The Perry Sandhills in Wentworth, New South Wales (NSW) are an outstanding natural attraction. Situated near the NSW/Victoria border and just outside of the Wentworth town centre, are 822 acres of large orange sand dunes. The striking patterns, ripples and formations of the sand are a mesmerising sight on its own. That in combination with the enormous size of the endless sandhills is a truly mindblowing landscape.
Similar to that of the nearby Mungo National Park, it’s the natural beauty of the Perry Sandhills that will tempt you to visit. But the added layers of the site’s historical and archaeological significance unconsciously adds to the experience. Forming approximately 40,000 years ago after an ice age, the sandhills give rise to amazing artifacts. That pertaining to skeletal remains of mega-fauna and remnants of Indigenous people living here concomitantly many years ago.
What’s even more impressive is that wind erosion causes the sandhills to continuously move, shift and evolve. Not only creating new and exciting landscape but uncovering undiscovered relics and remains.
But this guide does not intend to recount the historical, cultural and archaeological findings of the site. Conversely, this guide aims to improve your visit to these amazing sandhills. We wish to not just detail what you’ll see, but give you some bonus tips to enhance your experience. For instance, timing your visit to the sandhills during sunrise will elevate your experience to a whole new level.
The Perry Sandhills | Sunrise Guide
To have the best time at the Perry Sandhills in Wentworth, you should visit for sunrise. By doing this, you may even have the place to yourselves, as Beck and I did! To have sandhills upon sandhills in every direction without a soul in sight is an unforgettable experience. So it’s a good reason to visit early. Plus, having the rising sun join you on your exploration of the huge sand dunes will make your visit all the more unique. For photographers, you’ll enjoy a special perspective capturing the sunrise and the landscape.
Visiting at sunset is certainly also an option. Although there’s more likely to be people around. Either way though, you’ll have an even more memorable experience visiting here during dusk or dawn.
How Much Time is Needed to Explore the Perry Sandhills?
The Perry Sandhills in Wentworth is a phenomenal landmark to visit. But you don’t need to spend a whole day here. Or even a half day. Visiting the marvellous sand dunes can be easily done in a matter of hours. So this trip is all about the quality, not the quantity.
We’re sure that people visit for only half an hour or so. They would simply walk to the closest sand dune, take a photo, and then leave. Although that’s better than not visiting at all, you should at the very least spend an hour here. We spent about two hours as we had a long drive to Wagga Wagga ahead of us. But if you have the time, allocate three hours here for the absolute best experience.
This will allow you enough time to roam the various sandhills. By doing this, you’ll even possibly embark on territory that hasn’t been explored in some time. If you venture further into the sandhills, you may even have a certain section to yourself! Surrounded by boundless dunes, red rocks and barren vegetation and without all of the footprints! Just what you want for the perfect photo and experience!
Depending on the time of year will dictate how early you need to arrive for sunrise. Download the Bureau of Meteorology App to find out the sunrise time for Wentworth NSW.
Navigating the Perry Sandhills
Luckily, the Perry Sandhills in Wentworth are easily accessible from the large car park. Arriving half an hour before sunrise should allow for adequate light to set off on your adventure. There are no hard and fast rules for exploring the sandhills. Roam as you please! But beware, the sandhills cover a large expansive area. Even after a few minutes, you’ll lose sight of the car park. It can be really easy to lose your bearings. Using landmarks for navigation is tricky as the terrain is quite repetitive after some time.
So for navigation, ensure you have a phone with GPS or a compass! Admittedly, one thing we found helpful for navigating the sandhills was initially following the designated 4×4 vehicle tracks. Of course, you are not allowed to drive off these tracks in any way, shape or form. It’s a fineable offence!
But for those on foot, these tracks leading to and from the car park are a nifty way to initially navigate the sandhills. But as you delve deeper into the sandhills you will inevitably ditch the tracks. So keep your navigation items handy and good luck from there!
SIDE NOTE: You might be thinking of exploring the sand dunes barefoot. Sounds reasonable right? Not if you visit during winter. Unless you want frostbite! You may end up with piles of orange sand in your shoes. But at least you’ll still have your toes! Hilariously, Beck and I were running back to the car to get our shoes on after only 10 minutes or so. It was much colder than we had anticipated. Although common sense evaded us on this occasion. It’s well known that the outback is very cold without the sun shining. Particularly during winter!
After climbing and descending your first sandhill or even after following the designated vehicle tracks, you’ll soon enough be surrounded by dunes. At the base of the numerous sandhills, it’s easy to lose scope of the vast terrain. It’s not until you reach the top of another sandhill, that you become aware of how far the sandhills stretch out. It’s quite amazing!
Due to the softness of the sand, you’ll have your work cut out when exploring the dunes. It’s not until you’re walking up steep dunes, that the sensation of your calves burning slowly begins. But the effort is undoubtedly worth it. Seemingly infinite mounds of dark orange, perhaps even reddish toned sand splay out in every direction. The slants of the sandhills have fascinating ripples and textures created by wind. Seeing a large face of a sandhill with an outrageously large uniformly rippled pattern looks to be crafted by an artist.
Of similar beauty are the giant red rocks. Randomly scattered throughout the sandhills. Some larger and more imposing than expected. There’s also the unusual small green coated paddy melon fruit branches. Barren shrubbery and small weeds litter the sand dune as does dried out tree stumps and bark. But then there are also large flourishing trees! Full of life and what you’d least expect in the dry desert landscape.
So there’s really quite the ecosystem throughout the Perry Sandhills in Wentworth. But there are large stretches of dunes uninterrupted by flora. These were, in fact, our favourite sections to photograph. With no disrespect to the plants, it’s all about those epic bright orange sand dunes! Once the sun pokes up beyond the horizon, you’ll be spoilt for choice for photo ops!
Three Perry Sandhills Fun Facts
Despite this guide not intending to greatly detail the site’s history, there are some fun facts worth knowing. Merely equipping yourself with these fun facts can be enough to improve your overall experience. They relate to the changing of the landscape, historical and current use.
- Over time, sand has covered the ground floor once dominated by red gum trees. So essentially, you’re walking on the canopy of this previously existing forest. Pretty cool ha?
- During WWII, the sandhills were used as a bombing range.
- Ever seen The Man from Snowy River II, Burke & Wills, Flying Doctors or Boney? They all used the sandhills as a backdrop during filming. So you’re also walking on a filmset!
Perry Sandhills Recap
Visiting the Perry Sandhills in Wentworth is an essential part of any outback NSW/Victoria itinerary. Although a trip here won’t be the longest, it certainly won’t be short on quality. There are many bog-standard articles on the Perry Sandhills online briefly detailing the history and geology. Primarily, we hope this guide helps you have a more enjoyable experience. By visiting at sunrise, not only will the ambience of your surroundings amplify, but there will be far fewer people around.
For more information on how to get there, accommodation and total costings, please read below.
Also, if you’re in Wentworth, make sure you spend at least a day exploring the relatively close by Mungo National Park. If you think the Perry Sandhills in Wentworth are epic, Mungo National Park will blow your socks off! For other attractions in the area, check out our top things to do in Wentworth article.
Getting to Wentworth or Mildura
From the major cities: Despite being located in NSW, the Perry Sandhills are situated much closer to Adelaide in South Australia and Melbourne in Victoria. The drive time from Sydney is around 11 hours, from Adelaide is 5 hours and Melbourne is 7 hours. So it’s probably too far to travel for a weekend trip from these cities. With its location in the outback, your Perry Sandhills trip may have to tie into a longer trip from either of these cities.
For overseas travellers or those further away interstate, you’ll want to fly to either Adelaide or Melbourne to do this trip. Use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. If you’re interstate, subscribe to I Want That Flight for the best domestic flight deal alerts.
Getting to the Perry Sandhills
The Perry Sandhills can be easily visited from Wentworth or even Mildura, a town situated in Victoria just over the border. There are actually more accommodation options in the larger town of Mildura. We had planned to explore the Perry Sandhills from Mildura for this reason. But due to the hard border closure during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to change our plans and visit from Wentworth.
Drive there: Parking at the Perry Sandhills is plentiful. Use our map below for directions to the easily accessible northern entrance. There is also a small shelter, information board and toilets at the car park. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend using RentalCars.com. When hiring a car, we use RentalCars to find the best deals. Use our link to have a look!
Being the largest town close to the Perry Sandhills, you’ll have the most options here. We had initially booked a private cottage using Airbnb for $38AUD/night ($27USD). There were a few other similar places to stay around Mildura for a similar price, also on Airbnb. However, we ended up staying in Wentworth due to the border closure. Wentworth is actually one of the closest town to the sandhills. So for the higher accommodation prices, you’ll at least have a more convenient stay.
Being a small country town, we couldn’t find any Airbnb options here. So we used Booking.com to book Two Rivers Motel. It was a fairly classic Aussie motel stay. Not the cheapest stay at $93AUD/night ($67USD) but the staff were friendly, approachable and hospitable. The rooms were spacious and sufficiently heated during winter. Plus, it had all the necessary amenities like a fridge and kettle. The motel is rated ‘very good’ on Booking.com with a score of 8.0 with over 100 reviews as of August 2020.
Generally speaking, travelling in Australia is quite expensive. So to cut down on costs, it’s worth packing your own food when exploring around Sydney. We shop at Aldi for the cheapest prices. But we’ll head to Woolworths for branded products and more variety. Wentworth doesn’t have much in the way of a large supermarket, so head to Mildura if possible for more grocery options.
- Accommodation: $93AUD/night ($66USD) for two people
- Petrol: $5AUD/person ($3.50USD)
- Food: $5AUD ($3.50USD)
= $54AUD/person ($39USD)
Of course, this is a free activity. Because you won’t be there for long, you won’t need to pack more than just a snack. So you’ll just need to consider transport and accommodation costs.
Five Essentials for the Perry Sandhills
It can get surprisingly cold here in winter. So make sure to have some warm layers. In summer though, those layers will be unnecessary. Although if you’re exploring early in the morning for the sunrise at any time of the year, you may want to start with a jacket.
For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. We go in-depth into what travelling gear and accessories we use.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – annoying to have your shoes filled with sand, but it can get bitterly cold here in the morning. When we braved the sandhills in flip flops, are toes were frozen numb within minutes. The higher top hiking boot (above the ankles) can help minimise sand getting into your shoe.
- The North Face TKA Glacier snap fleece jacket – needed for early morning starts.
- Patagonia Down Sweater jacket – we mean it! It was freezing in the morning!
- Nikon D3400 Digital SLR Camera – photographing sunrise or sunset requires a decent camera for optimal shots!
- PETZL Headlamp Flashlight – If it’s still dark upon your arrival, make sure to have a headlamp or torch to safely negotiate the sandhills.
- It’s easy to get lost: Make sure you have some sort of navigation device to ensure you don’t get lost on the sandhills. They’re bigger than you think. Plus, it’s very easy to lose your bearings.
- Avoid visiting during the day: In summer, it can get very hot. So it’s best to explore at dusk or dawn. This way, you’ll beat the crowds also.
- Don’t break the rules: It’s forbidden to drive any vehicle away from the designated tracks. If you do so, you could be unknowingly damaging hidden historical artifacts. Plus, you’ll be deteriorating the natural landscape.
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