The Kidman Way is one of those tourist drives that take you to the outback of NSW. “Backroad to The Outback” one of the billboards said.
The Kidman Way starts just north of the township of Jerilderie in the Riverina area of NSW and heads north through Coleambally, Darlington Point, Griffith and Cobar to Bourke. It is 650km drive through the middle of country New South Wales. The name was inspired by pastoralist Sir Sidney Kidman’s desire to open up inland Australia.
Coleambally is the youngest town in NSW having been established in June 1968 with the Post Office opening in April 1970. It is the centre of the Coleambally Irrigation Area, an area which began to be developed in the 1950s and which covers 87,600 ha. with rice being the principal crop though wheat, barley, corn, canola, soybeans, olives and almonds are also grown.
Not far further north you cross the Murrumbidgee River at Darlington Point. I stopped for a break here and had a wander over the bridge and along a part of the river walk. A bit further north is the major regional town of Griffith. I have mixed thoughts on Griffith. I did some washing at the laundromat here and did some shopping for groceries and other items. It is rare that you get “grumpy” shop assistants. Most times they are polite, outwardly happy and usually you get a pleasant greeting. Not so from 3 shops I visited in Griffith. No smiles, no greetings, only mumbled response or no response when I said hello first. My parting words to these people is generally “Thank you. I hope your day gets better.”
I was keen to have a look at their museum as I was interested in the Italian connection to the town but by the time I got to there it was closing for the day. I had wanted to stay at Merriwagga that night so decided to press on. The Museum consisted of a number of buildings in a villlage style. The scenic road that ran along the ridge from the site gave a good overview of Griffith and surrounds.
I had an overnight stop at Merriwagga (see Bucket List #47 Black Stump Hotel). The next day I headed to Hillston which was a lovely little town with some interesting old buildings and a great nature trail around the river. I stopped the next night at Mount Hope. It wasn’t a town as such. It consisted only of a Hotel (open Wednesday to Saturday) and as it was a Tuesday I stayed behind the Conmunity Hall, the only other building in there. It was a peaceful stay. The following day was about 150km to Cobar.
I was looking forward to visiting the Cobar Museum but my luck was still put as there was scaffolding around the heritage building and it was closed for extensive renovations. I did have a good wander around town and went up to Fort Bourke Lookout which overlooks one of the mines in Cobar. I stayed overnight at the Old reservoir which was a very picturesque spot beside the huge lake.
The following day was another 160km drive through to Bourke. Bourke was a bit of a surprise. I had only been there once before – to the races- and I didn’t do any looking around. Due to its isolation on the fringe of the “real” outback and being a couple of hours west of Nyngan and 2 hours north of Cobar it has quite a bit of infrastructure in the way of Government services as it caters for anyone west of here. Bourke has some great history and has The Back O’ Bourke Exhibition on the northern outskirts of town. It is fairly new and at $21 entry it was maximum value. I really enjoyed my couple of hours here. There was so much history but it was done in such a way that it was easy to absorb. They had a number of audio stories which they gave you personal headphones to use. Local people telling local stories from yesteryear gave a very personal history of the harsh reality of living in primitive conditions so far removed from what we would call civilisation. Country people just “got on with it”.
As I entered the second of 3 buildings I met a gentleman and a young lady who introduced themselves and we got chatting. The gentleman Paul turned out to be the driving force behind the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition and he now lived in Dubbo but was back to provide staff training and Gemma was one of the young staff. After we had chatted for a while a lady by the name of Jodie came in with a camera around her neck. She was from the local newspaper and was there to interview Paul. She invited me to be a part of the “photo shoot” and asked me some questions, got my email details and said she would email me a copy of the article when it had gone to print. It is the second time I have been “interview” while on the road. The other time was in Coffs for a radio station segment.
After having a wander along the path beside the darling River I had a look over the Wharf which was the centre of activity years ago when most goods arrived by ship. It was hard to imagine ships running up and down the river systems and having ports so far inland. I then went and had a beer at the Bowling Club (see Bucket List #48)
The Kidman Way is a great drive and well worth doing. It is an experience and there is plenty to see and do along the way. Allow 4 to 7 days to really experience it.