The Darling River has been a long time bucket list dream item. I have traced my finger down the map so many times in anticipation of one day driving along the edge of this beautiful watercourse. The Darling River and the river systems of Australia have always fascinated me!
It could be the natural beauty and wonder that comes from the ebb and flow of the Darling. Or it could be the amazing connections the Darling has with our Australian history; the majestic river boat trade, our explorers or our nomadic natives.
Times would of be tough along the Darling, but there is a nostalgia that puts a rose-coloured tint on the river’s past.
As usual we wish we could of taken more time to traverse the river’s edge but when you have limited time you make the most of the time you do have.
We met Australia’s third longest river, the Darling on the drive between Brewarrina and Bourke, where the Culgoa and Barwon Rivers meet in Western, NSW.
We had only planned to stay in Bourke for two nights and ended up staying three. If time was limitless we could of spent a much longer time exploring Bourke and surrounds.
Our base camp was made at Kidman’s Camp, North Bourke and we have to say it is has crept into one of our top 10 caravan parks ever! That is a big call but we are sticking by it. Great amenities, beautiful grounds, close enough to town but far enough out.
Our time in Bourke;
- Back O Bourke Exhibition Centre – 5 stars, friendly staff, excellent exhibits and crammed packed with history! They even let you go back the next day for free!
- PV Jandra Paddle Cruise down the Darling – a wonderfully relaxing cruise down the Darling on a Paddle Boat. 100% worth it!
- A day trip to Gundabooka – this is a trip in itself, the majestic ranges and rock art, we will be back for sure and we might even spend a night or two.
- Exploring the history of the town including the old wharf, the weir, the Crossley engine – the Darling really was a life-blood, without the Darling towns like Bourke would simply not exist.
We headed off from Bourke and meandered our way down the Darling River, West-side, East-side, whatever direction took our fancy at each bridge cross-over. As so many before us we made a slight pub-crawl of it with a stop at both Tilpa and Louth (both iconic outback pubs in their own right). We passed through Wilcannia, unfortunately the town was battered and bruised; I’m sure only a shadow of it’s former self and we made our way to a little patch of paradise back on the Darling.
The Paroo-Darling National Park is approximately 40km south of Wilcannia and an absolute world away. The Coach and Horses Campground is complete perfection. Great effort by NSW National Parks! They have provided BBQ’s, toilets and picnic tables with designated camp-sites along the Darling River.
From Paroo Darling we moved on down the river towards Menindee. As far back as I can remember I have always wanted to visit Menindee. I don’t know why exactly, it could be the photographs that we all associate with the Menindee Lakes. You know the ones, the ghostly trees emerging from the lake’s bottom reaching up into a wonderfully painted sky. Whatever the reason, it lived up to and exceeded my expectations. We were lucky to see the lakes with a far amount of water in them and even luckier to score what is one of the best free camps we have ever stumbled across, and I do mean stumbled.
Picture this! Wake up, step out of the caravan and onto the soft and sandy loam, the birds are already singing but no other noises meet your ears. You walk several metres and dip your toes into the silky water of Lake Pamamaroo. This was one of those spots where we stayed an extra few days and well thank goodness because it is one of those magic spots, that I will dream about for years to come.
What did we do while in Menindee?
- Kinchenga National Park; we explored the Darling River drive, so many more wonderful campsites tucked away in there, the old woolshed and Kinchenga ruins, the woolshed especially was amazing
- Had a drink in the pub where explorers Burke and Wills stayed in 1860
- Walked around the historic township Heritage Trail
- found the boiler from the Paddle Steamer Providence disaster back in 1872
Our only disappointment at Menindee was the lack of information about the Burke and Wills Depot camp and survey tree a short way out of town. We are not sure if the signage was washed away or stolen but it was a real shame to miss such an historical marker. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time this trip but would love to take one of the boat trips on the Lakes. We just have to save that one for next time.
From Menindee, our original plan was to head to Mungo National Park but we weren’t feeling it and we had spent a few of our extra nights along the Darling so we decided to head to Wentworth. Mungo NP will be added to the next trip when we have more time to enjoy and take our time.
We travelled through the town of Pooncarrie which I might add was delightful with beautifully manicured, green lawns and neat gardens. It is always so nice to see towns that the locals take pride in even out there, way outback. We made it to Wentworth where the Darling meets the mighty Murray.
We made a lovely free camp on the edge of the Murray and explored Wentworth;
- Old Wentworth Gaol; in such wonderful condition, interesting and eerie, so many stories of times gone by
- Wentworth Pioneer Museum; absolutely crammed pack of history, highlight for me was the historical photograph collection of all the old paddle steamers.
- We took a drive out to the Perry Sandhills, attempted sand boarding on cardboard no real success but lots of laughs. On a side note; was horrified by the amount of rubbish floating around!
- The walk out to the junction of the two rivers was highlight, the colour difference is very clearly defined.
We would definitely complete the Darling River Run again and again as there were things we missed and we would love to spend more time there, Plus it is one of those places that would be different each time your visited.
>>>>>Coming soon our Flinders Ranges trip note<<<<<<<
S & S