BOURKE is mainly known for its remoteness, and this alone is enough to attract tourists; once you’ve crossed the North Bourke Bridge that spans the Darling River, you’re officially “out back”. Bourke was a bustling river port from the 1860s to the 1930s, and there remain some fine examples of riverboat-era architecture, including the huge reconstructed wharf, from where a track winds along the magnificent, tree-lined river. The Darling River water has seen crops as diverse as cotton, lucerne, citrus, grapes and sorghum successfully grown here despite the 40°C-plus summer heat, while Bourke is also the commercial centre for a vast sheep- and cattle-breeding area.
Bourke has suffered in former years due to prolonged periods of drought, consequently losing one-third of its population (some 1000 people), who moved out of the region to find employment, but tourism is helping the town get back on its feet. An ideal way to see how life is lived out here is to stay on an Outback station; the visitor centre has details of those that welcome guests.