It’s been almost 14 years since I packed my bags and headed for “the big smoke”. Leaving my hometown of Broken Hill for the big city lights of Sydney to pursue my journalism degree. Time goes by and I realised I hadn’t been back in 10 years! So I decided to head to outback New South Wales and check out the Broken Heel Festival. Plus take a trip down memory lane while I was there. I hope you enjoy my ultimate guide to this unique town. The place most commonly known for Mad Max, Pricilla Queen of the Desert and BHP mining. But read on, there’s more to this heritage listed town than meets the eye.
The 12 Best Things To Do In Broken Hill
1. Have Breakfast at The Silly Goat Cafe
Located in the heart of Broken Hill on the main strip of Argent Street is The Silly Goat cafe. This is a family run business by brother and sister duo Emily and Gideon Keenan and their mother. Saturday mornings are really busy here with people dining both inside and out, as well as those eagerly waiting in line for takeaway. If you’re looking for a decent coffee this is the place to visit. Their menu is quite health focused with green juices and healthy smoothies on the drinks list along with herbal teas and coconut water. This continues through to the breakfast menu with frozen berry breakfast bowls ($12.50) and smashed avocado on rye with poached eggs and basil pesto ($12.50). At prices like this you can eat your avocado toast and buy yourself a house! My personal favourite dish is the spinach and mushies ragu ($13.50) Two perfectly poached eggs are served on toasted ciabatta and covered in a rich spinach and mushroom ragu. It’s delicious! For something a little lighter the Huevos Rancheros eggs ($14.50) are a big hit with the locals.
360 Argent Street, Broken Hill, 08 8088 4774 https://www.facebook.com/The-Silly-Goat-325110000923718/
2. Visit the Pro Hart Gallery
No trip to Broken Hill is complete without a visit to the Pro Hart Gallery. On display are not only a wide selection of Pro’s own paintings, but also hundreds of works by an impressive range of other artists including Arthur Boyd, John Constable, Claude Monet, and Albert Tucker. The paintings are arranged randomly and virtually cover every wall in the gallery. The late Hart also has an incredible collection of Rolls Royce cars on display including one he painted from bumper to rear!
108 Wyman Street, Broken Hill T: 08 8087 2441 www.prohart.com.au
3. Play Two Up at The Palace Hotel
It used to be called Mario’s Palace when I was growing up and this place brings back lots of fond memories. I used to spend hours after school playing pool with my best friend. We were convinced if we practised enough we’d become pool sharks and travel the world playing professionally. But there’s plenty of history here at this iconic hotel. It’s particularly famous from its starring role in the hit movie ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’. Its architectural beauty is enriched with over 500m2 of colourful murals by indigenous artist Gordon Waye. Upper floors offer a large range of accommodation from ensuite rooms, pub style, family rooms, dorms and the famous “Priscilla Suite”. Take in any part of the day on the spectacular veranda with views over Broken Hill’s main street. Downstairs there’s a bar and restaurant open seven days a week with a great selection of craft beers, wines and pub classics. It’s also hosts Australia’s ONLY all year round Two Up Game – you can have a spin any Friday from 9pm.
227 Argent Street, Broken Hill, 08 8088 1699, http://thepalacehotelbrokenhill.com.au/
4. Have an old fashioned milkshake at Bells Milk Bar
Discover the lost world of malted milks and soda spiders! Bells is a classic 1950s Australian milk bar complete with original fixtures and fittings! It’s your best ‘taste’ of local history. You can try a traditional Bells drink made from Bells handmade syrups and cordials, or check out the milk bar museum and browse through the retro gift shop. My all-time favourite shake is the sarsaparilla spider, but I’m told it’s an acquired taste and not for everyone.
160 Patton Street, Broken Hill T: 08 8087 5380 http://www.bellsmilkbar.com.au/
5. Sit in the giant chair at the miners memorial
The Big Bench is located on the Line of Lode, a big mound of mine deposits in Broken Hill. It sits right next to the Broken Earth Restaurant and Miners Memorial and overlooks the entire city. The bench was made to be 2.5 times bigger than a normal park bench and it’s designed to make you feel like a kid no matter how big or old the occupant. Release your inner child and capture the moment with a selfie!
6. Have Brunch At The Caff
The Caff is another great cafe in Broken Hill that serves wholesome, fresh, homemade food. It’s located at the entrance of the newly constructed GP Super Clinic in Thomas Street Broken Hill, across from the hospital. The owners, Summa and her husband Nathan Rayner are Broken Hill locals and very passionate about making everyone feel welcome. Brunch is particularly delicious here with dishes including French toast, baked eggs ($14.50) and poached eggs on avocado toast ($7). The eggs benedict with smoked salmon is a nice light dish or if you’re battling a hangover try the bacon and egg roll.
GP Super Clinic, 235 Thomas Street, Broken Hill, NSW 2880, 08 8088 3232, http://www.thecaff.com.au/
7. Check out the Big Picture and buy some amazing silver from Silver City Mint & Art Centre
The art scene runs deep in Broken Hill but one of the biggest (in size and popularity) tourist attractions is The Big Picture. Having opened 2001, you’ll find it located inside the Silver City Mint and Art Centre. This multi dimensional art work has to be seen to be believed. It’s one of the largest artworks painted by a single artist in the Southern Hemisphere. An incredible feat for an artist (Ando) who has never had an art lesson in his life! A picture may say a thousand words, but Ando’s paintings will leave you speechless. While you’re there buy yourself some silver jewelry. Broken Hill is known for mining silver, lead and zinc and has some of the best silver in the world.
66 Chloride Street, Broken Hill 08 8088 6166 http://www.silvercitymint.com.au/collections/the-big-picture
8. Have dinner at Trinders at The Astra
Ok, so Broken Hill definitely isn’t known for it’s fine dining. It’s no south of France or Amalfi Coast. But if you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a nice dinner in town Trinders restaurant at The Astra Hotel is my pick. Situated inside the hotel you have the option of the more casual cafe Temptations. Here you’ll find classic pizzas, pasta, schnitzels, steaks and more. Next door is Trinders where the menu is a bit more expensive (although still great value by Sydney and Melbourne standards). The Moroccan lamb shank is slow cooked and falls off the bone on to a bed of potato mash with lentils, dates, fresh coriander and jus ($30). Another favourite dish is the slow cooked pork belly ($30) served with potato mash, braised purple cabbage, red wine jus and apple puree. Like almost everywhere in Broken Hill, the staff are really friendly and accomodating. Turn an early dinner into a late night with some more wine chatting outside on a warm summers night.
393 Argent St, Broken Hill T: 08 8087 5428 www.theastra.com.au
9. Check out the Op Shops and antique stores
One of my all time favourite things to do in Broken Hill is to check out the op shops. There are all kinds of treasures just waiting to be discovered and at a fraction of the price of major cities. There are two main charity shops on Argent Street – Vinnies and Lifeline. They’ve got lots of vintage clothes and secondhand homewares. You can also drive out to the south of Broken Hill to Patton Street where you’ll find another awesome antique shop just a few doors down from Bells Milkbar. This shop is full of great antiques and fun quirky finds. If you’re in the shopping mood and looking for something more upmarket and gourmet be sure to pop in to Thom Dick and Harry’s on Argent Street. They have some beautiful homewares and delicious gourmet products. From local Broken Hill honey to syrups, bush foods and more. They also have a cute little cafe inside where you can get good coffee, T2 teas and sweet treats.
10. Take a day trip out to Silverton
About 25km out of Broken Hill is Silverton. Here you’ll find the old Silverton pub, awesome art galleries and the Mad Max museum. Not far from there is Penrose Park, a great spot for a picnic in a desert creek bed or a quiet siesta amongst the gum trees.
11. Pop a bottle of bubbles and watch the sun set at the Living Desert and Sculptures
Located within the reserve and settled in the tranquillity of the gullies and rocky outcrops is the Living Desert Flora and Fauna Sanctuary. Bordered by a predator-proof fence, the sanctuary allows visitors to gain close access to outback plants and animals, while understanding the regions Aboriginal heritage. Another major attraction within the Living Desert is the Sculpture Site. A successful sculpture symposium was held on this majestic hilltop in 1993 by artists from around the world. Twelve sandstone sculptures highlight the skyline, all with a story to tell. The Sculpture Site can be accessed via a 1 km walking trail starting from the Flora and Fauna Sanctuary car park. There is also vehicle access to the sculptures.
12. Stand on the edge of the world as the sun sets at Mundi Mundi plains
Where to Stay
Red Earth Motel
The Red Earth Motel is located on the main strip of Argent Street near ABC radio station. It’s clean, modern and within walking distance to everything the town has to offer. You could also check out the Priscilla Suite at Mario’s Palace if you’re feeling extra fabulous!
Getting To Broken Hill
Broken Hill airport is located approximately 6km from the centre of town. Regional Express (yes those tiny little planes) have flights to and from Sydney and Adelaide. You can also catch a bus from Adelaide or Mildura. If you’ve got time, the train is a great way to take in the landscape of outback NSW. It’s interesting to see how much it changes as your get further and further out of the major city. Great Southern Railways Indian Pacific train service operates through Broken Hill on its journey from Sydney to Perth (stopping in Adelaide). By car it’s about a 13 hour drive from Sydney or 9 hour drive from Melbourne.
Good times to visit Broken Hill
Broken Heel Festival- September
Hosted at the colourful Palace Hotel, Silverton Hotel and the shining Silver City of Broken Hill the festival offers all of the authentic favourite haunts from the iconic film Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Take it slow or party hard but be ready to soak in 3 days of glittering good times. Expect a programme inspired by not only the film movie but the gems Broken Hill. Drag Queens and Drag Kings from around the nation attend each year plus a crafted list of entertainers bringing cabaret, comedy, opera and live music, including an Abba coverband (of course!) & DJ playing all the tracks you need to hear at a Priscilla Party! Even the million dollar stage show “Priscilla Bus” will be on display! The event runs day and night over 3 days including a “Lap of the Main Drag in Drag”competition where you get to join the locals and strut your stuff up the city’s main drag!
St Patricks Race- March
The St. Patrick’s Race Club becomes “The City in the Outback” during race week with fun throughout the week and on race day it is the place to be and be seen. With ladies and gentlemen in race attire, fun is had by all, either in the Pavilion, under the sails, in the Grandstand or on the lawn.
For more info on Broken Hill visit here.