Bourke Travel Guide

Bourke is a tiny town that is located in the Far West region of New South Wales. The town is 800 kilometres northwest of Sydney and you will need to drive through vast desert landscape to reach it. While the natural areas around this town offer only a few stunning views or exciting tours, Bourke is a suitable destination to pause as you drive through the New South Wales outback. With a tiny population of 2,100 people, Bourke remains quiet throughout the entire year. The town also receives few tourists, so you will enjoy the isolation and the taste of a straight-up small Aussie town.


Since Bourke is situated in the heart of the homeland of the Ngemba Aboriginal people, it is an excellent place to learn about the history and culture of indigenous Australians. The surrounding landscapes are littered with the ruins of old Aboriginal villages. If you venture into the caves and rocky mountains near Bourke, you will also encounter Aboriginal art. The Aboriginal people have lived near Bourke for thousands of years, and Europeans did not discover the area until the 19th century.

In 1828, the explorer Charles Sturt stumbled upon the location of Bourke during a river expedition. Sturt was not interested in the modern location of the town, but he realised that the river may be an important economic endowment. He named the Darling River after the governor of New South Wales. In 1835, Sir Thomas Mitchell travelled up the Darling River to survey New South Wales’ natural endowments. Upon seeing the convenient clearing of land near the Darling River, Mitchell decided that the area would be suitable for a town. After Mitchell published his report of the area, a military stockade was created. After Fort Bourke was erected, traders began to move into the area. Fort Bourke eventually became a major trading hub in New South Wales.

Things to see and do in Bourke

When you visit Bourke, you will be amazed by the dramatic contrast of the pristine Darling River with the harsh desert landscape. The river is a bastion of life in an unhospitable environment, so feel free to enjoy an adventure on the water before you venture into the wilderness.

Bourke, New South Wales

The North Bourke Bridge was built in 1883 and spans the Darling River. It is a metal lift-up bridge but no longer in use since the new bridge opened in 1998.

Be awed by the wilderness by visiting Gundabooka National Park. Gundabooka National Park is located just 22 kilometres south of Bourke, and it is situated deep in New South Wales’ outback. When you climb to the top of the park’s Mount Gunderbooka, you will be stunned by a surprisingly beautiful view of red landscapes under an azure sky. Your magnificent journey to the highest point in Gundabooka National Park will challenge your strength and endurance, but you will have numerous opportunities to admire Aboriginal rock art and dramatic rock formations.

Gundabooka National Park – Bourke, New South Wales

Unsealed roads in Gundabooka National Park, NSW.

Continue your adventure at the famous Mount Oxley. Mount Oxley is located 32 kilometres from Bourke. This large hill juts 150 metres above the flat ground of the Western Plains. While there are taller mountains than this formation in New South Wales, Mount Oxley’s unusual location in a plain is quite mysterious. During your journey to Mount Oxley, you may encounter western grey kangaroos and other animals. The area also has several rare plants, including desert bloodwood and weeping pittosporum.

Climate conditions

Bourke has a semi-arid climate that will test your fortitude. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Bourke was 49.7 degrees. The average maximum temperature during the hottest month is 49.7 degrees, and the average minimum temperature during the coolest month is 6 degrees. If you are not experienced with bushwalking in extremely hot conditions, you may wish to visit Bourke during a winter holiday.