Come Across Steam Trains, Ghost Towns and Lions on This Road Trip to the Desert
Drive from a lush rainforest to an arid red desert.
From crisp mountain air, lush rainforests, and a string of townships to ghost towns and baron, arid desert, this epic road trip shows off New South Wales’ complex mountain ranges, plateaus, and escarpments of The Great Dividing Range. The road trip starts in the world-famous Blue Mountains and ends in Silverton, a small mining town most notably known as the dusty red background in the Mad Max movies. Over 12 hours, embark on a journey through World-Heritage Listed national parks, wine and food regions, mining towns, and farming regions.
This road trip guide will show you all the best places to stop along the way.
Blue Mountains to Mudgee
Start your journey in the Blue Mountains by exploring several townships steeped in history and heritage. There are endless hikes to tackle and waterfalls to chase, including Wentworth Falls, Fairfax Heritage Trail, and The Grand Canyon. Visit the famous Three Sisters rock formation in Katoomba, or stop into Lithgow, board the Zig Zag Railway, and experience the magic of steam trains. It’s up to you to choose your Blue Mountains adventure, but we suggest stopping for a pie at Bill’s Old Fashioned Cakes and Pies.
If you have a 4WD, add The Lost City to your itinerary. As its name suggests, it isn’t the easiest of finds but worth the search. Geological formations made up of layers of ironstone and sandstone has weathered in a way to resemble pagodas and a forgotten civilization that once was. If you don’t have a 4WD, you can head to Hassan’s Wall Lookout—the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains.
You can also stop at Capertee Valley for panoramic views of the valley. Most people don’t realise Capertee Valley is the world’s second-largest canyon and definitely worth a quick stop into Pearson’s Lookout.
The next stop is Mudgee, home to organic and biodynamic tipples and unforgettable dining experiences focused on farm-to-plate. We suggest staying the night to immerse yourself in the gastronome experience and friendly hospitality. There are tiny cabins, glamping options, luxury homestays and the usual regional hotels to choose from. Regarding dining, head to Alby and Esthers for coffee in a circa-1873 stone terrace building, Pipeclay Pumphouse for breakfast, and Roth’s Wine Bar for a late-night tipple.
Logan Wines is a great place to devour a cheeseboard and sip wines with views of the vines. Lowe Wines produces small-batch organic tipples, and Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard is known for its award-winning wines and is hiding a motorcycle museum in the basement.
Mudgee to Nyngan
Continue the journey to Dubbo and spend the day on an African safari. The Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to hundreds of rare and endangered animals, including rhinos and big cats, where you can come face to face with a lion. You can walk, drive or ride around the Zoo’s five-kilometre circuit and watch daily keeper activities. In the city centre, you can visit the Old Dubbo Gaol and admire the ornate architecture and explore the stories of pioneers and bushrangers on the Dubbo Heritage Walk.
Hankering for a pub feed? Stop by one of the classic country pubs for refreshments, such as the 1882-built Milestone Hotel. There are quality restaurants like Veltd and charming cafes – try the gourmet pies at the Village Bakery Café, family operated since 1918. You can also enjoy wine tasting at the Red Earth Estate Vineyard.
After exploring Dubbo, make the journey to Nyngan, a small town sitting on the edge of the tranquil Bogan River. One of the more popular things to do in town is to get a selfie with the tongue-in-cheek Big Bogan—a five-metre tall statue sporting a mullet, Southern Cross tattoo, fishing rod, esky, and stubbies. At the Nyngan Museum, explore the town’s history through a captivating collection of artefacts and displays. Learn about the 1835 journey of explorer Major Thomas Mitchell to reach the Bogan River, and the important role railway has played in Nyngan’s history.
The Mid-State Shearing Shed honours the local shearing industry, showcasing shearing memorabilia. Housed in a former railway shed, you’ll find shearing equipment and stalls, bag stencils and murals by local artists.
Stay the night at Alomo Motor Inn in one of their 15 air-conditioned rooms.
Nyngan to White Cliffs
Nyngan is situated at the start of the Barrier Highway, which takes you straight to Silverton and onto the heritage-listed city Broken Hill. Follow the highway, stopping at Cobar, a town rich in mining heritage and natural attractions. See restored mining equipment at the Cobar Miner’s Heritage Park, and check out the defunct Great Cobar Copper Mine from the 1830s. Head to the viewing platform at Fort Bourke Hill Lookout for incredible views.
If you do one thing in Cobar, it would be to order a chicken parmi at the Great Western Hotel.
Jump back on the road until you come across Wilcannia, a once-thriving Darling River port. Today, you can still see some of the town’s treasures, including the old-centre lift bridge, the 1880 Post Office, the Athenaeum Library and the Courthouse. Stop at Emmdale Roadhouse for a coffee and a bite to eat.
The next and final stop of the day is at White Cliffs, an active opal mining town, where you can sleep in an underground motel. The all-white dugouts are unique and make for a memorable experience. While in town, visit opal showrooms and purchase locally mined opals to get cut and set by jewellers.
White Cliffs to Silverton
The next leg of the journey is to Broken Hill, where you can discover the charm of outback Australia. Take the Broken Hill Heritage Walk Tour to discover the town’s charm, character and history. There are plenty of museums and galleries to wander around, including the oldest regional gallery in NSW and the Albert Kersten Mining and Mineral Museum where you can see artifacts and thousands of specimens from the city’s mining history, including a 42kg silver nugget.
You can’t leave Broken Hill without ordering a soda spider from Bells, a 1950s Australian Milk Bar that doubles as a museum.
Drive north of Broken Hill to Silverton, where you can stand at the edge of the world. The wide and flat space of the Mundi Mundi Plains looks endless and gives the feeling that you might be at the edge of the world. It’s best taken in from Mundi Mundi Lookout.
Silverton has starred in many iconic Australian films, including Mad Max 2, which you can explore at the Mad Max Museum in town. Get an insight into the harsh realities of mining a century ago by taking an underground tour through a former silver mine at Historic Daydream Mine.
Book the Priscilla Suite at the Palace Hotel if you’re planning to stay in Silverton. You’ll likely recognize the venue as one of the stopovers from the iconic movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.