Lake Mungo - White Cliffs Adventure
Outback NSW Touring
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Many places are touted as ‘must-see’ destinations, and Lake Mungo (Mungo National Park) certainly earns that moniker as it is a true icon when it comes to indigenous history and living culture as well as a region of shear landscape beauty.This touring route, which does include unsealed driving, not only takes in the wonderful Lake Mungo, but also the Lower Darling River, including Menindee Lakes, as well as the opal mining town of White Cliffs… this touring route is a must for the adventure minded.
The tour starts at Balranald, the town set beautifully on the Murrumbidgee River before heading north-east to the internationally renowned Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area and into Mungo National Park; Willandra covers an area of 2,400 square kilometres and takes in all 19 lakes of the Willandra Lakes (ephemeral).
Lake Mungo is unique in relation to anthology as it Possesses evidence of continual human habitation for 40,000+ years. Mungo Lake is one of 17 dry lakes which forms the Willandra Lakes and is the location of the evocative Walls of China which have been created over the millennia through a process of both wind and rain; sediment that has been deposited on the eastern bank of the dry lakebed by the wind has in turn been eroded by the rain to reveal a myriad of textures and colours that form the much photographed landscape.
From Mungo, it is a short drive to the Darling River slightly downstream of the Menindee Lakes. The touring route then heads upstream to where the river meets the Barrier Highway at Wilcannia, a largely undisturbed port on the Darling River.
The final section of this great touring experience is White Cliffs, Australia's oldest (seam) opal field that developed from a chance finding of opal in the 1880's by a group of kangaroo shooters and the opal rush began.
White Cliffs is an opal-mining town where residents mainly live underground to escape the heat. Ninety-eight km from Wilcannia, this bizarre moonscape-like landscape is comprised of thousands of hillocks of earth dug and discarded in the quest for opals. Today, the underground town works very well for locals and traveller and scarcity of water that the early settlers experienced is solved nowadays with extensive use of rainwater tanks. This, plus a classic outback pub means the traveller will not go thirsty.
Balranald <> Lake Mungo:
- Route: Balranald Rd <> Boree Plains - Gol Gol Rd <> Magenta Rd <> Box Creek Rd (175 km - about 3 hours) - Sealed & unsealed
Heading out of Balranald, the route heads north before joining the unsealed Boree Plains-Gol Go Rd were you will soon experience that dramatic landscape of the lakes region. Be sure to allow at least one day to explore Mungo National Park, so this might be a 1-2 night stay.
Lake Mungo <> Menindee (Lakes):
- Route: Top Hut Road <> Wentworth - Pooncarie Rd - Coona Point-Bindara Rd <> Lake Tandou Rd (231km - about 3.5 hours) - Unsealed
Leaving Lake Mungo, it is a short drive (57km) back the sealed Wentworth-Pooncarie Road which heads north. Before Pooncarie the route cross the Darling River and weaves it way along the western bank up to Menindee.
Menindee <> Wilcannia:
Route: Bindara-Tandou Rd <> Lake Tandou Rd <> Menindee-Wilcannia Rd (150km - about 2.5 hours) - Unsealed
While in Menindee, be sure to explore Kinchega National Park and the Menindee Lakes; the lake systemis feed from the Darling River. When the lakes are full, it is a sight to behold.
The route contines north-east to Wilcannia along the Darling River Run on the western side of the Darling River.
Wilcannia <> White Cliffs:
Route: White Cliffs Rd (93km - about 2 hours) - Sealed/Unsealed
Heading out from Wilcannia, it is a nice (sealed) drive up to the opal town of White Cliffs.
From White Cliffs, there are three alternatives:
- Continue north to Wanaaring 200km (and then either back to Bourke to the east, or head west to Tibooburra and Sturt National Park)
- Join head out to Mutawintji National Park via the White Cliffs - Mutawintji Loop, which will return to Broken Hill (unsealed route)
- Return to Wilcannia and the Barrier Highway, and onto Broken Hill (all sealed)
Lake Mungo Weather Outlook
Lake Mungo - White Cliffs: Accommodation