14 Things to do in Bourke in New South Wales

Nestled in the heart of the Australian Outback lies a place in New South Wales that embodies the region’s history, culture and natural beauty. Welcome to the charming town of Bourke.

For those seeking an authentic Australian experience off the beaten path, this enchanting town offers many experiences that will open your eyes to life in this remote part of Australia.

This comprehensive guide unveils 10 of the best things to do in Bourke, providing a roadmap to the best adventures and hidden gems this iconic outback destination offers.

From immersive historical exhibits to serene river cruises, indigenous cultural experiences and stargazing under the vast Outback sky, a journey to Bourke is an unforgettable adventure.

Introduction to Bourke

The remote town of Bourke was established in the mid-19th century as a pivotal hub for early explorers, pastoralists and riverboat trade along the Darling River.

Its growth was intricately tied to the booming wool industry, and during its heyday, it boasted the largest inland port in the country. However, the town’s history is not without its trials and tribulations. Bourke faced harsh environmental challenges, including severe droughts and floods, which tested the resilience of its inhabitants. The indigenous Wiradjuri people also connect profoundly to this land, and their enduring presence and cultural heritage enrich the town’s history.

Today, Bourke stands as a testament to its enduring past, where history lovers can delve into the tales of early explorers, the rise of the wool trade and the spirit of a community that has weathered the harshest outback conditions.

Getting to Bourke

Getting to Bourke

Despite residing deep in the Australian Outback, the town of Bourke is surprisingly accessible for those eager to explore its charms.

Situated in northwestern New South Wales, Bourke is a notable outback destination about 800 kilometres northwest of Sydney. Travellers have several options for reaching this historic town. The most common approach is by road, with well-maintained highways and scenic routes connecting Bourke to major cities like Sydney and Dubbo. However, if you prefer air travel, Bourke Airport provides regular flights, ensuring a more convenient option for those covering long distances.

With its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, the journey to Bourke is rewarding, offering glimpses of the vast Australian outback landscape along the way.

Best time to visit Bourke

If you intend to visit Bourke in New South Wales, the best time for you to do so would depend very

much on what type of experiences you are after.

The town experiences a classic Australian Outback climate with scorching summers and mild winters. Therefore, the most popular time for most travellers is during the cooler months, from late autumn (April) to early spring (September).

During this period, daytime temperatures are more comfortable for exploring the town’s attractions, and outdoor activities like hiking and stargazing are delightful. Additionally, this season aligns with Bourke’s event calendar, offering the chance to participate in local festivals and races.

However, if you can handle the extreme heat and want to witness the true outback in all its glory, the summer months (December to February) provide an entirely different, albeit challenging, experience. Remember that summer temperatures often exceed 40°C (104°F), making it essential to take precautions to stay safe in the intense heat.

Regardless of when you choose to visit the town, Bourke’s unique character and attractions await your exploration.

Things to do in Bourke

Once in Bourke, plenty of activities, sites and attractions keep you busy. Here are ten experiences we recommend doing during your time in this fabulous Outback town.

1. Visit the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre

Visit the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre

Start your Bourke adventure with a trip to the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre. This informative centre provides a comprehensive introduction to the history and culture of the region.

You’ll find fascinating exhibits showcasing the early explorers, the indigenous Wiradjuri people, and the impact of the wool industry on Bourke’s development.

Don’t miss the immersive holographic show, which takes you back in time to experience the town’s history firsthand.

2. Take a Paddle Steamer Cruise

As Bourke sits on the banks of the Darling River, one of the best ways to experience its beauty is by taking a paddle steamer cruise.

These historic vessels offer a leisurely and scenic journey along the river, with commentary on the area’s history and wildlife.

It’s a relaxing way to soak in the natural surroundings and gain a unique perspective on the town.

3. Explore the Crossley Engine

Explore the Crossley Engine

The Crossley Engine, located at the Kidman’s Camp, is an iconic piece of Bourke’s history.

This massive 100-horsepower engine, used to power the Kidman Wool Scour, is one of the world’s last remaining examples of its kind.

Visitors can see this engineering marvel up close and learn about its significance in the wool industry.

4. Discover Indigenous Culture at Yanga National Park

Discover Indigenous Culture at Yanga National Park

Yanga National Park, located just a short drive from Bourke, offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich indigenous culture of the area.

The park features ancient Aboriginal cultural sites, including scarred trees and middens that date back centuries.

Whilst there, you can take guided tours to learn about the traditional land management practices of the local Nari Nari people and gain further insight into their deep connection to the land.

5. Go Stargazing in the Outback

Go Stargazing in the Outback

Bourke’s remote location and minimal light pollution make it an ideal destination for stargazing.

If you’re a fan of astronomy, bring your telescope or join a guided stargazing tour to marvel at the breathtaking night sky.

Witness constellations, planets, and the Milky Way in all their glory while listening to fascinating stories about Aboriginal astronomy.

6. Explore Gundabooka National Park

Explore Gundabooka National Park

Just a short drive from Bourke, Gundabooka National Park offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and cultural significance.

The park features dramatic sandstone cliffs, Aboriginal rock art sites and the iconic ‘Mulgowan’ (Fish Trap) walking track. To best experience them, hike through the park’s rugged terrain. Doing this will also reward you with stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.

7. Enjoy a Historic Pub Crawl

Bourke is home to several historic pubs, each with its own unique character and stories to tell.

Why not embark on a historic pub crawl to experience the town’s social scene and learn about its past?

If you do, be sure to visit the famous North Bourke Hotel. Built in 1886, it is a must-visit destination for its classic outback pub charm and delicious meals.

8. Attend the Bourke Races

Attending the Bourke Races is an absolute must for those who want to experience outback hospitality and adrenaline-fueled excitement.

This annual event brings together locals and visitors alike to witness heart-pounding horse races against the backdrop of Bourke’s expansive landscapes. It’s a lively celebration of the town’s spirit,

complete with colourful fashion, entertainment, and a palpable sense of community.

Whether you’re a seasoned punter or simply seeking to soak in the energetic atmosphere, the Bourke Races offer a unique opportunity to experience the outback’s vibrant social scene while savouring the thrill of the track.

9. Visit Fred Hollows’ Grave

Visit Fred Hollows’ Grave

Bourke has a deep connection to the renowned eye surgeon Fred Hollows, who made significant contributions to eye care in Australia and internationally.

During your time in the town, pay your respects at Fred Hollows’ grave in the Bourke Cemetery. You can also learn about his incredible legacy and the impact he had on the community through various informative displays.

10. Explore the Historic Wharf Precinct

Bourke’s Historic Wharf Precinct is a captivating window into the town’s river trade heritage. So take the opportunity to meander through lovingly restored buildings that once buzzed with commerce along the Darling River.

From the historic Customs House to charming riverbank walks, this area showcases the enduring legacy of riverboat trade in Bourke. Whether you’re captivated by the tales of river pioneers or simply looking for a serene spot to enjoy a picnic along the water’s edge, the Historic Wharf Precinct offers a picturesque glimpse into the past.

11. Gundabooka National Park

Gundabooka National Park

Bourke’s natural beauty arguably shines brightest in Gundabooka National Park. Located about 50 kilometres southeast of Bourke, this park is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The park is home to stunning rock formations, including the iconic ‘Breadknife’ and ‘Salt and Pepper’ – a must-see for hikers.

The Ngemba people have a deep connection to this land, and you can explore their cultural heritage through interpretive signs and marked trails. Camping facilities are available, so consider spending a night under the starry outback sky.

12. Birdwatching at North Bourke

Birdwatching at North Bourke

Bourke and its surroundings are teeming with birdlife, with North Bourke, in particular, being a birdwatcher’s paradise.

The wetlands and billabongs in this area attract a diverse range of bird species, including pelicans, brolgas, and wedge-tailed eagles.

Bring your binoculars and camera for a chance to spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

13. Fishing on the Darling River

Fishing on the Darling River

The Darling River is not only for scenic cruises but also for fishing enthusiasts. So consider casting a line from the banks or hiring a boat to enjoy a relaxing day of angling during your visit to Bourke.

The river is home to various fish species, including yellowbelly and Murray cod. Just check the local fishing regulations and obtain the necessary permits.

14. Back O’ Bourke Easter Festival

If you plan your visit during Easter, you’re in for a treat. The Back O’ Bourke Easter Festival is a vibrant celebration of the town’s culture and history.

Enjoy live music, markets, street parades and traditional bush poetry performances. It’s a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the local community and experience the warmth and hospitality of Bourke.

Accommodation in Bourke

Accommodation in Bourke

Bourke offers diverse accommodation options to cater to every traveller’s needs and preferences.

Charming guesthouses and boutique lodges provide a comfortable and authentic stay with personalised service for those who prefer a touch of outback luxury. At the same time, caravan parks and campgrounds along the banks of the Darling River are perfect for those seeking a more rugged adventure, offering a chance to sleep under the stars in the Australian outback.

Additionally, the town has a selection of motels and hotels that provide convenient and comfortable stays with all the necessary amenities.

Overall, you can rest assured that when planning your visit to Bourke, you’ll have no shortage of accommodation choices to ensure a restful night’s sleep after a day of exploration and adventure.

Essentials to Pack

When preparing for your Bourke adventure, don’t forget to pack these essentials:

Sun Protection: The Australian outback sun can be harsh, so pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats to stay protected.

Insect Repellent: Insects, particularly flies and mosquitoes, can be bothersome in the outback. Carry insect repellent to keep them at bay.

Sturdy Footwear: Comfortable and durable footwear is essential, especially if you plan hiking or exploring the natural surroundings.

Water and Snacks: Stay hydrated with an ample water supply, especially during outdoor activities. Additionally, pack snacks for energy while on the go.

Maps and Navigation: While GPS works in most areas, having physical maps and a compass can be a backup in case of any technology failures.

First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit is a must. It should include antiseptic pain relievers, band-aids, personal medications and wipes.

Camera and Binoculars: Capture the stunning landscapes and wildlife with a camera and binoculars for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.


Bourke is a jewel of the Australian outback, offering travellers a diverse range of activities and experiences.

From immersing yourself in the town’s rich history at the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre to exploring the natural wonders of Yanga National Park, Bourke has something to captivate every visitor.

Overall, this iconic outback town promises an unforgettable adventure filled with history, culture and the rugged beauty of the Australian wilderness. So, whether you are interested in culture, history, nature, or simply seeking a relaxing outback escape, why not start to plan your visit there?