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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. River cruises are available aboard the old paddleboat Jandra, which operates between Easter and October (daily; 1hr; $14; head to the visitor center for bookings).
The Back O' Bourke Centre (Tel:02/6872 1321; $17.50), in a vast sail-covered building on the Mitchell Highway, a couple of kilometres north of town on the road towards Cunnamulla, features multimedia displays on Outback life.
The helpful visitor centre is inside the former train station on Anson Street (Easter– Oct daily 9am–5pm; Nov– Easter Mon– Sat 9am–5pm; Tel:02/6872 1222, Web:www.visitbourke.com). They can arrange tours (Mon– Fri 2–5.30pm, Sat 9.30am–1pm; $27.50) covering orchards and vineyards in summer, and historical buildings and cotton farms in winter.
Countrylink buses arrive here from Dubbo four times weekly. Accommodation in town includes the pleasant Port of Bourke Hotel on Mitchell Street (Tel:02/6872 2544; $61-75), which has a restaurant and air-conditioned rooms. 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.
The Port of Bourke Hotel is the best place in town for food and drink, with fresh and healthy bistro fare, or counter meals out in the shady beer garden.