Lightning Ridge: discover desert wonders in NSW

Lightning Ridge - Sunset

Unearth the Gems of Lightning Ridge

Opals aren’t the only gems of Lightning Ridge — discover natural desert wonders and eccentric monuments, and unearth underground art galleries and a moonscape of mines in this New South Wales outback town.

Go beneath the surface

The best way to see the outback is by getting your hands a little dirty.

Travel underground to discover the buried history of this opal-mining town, touring working mines and digging for your own precious stones.

Opal mining began in Lightning Ridge in the late 1800s and its century-old mines are still the source of many of Australia’s iridescent black opals.

Head underground and explore an original working opal mine at The Lost Treasure Opal Mine Adventure.

Marvel at the layers of opal clay and sandstone roof — hand dug by one person — and imagine what it would be like toiling here day in, day out.

Feel the anticipation of a surprise discovery as you have a go at fossicking through their spoil heaps for a gem of your own.

Run by passionate residents, Outback Opal Tours offers several guided experiences, from town trips to visits to working mines.

The popular Full Day Tour provides a ‘wild west’ experience at the rough-and-ready Grawin, Glengarry and Sheepyard opal fields, as well as visits to three authentic bush pubs.

 

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Lightning Ridge - dusk

Soak it all in at Lightning Ridge

Relax in the therapeutic waters of Lightning Ridge’s artesian bore baths, naturally heated to a constant temperature of 41.5°C.

These two-million-year-old natural springs are part of the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest and deepest freshwater basins in the world; natural pressure sends bubbles of mineral-rich thermal waters up into many pools across NSW’s outback.

Free and always open (except between 10 am and midday on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for cleaning), the circular spa is a wondrous place to take in the shimmering night sky as you soak up the health-giving waters and chat with locals and visitors alike.

Hit the road

Lightning Ridge’s expansive roads lead to sights that will stay with you long after you leave.

The self-drive Car Door Tour is like a treasure map – outback style ― simply follow the coloured car doors that pepper the dirt roads along one of the four separate routes.

Meet the characters behind the Opal Tree and the Beer Can House on the Green Car Door Tour. Or visit miners’ cottages, abandoned mine shafts, a graveyard of rusty treasures and Stanley the Emu on the Yellow Car Door Tour.

You can also commune with 2,500 varieties of cactus at Bevan’s Cactus Gardens and take a walk-in mine tour on the Blue Car Door Tour.

Connect with the minds of the region’s creatives at the Bottle House & Mining Museum, Ridge’s Castle and Amigo’s Castle on the Red Car Door Tour.

Lightning Ridge - houe of bottles

Bottle House & Mining Museum


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See art like never before

The Chambers of the Black Hand is a subterranean gallery 11 metres below the earth’s surface in a 100-year-old former opal mine.

Over the past 19 years, former Royal Marine and deep-sea diver Ron Canlin has etched countless artistic carvings into the walls of these opal caves.

From native animals to Lord of the Rings characters to dinosaurs and more, this unique experience is like Mount Rushmore of the outback.

More inspiration awaits at the John Murray Art Gallery, where the former Sydney artist showcases his realist paintings that capture outback NSW with vibrant colour and quirky scenes.

Share a yarn with the locals

Find a pub at Lightning Ridge, pull up a stool and find out what life is really like out west.

Tour around the working Grawin opal fields, then head over to Grawin’s ‘Club in the Scrub’ for a drink – it’s been a hub for the community since 1976.

Wander around the cactus garden, play a round of golf at its unique desert course and there’s even a pet-friendly rest stop with a hot shower if you’re camping in the region.

Another top spot for lunch is the Glengarry Hilton for lunch; not quite like its hotel chain namesake, this tin-shed bush pub offers cold brews and a classic outback feed.

Nobby’s Bar is a classic outback drinking hole and a quintessential taste of country life in Lightning Ridge – enter in the meat raffle while you’re there.

The Lightning Ridge Opal Festival, a four-day celebration of the opal industry, is held each July and is another way to connect with the culture of the area.

The event has been running since 1971 when local miner Derek Foster and his wife Hazel created a program of activities to mark the town’s character.

Highlights include an opal and gem expo, with more than 150 outdoor stalls selling gemstones and jewellery, and the colourful black-tie Opal Queen Ball.

#destinationnsw #lightningridge #artesian bore baths

 

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