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Inside the Outback
The Kidman Way is a remote journey stepped in culture and heritage inspired by legendary cattle king Sir Sidney Kidman.
Words and Images by: Sam Richards


Immerse yourself in history at Pioneer Park Museum, Griffith

The year is 1870. A vast mosaic of stars burns above Adelaide. Thirteen-year-old Sidney Kidman slips out of his mum’s house, mounts his one-eyed horse, and takes it at walking pace on the dirt road north. The drunken snoring of his adoptive father fades into the distance. Five shillings jingle in his pocket in time with the restful clopping of hooves.

Peace at last — though the longest of journeys awaits. Eight decades after the First Fleet first landed in Botany Bay, he is headed bush, into the unknown interior. European settlers have tamed this far-off land only in part and only on paper, in drawings outlining station boundaries. Sidney might not know it yet, but he will one day establish the largest cattle empire in history. Three per cent of Australia’s land mass will be his.

New South Wales’ Kidman Way is named in honour of Sidney’s dauntless will to open the Australian interior. This sealed journey from Jerilderie barrels over 600km north through diverse countryside and hospitable towns to Bourke. Courtesy of Kidman and kin, modern-day travellers can now experience the outback’s beauty — without the bite. But you’ll still feel the excitement young Sidney felt when you turn the ignition and set off along the sealed roads of the Riverina.

Selfies at the Coleambally Water Tower

WINING AND DINING

Thanks to thoughtful planning and several historically significant projects (including hundreds of kilometres of water supply channels run by gravity flow), pioneering Australians have transformed the NSW outback into a thriving agricultural bowl that produces world-leading fine foods and wines, plus the produce Australians and internationals eat daily.

Progress has been continuous, with major developments as little as 50 years ago. The town of Coleambally is relatively new by outback standards, having been established in 1968 to use the local Irrigation Area to propel itself into culinary renown. Nowadays, the region is producing the rice for your stir-fries, popcorn for your cinema-bought paper buckets, and barley for your Crown Lager.

Taste Coleambally Food and Farm Festival, a three-day event thrown every two years, delights visitors in the last weekend of October. On top of mixed entertainment and arts displays, tourers can taste the richness of what the red soil can sprout, learn about sustainable farming practices, and picture the pathways by which locally grown goods end up in our supermarkets. This year’s event is on 29–31 October. Whet your appetite at tastecoly.com.au.

Nearby, Griffith grows 90 per cent of the country’s rice and prunes and constitutes our largest citrus and wine regions. Would you believe, if this area’s trellised vines were strung out, they’d lap the country’s coast three times? Yellow Tail and De Bortoli Noble One wines summon from among this coastal necklace. Murray Cod, olive oil, quail and varied other products are harvested close at hand. This basket of treats is transformed into culinary delights by the local multi-generational Italian community and dished up in cafes and boutiques lining Griffith’s main street.

Capitalise on your trip along the Kidman Way by penetrating deep into the industry’s secrets at visitorgeared events. To be part of the Griffith Vintage Festival, purchase a ticket online (unwinedriverina.com) and be in town on Saturday 3 April.

And don’t miss Griffith’s Festa delle Salsicce, aka the Salami Festival, a jovial celebration of salami making prowess to the tune of traditional folk music on 19 August 2021. It’s not without a competitive edge during salami judging!

Year-round, keep your eyes peeled. Plenty of local surprises await; one among many being the secret local specials found in Jerilderie, such as Billabong Tomato Sauces or Bonics organic wines.

The Back O’Bourke Information Exhibition

EVENTS SUPER-CALENDAR

Many towns throw Easter celebrations, conspiring with the lovely cooling weather to make this time of year perfect for visitors. The Griffith Easter Party from 1–5 April aligns with the end of the vintage, and delivers tourers and locals entertainment, activities and produce. Meanwhile, the Back O’Bourke Easter Festival features live performers, a street parade, a huge easter egg hunt and the Back O’Bourke horse races (but more on those later).

In another Easter event celebrating love and diversity, albeit less religious in nature, revellers gather at April’s Grey Mardi Gras in Cobar, where nostalgia runs rampant as attendees dust off their ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s attire to partake in food, music, fashion and all manner of dancing — from the foxtrot to the jive.

A month later, check out May’s Banna Lane Festival (bannalanefestival.com), in which artists create murals in Griffith’s Banna Lane that jazz up the municipal space. The town celebrates by closing the lane to traffic and  filling it instead with music, stalls and varied entertainment.

Later in the year, Kidman Way townships celebrate the onset of spring — when well-watered paddocks sprout their wonders. Griffith’s Spring Fest is a great place to kick off proceedings (see griffithspringfest.com.au), with a clear highlight being the 70 citrus sculptures made by volunteers from more than 100,000 fruits. In past years, oranges and grapefruit have formed castles and giraffes. What they’ll come up with in 2021 is anyone’s guess. Other spring events include Spring in the Springs at Rankin Springs and the Darlington Point Spring Festival.

And remember, even if you can’t make it, all the industries, people and experiences these events celebrate are accessible to travellers year-round. For example, Hillston’s Red Dust and Paddy Melons Gallery — which showcases paintings, sculptures and craft designed by local artists — welcomes visitors throughout the seasons.

Having a glass at Calabria Family Wines, Griffith

HARKING BACK INTO HISTORY

In 1879, Ned and his crew passed through Jerilderie, liberating the bank of 2000 pounds and scripting their infamous Jerilderie Letter, which mounted a defence for their actions at Stringybark Creek. In it, Ned labelled the police “big ugly, fat necked, wombat headed, big bellied, magpie legged, narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish bailiffs or English landlords.” A self-guided tour meanders through the 16 sites the Kelly Gang visited, but those who imagine Kelly a villain can turn instead towards the childhood home of law-abiding Sir John Monash, the moustachioed gent from the 100-dollar bill.

In Cobar, well-designed heritage buildings hint at the town’s glory days, when 15,000 entrepreneurial types busted their backs on mining leases. One such building, the Heritage Centre, is the perfect place to acquaint yourself with the mining, pastoral and Indigenous history of the region (though the rock art site at Mt Grenfell, 70km west, is as good a bet for the latter, with its 1300 motifs). Copper, gold, silver, zinc and lead are still mined nowadays, and visitors can catch a glimpse of their large-scale operations from Fort Bourke Lookout.

Before OH&S, at the old Great Cobar Copper Mine, 70 men and boys met a bitter end, claimed by the shafts and by other grisly means. Not content to leave the living, the dead allegedly haunt the area; once, the museum curator awoke to a cold clammy hand snatching at his ankle.

Rather than losing soul, locals throw the Festival of the Miner’s Ghost on the last weekend of every October. This creepy celebration involves mine surface tours, cemetery walks, ghost displays and fireworks.

Yet more stories of the past await your curiosity at the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre. On top of tourist information, free WiFi and souvenirs, the centre features interactive stories on the inland sea, the Darling Riverboat industry, and varied historical conflicts. Recollection comes to a tee during September’s Festival  of 1000 Stories (festival1000stories.com.au). In Bourke, the PV Jandra still scrapes the muddy bottom of the Darling, the oldest surviving lift span bridge offers a tremendous photo opp, and famous eye surgeon Fred Hollows rests in the cemetery.

While on the Kidman Way, also investigate the Italian History at Griffith’s Pioneer Park Museum and learn the legend of the Black Stump Country out in Carrathool Shire. Publicans built the bar here such that locals could ride up on their horse and have a beer without dismounting.

Citrus sculptures at Griffith’s Spring Fest

SPEAKING OF HORSES…

Horsemanship remains a country staple, with many locals born and raised on farms, riding horses before most kids can walk. Those fast city horses of televised fame aren’t made from thin air but are sampled out of quality country stock.

As such, you can expect a fast breed of racing on the country courses, where horse hooves kick up red-tinged dust for nose-to-nose finishes. Horse racing events dot the calendar. There’s the Carrathool Races (February); the Hillston Races (10 April 2021); the Cobar Races (8 May 2021); the Louth Races (on Saturday after the August bank holiday); the Enngonia Races (September); the Jerilderie Gold Cup Race Day (September); and the Griffith Cup Race Day (September). Don your finest track-side attire, try your luck picking winners, and enjoy the atmosphere.

If you prefer horsepower to horses, check out the Goolgowi’s adrenaline-packed  Stackpool 500 car race in July, where drivers whip off-road buggies around a rough dirt course, kicking up plumes of dust while drifting corners and bouncing on flexible suspensions. Coleambally also hosts the Riverina Vintage Machinery Club Rally in August, where enthusiasts display cars, trucks, tractors, engines, motorcycles and other forms of machinery, in a fun environment featuring a colour run, billycart races and exhibitions of textiles.

Drop into agricultural shows to develop a deeper understanding of communities and to partake of their many pleasures. Consider Riverina Field Days for $10 a head this 14–15 May event (see riverinafielddays.com) or the Hillston ag show on 25 September. The Jerilderie Ned Kelly Show n’ Shine & Tractors (19–20 May) and Griffith’s Biggest Lap (2 October) will also entertain all comers with their well-polished vintage car selections, running into the hundreds.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE

National Parks along the Kidman Way, such as Toorale, Murrumbidgee Valley and Cocoparra, allow for pleasant hiking, birdwatching, animal watching, cycling and kayaking. Settings range from plains coated in mallee and wildflowers, to koala-packed red gums along flowing streams alive with pelicans, cockatoos and swans.

The Darling, Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Rivers all nurse Murray Cod, perch and other species. Anglers who rate their ability (find me an angler who doesn’t) can register and partake in fishing competitions such as Hillston Hook Line and Sinker Fishing Competition  from 26–29 August 2021 or Darlington Point’s Riverina Classic Catch and Release competition (in February).

Tight competition at the Hillston Races

This article only scratches the surface of the Kidman Way. With a wide-ranging events calendar, a thriving wine and fine food industry that interfaces with the public, a fascinating and varied history, and evergreen natural destinations and man-made artefacts, the Kidman Way belongs on the bucket list of all tourers. An alternative to coastal superhighways, the Kidman Way dishes up safe, sealed and accessible touring into previously untapped Australia — in the true spirit of Sidney Kidman.

KIDMAN WAY HIGHLIGHT CALABRIA FAMILY WINES

A new look and suite of tasting experiences for a Riverina icon.

The Calabria family has opened the doors on their newly refreshed Riverina Cellar Door and in the process, created a suite of new tasting experiences for visitors to enjoy.

Calabria Family Wines has expanded on its award-winning cellar door experience with the addition of four premium tasting experiences visitors can now book online. Each of the new experiences celebrates Calabria’s acclaimed wine portfolio while highlighting the heritage and 76-year history of the family winery since Francesco Calabria first founded Calabria Wines & Sons in 1945.

“We’re thrilled to finally open our doors to visitors following the renovations and we can’t wait to showcase the new premium tasting experiences we’ve curated for wine lovers in the region,” second generation Winemaker and Managing Director Bill Calabria, AM said.

“We have a cellar full of incredible stories to tell through our wines, and it’s fitting that our tasting program and cellar door reflect that. We know the Calabria Riverina Cellar Door is a must visit for those coming to the region and we can’t wait to share with them the new experiences we’ve curated to give them a taste of what makes our family winery so unique.”

The Calabria Family Wines Cellar Door is open seven days and will now conduct bookable tasting experiences on site to ensure  the highest quality of service is given to each guest. The tasting menu includes the Cellar Door Tasting Flight, the Sorseggia e Assaggia (Sip & Taste) Italian tasting, Riverina & Regional Flavours guided experience, and the Museum Calabria Three Bridges Durif Vertical Tasting.

Plus, the vineyard has an exclusive The Wanderer offer. Book the Cellar Door Tasting Flight online and enter the code ‘WANDERER’ to receive your tasting at the Griffith Cellar Door for free!

Phone: (02) 6969 0800 

Email: info@calabriawines.com.au


Address: 1283 Brayne Road, Griffith NSW 2680 

Web: calabriawines.com.au

KIDMAN WAY HIGHLIGHT GRIFFITH EXIES CLUB

Take the night off from cooking, support local and enjoy tasty tucker at Griffith Exies. Founded in 1938 by RSL members, the Exies club today has nearly 10,000 happy members, but it welcomes visitors into its three dining venues with open arms.

Visitors flock to the Exies Bistro for the atmosphere, food and prices. Whether you’re travelling with your partner or your wider family, feeling like a club favourite or a contemporary dish, or dining al fresco or in the brasserie, the Exies Bistro caters to all.

Those keen to cash in on the local Italian heritage head to the Bagtown Bar and Grill. Meanwhile, at Sporties, fans watch their favourite teams live on the big screen and overlook the huge sports precinct while enjoying sports bar staples and sweets in a casual setting.

Exies brings its venues to life with live music, raffles and events. Those seeking a respite from the motorhome’s Luton bed can even stay at the Exies Bagtown Motel.

Phone: (02) 6962 1211

Email: exies@exies.com.au

Address: 6–12 Jondaryan Ave, Griffith NSW 2680

Web: Exies.com.au

KIDMAN WAY HIGHLIGHT JERILDERIE MOTEL AND CARAVAN PARK

If you’re looking to recharge at the start of the Kidman Way to ensure your batteries, groceries and water last the trip, an ideal port of call is the Jerilderie Motel and Caravan Park. Grassy and drive-through powered sites, motel units and cabins cater to visitors for a competitive price.

Those staying in the park are well positioned to experience the Kelly Gang’s history, Sir John Monash’s childhood home, and locally produced artisanal foods. Visitors can take a short walk to reach the town pool and multiple dining options including the sports club next door.

Trees cast cooling shade during the day, while the evening invites a relaxing stroll along Billabong Creek. Later on, the communal campfire offers the ideal setting to exchange a few yarns and keep warm as the stars come out.

The well-kept kitchen amenities, clean bathrooms and a fully equipped laundry all make this park the perfect launching pad for your Kidman Way adventure. The accommodating staff would love to have you!

Phone: (03) 5886 1366

Email: enquiries@jmcpark.com.au

Address: 121 Jerilderie Street, Jerilderie

NSW 2716

Web: jmcpark.com.au

Gino Altin and a Giraffe at Altina Wildlife Park

KIDMAN WAY HIGHLIGHT ALTINA WILDLIFE PARK

Welcome to a zoo committed to bringing endangered animals back from the brink of extinction and providing an open-range habitat throughout its 207-hectare property.

Altina Wildlife Park is located on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River and does things a little differently. Its 4.8 star rating on Google and 5 star rating on TripAdvisor testify to the quality of its tailored rare species encounters and its wide range of exotic animals.

The likes of lions, bison, alligators, monkeys, giraffes, meerkats, maned wolves, ostriches, red pandas, lemurs, Tasmanian devils, zebras and even white rhinos roam the enclosures.

Visitors can get up close and personal on guided close-range animal experiences or take a tour of the premises on a comfortable horse-drawn cart, which moves along close to animals feeding and behaving as in the wild.

A joy for all ages, the Altin family’s zoo will connect you with nature, teach you about conservation, and leave a smile on your face.

Phone: 0412 060 342

Email: info@altinawildlife.com

Address: 14432 Sturt Highway,

Darlington Point NSW 2706

Website: altinawildlife.com

Tags: CMCA Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia Camper Camp Sidney Kidman Kidman Way Outback Highway Travel Remote Camping Camp Botany Bay NSW New South Wales Cattle Journey Bourke Wine Wineries Agriculture Coleambally Coleambally Food and Farm Festival Event Festivals Motorhome Festivals RV Food Organic Food and Wine Billabong Tomato Sauces Bonics Organic Wine The Back O’Bourke Information Exhibition Griffith Spring Fest Darlington Point Spring Festival Hillston's Red Dust Paddy Melons Gallery
Category: Features
Written: Thu 01 Apr 2021
Printed: April, 2021
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