticket for you.
The town of Silverton itself offers a unique cultural experience. Tied forever more to the iconic Mad Max franchise, Silverton is an eclectic bush town that will capture your imagination as it has several bush artists and movie-makers alike.
While on the outside it might seem isolated, Tibooburra is an intriguing, essential destination for outback tourers, one that is guaranteed to leave you with a wealth of memories and steal a piece of your heart.