To truly experience the heart of the outback, go a little further out along the Darling, and visit the tiny settlement of Louth. Here, the amazing history and the friendly Aussie spirit come together to create an unforgettable experience.
A 100 km trip south west of Bourke, the first thing you’ll see is the town centre of Louth itself; the local pub. With only 25 (give or take) people residing in the village, the pub is also the post-office, as well as the unofficial meeting place for the town folk and travellers alike.
Here, while enjoying some thick cut chips and a hamburger, and perhaps an icy cold beer, you’ll find that every face you meet will greet you with a “g’day mate”, and a comment on the weather. The big cities may have lost it, but it’s still here in Louth.
After you’ve filled up with lunch, explore the river and surrounds and kill a little time before sunset draws you toward the old cemetery to see the brilliant shinning cross of Mary Matthews.
Mary was the wife of Louth’s founder, Thomas Andrew Mathews. Matthews was an Irish man who made his way to Australia after hearing grand stories of gold discoveries, particularly those at Ballarat and Bendigo in 1851.
After travelling halfway around the world to seek the family fortune, he did not find gold. He did, however, come to love the outback, and after two years he sent for his Mary and their children to join him on the holding he had purchased and named after the Irish county of his birth, Louth.
Sadly, Mary died of inflammation of the lungs at only 42 years old. In her honour, Thomas built an incredible headstone; an ornamental cross which has been specifically designed so that it appears to be glowing when it reflects the sun’s light at the closing of the day.
With incredible ingenuity, the angle of the sun at various times of the year was factored in when this amazing monument was built, and on the anniversary of Mary’s death, the glowing cross shines directly across to where her old family home once stood. A dazzling sight, and a remarkable symbol of true love.
Once described by Henry Lawson as a place that loved a drink, a punt and a party, Louth’s population may have decreased from around the 4,000 mark of Lawson’ time, but come the annual Louth Races in August and the town swells to that number and more once again.
True to tradition, the lead up to the first barrier opening begins several days in advance, with campsites springing up along the riverbank opposite the village as well as in the campground at the racecourse (where the hard-working committee provide firewood, toilets and limited shower facilities for patrons) and Shindy’s Inn, the only watering hole for 100km, does a roaring trade.
Lead-up activities include:
- The Gundabooka Golf Challenge (the Wednesday prior to race day), where over 100 die-hard golfers and just as keen party-goers chip and putt their way around 9 holes with the aid of just one stick.
- Enjoying a hearty camp oven lunch and charity auction in aid of the Royal Flying Dr Service;
- The hotly contested Damper Bake-Off on Thursday night;
- The tiny Louth Public School fair on the Friday morning with stalls selling everything from hand knits, jewellery, candles, artworks, wood craft and locally made sauces and condiments
- And a seriously impressive morning tea put on by the locals ladies; the Calcutta at Shindy’s Inn on the Friday night and of course live music all weekend.
Nearby farm stays such as Trilby Station and Rose Isle Farmstay offer travelers a choice of accommodation options and the opportunity to really get an inside look at life in the outback, and historic Dunlop Station promises a walk back in time whilst enjoying their weekend guided tours of the first shearing shed in the world to complete mechanical shearing, their 1870’s homestead and store.
Louth is an unassuming town that doesn’t ask much, it doesn’t have to, but it will leave you a warm appreciation for the simplest examples of mateship, the most grandiose gestures of love, and everything in between.
Just over an hour on either side of the river will take you to Tilpa.