Where: Lightning Ridge, NSW
When: March – October
Stay: 3 – 6 days (Careful – it might become 30 years)
Image: Destination NSW
Things to do in Lightning Ridge:
Black opal is the rarest and most valued of all opals. And there is only one place on earth where it is found. Air Link can fly you to Lighting Ridge, “The Ridge” to the locals.
The cooler months right now are the perfect time to visit ‘The Ridge’ with daytime tops of 25 degrees and cool nights. Summer will see closer to 50 degrees, so things slow down and life goes underground. Literally! The town of Lightning Ridge is built atop some of the world’s richest opal fields with the entire towns industry focused around mining. It’s not a typical mining town however; because the nature of opal mining is that it’s best done by individuals working on their own small claims.
Tourism booms with such eccentric individuals making their living off mining, selling and trading opals – that’s why we say you could spend years at ‘the Ridge’ and never get bored! The best way to see it all is to grab a tour guide and get exploring, because most of Lightning Ridge is scattered deep in the bush. The area has what is described as a highly variable population and it is fact that there’s just over a thousand residents on the electoral role in the Ridge, but there’s THOUSANDS of PO boxes (the Post Office is an attraction in itself by the way!)
Apart from the opals (and there are many mines and retail outlets), you will find some amazing artesian baths within the Ridge’s town limits, as well as some incredible art galleries and local craftsmen selling their goods in little storefronts.
Some of the world’s most significant fossils have been found in the Ridge, dating back to 110 Million years ago. Miners of course dig these up while searching for opals, and with their help museums around the globe proudly list: Lightning Ridge, NSW, Australia as the place of origin on that little white card behind the glass. Our favourite fossil find from the Ridge is Steropodon, a monotreme and likely ancestor of the Platypus.
At Lightning Ridge an extraordinary national monument is taking shape – a world class, energy-efficient, two storey underground building that will be the home of the new Australian Opal Centre, a new world hub for opal-focused activities. The AOC will be a world-class tourism attraction and a world leader in the areas of knowledge, information, education and creative exploration of Australian opal, rare opalized fossils, opal-related geological samples and opal from around the world. It will also celebrate the heritage and social history of Australia’s opal mining towns, their Aboriginal people, the remarkable multiculturalism of these areas and the lives of the opal miners and their families. Amazingly, this project is being built and funded by the local community and private benefactors.
Where to eat in Lightning Ridge:
Walk down the main street of Lightning Ridge, and you will see some awesome street art on the wall of Bruno’s. Authentic Italian at its finest, Bruno’s makes the most incredible Pizzas from scratch in a woodfired oven. If you prefer pasta, that’s good too. In fact it’s all good, and run by some of the best locals in town. Morilla’s Café is a great place for breakfast and lunch.
Other options for meals (there are plenty) include the Bowling Club’s bistro, Piccolo Italian Restaurant and the Lightning Ridge Outback Resort.
Where to stay in Lightning Ridge:
Like Bruno’s, the Wallangulla Motel is authentic, locally owned and an exceptional experience when you drop by Lightning Ridge. There’s no 5 star options in the Ridge, so don’t expect fine dining and poolside bars – instead, the Wallangulla is a place to rest your head, with a pool, friendly owners and great rates. Spend the extra cash on souvenirs instead! Again, there are lots of other accommodation choices, motels, resorts and as well as B&B’s, and caravan parks with cabins. The Ridge has the lot.
How to get there:
Air Link flies to and from Lightning Ridge, via Walgett every Tuesday and Thursday as part of our scheduled services from Dubbo Airport. Connecting flights from Sydney are operated by Regional Express Airlines. Flights from Brisbane, Essendon and Newcastle are available but will need an overnight stay in Dubbo. Alternatively, Air Link can provide air charter options for those travellers wishing to set their own schedule.