Bourke > Attractions | History | Fred Hollows Grave Site | North Bourke Bridge

Bourke has a rich heritage, immortalised in both poetry and song. The renowned Henry Lawson lived for some years here, and his experiences moved him to state that ‘if you know Bourke, you know Australia’.

Come and see for yourself what it is that appealed to so many of Australia’s great poets, and what it is that continue to bring visitors from all over the world to the ‘Back o’ Bourke’.

Back O' Bourke Information and Exhibition Centre, NSW
Back O’ Bourke Information and Exhibition Centre, NSW

Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre

At the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre you will experience a journey through life in the back country of New South Wales. Here you will rediscover the stories of Australia, taking you from the rich cultural history of the past through to the now and the Australian Outback future. The centre tells the history of Bourke for the past 400 years, engaging the viewer with a series of interactive installations and visual screen displays. Uncover the stories of our early explorations, the local bushrangers, the grazing industry, the legends, the conflicts and our poets.

Bourke Cemetery

The cemetery contains many graves of historical interest, with the most famous being that of Fred Hollows. Also buried in the cemetery is Senior Constable McCabe, who was shot by Starlight, bush poet Francis Brown, and many other local characters. There are also a number of graves of Afghan camel drivers. These are easy to identify because, unlike the Christian graves, they are all pointing towards Mecca. More information on the Bourke Cemetery can be found on the Bourke Shire Council website.

Fred Hollows Grave Site, Bourke, NSW
Fred Hollows Grave Site, Bourke, NSW
Fred Hollows Memorial

In February 2006, the original gravestone was replaced with a new granite sculpture, commissioned by the Hollows’ family, created by Austrian sculptor Andreas Buisman and erected with the generous support of friends, the Bourke Shire Council and local community.

Check out our page on Fred Hollows Grave Site.

Bourke Lock and Weir

Darling River Near Bourke, BOURKE NSW 2840 – Opened in 1897, the Bourke Weir was the first to be built on the Darling River to ensure the water supply for the town. The lock, that allowed the paddleboats to bypass the weir, was the first in Australia and the only one ever built along the Darling River. At nearly 60 metres long and 11 metres wide, the lock was designed and built to control the level of water in the river near the town. In 1941, it was concreted and converted into the weir.


The Bourke Lock and Weir – by Mr. A. E. Amphlett, B.E., Assoc. M. Inst., C.E.
(A Paper read before the Sydney University Engineering Society on December 8th, 1897)

The Government of this Colony, recognising the extent to which the settlers and townspeople on the Darling are dependent upon an open river, have a snagging steamer at work at the present time. There is no doubt that, with a locked and permanently navigable river, a great impetus and development would take place in the western portions of the Colony.

Source: The University of Sydney – Sydney Escholarship

There is a fishing reserve covering the area downstream of the lock, including a public camping and barbecue area, with toilets. There are quite a few good fishing spots, further information and a map is available from the Visitors Centre.

Cobb & Co Heritage Trail – Bourke Area Trail

Bourke – it often seems to me, that the further you travel away from the cities, the closer you get to the past. To be drawn where the poets Henry Lawson and Breaker Morant were drawn – to the back of Bourke. Many of the roads have seen little change in 150 years; the vegetation and wildlife is often ‘as they would have seen it’. You will be reminded of the difficulties of the early explorers and of the Cobb & Co. coaching days when a trip from Bathurst to Bourke took three weeks and not six hours.

The Bathurst to Bourke Heritage Trail recalls the exciting times of Cobb & Co back in the 19th Century, before the telephone or the internet, when the Royal Mail Coach was the main link that settlers had with distant towns. Innovative and adaptable, the company was at the forefront of inland expansion and played a vital role in developing transport as well as social and communications networks across eastern Australia.

Today’s traveller can follow the award winning Cobb & Co Heritage Trail along highways and byways between Bathurst and Bourke and witness the relics of these long gone coaching days – many recognizable, some mere shadows of their former selves. Take the time to explore these fascinating areas, learn about Australia’s past and enjoy the journey making some exciting discoveries from the present along the way. You will only be limited by your imagination as you investigate the treasures of the Cobb & Co Heritage Trail.

Visit the Cobb & Co Heritage Trail website for more information, interactive maps, and where you can also choose from town trails and area trails. The website also has a collection of fantastic historical photos, as well as photos of coach building and restoration.

Source: Cobb & Co Heritage TrailBourke Area Trail

Fort Bourke Stockade

This re-creation of the Old Fort on the original site was first established in 1835 by Major Mitchell as a Fort-Cum-Depot, and named after the Governor of the colony, Sir Richard Bourke. Eventually the district and later the town came to be known by the name of Bourke. The area is bordered by the Darling River (north side) and a man-made lake and wildlife refuge (southeast to southwest).

Gundabooka National Park

Located midway between Bourke and Cobar, on the Kidman Way. The highest peak of the range is 500 m at Mount Gundabooka. With beautiful bushland, the area has a number of Aboriginal art of great significance, including paintings which can only be found in this part of Australia. The park also has a great variety of flora and fauna.

Historic Buildings

There are many buildings of historic interest including:

  • Carriers Arms Hotel (1879), frequented by Henry Lawson and mentioned in his poems. It was also a stop on the Cobb & Co coach route.
  • Central Australian (late 1930’s)
  • Courthouse (1899)
  • Lands Department Building (1898)
  • The London Bank (1888)
  • Port of Bourke, formerly The Royal (ca. 1870)
  • Post Office (1880)
  • Telegraph Hotel (1875)
  • The Western Herald (originally the Methodist Church), is considered to be the oldest standing building in Bourke.

Ledknapper Nature Reserve / Ledknapper Wildflowers

During spring, 47 km north of Bourke on the Mitchell Highway, along the Kidman Way and 32km to the east, is an area of unique native wildflowers, that appear particularly after good winter rain.

Mount Oxley

Located 50 km from Bourke on the road to Brewarrina. On top of the mountain you will find craters. It is not known what caused these, but early settlers and explorers, including Mitchell and Wills, reported hearing explosive sounds coming from the area of the mountain. From the top of mountain you will get an excellent view of the area. Wedge-tailed eagles can be seen from the top. Take drinking water, as there is a 20-30 minute steep walk to the top. You will need to obtain a key and permit from the Tourist Information Centre.

North Bourke Bridge

The North Bourke bridge is the bridge between the town of Bourke and its closest ‘suburb’, North Bourke. Built over a hundred years ago, this lift-up bridge was designed to allow paddle-steamers to pass through.

With the opening of the adjacent Darling River Gateway Bridge, the North Bourke lift-up bridge is now closed to traffic, although it is still in use as a footbridge.

See our article and images of North Bourke Bridge.