Oasis in the Outback: Warrawong on the Darling

High quality campgrounds are hard to come by, especially in the Australian Outback.  When we found Warrawong on the Darling while researching online, we were intrigued. So, we reached out to see if we could stay with them during our Outback N.S.W. road trip.
We had spent the day driving from Cobar. Wilcannia seemed miles from anywhere. As we drove the 3 km off the Barrier Highway into  Warrawong on the Darling, happy hour had just begun.

Normally Happy Hour at Warrawong is held around the fire pit, but the rainy weather had brought the social event into the camp kitchen.  When we pulled into our lot, the kitchen looked pretty full.   By the time we were hooked up and settled, it was standing room only, with no room to spare.So, we strapped on our wet weather gear (me in my wellies, Rich in his hiking boots), grabbed our new camera, and set out to explore the camp grounds.We had a great time despite the rain and muddy red clay, or because of it.  The property is gorgeous in the wet.  The billabong is a hive of activity with birds scuttling amongst the thick branches of gum trees. It even played host to a group of pelicans; a very odd thing to see in the Outback.  The river, swollen with rain, wrapped around the property like a comfortable blanket.

With 12km of river frontage on the property, we were disappointed not to be able to explore the trails more thoroughly. Yet, the recent rains had caused quite a mess and a slip and slide in the mud, we were forced to turn around.

This property is truly an oasis in the middle of nowhere.

We had spotted a few wild emus on the way in along the Barrier Highway, but they are notoriously shy and unapproachable.  So, we sought out Rissole, the camps pet Emu, for a close encounter.  The sign on the gate indicated that we could pet it, but its instincts took root and it remained elusive.  Fortunately, our camera made up the difference:  I was able to capture Rissole at an unguarded moment.  If you’ve never seen an Emu up close, this is a great opportunity.Now, I will tell you:  Wilcannia doesn’t have a great reputation.  The barmaid in White Cliffs was rather forthcoming in her description of the locals there.  Drunks and troublemakers was the general depiction she relayed to us.  The lady in the news agency in Broken Hill was a bit kinder, “we’re hard on Wilcannia…but there is trouble at times.”  She expressed concerns of theft and warnings to be sure to lock up everything at all times. (But that’s just smart travelling, isn’t it?)  I’ll admit though, it felt a bit dodgy as we drove through it.

Nevertheless, these same ladies had heard nothing but good things about Warrawong or ‘the new campground just a bit out of town’.

Warrawong is situated far enough away from town, off the highway a little, so it appears to be immune to the local issues.  The owners have invested heavily in the infrastructure of the property to insure the highest standards possible in an effort to overcome the stigma of the town.

Perhaps more importantly, everyone really seemed to look out for each other.

Folks were quick to come to the aid of a poor fellow whose microwave caught fire inside his caravan.  We heard fellow travellers exchanging tips on how to more effectively hitch their trailers. With the daily happy hours and the bush tucker meals around the fire pit available 3 days a week, it’s a great way to meet fellow travellers and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.

The park managers do a great job of creating a community feel.  I love that.When we were packing up the morning we left, we had a great conversation with Mary and Frank from South Australia who were, at almost eighty, self-confessed nomads.  We gained some great wisdom from them on what to look for in a camper for our (re) Discover Australia trip next year.

Apparently size does matter.  (Don’t go big!)

As far as amenities go, I’ve never been in a caravan park where the bathrooms were so modern and spacious.  The showers, which ran hot with a full-powered stream, were self-contained with a sink and room to dress. (The only thing they needed was a curtain to contain the spray from the shower).  The sink area, equipped with scented, non-drying hand soap, skipped the messy paper towel and the barely-there hand dryer.  Warrawong provided actual hand towels for guests.  Oh my!The camp kitchen was the only let down, and that’s largely in comparison to the bathroom facilities.  For 44 sites and 16 cabins, it’s hard to imagine being able to utilize the small area that’s available when the park is in full swing.  Granted, most guests have their own kitchens in their caravans and campers.  Still, the camp kitchen provided us with a gas cooker and a delightful spot to eat outside, right by the billabong.  (And I have to say, it was a delight to cook with a gas cooker again after a year of using electricity!)

We had a fellow camper pop his head in while we were cleaning up.  He greeted us with a jovial ‘good morning’, followed by ‘where’s mine’?  This kind of wit reminded me of how small a world it really is.  The kind, silly banter follows us wherever we go.  Of course, our response was ‘please do call ahead for a reservation, we’d be glad to accomodate you next time.'

With all these places we stay, there is always the question: ‘Would we return?’ 

The answer, for Warrawong on the Darling, is a resounding yes.

We definitely recommend this spot.  We look for places that are unique and of a certain quality.   Warrawong certainly ticks all of our boxes.

If we had the choice of staying at Warrawong or pushing on another 2 hours to stay in Broken Hill, I would vote hands down for Warrawong.  No doubt about that at all.

For more information about Warrawong on the Darling, located in Wilcannia in Outback N.S.W., visit their website:  http://warrawongonthedarling.com.au.  

You can also find them on TripAdvisor here, with our own review.

PLEASE NOTE:  As mentioned, this was a sponsored stay. Affiliate links were also used in this post for Warrawong on the Darling.  We do not promote any brand we have not used or experienced for ourselves.  All opinions are our own. Please follow our advice at your own risk.

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