broken hill and the miner's arms

broken hill and the miner’s arms

July 30, 2010  |  travel tips and tales

One of life’s little surprises was a recent road trip with my parents to Broken Hill. It’s a living museum of 20,000 people (30,000 at its peak), with the large ore body bordering its eastern boundary giving context and reason for the very existence of this inland city in the desert. The contrast between capital and labour through history was obvious – from the stately architecture of the courthouse and early hotels to the ubiquitous tin cottages. While great wealth has emanated from Broken Hill, this has been, and still is, a worker’s city. Street names reflect the significance of the mining industry – Iodide, Bromide, Chloride…..

What a treat to find the Miner’s Arms Hotel – a beautifully restored hotel, originally built in 1888 and now converted into a delightful B&B by Michael and Marjorie Raetz. The Miner’s Arms offers authentic and warm hospitality, comfortable and spacious rooms and the best breakfasts in the land. I can highly recommend this experience and it seems that others do as well, with the Miner’s Arms continuing to win tourism awards for the best B&B.

Nearby Silverton provided further insights into the hardships and rewards of the pioneers. The museum in Silverton, at the site of the old gaol, is one of Australia’s finest collections of mining and community memorabilia. No-one visiting Silverton should miss the local cemetery, with gravestones going back to the mid 1850’s. The physical location of the cemetery in saltbush and red dust, was itself a reminder of past challenges, and as one gravestone was marked, “blighted hopes”.

Argent Street – the main thoroughfare in Broken Hill – is an inviting strip to walk and absorb the past and current. Some grand buildings with useful interpretive material are seamlessly integrated with the commerce of the day. We made our contribution to the local economy when dad and I dropped in to a store called, “Outback Whips and Leather”. A size 61 white Akubra slipped on the boss’s head like a hand in a glove and became an early Christmas present

Our Broken Hill experience would not have been complete without the sunset trips to the Living Desert and the Pinnacles on successive evenings. Kangaroos, solitude, silence, soft eerie light, birds and dry river beds that hosted “Hans Heysen eucalypts”, left us in awe of the natural beauty, and reaching for our cameras and paintbrushes.


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