Plunge into New South Wales’s formidable desert backyard and discover a region that is as rich in natural beauty as it is in character.
The Outback Intro Loop is your ticket to a world far removed from the state’s well-trodden shoreline drives and Sydney’s icons. On the contrary, there will be times when the road is your sole companion, and nothing but glorious nature occupies your horizons.
We recommend setting aside at least a week for this drive, as the route winds through plenty of stops that are well-worth exploring. Mostly sealed roads comprise the 1200 kilometres of the Outback Intro Loop, which means that almost any car can tackle the trek.
Dubbo to Coonabarabran
As an important rural centre, Dubbo is the ideal start and finish point for this loop. Five hours north-west of Sydney, Dubbo boasts all of the services and amenities of a city, but with the distinct feel and charisma of a country town. Visit Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo – which can be toured on foot, bike or buggy – for a day out that will delight the whole family. Dubbo’s immaculate Shoyoen Japanese Garden is a surprising oasis of tranquillity nestled in the heart of the township, while the Old Dubbo Gaol’s storied past makes for a great educational adventure. What’s more, Dubbo is home to a handful of vineyards and an exciting up-and-coming food scene perfect for lazy, long lunches.
Coonabarabran to Walgett
The touring route continues north to Walgett, but not without making pit stops at the awe-inspiring Cumbil State Forest and Euligal State Forest along the way. Aloes mark the site of an historic homestead framed by river red gums in Cumbil State Forest, 25 kilometres north of Baradine. This sleepy clearing is also an ideal spot for catching a glimpse of the local koalas!
You will soon discover that the wholesome outback community of Walgett is the perfect place to lose yourself in nature’s bounty and truly unwind. Mother Nature has bestowed on the region a two-million-year-old artesian water basin, with 41.5 °C bore baths peppered across nearby Lightning Ridge, Burren Junction as well as Walgett proper. Rub shoulders with locals as you melt away your troubles in these blissful waters.
Walgett to Lightning Ridge
Lightning Ridge, fondly referred to as the Ridge, is a favourite destination on any New South Wales outback self-drive itinerary, thanks to its unique charm, fascinating places and the cast of colourful characters that calls it home. Head to the John Murray Art Gallery for an eclectic assortment of locally produced and inspired art.
The Gothic-style Amigo’s Castle makes for a jarring addition to the New South Wales outback horizon, but this bizarre structure is a labour of love. Vittorio Stefanato, known locally as Amigo, built the 15-metre-tall castle on a mining lease after he became disillusioned with opal mining, and today it is open to visitors for a modest entrance fee.