The saying 'back o' Bourke' has come to mean the middle of nowhere, which is why Bourke is known as the gateway to the real outback. Bourke is a prosperous country town in the centre of thriving wool, cotton and citrus areas on the Darling River. It wasn't always so. Charles Sturt described it as 'unlikely to become the haunt of civilised man'. In 1835 Sir Thomas Mitchell came to the area and, thinking that the local Aboriginal people were a great threat, built himself a sturdy fort out of logs. Fort Bourke, as it became known, encouraged permanent settlement. Bourke quickly became a bustling major town, with Henry Lawson describing it as 'the metropolis of great scrubs'.
Cnr Kidman Way and Anson St; (02) 6872 1321
Nearby national parks
Back O' Bourke Exhibition Centre This fascinating modern facility is set among river red gums on the Darling River. It tells the story of the river and the outback from the Dreamtime to 100 years into the future. Visitors walk through colourful displays that re-create the past. The centre also looks at the sustainability of agriculture and the social structures of the outback. Kidman Way; (02) 6872 1321.
Old Railway Station: displays of Aboriginal artefacts and local history; Anson St.
Fred Hollows' Grave and Memorial: the eye surgeon and famous humanitarian is buried in the cemetery; Cobar Rd.
Historic wharf replica: reminder of days when Bourke was a busy paddlesteamer port. Take a paddlesteamer ride on the river; Sturt St.
Mateship Country Tours: include historic buildings of Bourke (such as the Carriers Arms Inn, frequented by Henry Lawson) and surrounding citrus and grape farms; bookings at visitor centre.
Gundabooka National Park The park is a woodland haven for wildlife. There are over 130 species of bird, including the endangered pink cockatoo, pied honeyeater and painted honeyeater. Kangaroos, euros and endangered bats also make their homes here. Mt Gundabooka offers great walking tracks and a spectacular lookout. The Ngemba people have a history of ceremonial gatherings in the area and their art can be seen in some caves (to book tours, contact National Parks & Wildlife Service (02) 6872 2744). The park also provides excellent camping and barbecue facilities. 74 km S.
Fort Bourke Stockade replica: memorial to Sir Thomas Mitchell, who built the original fort; 20 km SW.
Mt Oxley: home to wedge-tailed eagles and with views of plains from the summit. A key is needed for access to the mountain (collect from visitor centre); 40 km SE.
Comeroo Camel Station: working sheep and cattle station with artesian spa and outback experiences including a camel-drawn wagon; accommodation available; (02) 6874 7735; 150 km NW.
Cafes & restaurants around town
Campsites around town
Kidmans Camp 5 kmThis is a neat and friendly caravan park in North Bourke, not far from the famed Darling River. It’s got a swimming pool, which is heavenly in the high heat of summer, as well as powered and unpowered tent sites,... Find out more
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Mount Oxley camping area 30 kmMt Oxley is a tabletop mountain with spectacular views over the broad and sunburnt plains surrounding Bourke. This camping area is on private property; to get here, follow the road to Brewarrina for 28 km and take the... Find out more
Yanda camping area 36 kmCamp right on the Darling River at this newly established site on the north-western side of Louth Rd. From Bourke, head south along the Kidman Way and turn right onto Louth Rd. Follow the road about 45 km and watch for a... Find out more
Dry Tank camping area 53 kmFollow Kidman Way 50 km south of Bourke and turn right onto the main park road; alternatively, turn onto East Toorale Rd 10 km south of Bourke and follow the signs. There’s a 2.4 km walk from here leading to a... Find out more
4 Mile camping area 94 kmAt 4 miles, or approximately 6.5 km, east of Brewarrina along Coolabah Rd, this is a top spot for fishing and swimming in the Barwon River. You’ll be joining a tradition stretching back thousands of years –... Find out more
Caravan parks around town
Kidmans Camp 5 kmLocated 8 km north of town, this spacious riverfront park has plenty of lawn and lots of shade. The park is in a quiet, out-of-town location backing onto the Darling River.... Find out more
Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town
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