The Kidman Way, Jerilderie to Barringun
The Kidman Way is supposed to be designated the B87 and it stretches for 640kms from Jerilderie to least Bourke. If you’re heading from Melbourne up to Darwin or FNQ, this is going to be the most direct route.
It leads from the lush irrigated river country of the MIA through the dry flat lands of mid-western NSW to the harsh red plains of the outback. If you’re connected with the country, it’s never boring.
This is a town living for all it’s worth off its connection with Ned Kelly who popped by with his mates in 1879. Kelly didn’t write his ‘Jerilderie Letter’ in the town and he sure didn’t wear his armour helmet here, but that doesn’t stop the town from being saturated in irrelevant images of Ned’s safety wear.
The police station at the east end of town even has almost a dozen motifs of this foreign helmet worked into its architecture. (When I was there photographing the downpipes a cop who’d been in town for 12 months came out and questioned me….he was totally unaware of the significance of their shape!)
In three days in Jerilderie, Ned and his mates relieved the Bank of 2000 quid, chopped down the telegraph poles, locked the police in their own cells and booked up the cost of shoeing his horses to the police. They held more than 30 hostages while shouting the bar and burned the mortgages held in the bank’s safe.
There’s three service stations in town but all only sell 91 and 98 (plus diesel). There’s no 95 anywhere in the place and the nearest you’ll get 95 is at Coleambally 68kms up the Kidman.
For any issues with your bike, Jerilderie Motorcycles at 24 Southey St are the people to see.
There’s three pubs but all are on the very truck busy main street so if you’re seeking a quiet night’s sleep you may want to think other places.
Colony Inn Hotel 26 Jerilderie St, T: 03 5886 1220
Jerilderie Hotel 60 Jerilderie St T: 03 5886 1370
Royal Mail Hotel 22 Jerilderie St T: 03 5886 1224
The very well stocked IGA is opposite the Jerilderie Hotel on the main drag and it’s got plenty of parking out front.
Jerilderie to Coleambally 69kms
Some of the straightest stretches you’re going to find. This farmland has been laser levelled but it probably didn’t need much help. Irrigation means flat land and flat land means straight bitumen. Eventually a bend to the right sees you at the metal brolga welcoming you to Colly.
The Coleambally Irrigation website has the tagline: “Coleambally Irrigation- A clever company with clever farmers working in close collaboration with the community and the environment” and the town has that real community feel.
It’s off the highway (just turn at the big old scoop in the well kept park. They like brolgas here and the sole pub is the Brolga Hotel Motel (T: 02 6954 4009). The Roadhouse on Kingfisher Ave sells 91 and 95 (and diesel).
A couple of very nice parks in town (and at the turnoff) plus to top little public swimming pool at the back end of town. There’s also a bottle shop and a Friendly Grocer in the town centre.
Coleambally to Darlington Point 31kms
A ferry was built across the Murrumbidgee in 1881 but the Punt Hotel wasn’t built until 1925.
Outside the pub you’ll likely see signs advertising for customers, “No experience necessary”. Well, I’ve tried to get a drink in this place twice and both times the attendant figured I should wait til she’d finished chatting to her mate, or that I should hang on til she’d finished with a phone call that rang after I was at the bar. Pity because it’s a pretty little pub.
A much better bet is the Darlington Point Sports Club at the south end of town: Really friendly service, good Chinese restaurant and a schooner of Gold is $4.30. It’s open from ten each day but there’s no food on Mondays.
The uncramped Caravan Park (their website here)is just north of the river bridge and the public river beach is here also, just keep to the right after you turn for the CP. This is a great river beach for a swim, but there’s no free camping here. If you’re after a free spot, (there’s a top selection and they are beautiful), do what I did and drop into the mini-mart just opposite the pub and stock up on some provisions. Ask Ernie how to get to the free camping areas. He’s a top bloke who can do with the business and he’ll direct you to the riverside where you can stay for 48 hours.
The Coolibah Café back on the main drag opposite the Punt Hotel is a decent place for caffeine and a bite.
Darlington Point to Griffith 35kms
The greenest part of this road with irrigated fields on both sides most of the time until an almost surreal Sikh temple signals you’re at the Burley Griffin designed town of Griffith (so you know there’s gonna be roundabouts!
If you can look through the more shameful periods of its past, this can be an enjoyable town. Plenty of places to kick back and sample (legal) local produce. The old Clock Restaurant has gone and been replaced by Zucco but for mine the best place is Il Corso on Banna though a couple of mates prefer La Scala. If you’re hanging for ice-cream, Bertoldo’s Bakery at 324 Banna has great gelato but kinda ordinary service.
The pubs though are pretty ordinary for accommodation….nothing unique or magnetic but there’s a bunch of clubs to choose from. I reckon the best is the Exies on Jondaryan Ave where the prices are good and the food’s always been excellent. (Don’t attempt the lamb shank unless you’ve not eaten for a month!)
Griffith Motorcycle Centre in Burrell Place is your best bet if your ride is playing up: http://www.griffithmotorcyclecentre.com.au T: 02 6962 4677
The memorial to Donald McKay is on the centre strip of Banna at the corner of Jondaryan and is worth a check out.
The servos here are all on the Banna and serve all grades of fuel and the IGA is off Yambil which is parallel and one south of Banna.
Griffith to Goolgowi 51kms
An immediate change to the scenery. Gone are the green irrigated crops and it’s now dryland farming and a bit of grazing.
On the intersection with the B64 or Mid Western Hwy, if you’ve never enjoyed a drink whilst in a barber’s chair, this would be a decent place to stop. The Royal Mail has pub style accommodation for $45 a single or $55.00 for a twin room and serves lunch and dinner 7 days. If you’re fronting up with a larger group, it’d be best to ring ahead. (T: 02 6965 1406) There’s also a motel on the west end of town on the B64.
Some fuel at the general store around on Stipa St but possibly best not to rely on it being open.
Goolgowi to Merriwagga 22kms
A quick squirt though increasingly hardening country to a memorable pub.
Thankfully the parking meter out front of the Black Stump Hotel still has 20 minutes on it, so pull up, relax and head inside to the tallest bar in Australia.
Lynn Ro has had the lease for the last 2 years and she’s just visible behind the 4ft 4in high bar. (I’ll give you a hoy when metrics reach out here!)
The myth is that it’s that high because the stockman used to ride in on their horses and drink still saddled but, well, it’s a good story. The way Lynn Ro’s partner, Jermey explains it, another theory is that the pub was built at the same time as the railway line was being put down. The fettlers were a pretty wild bunch so the publican built the bar(rier) tall to stop ‘em jumping it!
And it’s called, the “Black Stump” because they claim the original black stump was some 20 miles to the west of here on the north-south TSR. Back in the late 1800’s, so the story goes, Barbara Blaine, a stockman’s wife was preparing the evening meal whilst her husband was out checking that the bullocks had quietened for the night.
When he returned, the wind had blown the fire onto his wife’s dress and killed her. Blaine described his wife’s ashen body as resembling nothing more than a ‘black stump’.
There’s a memorial to Barbara Blaine out on the stock route but again I’m not giving directions! If you’re interested and have a vehicle that can handle a bit of sand, get into the pub, slide some cash over the high bar for a refreshment and ask Jeremy for a mud map of how to get out there.
There’s half a dozen other black stumps in the country, most notably at Winton but this is the only one that doesn’t involve a cut down tree.
There’s three rooms in the pub each with a queen and a single bed and more beds out back in the shearers’ quarters. A bed’ll set you back a paltry 35 bucks but if you’ve arrived on two wheels, you’ll get your first drink free when you check in!
That’s what I call motorcyclist friendly!
If you want to throw a swag you can do so in the beer garden and pay just five bucks for use of the showers. Just maybe the best pub on the entire Kidman Hwy.
Merriwagga to Hillston 40kms
Increasingly red dirt as the country turns harsher with each new town. Fair bit of roadkill along this section and not recommended to be out here riding at dusk.
The birthplace of Dakar winner, Toby Price!
The only town to my knowledge to have its name changed in honour of a publican. This place was originally known as Redbank and the first publican was a bloke from Roto Station named William Hill. He must’ve been a pretty enthusiastic drinker because when he died in 1867, the death certificate gave the cause as, “exhaustion from intemperance”. Two years later they changed the town’s name to Hillston in his honour!
Today there’s a brace of pubs on the main street and Tattersall’s is far friendlier although often booked out due to seasonal farm workers.
Tattersalls Hotel Hillston T: 02 6967 2546
Clubhouse Hotel Hillston T: 02 6967 2514
You are going to need to fill up here as there’s no more fuel for 250 kms north. There’s 91 and 98 available at the servo on the southern entrance to town but it’s open store hours only. A lifesaver is the 24 hour Caltex on the truck bypass to the east the town but be warned, the minimum pay is $20.00.
The highlight for me is the wonderful man made lake at the northern end. A popular boating and fishing facility and a top place for an afternoon swim. Just give the horses a bit of room!
Hillston to Mt Hope 94kms
Finally some curves! This is about the twistiest this road gets but the goats, roos, wallabies all love it too.
A few years back I had a top night in the pub here (and there’s nothing but the pub here), with the owners. Unfortunately it’s now got managers in and they seem totally over it, are off handed and far from friendly. If telling a rider who turns up just ten minutes before the kitchen is about to close that he should order some grub now if he’s hungry is too much trouble, you are IN THE WRONG BUSINESS!!!!
I hear these managers are about to move on and I’ll keep you posted, in the meantime, best to keep moving.
No fuel here.
Mt Hope to Cobar 161kms
The beginnings of the vast interior. The roadsides have mostly been cut back about 10-20 metres on each side but there’s often a lot of green pick to entice the wildlife. You’ll go through a few ranges of hills so you’ll get a bit of variety.
First up, John Martin at the Museum/Tourist Info Office is the best, most helpful, most knowledgeable such officer I have ever come across. I won’t go into all the details but the assistance and guidance which he gave me over two days in Cobar was waaaaaay beyond necessary. The building housing his offices and the museum there is totally worth the visit.
The Caltex at the western end of town sells all grades of fuel with a friendly smile.
The Great Western Hotel reckons it’s got the longest wrought iron balcony in Australia but go inside and ask about it and if you’re like me, you won’t get a very friendly response. Run by not the most popular person in Cobar.
If you’re after a good feed and atmosphere the bistro at the Empire on Barton St is a way better bet. The Bowling and Golf Club on Bloxham at the south of town is also very friendly and cheap.
Depending on its water level, the Newey Lake a bit down past the Bowling Club is a top place to camp but throw your sway a bit away from the toilets and BBQ area as the hoons love it late at night.
Parisi Motorcycles (http://Their website here ) on Frederick St has to be about the biggest mother of a motorcycle shop anywhere outside a capital city. If you have any problems with your bike they are certain to be able to get you going again.
If you’re spending a day here and are with a group, you might want to consider hiring a 4WD and heading out to the rock paintings at Mr Grenfell. The road in is definitely not suitable for road bikes but the paintings are very much worth the effort and expense. Coates is the best company to get a day hire. (T: 02 6879 7600)
Cobar to Bourke 160kms
The vegetation changes from turpentine to mulga to box to cypress to eucalypt and all the way back again. The soil from brown to red to grey to black, pause and repeat. Fascinating country for those in touch.
Named after the fella who enshrined the notion of ‘terra nullus’ into law, this town and its history make it worth more than an overnight.
I stay in a 65 buck a night room at the Port of Bourke Hotel on Mitchell St (T: 02 6f872 2544) and can park the bike securely in the locked carpark around the back. From here you can walk anywhere in town, especially down to the Diggers on the Bourke Club where great staff combine with good food and good prices to make you feel at home.
National Parks and Wildlife have an office in Oxley St and their staff are inspiring with their knowledge and generous with their time.
The best place for breakfast is the 100 year old business of Morrall’s Bakery on Mitchell St….great (though not huge) pies made on site and decent coffee and milkshakes. The food at Grubbymicks on Oxley St serves not too bad food but a blind eye is turned to regulars who smoke in the seats outside so best to give it a wide berth.
A hybrid bike will get you out to the Fort Bourke Stockade with few problems but the track is dry weather only. You need to get a key to a locked gate from the Tourist Info Office at North Bourke and they’ll also provide a mud map. On the way there you’ll pass the cemetery where Fred Hollows has a fitting memorial. It’s well signposted.
Bourke Tourism: http://Click here for Bourke Tourism website
There’s a weir on the Darling just downstream from Bourke so the flow through town is usually very slow but if you’re after a river swim head north on the Kidman, cross two bridges and then take the right to the Boat Ramp. Plenty of parking and a gentle walk down to the water. AaaaaaaH!!!!!
The Caltex and Shell servos sell all grades of fuel.
Bourke to Enngonia 98kms
See my notes on the road up from Cobar, only real change is the increase in emus and goats and the land moving from hard to harsh!
Just the Oasis Hotel here really but it’s a good one and worth a stop. If you do, there’s a faux corrugated roof over the bar with a real gutter. The idea is to chuck your change onto the roof and it slides down into the gutter which is cleaned a couple of times a year. Every cent goes to the Flying Doctor. Works out at around a grand a year. Good place run by Greg and Kim, who’ve had it for eight years. But beware it’s closed Sundays.
Enngonia to Barringun 53kms
Now this is where it gets a bit confusing. All the maps show that the Kidman ends at Bourke. The number of the highway changes here from B87 to B71, the same number as the Mitchell Hwy coming up from Nyngan. But get to the border and swing around and you have a “Welcome to the Kidman Way” sign along with a route diagram all the way back to Jerilderie. Go figure!
Whatever it’s called, the scenery here changes from harsh to brutal. The major benefit for a rider is that the intense heat of the road cooks and dries the roadkill so much faster and as you’ll know, once this is done, the stench’s gone!
Four people live here. There’s Darryl (the only bloke in town), his mother and his partner kiwi Lynn who run the Bush Tucker Inn (no fuel) and where you can get a very decent and honest meal morning or night.
Oh and then there’s Mary.
Mary came to Barringun in 1948 and has run the Tattersalls Hotel here since 1977. At 92 (in May) she’s been running it solo since her husband passed away a decade ago. You won’t ever meet a publican like Mary, you may never meet another person like Mary and for no other reason you should ride the Kidman Way right up to the border!
She has no draft beer, only bottles and no accommodation but she has a dog, Gidgee and she has her memories and her stories. Don’t whatever you do just go in there to use the toilet. She’s named such people, ‘free shitters’ and she doesn’t take kindly to them.
If this country honoured its living treasures, Mary would have a gong on her mantle.
Mary chooses to sleep in a room where she can see the sun rise each morning and a single dawn here will show you why.
If you are arriving at any end of the day, best to call ahead (T: 02 6874 7588)