Our Corner Country Adventure Begins!
Taking a road trip to ANY hottest place anywhere just SO isn’t on my travel bucket list.
But Tibooburra, aka the hottest place in New South Wales, was closest town to the ONLY place in the world where I could stand in three Australian states – South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales – all at the same time!**
Anyway, it was winter – or what passes for winter downunder – so the heat thing wouldn’t be a problem. We’d leave the camper trailer behind while we sussed out the rugged roads. And I was getting itchy feet after being home for a couple of months. So what the heck.
‘Let’s go,’ I told Pilchard.
Just as well.
Or I’d have missed out BIG time …
… On the thrill of having a tyre gutted by a totally new and unexpected object. On being marooned in the Outback. And on standing in 3 States all at once!!
Yes, I have a low amusement threshhold. AND I’m getting ahead of myself …
Chances are, anyone heading north on the Silver City Highway from Broken Hill en route to Innamincka, Birdsville, Coopers Creek or the Diamantina chances has passed through, or even stayed overnight in Tibooburra.
But was Tibooburra a road-trip destination in itself?
We had a week to spare, and were about to discover exactly what to see and do in Corner Country – the remote and rugged north-west corner of New South Wales!
Broken Hill to Tibooburra: Getting There is half the FUN!
Heading north after leaving Broken Hill – aka the Silver City – the road to Tibooburra – aka the Silver City Highway – winds through the Barrier Ranges, including 30+ km of extensive roadworks* just out of Broken Hill where bitumen was being laid. Until you pass through Fowlers Gap and suddenly it doesn’t.
It’s a great place to play ‘spot the emu’.
Half-way is the Packsaddle Roadhouse, with the only fuel, food and accommodation en route – perfect for travellers stranded by road closures after heavy rain. Over lunch and a trip to the Scenic Loo, we watched the Packsaddle Cat score his (or maybe her) body weight in table scraps by shameless begging in the outdoor dining area.
About 50 km further north we stopped to watch the wildlife on Cobham Lake, an Outback oasis overlooked by the lonely grave of an Eliza Kennedy with an odd epitaph ‘For charity covereth a multitude of sins’.
If we’d brought the camper trailer, this spot would have been the end of the journey for the day because camping on the shores of the lake would’ve been AMAZING!
Between Packsaddle and Tibooburra, the stretches of gravel road became longer and more frequent. You’d have to be MAD to road-trip these roads without investing in some kind of roadside automobile assistance! IMHO!!
300 km (180 miles) and 4 hours after leaving Broken Hill, we arrived in Tibooburra.
And how it got its name from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘heap of rocks’ or why it was once known as ‘The Granites’ really ISN’T one of life’s great mysteries!
A Ghost Town, A Glen and a Gutful of Gibbers!
For an almost-ghost-town, there’s a lot going on in Milparinka with its historic working pub and heritage precinct just 40 km (24 miles) from Tibooburra.
Cars came and went on the dirt tracks, aka ‘roads’. The family running the historic Albert Hotel served coffee, drinks and meals. And the volunteers who keep Milparinka’s restored buildings, museums and open air displays open from March to October dispensed information, advice and directions.
This, a campground, and best of all – a scenic public loo – are what’s left of Milparinka after the Albert Goldfields’ gold ran out back during the Depression. There wasn’t enough remaining business to support both towns, so although Milparinka had the water, Tibooburra got the trade.
From Milparinka, we headed north-west over a bizarre moonscape of albino gibbers, a fancy name for the milky quartz rocks all over the ground and the closest we’d get to seeing snow in this Aussie winter! Following the banks of Preservation Creek shaded by massive River Red Gums we finally came to Depot Glen, a string of the only permanent waterholes in the district.
Famous Aussie explorer Captain Charles Sturt, on an expedition hoping to discover the mythical waterways of Central Australia, waited out a dry spell here, from January, hottest time of the year, to June when rains finally fell.
So confident were they of finding an inland sea, they’d brought a boat and a couple of sailors across the same arid Outback country we’d followed since leaving Broken Hill. Instead of the waterways they expected, the men spent 6 months stranded by drought building a cairn of rocks several kilometres away on Mt Poole, named for the only expedition member to die at Depot Glen.
Too gutless to attack the pile of ankle-turning gibbers aka Mt Poole, we didn’t reach the summit. But we climbed high enough to look out over the unforgiving, relentlessly gibber-laden plains stretching to the horizon, and imagine the hardships suffered by this lonely band.
Marooned! In more ways than one …
Marooned #1: 4 mm (0.015 inches) of rain isn’t all that much, really. But after a wet winter, this overnight downpour was enough to officially close ALL roads entering and leaving Tibooburra.
Marooned #2: We couldn’t have taken a drive anyway. After a day following the explorers along rough, rugged gibber trails we had a flat! We’d never been brought to a standstill by a small piece of bone before – but it’s apparently the most common cause of flat tyres in these parts.
That left us with only one option that day – exploring Tibooburra on foot!
10 Things to Do in Tibooburra
Whether it’s rain, a piece of bone or something else making you take a Tibooburra break, there’s a lot to see and do in and a short distance around the township.
Here’s a few suggestions:
- Take a walk … locals say the best time to go prospecting for gold in the main street is after rain!
- Grab a brochure about Tibooburra and take the Tibooburra Heritage Walk
- Go to the National Parks & Wildlife Visitor Centre for information about the area, maps and track notes for Sturt National Park
- See relics from the past at the Courthouse Museum
- Check out a replica of Sturt’s boat and other historic memorabilia at Pioneer Park
- Explore the Granite Rock piles behind the caravan park. And everywhere else!
- Drive – or walk – to Sunset Hill Lookout for great views across the town and surrounds
- Take a short drive out to Golden Gully for gold mining heritage memorabilia
- Go hunting for South Australia’s floral emblem, the Sturt’s Desert Pea! We found some behind TJ’s roadhouse growing in the gravel
- If all else fails, visit the pubs! But not just for a drink – the Two Storey has murals by famous Aussie artists, including Clifton Pugh!
Sturt National Park
Wild, remote and rugged, Sturt National Park is 340,000 hectares of sandhills; gibber plains; jump-ups and mesas; flood plains; gorges; creeks; and what remains of some of the pastoral properties in the area.
The Silver City Highway runs right through the park but drive the loop trails just out of Tibooburra for the best bits. Explore the old pastoral properties, look out over the flood plains and climb Mt Wood (4 km return) on the 100 km (~60 mile) Gorge Loop Trail. Or drive through a spectacular eroded landscape with a magnificent lookout, or walk to the Jump-ups (3.5 km return) on the Jump–up Loop Trail.
Or if you’re in a 4WD, take the imaginatively named Middle Road through the varied landscape in the middle of the park – an alternative route to Cameron Corner.
Remember those interpretive brochures you picked up from the National Parks office in Tibooburra? This is where they’ll come in VERY handy!
And check the road conditions before you leave.
Three States, One HOT Place: Cameron Corner
‘Where’s the road?’ Pilchard shouted as we followed the track down an incline and onto a sea of red clay. Half way to Cameron Corner, it could’ve been a nasty Marooned #3 if the Waka Claypan had still been a clay-slick after the rain!
Luckily, a couple of days of fine, warm weather had dried out the road, and 140 km (84 miles) west of Tibooburra the friendly staff at the iconic Cameron Corner Roadhouse efficiently dealt with a steady stream of road-trippers looking for photos, souvenirs, drinks, meals and fuel.
It’s hungry work standing in 3 states at once 😀
If we’d had the camper trailer, we SO would have stayed in the Cameron Corner Campground for a round of golf on the nine hole Tri-State golf course – with three holes in each of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.
And if we’d had the camper trailer, we’d have headed to Queensland or South Australia instead of back through the dingo fence into New South Wales where we took the Middle Road back to Tibooburra through Sturt National Park.
But, for now, we’d answered that all-important question. Yes, Tibooburra IS a worthy destination in its own right!!
The next day we headed back down the Silver City Highway to Broken Hill.
And not a moment too soon.
Because that night 56 mm (2.2 inches) of rain fell in Tibooburra!
Even if you’re just passing through Tibooburra to Queensland, South Australia or other parts of New South Wales, why not make some of these Corner Country attractions and drives part of your road trip? Or tie your trip in with an event like the Packsaddle Gymkhana, the Tibooburra Festival, the Milparinka Gymkhana and the Tibooburra Rodeo for an even more awesome Outback experience!
- Tibooburra is 330 km north of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway.
- Milparinka is 40 km south of Tibooburra.
- Cameron Corner is 140 km north-west of Tibooburra.
PLEASE CHECK ROAD CONDITIONS BEFORE YOU TRAVEL!
- Tibooburra has Hotels, Motels, a Caravan Park and campgrounds around the town.
- Sturt National Park has several campgrounds.
- Milparinka has a campground and accommodation at the Albert Hotel.
- Cameron Corner has a campground and accommodation.
We stayed at the Granites Motel & Caravan Park in Tibooburra.
- TJs Roadhouse and the Corner Country Store have meals and takeaway.
- The Family Hotel and Two Storey Hotel have meals.
* On our trip in August 2016. Check road conditions before you leave.
** Poeppels Corner, where Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory meet is 2 States + 1 Territory!