The Darling River Run - Best Route
The Darling River Run can be driven along the western or eastern sides of the river, so what is the best route along the Darling River? With routes along either side of the river, Australian photographer Simon Bayliss shares his preferred route along the Darling River Run. This touring route through Outback NSW is one of Australia's best touring routes and is an adventure along Australia's most iconic waterway from Walgett to Wentworth where the Darling meets the Murray River.
Around 2008 I took a road trip into the unknown, a journey of discovery, and got as far as the Darling River (at Louth), and while the river was not flowing due to a massive drought across Australia, there was something magical about it.
There was an intangible energy to it that stirred something in me. I had to learn more and discover the mystical river that has been an integral part to the First Nations, particularly the Barkindji, who have been living in the area for over 30,000 years; as well as the European explorers and pastoralists who came much later.
It can be bone dry or in high-flow, either way enables people to connect with each other and the river itself.
In 2009 I was commissioned to photograph the Darling River, research and write about the Darling River Run and Outback NSW by Outback NSW Tourism for the Darling River Run Project , and over the last ten years I have been lucky enough to have have driven along its entirety on average once a year.
The following is my Darling River Run, covering river camping and my perferred tour route. Simon Bayliss
Darling River Run Itinerary Summary
- Walgett to Brewarrina: Kamilaroi Hwy - 134km
- Brewarrina to Bourke: Kamilaroi Hwy - 98km
- Bourke to Louth: Eastern Route - Louth Rd - 99km
- Louth to Tilpa: Western Route - Toorale Rd > Tilpa-Louth Rd - 89km
- Tilpa to Wilcannia: Eastern Route - Tilpa Rd - 145km
- Wilcannia to Menindee: Western Route - Wilcannia Rd - 156km
- Menindee to Pooncarie: Western Route - Old Pooncarie Rd > High Darling Rd - 185km
- Pooncarie to Wentworth: Eastern Route - Wentworth-Pooncarie Rd - 120km
Best time time to do the Darling River Run
The tour down the Darling can be done any time of the year with Autumn and Spring the pick; summer can be very hot and winter can be very cold (relative term). Basically, it can be done anytime of the year if prepared.
For many, the Darling River Run is regarded as one of the best outback touring routes in Outback NSW. While it might not be an extreme 4x4 adventure route that some seek, it is one that accessible in a conventional passenger vehicle, AWD SUV, motorbike, as well as a 4WD; with the advantage of being less than a days drive to get to the Darling River.
Darling River Run - The Best Route Along the Darling
The Upper Darling River Run
Walgett to Louth Section
The upper section of the Darling River Run encompasses the tributaries that flow from Queensland's Darling Downs, primarily the Condamine > Balonne > Culgoa rivers, the Border Rivers, as well as those flowing north-west like the Macquarie, Namoi, and Barwon.
Iconic towns like Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, and Louth provide unique experiences for the Outback NSW visitor (not to mention Lightning RidgeLightning Ridge to the north which is a great option). The towns and regions of the upper Darling are steeped in indigenous history and living culture as well as European pastoral history.
The Central Darling River Run
Louth to Menindee Section
The middle (or central) section of the Darling River Run covers the more remote and outback areas of river plain; including the ephemeral Paroo River.
Iconic towns like Tilpa, Wilcannia and Menindee (Menindee Lakes) offer plenty if iconic outback experiences.
The Lower Darling River Run
Menindee to Wentworth Section
The Lower Darling section of the Darling River Run, Menindee Lakes to Wentworth, covers some of the best outback attractions and experiences of Outback NSW including the iconic Lake Mango (Mungo National Park), a ‘must-see’ destinations with its much-photographed ‘Walls of China’, dunes, and Lunette landscapes. Lake Mungo is more about just an outback landscape of ethereal beauty as it has its very own unique story it has to tell about the richness of indigenous culture.
The other major unique feature of the Lower Darling is the confluence of the Murray River and Darling River, the point the the tow rivers meet before continuing, as one, to Lake Alexandrina.
For more information on the Darling River Run, including routes, itineraries, maps, accommodation and more, please see the Darling River Run Website.