Jul 8, 2014


There are some great iconic drives throughout Australia and the Darling River run should be included. This 700 km drive is full of history, holds some great camping spots, full of some great characters and is a little remote. Some say the outback town of Bourke in western NSW is the gateway to the real outback, this is where the journey begins and the tar ends. 

Heading west out of Bourke the turn off soon appears to your left to head south along the darling river towards Louth and Tilpa- two iconic towns. The road soon turns to dirt, generally a god solid sandy base, but still advisable to lower the tyre pressures. I normally drop down to around 26psi. Heading along the darling its not long before you have your first option of campsites. On your right there is a newly opened up area called Yandi Station. Located 2km off the main road, there is plenty of room for the biggest van, tents or swags, with drop toilets and tank-water its a great place to stop. The Darling river is located several hundred metres nearby, far enough away so when it floods the water wont affect the camp ground. Huge river gums are scattered throughout, galosh screech and when we were there pelicans were seen.

Another great camp ground is a little further down the road. The Gundabooka National park is a must see area full of history, camping and activities. The camping here is serene. There are several walks nearby where you can explore aboriginal rock art, a great place to spend several days. 

Heading south a further 60km is the town of Loath. It is hard to believe that when the Darling River was in its prime- river boats used to frequent here on their way to Bourke, carrying wool, passengers and other freight. Here in Loath you can get a good meal, fuel and a cold beer at Shindi's pub. Camping is allowed under the bridge but the locals do appreciate if you do frequent the pub. Take time to explore the walls in the pub, they are full of old pics, relics, antiques and funny items from the past 120 years. Just recently the pub has had a facelift and is doing well. Another bonus here is the green grass out the back of the pub- feels so nice on your feet after days of dirt camping and exploring.

From Loath the road heads across the 100 year old bridge as you travel down the western side of the darling. We have always found that the road changes here to a very soft and dusty surface. This is from when the river floods and washes the surrounding soil onto the road which doesn't pack down. Floods out here in the Darling-Paroo flood plain are few and far between, but when they do happen, they are huge. Its funny, because the flooding starts when a good cyclone season has hit far north QLD and the NT. 

Apart from being a fantastic outback drive along the Darling, there are some great farmstead properties where you can stay for a minimal price. Just recently when we journeyed along, we pulled into Killara station. Nice grass campsites riverside, huge under cover area with an old steamship boiler as a heater- I mean this thing was that big that we fed logs in from one side and then the other side, hot showers and a bush kitchen. Its amazing what you see out here, we heard a huge roar down beside the river- it was the property owners firing up their boat to go water skiing on the darling which was in flood. Killara station was great, it has been in the same family for over 100 years, have a wander around and look at the relics from days gone by and def have a chat to the owners for some local history and a mud map for a property drive.  If your unsure about where to stay just ask at the pub at either Loath or Tilpa. 

Tilpa has a pub, the shortest heritage walk in Aust- across the road and back- and thats it. make sure you pop into the pub to say hi and check out the memorabilia on the walls from past floods, events and celebrations in the area. Heading south from Tilpa, a good idea is to ask at the pub which side of the river has had the most traffic down the roads. Normally we head along the western side of the river as the traffic seems to stay on the eastern side. Its great as you wander along admiring the huge river gums and looking where the flood levels reach in peak times. If your lucky and hit this area when there has been a little rain during winter ( normally a good 15-20 mm is enough ), there may be some flowers out. We saw a host of colour- from purples, reds, yellows all gleaming against the stark background. You'll notice too that you will see some small red sand dunes- this is the south eastern most side of the dunes from the channel country. The dunes may only be small but are noticeable. 

The track from Tilpa south towards Wilcania can be a little chewed out so be warned and take care if you see any moisture around as these tracks can turn to shit very quickly. It takes about 2 hours to travel from Tilpa to the turn off near Wilcannia, and this can take a little more time if you stop to snap a few pics or even have a break at any of the spots beside the road where the river swings towards the road. When you get to the Barrier Highway near Wilcannia, you realistically have three choices. Straight on south along the Darling towards the magnificent Meenindee Lakes, turn right towards Wilcannia and Broken Hill or turn left and head towards Cobar and the east coast.

No comments: