In Through the Outback
From Sydney, your closest outback fix begins near Parkes, a farming town of 14,000 in the rolling, silo-studded wheat-and-sheep country of New South Wales. Seven years of drought have turned the fields tawny, but this is still considered the "green outback"—a lusher, more temperate version of Australia's arid center. For the most part, tourist amenities are sparse—as are residents, save the weathered cowboys and bush poets who've been working these sheep stations for generations.
WHERE TO STAY: Burrawang West Station is a privately owned cattle ranch on 12,000 acres of rambling pastureland. Built in 1993 as a corporate retreat, the compound—purchased in 2000 by Sydney entrepreneur Graham Pickles and his wife, Jana—has six wood-planked guest cottages, each with a private screened porch and a marble bath. The main homestead houses an impressive Australian art collection, including Aboriginal bark paintings and contemporary metal sculpture (from $685 per person per night; burrawangwest.com.au).
WHAT TO DO: Head out for the day on four-wheeler "quad" bikes to help herd cattle or check on newborn lambs, cruise the ranch roads on a mountain bike, or paddle a kayak down Goobang Creek, which winds through the property. Also on site: a pool, archery, two grass tennis courts, and an indoor sauna.
GETTING THERE: Burrawang is a five-hour drive west of Sydney or a 45-minute hop by plane. Fly commercial into Parkes via Regional Express ($200 round-trip; regionalexpress.com.au) or charter a bush flight from Sydney to the station's dirt airstrip (from $3,000 for four passengers; airtexaviation.com.au).