This is a ride which takes you beyond ‘the bush’ to the edges of the ‘outback’ and this is a land you need to respect, to work with, not fight and try to conquer. You are going to need a fuel range of 350km to feel comfortable on this and you won’t be wanting to head out any morning without at least six litres of water on board, preferably three of which you’ve frozen overnight if possible.
The Boomi pool is run by Deb, a long time local and is open weekdays 1.00pm til 6, opening an hour earlier on weekends. Entry is fi ve bucks for adults. The store operates 8.00am til 6.00pm weekdays and from 11.00am on weekends. There ain't much here apart from the pool and no fuel other than diesel.
Neither the Caltex on the eastern end of town nor the Independent over the river at the western end, sells anything other than 91 fuel. The Caltex has the better store attached and there is no kiosk at the swimming pool. If you are looking for a friendly pub head north west out of town and you’ll get to the 2 Mile Hotel on the left. (You can work out just how far out of town it happens to be!) Mungindi is the spot where the NSW-Qld border stops following fi rst mountain ridges and then rivers and becomes a straight line at the 29th parallel and heads straight to the South Aust border. The actual spot is marked by the One Ton Peg and it’s worth a visit. Head north on the Carnarvon signposted St George and then just north of the town you’ll see Norton St to the left signposted in brown for the One Ton Peg. Just keep following these signs. The track is a bit rough but you’ll get through with a bit of care.
The Francis Hotel on Pine St, south of the railway is managed by Gary and it’s rare not to have at least a couple of locals in it. Few pubs have more helpful and knowledgeable staff and patrons and if you are in any doubt about roads or services around the place, or if you are just thirsty, tired or hot, this is a place to visit.
Dirran has a good range of services for a small town. There is a Foodworks on the main street and the BP at the west end of town has 91 and 95. The place to stay is the Dirranbandi Hotel and Motel and not the Dirran Pub on the main street. The motel’s around the corner in Richardson St. It’s owner-run, the rooms have aircon, ensuites and basic tea/coffee appliances and a small swimming pool. All for just 5 bucks more than a room with shared facilities at the Dirran Pub which is the only place I’ve ever stayed that doesn’t even offer a jug to boil water let alone tea and coffee. The motel’s number is 07 4625 8299
One of those towns with a friendly gentle feel plus all the amenities. The BP Servo on the corner of Scott St has all fuels, great staff and clean and soapy visor wash! Best café is the Delicafe around on Henry St (top breakfasts!) and the park along the southern side of the Balonne River is well maintained and perfect for a kick back break. If you’re having bike issues, Halpin Yamaha is on the right as you ride north into town.
If you have time, drop into the Tourist Info Office at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre. Sally and her staff are fantastic and will fi ll you in on anything I’ve omitted. BP and Caltex are both on Emma St, the main drag and both sell standard and premium.
Bookings are essential plus an idea of what time you are arriving. If you get to the homestead and it’s deserted, kick back, relax, play with the goat and someone’ll be along shortly! (This is a working farm and they’ll be out doing what farmers have to do!) If you decide to have dinner at the homestead, don’t turn up in your riding gear as they sorta dress for dinner! ph: Robyn Russell 07 4655 4923
The mud baths are easy to find (this aint a huge town). If you are planning a bath you should book ahead as they take about 45 minutes to prepare and Ian can have them ready when you arrive. He says the mud will take the wrinkles out of corrugated iron but I’m sceptical! Cost is $60.00 including a tray of nibbles and a brew but try some of their date liquor as well! (Call Ian on 07 4655 4890) There’s free camping without any facilities 1.5km out of town beside the river and there’s shared facility rooms at the pub. If you are with a group, Ken and Marlene run a great little home stay operation with six single beds at 25 bucks a pop. (07 46554747)
A few years back a beautiful coffee table book of iconic Australian bush pubs was published. The Hebel Hotel was chosen for the front cover. As you head south on the Castlereagh, just 7km from the NSW border you’ll see the pub slap bang in front of you. Don’t take the left 90º bend in the road, but ride straight into the pub’s carpark and get yourself inside. You’ll thank me if you do! They have donga accommodation across the road and there’s also a licensed general store. (Hebel is the smallest town in Aust with two liquor licenses, and they also have 91 fuel but no premium)
The Ridge has every level of accommodation and the three main fuel companies all have outlets in town offering every grade of fuel. Just be careful pulling out a camera as there seems to be a lot of folks not keen on getting their picture taken! There’s a major IGA, a couple of decent bakeries and the John Murray Gallery which is worth a look. Oh, and it’s generally hot!
Welcome back to the continuation of our most boring ride yet! If you followed me a couple of months back on the way to the wonderful artesian springs at Moree, you’ll be fully refreshed and rearing to go.
Fill up and head north out of Moree on the Newell but take the early left onto the Carnarvon opposite the racecourse. After about 50km you’ll come to Garah and face your first option just north of the town. Cross the railway line, bend left with the road and you’ll come to the right turn signposted Boomi. At this stage you’ll probably be aiming for the Nindigully Pub and whether you go left or right, you’ll have a great little artesian spa on the way there!
Take the right for Boomi and you have a very pleasant 40km zip into the tiny town pronounced Boom-eye with its wonderful but basic spa and pool.
As you sweep into town follow the right curve and signs for Goondiwindi and you’ll see the pool on your left set back a bit from the road. The town’s general store is attached to the pool complex which has a smallish covered hot pool at around 53ºC and a 25 metre pool which is unheated and very refreshing.
Once you’re done at Boomi, continue heading north and after about 30km you’ll meet the Barwon Hwy where you turn left and head west for a further 65 odd km ’til you meet the Carnarvon Hwy. Turn left here and the right turn for the Nindgully Pub is just over 1km south.
If you’ve decided NOT to head to the Nindi and prefer to make straight for Dirranbandi, slow down a bit back at Thallon and just north of the town on the right you’ll see a small power substation.
Opposite this is the left turn for the direct road to Dirranbandi 65km. This used to be a horror but has had a lot of recent work and now there’s only a little under 3km of gravel at the eastern end. The short gravel stretch is stony and a bit rough but an easy ride on any bike. Once you are through it you have a strip of pristine bitumen to enjoy. Despite the roadsides being cut back for around 10 metres in most places there’s still massive amounts of roadkill so use the road as it was intended but keep your eyes peeled. Oh, and if you are interested, the legal limit is 110km/h.
This Thallon-Dirranbandi route is good even if you go up to Nindigully and don’t have a need to head on to St George. It’ll save you a good few km but will mean you’ll have to manage your fuel carefully. There is no fuel in Thallon but there is 91 and 95 at Dirran. If you use premium and last filled up at Moree, you’ve done 120km already and the Mungindi- Nindi-Thallon-Dirran option is close to another 200km.
If your bike’s range is less than 350km you’re going to have to head up to St George. If you do go there looking for fuel, keep heading straight until you hit the stop sign one street short of the river, turn right and the BP is two blocks down on your left. They sell 91, 95 and 98 and the staff are all long time locals who know the area and are very happy to help with any queries: more a friendly Tourist Info Office which happens to sell fuel!
If you are intent on visiting the Nindi Pub simply head back down the Carnarvon for 46km.
But if you don’t want to retrace your route, (and you don’t wish to head further west) head back south on the Carnarvon, passing the turn-offs to airport and racecourse. After 7km you’ll see the right (south west) turn for Dirranbandi and the Castlereagh Hwy. Take this right and head south until you get to the silos at Noondoo where you cross the railway line and turn right staying on the Castle for the run through to Dirran and then south to Lightning Ridge along road that is increasingly well shaved.
The Castlereagh Hwy could well be the narrowest “Highway” in the country and the 130km run down to Lightning Ridge is real outback but if you are on a cruiser or a big adventure bike, you are in for a treat. See the words on Hebel in the town notes.
The Ridge is 5km off the highway and by arrival you’re going to be ready to be “bored” again!
Resist the temptation of the pub (and the club) on your left as you ride into town, take a right on Opal St and then the 2nd left onto Pandora St following the brown signs to the Spa which is on the left a couple of km ahead. Good idea to fill up at any of the servos in the Ridge before heading south west out of the town on Morilla St then turn left onto the Castlereagh Hwy, continuing past its intersection (from the left) of the Gwydir Hwy and after a total of a bit under 65km from the Ridge you turn east on the Kamilaroi Hwy about 4km short of Walgett, signposted Wee Waa and Narrabri.
Keep following this highway through the kink at Cryon and after 78km from the start of the Kamilaroi you’ll get to Burren Junction. The artesian pool here is on the eastern side of town, past the pub on your left and you can camp right beside it although there is no power.
This is where riders on strictly road machines are going to have a problem. The spa at Pilliga is another 24/7 (sort of) free job and it has free un-powered camping beside a sweet river but to get to it from any direction other than the direct road from Wee Waa involves unsealed sections and these sections have deepish sand in some sections. Do not try to ride Burren Junction to Pilliga direct on anything less than an adventure bike and don’t do it solo. Same goes for the Walgett-Pilliga Rd.
From Pilliga it’s just an easy even 100km scoot back east to Narrabri via Wee Waa and you are out of the outback and back in the country!