Summer holiday in Wilcannia

Few people take their summer holidays in Wilcannia.

“It’s too hot!” Everyone told us before we departed. I tried to book the trip in spring but the train was full and so was the accommodation we were planning to stay at. So summertime (January 2021) it had to be.

As history goes, I’d first passed through Wilcannia on a hitchhiking trip back in January 1997. As the truck I’d hitched a lift with crossed the Darling River into Wilcannia from the east, the truck driver pointed out the old lift bridge that allowed the paddle steamers to pass. As we entered the town I was taken by the sight of the beautiful old stone buildings in the dry and dusty landscape.

For the next 23 years, Wilcannia, was on my bucket list of places I wanted to return to for a closer inspection. A vivid picture of those beautiful old buildings was burnt into the back of my mind.

Raining in Broken Hill NSW
It rarely rains in Broken Hill – except when I go there.

My partner and I had travelled to Broken by train twice before. The first time we travelled straight through. But 13 hours in the same seat is a little too long for me, so the next time we broke the journey at Bathurst and stayed at the Victoria Hotel, across the street from Bathurst railway station. This time we decided to break the journey at Parkes.

Sydney to Parkes

Since the weekly NSW TrainLink train service Sydney to Broken Hill departs Sydney Mondays only, we departed Sydney on a Sunday using our Gold Opal cards aboard the 12:24 Opal service to Lithgow and alighted at Blackheath for lunch. After lunch at the Ivanhoe Hotel, we boarded the 18:38 Opal service from Blackheath to Lithgow. Blue Mountains line timetable.

At Lithgow we joined the NSWTrainlink coach which departed at 17:25  to Parkes. Here’s a link to the NSW TrainLink Western Line timetable

The cost for this section of the journey using our Seniors cards was $23.64. Bookings are required through NSW TrainLink

Arrival at Parkes was at 21:40. We’d booked a night at the Henry Parkes Motor Inn just a few minutes’ walk from the coach stop at the Parkes railway station. The motel is beautifully maintained and spotlessly clean – 5/5. 

The next morning (Monday) the motel owners minded our bags while we headed out to explore the town on foot in the hot but dry air. A pleasant change from the humidity of Sydney.

We walked through town up as far as the Tourist Information Offce, about 3km out of town. On return we picked up our bags and headed down for lunch at the newly renovated Railway Hotel, just a few minute’s walk from Parkes railway station.

Although Parkes station only sees two trains a week, it is well maintained and has staff. 

Parkes to Broken Hill

Our train to Broken Hill arrived and departed on time at 12:48.  The train left Sydney at 06:18 the same morning. Click here for the timetable.

The Seniors card fare is just $2.50 for this section of the journey from Parkes to Broken Hill. This fare was a (CPE) Country Pensioner Excursion fare, available to all Seniors card holders. You’ll need to book beforehand at the NSW TrainLink booking site.

The first major stop after leaving Parkes was Ivanhoe where all the passengers were allowed off the train to stretch their legs.

Arrival at Broken Hill was about an hour late caused by speed restrictions due to the chance of the summer heat buckling the track.

We then spent two nights across the street from the Broken Hill railway station at the Comfort Inn – a one-minute walk from the station. It’s the perfect place to stay in Broken Hill if you arrive by coach or train. Rates are reasonable, and if you join the Choice Hotels Customer Loyalty program before booking, you’ll get a discount on the prices shown.

Broken Hill to Wilcannia

Departure from Broken Hill to Wilcannia was aboard the Community coach service which departs from the Broken Hill post office 5 days a week at 14:30. The fare for Seniors cardholders is $2.50. Arrival at Wilcannia is at 17:30. (Wilcannia time) Note that Broken Hill is on (CST) Central Standard Time, while Wilcannia is in on (EST) Eastern Standard Time.

In Wilcannia we were booked into Warrawong On The Darling. The bus driver went out of his way to help all his passengers aboard his bus (about 10) by dropping them off at their final destinations. Warrawong On The Darling is about 3 km out of town and he drove us out there. Now, how’s that for country hospitality! It was a great place to stay, the only negative is the distance from town. But for any senior, the twenty-five-minute walk each way to town is a lot more fun than an hour in the gym!

It was a joy to walk across the old lift bridge, over the Darling River into Wilcannia. I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed as there were not as many of the old buildings still standing as there were when I visited 23 years earlier. The police station, post office, courthouse, hospital, and council buildings were all still there and in perfect condition. Other buildings were in a state of disrepair. I was told that the original stone the buildings were built from had the tendency to crumble. It was a very enjoyable walk around town. We stopped to talk with the locals who were friendly and informative. One local was out taking his beautiful French bulldog for a walk. We finished our walk with a drink at the Wilcannia Golf Club.

Wilcannia to Nyngan

After two nights in Wilcannia we departed Wilcannia for Nyngan aboard the NSW TrainLink, Broken Hill to Dubbo coach service which leaves Wilcannia, daily at 06:15. The trip included a refreshment stop in Cobar and arrived at Nyngan at 11:25. The Seniors fare is just $2.50. You’ll need to make a booking on the NSW Trainlink Regional trains and coaches booking page.

In Nyngan we stayed at the Outback Motor Inn which was very clean and comfortable. On arrival I requested a room overlooking the railway. The people at reception looked a little perplexed at my strange request. I then told them I was a train enthusiast like Michael Portillo and instantly a smile of recognition came over their faces. They gave us the perfect room.

We’d just entered our room and dropped our bags when an empty ore train heading through to Cobar blew its horn. I opened the curtains for a great view of the train and ran for my camera.

Nyngan to Millthorpe

Next morning we caught the same coach service we’d arrived on through to Dubbo. This coach departed Nyngan at 11:25. At Dubbo, we changed for the Dubbo to Sydney XPT train through to Millthorpe, an historic village between Orange and Blayney. This was again a CPE fare of just $2.50 for the entire journey from Nyngan to Millthorpe. You’ll need to make a booking on the NSW Trainlink Regional trains and coaches booking page. Click here for the timetable.

Millthorpe has cobbled streets, gift and antiques shops, art galleries, a museum, restaurants, cafes and two hotels. We stayed the night at the Millthorpe Motel and dined at the Tonic Restaurant. This really blew the budget, but worth every cent. It was a nice change from the kangaroo burgers and wombat stew we’d been living on further west. Just kidding :).

Millthorpe to Sydney

Next day was Sunday. We spent the morning drinking coffee, eating cakes and exploring the antique and craft shops – as you do in Millthorpe. Later that same day (Sunday) we boarded the 13:50 NSW TrainLink coach through to Lithgow. This coach service connected with an Opal service into to Sydney. Click here for the timetable. The cost for this section of the trip from Millthorpe to Lithgow was $9.80 for Seniors card holders. Bookings are required.

Millthorpe N.S.W

Don’t forget to check carefully all the timetables and have your bookings in place before leaving. We’re not responsible for any changes.

Bon Voyage.

Below is a breakdown of fares paid on the journey.

Sydney to Lithgow$2.50Opal
Lithgow to Parkes23.64NSWTrainLink
half fare
Parkes to Broken Hill$2.50NSW TrainLink
CPE fare
Broken Hill to Wilcannia$2.50Wilcannia
Tourism Assoc.
Wilcannia to Nyngan$2.50NSW TrainLink
CPE fare
Nyngan to Millthorpe$2.50NSW TrainLink
CPE fare
Millthorpe to Lithgow$9.80NSWTrainLink
half fare
Lithgow to Sydney$2.50Opal