A visit to Broken Hill and Silverton is just not complete without a visit to an authentic silver mine. Silver mining in the area is the reason the towns exist. Take a tour of the Day Dream Mine and experience the incredibly harsh working conditions of a bygone era.
The road in is about 13 kilometres of dirt road and is easily travelled by the average family car. Always check the road conditions before travelling on any road in the outback, it's best to be safe than sorry. There are a couple of gates to open and shut as you go through, but apart from that it's a very pleasant and scenic drive and worth doing just for the drive in.
Once you arrive at the Day Dream Mine you have an option to do an underground or surface tour, or both. I would recommend doing both, you'll regret it if you don't. It's also a very long way to come back and do the bits that you didn't on the first visit!
The mine is an authentic rustic experience - the tour guides are experienced miners themselves and have many fascinating personal stories to tell. It's not a typical touristy spot, there's a quirkiness to the place that is just so 'outback Australia'.
When doing the underground tour, you are decked out in all the safety gear needed, including a hard hat with a light - which you'll be very grateful for. The mine was steep in parts, the ground was a little uneven and in places the roof was low (yay for being short - at last).
There were visitors of all ages doing the underground tour, so don't be put off by doing the mine tour, but if you have a bad back or are very claustrophobic, then you may want to do just the surface tour. Sturdy walking shoes are a must and the group moves at a slow pace - good for getting a solid feel for what the mines may have been like back in the day - the darkness and the cramped and narrow tunnels.
The mine is in the Appollyon Valley and was founded in 1881. By 1884 there were estimated to be 500 people living there. When you visit you will wonder how they survived - the arid lands are so very harsh, there is no water and the heat in the summer killed many babies and youngsters. One woman suffered terribly - 15 of her 19 children passed away due to the cruel and unforgiving conditions.
Water was carted in by wagons from the Day Dream Dam - about 5 kilometres away. The life of the Day Dreamers was unimaginably difficult.
While the settlement itself moved to Silverton and then to Broken Hill, the mining continued until the mine's closure in 1983.
Day Dream was mined by Cornish men and boys - some as young as eight years old. They all worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Work was done by candlelight, picks and shovels, all of which the miner had to supply themselves. The average miner lived to just 40 years of age with most passing away due to respiratory diseases.