Darling River Run 4WD Guide | Everything You Need To Know

Darling River Run is one of Australia’s popular tourist routes that features some of Outback NSW’s best sights, restaurants, and attractions. While some enjoy it as a 4WD adventure, it’s done quickly in an AWD SUV and more carefully in a conventional passenger vehicle.

The Darling River is Australia’s most famous river and, when combined with its longest tributaries, creates Australia’s longest waterway. It stretches from Queensland’s Darling Downs and across NSW’s Outback. Finally, it ends at its meeting with the Murray River at Wentworth.

So, are you planning to take a trip to the Darling River? You’re in luck as we have prepared the best blog for you to know more about the area. Read more below!

How Do I Get to Darling River?

From Sydney, you should:

  • Head east on King St towards Castlereagh St
  • Turn right at the 1st intersection onto Castlereagh St
  • Turn right onto Market St after 190 m
  • Use the left lane to merge onto Western Distributor/A4
  • After 140 m, keep left to stay on Western Distributor/A4
  • Switch slightly left into the left lanes The Crescent/A4
  • After 4.4 km, use the left lane to take the slip road onto M4
  • Keep left at the turn and start Western Motorway/M4 and follow signs that lead to Blacktown/Blue Mountains
  • After 38.5 km, keep right to continue on Great Western Hwy/A32
  • Do a slight right turn to stay on Great Western Hwy/A32 after 74.6 km
  • After 13.6 km, take the Castlereagh Hwy exit which leads to State Rte 86/Mudgee
  • Continue onto Castlereagh Hwy
  • After 118 km, turn left onto Castlereagh Hwy/Market St/B55
  • Turn left onto Guntawang Rd after 14.8 km
  • Turn left onto Goolma Rd after 9.1 km
  • Turn right onto Gollan Rd after 23.4 km
  • Turn left onto Cobbora Rd after 33.3 km
  • After 350 m, turn right onto Muronbung Rd
  • Turn left onto Golden Hwy/B84 after 6.4 km
  • After 24.8 km, turn right onto Boothenba Rd
  • Continue onto Troy Bridge Rd after 11.5 km
  • Do a slight right turn onto Bunglegumbie Rd after 2.5 km
  • Turn right onto Mitchell Hwy/Narromine Rd/A32 after 6.4 km
  • Turn left onto Mitchell Hwy/Moonagee St/A32 after 157 km
  • Turn right onto Mitchell Hwy/Pangee St/A32 after 150 m
  • Turn right onto Mitchell Hwy/Richard St/B71 after 203 km
  • After 600 m, turn right onto Mitchell St/B71

What Should I Know About Darling River? 

The Environment

The Darling River and its tributaries are a sanctuary for countless birds, marsupials, mammals, reptiles, and plants. In the neighboring wooded areas of the river, you will often spot Emus, Koala bears, and Western Grey Kangaroos.

The History

Aboriginal peoples have lived along the banks of the Darling River for several thousand years. The Barkindji people have named it Barka, “Barkindji,” which means “people of the Barka.”

The headwaters of the river located in Queensland (the area now called the Darling Downs) were gradually colonized from 1815. In 1828 Hamilton Hume and Charles Sturt were sent by the New South Wales’ Governor, Sir Ralph Darling, to find the course of the Macquarie River. He went to the Bogan River and then, early in 1829, the upper Darling, which was named after the governor. In 1835, Major Thomas Mitchell made a 483-kilometer (300 mi) journey of the Darling River. Although his party never made it to the junction with the Murray River, his assumption that the rivers joined was correct. 

In 1856, the Blandowski Expedition prepared to make a trip to the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers to find and collect different species of fish for the National Museum. The expedition was a total success with 17,400 specimens reaching Adelaide the following year.

Although its flow is extremely irregular (the river dried upon no less than forty-five times between 1885 and 1960), in the latter decades of the 19th century the Darling was transformed into a major transportation route. New South Wales’ pastoralists were using it to transfer their wool by shallow-draft paddle steamer from bustling river ports like te Bourke and Wilcannia to the South Australian terminals at Morgan and Murray Bridge. However, over the past century, the river’s importance as a transportation route has declined. 

Preparation

The Darling River Run is a charming region to travel through and is very accessible. Like any journey, preparation, correct planning, and common sense will ensure a memorable, enjoyable, and safe trip. Safe outback travel is about using common sense, and potential dangers usually come from the hot and dry summers and the vast distances between towns and services. Remember not to drive at sunrise and sunset as a lot of native animals (Roos and Emus) will be active at this time. They will also be attracted to your headlights and can jump in front of your vehicle – and cause severe damage. Also, take note of road closures, s unsealed roads may be closed after rain. It is for personal safety and to prevent the paths from getting damaged.

You also need to plan and research the places that you want to go and talk to others who’ve been to the area. Consider communications equipment for more remote travel, like a UHF Radio, EPIRB devices, and a mobile phone with good outback coverage. Aside from that, you should organize accommodation and contact details before leaving and let someone know. Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy before embarking and take spare parts that may be needed, such as spare fuses, tires, belts, etc. Carry extra fuel, first aid kits, and water containers carrying 20 plus liters of water.

Permits

There are no permits needed for the Darling River Run trek note since the route follows public roads and highways. 

But there are entry and camping fees required for parks like the Kinchega National Park.

How Are The 4WD Tracks in the Darling River Run?

The Darling River is among the outback’s most popular rivers. Also, it is one of the longest rivers in Australia and, over many centuries, has been an essential link to the people that line its banks. Starting close to Bourke in central NSW and flowing out into the Murray in Victoria, the Darling River Run makes its way through black soil farming country.

Driving along the Darling River Run, you’ll make a journey through the historic pioneering country, so make sure to read about its rich history, drop in on the locals, and take your time to enjoy this unique area.

Today’s travelers can go along with the Darling in both directions on primarily dirt roads. Excellent bush camping opportunities can be found on the banks of the river. Also, accommodation with facilities can be found within the national park huts, tourist parks, historic motels and hotels, and station bunkhouses. The drive is around 700 km, although you could add another 300 km for side-trips leading to Broken Hill and Mungo National Park (which we recommend). 2WD sedans can also access these roads in dry conditions. But 4WDs are recommended as rain can transform the road surface in a span of a few hours.

The glittering lakes around Menindee are a welcome relief from the dust and desert plains faced during the long journey from Bourke by driving through Louth, Tilpa, and Wilcannia. The lakes and river-ways that comprise the Menindee Water Storage Scheme showcase nature at its purest form – with spoonbills, pelicans, and great crested grebes offering a delight for birdwatchers. The beautiful sunsets over the waters are a must-see event.

The dirt tracks located south of Bourke continue to the first town, Louth some 99km away. At Louth, the trail to Tilpa passes along the western riverbanks of the Darling, and another follows the eastern bank before Wilcannia. The latter doesn’t provide riverside camps quite as closely as on the west side. It is a great area to launch your “tinnie” (aluminum fishing boat), and it’s possible to tow a camper trailer or caravan along these tracks. The river is full of yabbies, so bring a yabby pot, some lamb neck or raw meat bait, and enjoy!

The track continues along the river and then heads into the township of Wilcannia. Keep heading south along the river track (you’ll see tracks on both sides of the river). About 30km before reaching Menindee, you’ll find some great camps in the red sandhills. Just south of Menindee in the Kinchega National Park are perfect campsites (some even with beaches)! 

Also, south of Kinchega National Park, you can head south to Wentworth by going through the tiny settlement of Pooncarrie. The dirt track from Kinchega goes along the western bank of the Darling through cattle farming country along the Old Pooncarrie Road right before reaching the bridge into town.

What Are The Other Things That I Can Do in Darling River?

Aside from fishing and taking a dip at the river, you can explore Fotherby Park.

What Do Other 4WD Enthusiasts Say About the Darling River Run?

“Just completed the run from Bourke to Wentworth. Great trip. Road conditions are pretty good at the moment.” -John W58 (https://www.exploroz.com/treks/darling-river-run)

Where Should I Stay in Darling River?

The only option for accommodation around the Darling River is in Tolarno Station/Homestead.

Related Questions

Is The Darling River Flowing?

The Darling River is finally flowing in its full stretch. “It’s improved the river system starting from Goondiwindi to Brewarrina and from Bourke to Menindee. A healthy river is essential for tourism, and this industry is important for Basin towns.”

Where Does The Darling River Flow Through?

After flowing southwest throughout the outback New South Wales, the Darling River joins the Murray River at Wentworth on the border of New South Wales and Victoria and, as one, flows through South Australia’s Riverland area onto Lake Alexandrina and to the Southern Ocean.

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