Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published August 18th 2016
Travel the Outback with Ease and in Comfort
An outback road trip doesn't have to wait for your retirement bucket list. You can do it now. All you need is two weeks of annual leave, your family car and sense of excitement. This 14 day round trip out of Melbourne on made roads gives a tantalising introduction to the Australian outback. Each day of travel is followed by a full day at the destination for exploration and adventure.
Salt Bush plains along the road to Broken Hill (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
If you've got a caravan hook it up but you don't need one, these locations have good accommodation options. So pack the car and don't forget to throw in plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, a spare tyre, a tool kit and a first aid kit. The best months for outback travel are April to October (the dry season). Telstra maps show mobile phone coverage across this route although it may be patchy in places.
So come on, let's go.
A mud map of Gayle's Easy 2WD 14 Day Outback Road Trip from Melbourne (Map copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 1 - Melbourne to Swan Hill - 337kms 4 hours This is a road trip but you don't want to be at the wheel all day especially if you've got children on board so let's make Swan Hill our first stop. Allow a leisurely start from Melbourne after 9am and miss the peak hour traffic. Sunday is a good day to travel out of the city.
Day 2 - Swan Hill History, Rides and Paddle Steamer Cruises
Visit the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement where you can step back in time in this working heritage village. Watch the blacksmith at work, have your name printed on a 19th century wanted poster and so much more. Ride a horse, ride in a vintage car, hop on a paddle steamer and cruise the Murray River or go to the nightly 'Heartbeat of the Murray' laser light show.
Road trains are a common sight on outback roads (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 3 - Swan Hill to Mildura and Orange World - 237km 2 ¾ Hours It's a short hop to Mildura this morning; you'll be there for lunch. After lunch visit Orange World where you'll get not just a tour of the orchards but a wacky and funny narrative. Orange World is not open in the afternoons in February so instead take a drive to Wentworth where the Murray and Darling Rivers merge and there's plenty to do and see.
Day 4 - Mungo National Park Today the outback experience begins at Mungo National Park, where the oldest human remains were found and where the landscape has to be seen to be believed. See the Walls of China, the historic Woolshed, the site of the Zanci Homestead and more. You can tour the park yourself, but if you'd rather not take your car on the dirt roads take the Aboriginal Discovery Tour or head out with Murray Trek tours.
Spectacular scenery at the Walls of China in Mungo National Park (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 5 - Mildura to Broken Hill - 298kms 3 hours The trip to Broken Hill is your first real feel for the outback. Be on the lookout for wild goats and road trains. The land is flat and arid with often little more than saltbush stretching to the horizon. Top off this great day with a trip to The Living Desert Park and Sculpture Symposium and watch the sunset from this amazing vantage point. Drive yourself or take a tour. Be on the lookout for kangaroos if you are driving after dusk.
One of 12 Sculptures atop the hill at the Living Desert Reserve overlooking Broken Hill just before sunset (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
With limited time in this iconic mining town a tour is a good option. Hit the highlights with an informed narrative from your guide on a half day city tour visiting heritage buildings, the Miners Memorial atop the Line of Lode, Old Junction Mine, Lookouts and more. Spend the rest of the day at Silverton, an almost ghost town set in a spectacular landscape and which now plays host to some talented artists.
The Silverton Hotel near Broken Hill (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 7 - Looking Around Town It's been a week and maybe you need time to take it easy or get the washing done but if you can find time visit the infamous Palace Hotel where the walls are painted with murals, have a look at one of the many museums or visit the Pro Hart Gallery housed in his old home.
At Old Junction Mine - the jagged black rock is the Lode Outcrop, part of the orebody at Broken Hill (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 8 - Broken Hill to Cobar - 456kms 4 ½ hours
You are now travelling in a remote area. There is little along the Barrier Highway between Broken Hill and Cobar save for Wilcannia, a town of around 600 people just short of the half-way mark. Cobar is a copper mining town which like Broken Hill is still active today.
At the old open cut of The Great Cobar copper mine (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 10 - Cobar to Darlington Point - 401kms 4 1/2 hours
Time is ticking on and as tempting as it may be to point the car towards Bourke, we must instead turn south. Our destination is Darlington Point via Griffith along the Kidman Way. This small town has a reasonably priced caravan park set in bushland on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. There is a pleasant walking trail along the river and the park is entered over a historic bridge.
The Murrumbidgee River at Darlington Point (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 11 - Altina Wildlife Park
Without a doubt, the premier attraction in the area is Altina Wildlife Park. This conservation and breeding safari park offers tours in horse-drawn carriages. The carriage follows the keepers as they feed the animals giving great viewing opportunities. A variety of Behind the Scenes Encounters are also available. The park houses Australian native animals and birds and many exotic animals including white lions.
An emu roaming free at Altina Wildlife Park this chap was keen on pecking at car lights (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 12 - Darlington Point to Echuca via Deniliquin - 268kms 3 ¼ hours
For a town chock full of attractions you can't beat Echuca on the mighty Murray River. Travel via Deniliquin which at two hours into the trip is a good place to stop for lunch. The Ute on a Pole and the Peppin Heritage Centre are worth a look.
Deniliquin claims to be the Ute Capital of the World (Photo copyright Roger Marien)
Day 13 - Paddle Steamers, Port History and More
You are spoilt for choice in Echuca. There are so many things to do. To get the quintessential Murray River experience visit the Port of Echuca Precinct, take a tour of the port then hop on a paddle steamer and cruise down the Murray.
Take a paddle steamer cruise on the Murray River at Echuca (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Day 14 - Echuca to Melbourne - 214kms 2 ¾ hours
It's come too fast but your two week holiday is drawing to an end and you are homeward bound. An easy morning's drive returns you to Melbourne but behind you is a wonderful trip of over 2,200kms through amazing countryside and historic towns. Maybe you will be like so many before you, outback dust having seeped into your soul, and the trip is not really over, it's only just beginning.
Hi Gayle, we've shared your article on Travel Outback Australia's Facebook page this evening (20/8/2016). Fabulous story because it shows people what's really possible, and how easy and cheap it can be to explore your own backyard.
This is great Gayle. Could you extend the trip to incorporate part of the Flinders Ranges, and do you know if roads, accomodation would be ok? I 'd love to do this trip, and wondered if Birdsville maybe, and Flinders Ranges would be feasible.