Broken Hill is a city with attitude and the longer you spend there the more you fall under its spell.
From the moment I arrived – I loved it.
Located on the Barrier Ranges in far west NSW, it is 48 kms from the South Australian border.
The mining town still has a feeling of adventure and energy along with a rollicking history.
In its heyday, it was a wild frontier town with a population of 35,000 and more than 60 pubs that all did a roaring trade.
Even though its population has dwindled to about 17,000 it continues to attract tourists, artists, writers, poets, scholars and filmmakers like bees to honey. They come for the light, the landscape and the life.
But these days there are more art galleries than pubs.
Don’t miss these nine attractions.
1.Pro Hart Gallery
The Pro Hart Gallery is a tribute to the energy and skill of Pro Hart and showcases his vibrant work and collection of “painted” luxury cars.
A man with a penchant for Rolls Royces, Picassos and Rembrandts, he was a sculptor, ceramicist and invented machines.
A vibrant kaleidoscope of colour jumps from his iconic paintings featuring whimsical narrative scenes such as a bush race meeting and mining town Christmas.
His cannon equipment used for bombarding paint on everything from carpet to canvas is displayed as well as paintings of his trademark ants and dragon flies.
A look into his untouched studio reveals strewn paint-splattered brushes, splotches of lush coloured paint, sketch books and half empty paint tubes, plus his well-worn jacket.
He rests in the Broken Hill cemetery under a $60,000 granite memorial emblazoned with a gold dragonfly.
2. Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
The oldest regional art gallery in NSW, it is housed in a magnificent original heritage building, Sully’s Emporium. In another life, it was a hardware store that operated from 1885 to 1985.
It is home to 1800 colonial, modern and contemporary Australian works by artists including Rick Amor, Charles Blackman and Arthur Boyd and leading Aboriginal artists including Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Michael Nelson Tjackamarra and Badger Bates.
It’s a great place to get a feel for the Brushmen of the Bush including Jack Absalom, Pro Hart, Hugh Schultz, John Pickup and Eric Minchin who developed Broken Hill as an art centre. They all shared a deep love of the Australian Outback and exhibited together for more than 30 years.
3. Jack Absalom Art Gallery
The Jack Absalom Gallery is another must see. Absalom, who died in 2019, stopped in Broken Hill on a visit to Sydney and like so many, never left. He fell in love with what he described as the “edge of the Outback.” Known for his landscapes, the gallery showcases his large-scale paintings and an opal collection that he added to over 70 years.
4. The Palace Hotel
The iconic Palace Hotel, built as a coffee palace in 1889, is where scenes from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, were filmed.
Head inside and look up and you’ll see 500 square metres of retro kitsch murals. Former owner Mario Celotto painted a copy of Botticelli’s Venus on the ceiling and Aboriginal artist Gordan Waye from Port Augusta continued painting.
It’s a heady mix of Renaissance-inspired art and fantasy Australian landscape murals – think pastoral scenes and cherubic figures.
The famed Priscilla Suite is booked out regularly according to managing director Esther La Rovere, who stages the annual sell out Broken Heel Festival. It’s on from September 10-14, 2021.
5. The Broken Hill Living Desert and Sculpture Park
The Broken Hill Living Sculpture Park, 12 kms from the city centre, remains one of the area’s most innovative art projects.
It is home to 12 evocative sandstone forms. Located on a majestic hilltop within the centre of the reserve, the sculptures were completed in 1993 by artists from around the world.
For dramatic viewing, head there at sunset, stop and watch the cerise light hit the sculptures – it’s a mystical, magical experience.
The imposing sculptures take on a life of their own as the sun casts shadows over the work. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but Bajo el Sol Jaguar that means ‘Under the Sun’, carved by Antonio Nava Tirado from Mexico City, is mine.There’s also a flora and fauna sanctuary.
6. Mad Max Museum
Nearby Silverton – population about 36, is home to Mad Max Museum, Silverton Pub and its beer-loving donkeys and art galleries.
Australia’s first and only museum dedicated to Mad Max 2, there’s a large collection of photographs, and life-size characters in full costumes.
The original and replica vehicles including two Interceptors are also on show.
It is not just a place for the hard core Mad Max fans but shows what an impact Mad Max 2 had on this region and on the Australian film scene.
Silverton is a former mining town that has appeared in many iconic Australian films.
Head to the pub and keep an eye out for the friendly donkeys who also frequent the pub.
Check out the huge view from the Mundi Mundi Plains lookout.
Movies shot in the area include Razorback, Mission Impossible II, Mad Max 2 and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
7. Line of Lode Lookout and Miners’ Memorial – Federation Way.
It’s dramatic and poignant. The Memorial pays tribute to more than 800 miners who have lost their lives working on the Broken Hill mines.
The iconic structure is on the edge of the mullock heap that dissects Broken Hill.
The building itself is a metaphor for the underground lives of the miners, evoking the damp, claustrophobic underground environment. The views over Broken Hill are spectacular!
8. Bell’s Milkbar
It’s authentic and recreates the days when milkbars were milkbars. Think malted milks and soda spiders. It is Australia’s oldest continuously running milk bar that opened in 1892. The decor is the same as it was in the 1950s and 60s with black and white lino and the jukebox rarely rests.
There are more than 50 original recipe traditional drink flavours on the menu using Bell’s own handmade syrups and cordials. Step into the retro museum at the back and see what life was like in the 1950 and 60. The inside of a home has been recreated with authentic furniture and goods.
9. Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre – Broken Hill Airport.
Broken Hill was the foundation base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section) network. For more than 80 years it has been providing health and emergency services to people living in remote communities across five different states. Broken Hill base is also home to the Bruce Langford Visitor Centre, which features a museum, theatre and shop. Visitors to the Centre can explore the Flying Doctor’s rich history, tour the base and see an aircraft up close.
Broken Hill Outback Church Stay – the restored 1911 Romanesque church offers luxury accommodation with spa bath, designer kitchen and huge living area.
Imperial Fine Hotel – a comfortable heritage hotel complete with a pool and great verandah. imperialfineaccommodation.com
The Silly Goat 08 8088 7210
Broken Hill Pub 08 8087 6870
The Deli 0427 800 241
Exchange Restaurant at the Royal Exchange Hotel royalexchangehotel.com
Bells Milk Bar bellsmilkbar.com.au
Clark Barrett – Private tours can be tailored 0416 471 435
Away Tours awaytours.com.au
For more information visitnsw.com
Broken Hill Regional Gallery bhartgallery.com.au
Pro Hart Gallery prohart.com.au
Palace Hotel thepalacehotelbrokenhill.com.au
Jack Absalom Gallery jackabsalom.com.au