Bourke, NSW

Darling River Towns

back o bourke visitor centre outback nsw 13

Bourke NSW, the legendary Darling River town in Outback Australia, was once referenced by famous Australian poet Henry Lawson when he wrote, "if you know Bourke, you know Australia" (1882), and anyone who ventures to Back O Bourke will agree.

The iconic Darling River town of Bourke is such a part of the fabric of outback Australia and is an RV mecca for an authentic outback experience.

Located where the Kidman Way meets the Darling River, Bourke is the ideal access point for the Darling River Run.

Bourke is a region that, figuratively, is the demarcation between the outback and the east; anything further inland is known as the 'Back o Bourke' which is a colloquial term deeply etched in Australian vernacular meaning to be a long way away from anything.

On the contrary, and this is probably what Henry Lawson meant, the further inland you go, the closer you get to the true essence of Australia.

The origins of (European) Bourke can be traced back to the 1830s when inland explorer Major Mitchell built a stockade 35km downstream from today's Bourke. The purpose of the enclosure was due to Mitchell's encounter with local indigenous which was somewhat hostile (unlike that of fellow explorer Charles Sturt). The stockade was a base for tracking the Darling River.

Accommodation Partner - Kidman's Camp

kidmans camp bourke

Located about 8Km north of Bourke along the Mitchell Highway and situated on the banks of the mighty Darling River, Kidman’s Camp is not just a stopover on your journey – it is a destination in its own right!

Ranging from practical units with shared amenities, through to our popular unique and stylish fully self-contained luxury chalets, there are 20 cabins on site. Located around the park in a variety of configurations, there is an option to suit every family and individual.

Known initially as Prattenville, Bourke later renamed in honour of then Governor of the Colony, Richard Bourke, and soon become an integral part of the inland transport system.

Early pastoralists started to open up the interior of Australia as they saw the potential with cattle and sheep and this potential increased William Randell was the first person to take a paddle-steamer (The Gemini) up the Darling as far as Brewarrina in 1859.

Now there was a means to transport the wool to Adelaide (down the Murray) and Melbourne (up the Murray to Echuca).

By the 1890s, Bourke was a significant port for the transport of the southern Queensland and northern NSW wool clip that was transported down the Darling to the Murray River and onto Adelaide for ship transport overseas.

The Port of Bourke was the focus of the worlds wool industry with up to 80 riverboats servicing the region. The opening of the rail system in Australia and the unreliability of the river flow saw the gradual demise of the 'River Highway' by the early 20th century.

This was not the death knell for Bourke though, and today it is a town that still, in essence, is the same it was back then... a town on the edge of the wilderness with great historical, cultural and geographic significance.

Bourke Visitor Information:

  • Bourke See & Do:
    • PS Jandra river cruise
    • Mateship guided tour
    • Gundabooka National Park
    • Maritime trail
    • Back O' Bourke Centre
  • Getting to Bourke (Car):
    • From Brisbane: 910km
    • From Sydney: 760km
    • From Melbourne: 1,000km
    • From Adelaide: 1,100km
  • Bourke Information Centre:
    • Kidman Way Bourke 2840

Darling River Run Map, Outback NSW, Australia


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Our Partners - See & Do

Our Accommodation Partners

Safe Outback Touring Guide