Why is Broken Hill special?

Broken Hill statistics:

Population: 21,000

Postcode: 2880

Annual rainfall: 253mm

Temperatures (average): 18-33C summer, 5-15C winter 

It would be a mistake to think that just because Broken Hill is in the desert there is nothing to see and do. This place is just fascinating! The desert is interesting, the mining relics are interesting, the villages nearby are interesting. A visitor to this outback location will not be disappointed.

The history is interesting too. Mining dates back to the discovery of valuable minerals in 1883. In about ten years, when the prospectors flocked in, most of the trees were felled in the area, and, perhaps by no coincidence, the rainfall dropped. It was a desert, so it is going to be dry anyway.

The world’s largest mining company, BHP (now BHP Billiton) has its origins in this outback location. This is the city where the company was incorporated and listed on the stock exchange. Want to guess what the ‘BH’ part of BHP stands for?

Among the residents are people who have lived the outback life all their life. It is a unique place to live, so far from anything else. Yet that is what appeals to some people. Air services ensure that a quick dash to another part of Australia is within reach, even out here.

What is it like to live in Broken Hill, also known as Silver City? Why do so many people call ‘the Hill’ home? Let’s take a closer look at this iconic Australian city.

Why is Broken Hill special?

Travellers’ warning: Broken Hill is in what is called the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone. This means that some foods are not allowed to be brought into the zone. Please see the NSW DPI site for further details.


It is a desert, so what do you expect? Dry conditions, quite warm summers, but pleasantly mild winters. Water is piped from the Darling River at Menindee, some 100km away.

Why is Broken Hill special?

To cope with the warm to hot summers, many homes are made of corrugated iron. Yes, such a home can get hot, but at night they cool down quickly. Brick homes will stay hot longer, and as such, are not overly practical for this climate.


Annual events include:

  • Show-n-Shine
  • ARB Warn 4×4 Outback Challenge
  • Poetry Festival
  • Silver City Cup
  • Waste 2 Art
  • Bushman’s Rally
  • Outback Art Prize
  • Silverado Shootout

Art is a very important part of life in the outback. Many outback artists have made either Broken Hill, or nearby Silverton, home, with galleries for each artist. Having seen some of the artwork, we can vouch for its high standard. We counted 29 galleries.


Schools. There are 5 public schools, 2 high schools and one private school. In addition there is a college of TAFE campus, and a campus of the Charles Sturt University.

Health. A list of all health services can be found by visiting here.

Why is Broken Hill special?Transport. By road from Wentworth, Mildura, Sydney and Adelaide. Coach travel is available from Adelaide and Mildura. By Train from Sydney and Adelaide with Countrylink. By air from Sydney and Adelaide. A 4WD is suggested for venturing into more remote areas. Two taxi companies and a bus company service the city.

Although Broken Hill is in New South Wales, it is so far west of Sydney (over 1,000km) that it is actually closer to Adelaide, in South Australia. Adelaide is about 500km to the south west.

If travelling by private transport, be aware that from sunset large numbers of kangaroos congregate around the roads between Broken Hill and other destinations. The safest option will be to travel during daylight hours. To relate an experience, an acquaintance travelled from Mildura (about 290km to the south) one evening. He arrived safely, but the trip took six hours.

There is no need to be concerned about road conditions. The roads into the city, and within the city, are amongst the best roads we have ever seen.

Show me a city map.

There is a lot to do in the city, so we recommend visiting the Visitor Information Centre website for more information.


Why is Broken Hill special?The obvious natural feature is the desert, which is certainly not boring.

The Living Desert Reserve is located on the northern outskirts of town. Its 2400 hectares contain aboriginal sites, a regeneration reserve, panoramic views, a four-wheel drive track, a permaculture site, a range of flora and fauna and there are currently plans to set up an animal reserve for endangered species. The reserve is dotted with sculptures, added in 1993.

Due to the Silver City’s isolated position, to travel anywhere will take some time. The national parks mentioned below, although not really close to Broken Hill, are nonetheless considered to be within its region:

  • Kinchega National Park
  • Mutawintji National Park
  • Mungo National Park
  • Paroo-Darling National Park
  • Sturt National Park

Two villages worth visiting are Silverton and Menindee.

Mining relics can be found in the surrounding desert. An example is the Day Dream Mine. This mine operated even before BHP got its start, and is located on the road to Silverton.


Employment. Mining activities have been scaled back from their heyday, although mining is still done. Due to the reduced mining activities, unemployment is higher than other parts of the state. In fact the unemployment rate is around 8%. Tourism is now the booming industry.