Located in a remote part of northern New South Wales near the Queensland border, Lightning Ridge has become a mecca of sorts for road trippers and grey nomads. It’s a sprawling town built around underground and open cut opal mines, and home to peculiar characters and attractions that more than make up for the long drive along dusty outback roads.
The road signs are the first indication that you’re in for something different. The routes around town are signposted with handpainted car doors that hang from trees and fences on the roadside. Pick a colour (red, blue, green or yellow) and follow the direction of the arrows – it’s a simple but effective way to make your way around all the top attractions.
Follow any of these car door trails and it won’t be long before you find yourself at one of the town’s many opal mines. A handful are open to the public, with favourites being the Australian Opal Centre and Big Opal. The latter mine is still operational, so don your hard hat and head underground to see the expert miners in action. At most of these mines, you can also pick up a pick and try dig a stone of your own. If you’re feeling particularly lucky, head to the fossicking heap near the town’s Visitor Information Centre – a quick scrabble through the white dirt can occasionally turn up a few precious stones.
This town has been home to a number of eccentric pioneers over the years. In many cases, these characters’ obsessions and peculiarities have led to unbelievable, intriguing and bizarre sights – well worth a spot on your itinerary. Highlights include:
At the end of a long day, head to the Artesian Bore Baths for a relaxing soak in the earth-heated water. Entry is free, so everyone can enjoy an evening relaxing in the pool under the stars.
Enjoy two nights in Lightning Ridge and explore the town for yourself on the 11-day Inland Explorer Tour from $3625pp twin share. Visit RACQ Travel or contact one of our friendly travel consultants on 1300 096 166.