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Darling River Run

Two Week Itinerary

An adventure through Outback NSW, the Darling River Run is one of the best iconic touring routes along the Darling River, Australia's most iconic waterway.

Driving the Darling River Run between Bourke and Louth. Outback NSW, Australia

It is a driving adventure where you can experience the richness of indigenous history & culture, learn about our pastoral pioneers and their 'life on the land' and experience the laid-back nature and country hospitality of the outback towns along the river.

The Darling River Run map - touring route guide for driving along the Darling River, Outback NSW, Australia

- GREEN line = Preferred Route - RED line = Alternate Route

The tour along our longest waterway is not only about travelling the course of our iconic river but also throughout Outback NSW via the many side trips and travel routes.

The Darling River Run is regarded by many as one of the best outback touring routes in Australia. While it might not be the extreme off-road that some seek, it is easily done in (almost) any vehicle and is easily accessible from any east-coast capital cities; less than a day's drive to get to the Darling River.

Having travelled the Darling River many times over the years, I would like to share my preferred route, encompassing some of the best experiences, destinations, and attractions. While on the road, fellow travellers often ask me, what are my top five tips for travelling the Darling River Run?

** For a detailed overview of all the Darling River Run route options, check out my Complete Guide to the Darling River Run.

Simon Bayliss

A motorhome camped beside the Darling River, while doing the Driving Darling River Run, Outback NSW, Australia

Darling River Run FAQ

What is the Darling River Run?

The Darling River Run is one of Australia's most iconic touring routes along the Darling River from Lightning Ridge to Wentworth. This adventure encompasses some of the best experiences, destinations, and attractions of Outback NSW.

Where is the Darling River Run?

The Darling River Run is an Australian driving adventure from Walgett (or Lightning Ridge) in Outback New South Wales, along the Darling River with the river's confluence with the Murray River at Wentworth on the NSW/Vic border covering 750 km of outback experiences.

What is the Darling River?

The Darling River, Australia's most iconic waterway, is 1,472 km long when measuring it as a named river from the junction of the Culgoa and Barwon rivers between Brewarrina and Bourke. But, if measured as a natural waterway from its source in south-east Queensland (The Condamine River) to the Murray-Darling confluence at Wentworth, it measures 2,739km making it Australia's longest waterway.

Is the Darling River Flowing?

For the latest river information, please check our Darling River Water Levels page.

What are the roads like?

The roads along the Darling River Run are mostly unsealed but well maintained. For more information, please see our Darling River Run Road Conditions page.

Is there a side trip to Darling River?

There are many side trips (adventures) when travelling the Darling River, with the largest being a drive from Bourke to Cameron Corner, where the states of New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia meet. Down to Broken Hill and on to Menindee to rejoin the Darling River Run.

Do I need a 4WD to travel the Darling River Run?

Absolutely not!  While some people regard it 4WD-only, any well-maintained SUV, or even a traditional passenger vehicle with care, is all that is required. The route is also RV-friendly, with many of the accommodation options along the way perfectly suited to BYO accommodation, including conventional camping.

Where can I camp on the Darling River?

There are many great accommodation options along the Darling River and throughout the Outback NSW, including 5-Star B&B’s and farm stays.

But for those who like to camp under the stars, there are many places to camp on the Darling bank; please refer to our guide for our favourite places to camp.

Where does the Darling River run?

The Darling River originates between Brewarrina and Bourke, where the Culgoa and Barwon rivers meet. The tributaries of these two rivers form from the ranges of southern Queensland (The Darling Downs) and northern New South Wales to the west of the Great Dividing Range. These tributaries include the Balonne River, the Macintyre River. the Gwydir River, the Namoi River; the Castlereagh River; and the Macquarie River. Near Bourke, the Bogan, Warrego River, and Paroo rivers also join the Darling River.

When is the Best time to Travel the Darling?

The Darling River Run, an adventure along Australia's most iconic waterway through Outback NSW, Australia, can be done any time of the year, with the period Autumn to Spring the best as Summer in the outback can be very hot. 

Darling River Run 14 Day Itinerary

With the Ridge as the starting point, it is time to experience a place that is genuinely a 'must-see' icon of the outback. Allow three days to experience the Ridge; the Grawin can be experienced on the drive from Lightning Ridge to Brewarrina.

Home of the elusive Black Opal, Lightning Ridge is one of the most unique destinations in Australia, and such is the allure of 'the Ridge' that many who initially planned to only stay a day or so as part of a larger travel experience, end up staying a lifetime without being able to pinpoint the exact reason. More on Lightning Ridge

Route Overview:

Darling River Run Lightning Ridge to Bourke

The Ridge to Brewarrina section can be done via Walgett along Bill O'Brien Way and then the Kamilaroi Highway (straight and not the most exciting), but for one of the best experiences in all of Outback NSW, the drive via the Grawin Opal Fields for a unique experience of the original opal fields (before the Ridge). This option can include a lunch break at the 'Club in the Scrub', Sheep Yard Flat, or the Glengarry Hilton.

The Brewarrina to Bourke section of the Darling River Run is an easy drive along the Kamilaroi Highway with not much access to the river. A better optional route is along the north of the Darling River, which heads back out along the Kamilaroi Highway then northwest along Twin Rivers Road to West Culgoa Road.

West Culgoa Road follows the path of the Culgoa River southwest to the Mitchell Highway, then it is a short 5 km to Kidman's Camp (or about 15 km into Bourke itself). The Culgoa River joins the Darling River about 25 km east of Bourke.

Road/Route (295* km):

Via the Grawin (to Brewarrina): 164* km (Preferred/Adventure Route)

  • Llanillo Rd <> Wilby Wilby Rd <> Grawin <> Narran Lake Rd <> Goodooga Rd
  • Gravel (dry weather road)

Via Walgett (to Brewarrina): 212 km

  • Castlereagh Highway
  • Sealed road

Brewarrina to Kidmans Camp (Nth Bourke): 131* km

  • Kamilaroi Hwy/B76 <> Goodooga Rd <> Twin Rivers Rd <> West Culgoa Rd <> Mitchell Highway
  • Gravel (dry weather road)

Meals & Provisions

  • Lightning Ridge
  • The Grawin (3 Pubs)
  • Brewarrina

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

The Grawin Opal Fields

If you think the Ridge is unique, head out to the Grawin; the opal fields where it all began. Not actually a town, the Grawin is full of unique welcoming characters living with a landscape that often resembles a moonscape.

Located about 40 km from the Ridge, it is a fascinating place to visit and experience a bit of Grawin hospitality at one (or all) of the licensed premises. Uniquely names; the Club in the Scrub, Glengarry Hilton, and Sheep Yard flat.

The Grawin refers to the group of opal fields made of Grawin, Glengarry, Sheepyard, and Mulga Rush.

Opal was first discovered in the region in 1905 by Charles Phipp while working on Morendah Station (a few km to the east of Grawin). Still, little mining was carried out there at the time.

About Brewarrina

Brewarrina provides the visitor with an insight into the significance of the Darling River significance to indigenous history and living culture. Near the centre of town are the Fish Traps, an ancient arrangement of rocks used to corral fish for catching. Discover Brewarrina

About Walgett

Walgett is located by the Namoi River near its junction with the Barwon River in northern NSW and is the service centre for the surrounding wool, beef cattle, sheep, and wheat pastoral interests. Discover Walgett

Bourke is a thriving service town and a mecca for travelers, due in part to its location at the crossroads of the north-south and east-west routes of outback NSW, but more importantly due to the efforts of the town to provide an ever-increasing number of experiences on offer; experiences that showcase the town’s history and unique place it holds in terms of a river port on one of our most iconic rivers.

The jewel in the crown for Bourke is the recently developed Back O' Bourke Exhibition Centre, a world-class facility with interactive installations and stunning visual displays covering the Indigenous and European history of the region. It would have to be one of the best of its type in Australia. Discover Bourke

  • Bourke Accommodation:

Route Overview:

Darling River Run Bourke to Louth

The eastern route, past Gundabooka National Park, is more popular and the best maintained, providing great access to the highlights of Gundabooka NP. 

While the western side of the Darling River is the longer route, it is much more scenic with a variety of landscapes and the opportunity to visit Toorale National Park as well as crossing over the Warrego River, an ephemeral tributary of the Darling that originates in central Outback Queensland. The Warrego will only flow into the Darling during a good high flow.

Be sure to cross the river to visit Louth for a lunch break (Shindy's Inn) and have a look around. ** Be sure to cross back over the river before heading downstream to Dunlop Station.

Road Route (142 km):

  • Mitchell Hwy/B71
  • Hungerford Rd
  • Bourke-Milparinka Rd
  • Toorale Rd (Unsealed)

Meals & Provisions:

  • Bourke (Food, Fuel, Provisions, Pubs, Repairs)
  • Louth (Pub, Fuel, Meals)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Louth

Louth was originally established as a service point for the Cobb & Co coaches that serviced outback Australia, and as the Darling River was being used more as a river transport alternative, the town established itself as a pivotal river port. Louth’s founder, T.A Matthews, established a hotel and general store to service both the booming river trade as well as Cobb & Co. More on Louth

Step back in time at historic Dunlop Station, 14km downriver from Louth on the western side of the river. Originally over a million acres, Dunlop's main claim to fame is the fact that it was the first shed in the world to complete a mechanical shearing back in 1888.

The Chandler family offer guided tours of the original stone homestead, the 45 stand shearing shed and the station store - all dating back to the 1880s, from 11 am Wednesday through to Sunday. (Closed Monday and Tuesday). Tour cost is $15 pp and $40 family and includes morning tea.

Peaceful river campsites are also available.

More on Dunlop Station

 

Darling River Run Louth to Tilpa

Route Overview:

Heading into the Central Darling area, the middle section of the Darling River Run covers the more remote and outback areas of the river plain; including the ephemeral Paroo River, which joins the Darling River (only during very high/sustained flows) just upstream of Wilcannia.

A short section (a relative term in regards to outback driving), means that either side of the river can be undertaken.

If the eastern route is the choice, head upstream to Louth (after crossing the river), then down the eastern side before crossing back over the river at Tilpa (on the western bank) before heading back upstream to Kallara Station (about 15 minutes drive). This will also give the opportunity to stop at the Tilpa Weir on the eastern side of the Darling River about 10km from Tilpa.

The preferred, western route will get you to Kallara Station quicker, and visiting Tilpa pub can be done on the trip to Wilcannia. (Perfect lunch break)

kallaraThe McClures call Kallara Station “the accessible outback” as it is central to the historic River Ports of Bourke and Wilcannia and the outback mining towns of Cobar and White Cliffs.

Road Route (56km):

Dunlop Station to Kallara Station (western route)

  • Bourke-Wilcannia Road
  • Gravel (Dry Weather Road)

Meals & Provisions:

Depending on which route you take, Tilpa Pub is a short drive from Kallara Station if taking the western route, or is on the way if you take the, slightly longer, eastern route.

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Tilpa

Located on the western banks of the Darling River, the very welcoming town of Tilpa is a must for a stopover, whether you have a few hours or a few days for camping and fishing on the Darling River. The old pub is a true classic and has been welcoming travelers and locals for over 100 years. The walls of the pub are covered with graffiti written by visitors who make a gold coin donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service for the privilege. The graffiti makes for an intriguing read while having a cold beer and a chat with the locals and other fellow travelers. More on Tilpa

Route Overview:

Darling River Run Tilpa to White Cliffs

The route for the day is along the eastern side of the Darling River, after a visit (or lunch) at the iconic Tilpa Pub, to Wilcannia, then out to the opal town of White Cliffs.

After lunch, and signing the wall if you can find a spot, it is time to cross the river and head downstream along the eastern bank through Paroo-Darling National Park, and even a stop at the Coaches & Horses campground, right on the river, to break the drive up a bit, then into Wilcannia

Road Route (155 km):

Kallara Station to Warrawong on the Darling (Wilcannia)

  • Tilpa-Louth Rd
  • East Tilpa Rd
  • Barrier Highway

Meals & Provisions:

  • Tilpa Pub (Meals and Fuel)
  • Wilcannia (Fuel, supermarket, vehicle repairs)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Wilcannia

Located where the Barrier Highway crosses the Darling River, Wilcannia is a largely undisturbed port on the Darling River. Cross the bridge driving from Sydney to Broken Hill and turn either to your right or left when you enter the town and you will be amazed at the richness of the architecture. More on Wilcannia

About Paroo-Darling National Park

Paroo-Darling National Park is an ancient world of red sandhills on the Darling River floodplain. The only unregulated section of the Murray Darling Basin, the ephemeral Paroo River, sustains a diverse ecosystem when it flows; and will only flow into the Darling River during very high flows. More on Paroo-Darling National Park

About one hour's drive from Wilcannia is the Opal mining town of White Cliffs. An easy drive, sealed all the way, to one of the most iconic, some say eccentric, outback destinations. It is like the wild-west but a lot friendlier and inviting. There are many 'must-see' destinations, White Cliffs is the real deal! 

Road Route (95 km):

  • Barrier Hwy/A32
  • Opal Miner's Way

Meals & Provisions:

  • Wilcannia (Fuel, supermarket, vehicle repairs)
  • White Cliffs (Meals, fuel, general store)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About White Cliffs

White Cliffs is a truly unique outback experience. Like silence? Tired of the bright lights and noises of the city and want a peaceful night's sleep under a million brilliant stars? White Cliffs has that for a truly restful night and plenty to explore during the day. More about White Cliffs

Route Overview:

Darling River Run White Cliffs to Menindee

Never a fan of backtracking on a route, but the trip to White Cliffs, and a stay at the White Cliffs pub, make it worthwhile.

Well rested, it is time to head back along the Opal Miner's Way to Wilcannia and then down the western side of the Darling River to Nelia Gaari Station.

NOTE: There is no river crossing at Nelia Gaari, so the only way into Nelia Gaari is via the western side. The only river cross downstream is at Menindee, over an hour's drive.

Road Route (179 km):

Drive White Cliffs to Nelia Gaari Station

* NOTE: Nelia Gaari is only accessible from the western route (No river crossing).

  • Opal Miner's Way
  • Barrier Hwy/A32
  • West Wilcannia Rd (Unsealed Road)

Meals & Provisions:

  • White Cliffs (Meals, fuel, general store)
  • Wilcannia (Fuel, supermarket, vehicle repairs)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Wilcannia

Located where the Barrier Highway crosses the Darling River, Wilcannia is a largely undisturbed port on the Darling River. Cross the bridge driving from Sydney to Broken Hill and turn either to your right or left when you enter the town and you will be amazed at the richness of the architecture. More on Wilcannia

Route Overview:

Darling River Run - Menindee to Broken Hill

With over half of the Darling River Run completed, it is time to hit the big-smoke, refresh, at the most iconic inland city in Australia, Broken Hill.

Broken Hill is a true icon of Outback Australia, sitting on an iron-rich red landscape under a big Azure sky... remarkable colors and contrasts that are synonymous with Australia's Corner Country (where the real outback begins).

Broken Hill, its name conjures up so much that we identify with Australia. Henry Lawson once stated "if you know Bourke, you know Australia", an adage that could apply equally to Broken Hill as it does to Bourke (but with a slightly more modern context). More on Broken Hill

Road Route (170km):

Driving from Nelia Gaari Station (Menindee) to Outback Resort (Broken Hill)

  • West Wilcannia Road (Unsealed)
  • Menindee Road
  • Barrier Highway

Meals & Provisions:

  • Menindee (Fuel, Meals, Repairs, General store)
  • Broken Hill (Pretty much everything)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Menindee & Menindee Lakes:

Menindee and the surrounding area is steeped in legend and history; the region is of great indigenous significance and European pastoral history. The area is known to the Barkindji people as 'Minandichee' and it is believed this is how the name originated. More on the Menindee

About Kinchega NP:

Located within a few kilometres of Menindee, Kinchega National Park provides wonderful access to the Darling River for river camping and fishing and is rich in indigenous and pastoral history. More on Kinchega National Park

No trip to Outback NSW would be complete without visiting Broken Hill, the Silver City, and it is only a short drive (115 km) from Menindee along Menindee Road (sealed).

About Broken Hill:

The capital of Outback NSW is undoubtedly Broken Hill, an oasis in the outback that provides the perfect base for exploring the NSW region known as the Far West including the vast Corner Country to the north.

A premier touring destination, Broken Hill is known for its artists, living indigenous culture, and the evocative Living Desert Reserve with the internationally renowned Sculpture Symposium.

The town's name is attributed to an 1844 account by the explorer Charles Sturt who noted in his diary "Silver ore was later discovered on this broken hill in 1883 by a boundary rider named Charles Rasp".

Today the city sits on one of the world's largest known silver-lead-zinc lodes which is seven kilometres long and over 220 metres wide. More on Broken Hill

About Silverton

Silverton, a few outback places are as iconically outback Australia and visitors come from far and wide to this little town on the edge of the real outback.

Silverton was once a thriving mining town, which later became a ghost town, only to be currently re-inventing itself as a lively destination of museums, art galleries, and unique cafes and gift shops. Add to that, a VERY iconic pub adorned with images of films made in the area, including Mad Max with Mel Gibson. More on Silverton

Route Overview:

Darling River Run - Broken Hill to Menindee

Rested and revived after staying in Broken Hill, it is time to head back to Menindee to explore the town and lakes before heading to Bindara Station, an icon of the lower Darling River.

The road to Menindee is bitumen, while the route from Menindee through Kinchega National Park is the start of the unsealed road. Be sure to get a visitors guide for what to see and do in Kinchega National Park. Kinchega provides the best access to the Darling River of all parks along the Darling River Run.

Road Route (208 km):

Driving from Broken Hill to Bindara Station via Menindee/Kinchega NP

  • Barrier Highway
  • Menindee Rd
  • Old Pooncarie Rd

Meals & Provisions:

  • Broken Hill (Pretty much everything)
  • Menindee (Fuel, Meals, Repairs, General store)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Kinchega National Park

Kinchega National Park, located in the central Darling about one hour south-east of Broken Hill, provides wonderful access to the Darling River for birdwatching, historical insights, river camping, and fishing. Rich in indigenous and pastoral history, Kinchega is bounded by the Darling River upstream from Menindee Lakes. More on Kinchega NP

About Menindee & Menindee Lakes:

Menindee and the surrounding area are steeped in legend and history; the region is of great indigenous significance and European pastoral history. The area is known to the Barkindji people as 'Minandichee' and it is believed this is how the name originated. More on the Menindee

Route Overview:

Darling River Run - Menindee to Lake Mungo

Continuing south along the western bank of the Darling River, the next stop is the beautiful hamlet of Pooncarie, an excellent place for lunch down by the river and even some momento shopping at the great little gift shop.

From Pooncarie the route heads west to Lake Mungo (Mungo National Park) for a unique experience and insights into First Nation history and a bit of European history.

To get the most out of the Mungo Visit, a full day of exploring the National Park is scheduled.

Road Route (183 km):

Bindara Station Lake Mungo NP

  • Old Pooncarie Rd <> Polia Rd (Unsealed)
  • Pooncarie Rd
  • Top Hut Rd (Unsealed)

Meals & Provisions:

  • Pooncarie (Fuel, Meals, General store)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Pooncarie

The area, originally known as ‘Pooncaira’ came into existence during the 1940s as European settlers took up illegal livestock runs on crown land and by the 1960s the Federal Government took control of the area by formalizing the illegal land claims. More on the Pooncarie

About Lake Mungo

In theory, Lake Mungo is little more than the remnants of an ancient dry lake with a twenty-kilometre sand dune ridge formed on one side, but in reality, it is one of the most significant anthropological and archaeological sites in the world. Mungo exhibits 40,000+ years of continuous human habitation. More on the Lake Mungo NP

No driving today, but that does not necessarily mean rest. Although that is an option when staying at Mungo Lodge, and can add some pampering to that!

Mungo is there to explore!

The options are plentiful with self-drive tours, organized tours, or a combination of both.

For the best way to experience Lake Mungo (National Park), the friendly staff at Mungo Lodge can help with maps, guides, and booking tours.

Visit World Heritage Mungo National Park, home of the famous Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, and explore a place rich in Aboriginal history. Enjoy a walk or picnic, or camp near Lake Mungo. More on the Lake Mungo

{slider=Day 13 - Lake Mungo to Wentworth and/or Balranald}

Route Overview:

Darling River Run - Lake Mungo to Balranald

It's hard to believe, but the Murray-Darling confluence is a little over an hour's drive away, with some much explored and experienced along the way. But it isn't over yet!

The last leg of the tip has two great options and one amazing place to stay at the end of your Darling River Run.

Lake Paika Station is an apt way to finish your journey, a place to put your feet up, reflect, and enjoy some great hospitality.

There are two options:

  1. Visit Wentworth then head across to Lake Paika: Perfect for those who have not been to see where the Darling River joins the Murray River.
  2. Head straight to Lake Paika (with the option to go to Wentworth after your Lake Paika experience.

Road Route:

Drive Lake Mungo to Lake Paika Station (131 km)
  • Marma Box Creek Rd
  • Hatfield Penarie Rd
  • Ivanhoe Rd  
Drive Lake Mungo <> Wentworth <> Lake Paika Station (342 km)
  • Arumpo Rd
  • Silver City Hwy

- Wentworth -

  • Silver City Hwy
  • Sturt Hwy
  • Ivanhoe Rd

Meals & Provisions:

  • Balranald (Mostly Everything)
  • Wentworth (Meals, Fuel, Supermarket, Pubs)

Towns, Parks, & Localities:

About Balranald

The quiet and pretty town of Balranald is located on the Murrumbidgee River 859 km from Sydney. Originally inhabited by the Wemba-Wemba Aboriginal group, who called the area 'Nap Nap', Balranald was probably the first town settled on the New South Wales side of the river. Balranald is now one of the major entry points to the Lake Mungo National Park and the recently opened Yanga National Park.

About Wentworth 

Wentworth, NSW, a place that, in 1844, was described as "Magnificent trees droop like willows to the water's edge with evening's mildest radiance in their foliage, throwing a soft haze over the distance...", and has lost nothing of that ethereal beauty, has to be a place to visit. More on the Wentworth

Darling River Run Map - Darling River Touring Map, Guide and Brochure

To download your copy of the Darling River Run Map and Guide Brochure, please use the following link:

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