Lightning Ridge

Here you’ll find travel reports about Lightning Ridge. Discover travel destinations in Australia of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

10 travelers at this place:

  • Day9

    Walgett to Lightning Ridge

    May 29, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    After another day in the Warrumbungle N.P. and a visit to Coonabarabran we headed North-West to Walgett where we had arranged to stay on a sheep property called Caloola with old friends. On the way we hit our first Dirt Road and the caravan handled it very well, including taking dirt and dust samples along the way and depositing them in the cupboards and over a lot of our stuff. (poorly sealed pipe and electrical penetrations). Because of the drought our friends have been forced to sell most of their sheep and only have about 20 now, some of them lambing at the moment. Here the countryside is completely different to the sheep country I’m used to seeing. Very flat with what they call black soil and no grass, just weedy looking prickly plants which the sheep manage to survive on during drought periods. The trees don’t even grow very tall. We were told that when it rains (as little as 2 – 3mm) the ground becomes so soft and boggy that it is impossible for them to leave their property until it dries out. They have built a gravel hard stand up near the front gate where they move their car up to when the rain is forecast, because even their 4 wheel drive can’t get up their 2.5km driveway. The Barwon River flows though their property and is prone to flooding when heavy rains fall. It all sounds a bit bleak but we actually had a really interesting time there (complete with “billy tea” by the billabong) and learned a lot about the area. They also run a Bed and Breakfast business as part of a chain called Outback Beds and have facilities for campers and caravaners.

    We reluctantly left Caloola after a couple of nights and continued North to Lightning Ridge which is famous for its opal mining. First we visited the Chambers of the Black Hand which is a fascinating underground mine where the chap who owns it has carved hundreds of sculptures into the walls which are made of sandstone. He was actually there carving a new sculpture when we went through and was happy to have a chat. Later in the day we went on a bus tour around the town and went down into a working opal mine where we learned more about what’s involved in mining opal. (We did lots of stair-climbing during the day). We also visited a shop where opals are cut, polished set into jewellery and sold and were given a demonstration of the process. I wasn’t able to convince Frank it would be a good investment to buy me one though! Our driver took us to other local attractions such as “Lunatic Hill” which is an open cut mine. Another mine up there is owned by an odd 84 year old chap who also loved to have a chat. Also Amigo’s Castle which has been built of stones retrieved from the mines and looks really impressive at first until a closer inspection reveals that it is unfinished and has no roof. The reason there is no roof is that the council rates the property by the area of the roof. No roof No council rates. All these characters are very strange and one wonders whether it’s a pre-requisite for living in Lightning Ridge. The guides told us of the high rate of crime in the area associated with the opal industry, including opal theft from mines at night. Gangs are in the area armed with AK 47 rifles and are not afraid to use them even on the police. Miners encroach on other peoples mines, sell opals and don’t pass on the share of the sale to their partners. This includes Siblings, Father and Son partners, Husband and Wife etc, no one is exempt from the greed up here. The other interesting thing is the collusive opal price fixing by the buyers to keep the price of opals artificially high while they rip of the miners. Interesting place to visit.
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  • Day3

    lightning ridge - hot springs

    August 27, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 28 °C

    After a nice lunch and a look around town renowed for the mining of black opals. We headed for the artesian baths. Wow- what a refreshing swim spent in artesian water of a constant 40 degrees.

  • Day11

    Lightning Ridge

    January 8, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ -3 °C

    The air-conditioning wasn't working in the cabin at Lightning Ridge Holiday Park, so I simply cleaned the filters and it started working perfectly (thanks Dad). Other than this small hiccup, it was very comfortable and had everything we needed plus more. One incident when we arrived really set the tone for Lightning Ridge: one of the permanent caravan park residents was driving back to the park as we were checking in with a flat tyre. He was swerving all over the road and ran up the gutter on the way in which completely slashed his tyre. He proceeded to drive through his annex, smashing in the front of his car and destroying the washing machine along with rattling his van - it was a very amusing site to see. Later in the evening, he was walking over to the BBQ area and got a bur in his foot then fell over. After chatting with the caravan park owners, we found out that this isn't uncharacteristic for the area because the resident had been out drinking with the Serbians to celebrate their Christmas-time! Later we found out that overall, Lightning Ridge is not policed very much compared to other places (maybe because it is mainly white people!?) so basically everybody gets smashed and drives, and there is a huge drug problem. We even though we saw a drug deal happen immediately as we got off the bus.

    In the morning after a good sleep we ate the Dubbo bran for breakfast which was extremely filling then went to the front desk for our tour at Chambers of the Black Hand which we had booked yesterday. The bus picked us right on time around 8am, then drove us to a few more hotels to pick up others - there were 5 of us all up. We drove past the Yellow Car Doors (in Lightning Ridge they don't always use street signs and house numbers, instead each person erects a car door along the road to tell you where they are), and past a few operating mines until we came to the large mental black hand, used to point miners in the direction of the highway before the days of GPS. It is very easy to get disoriented on the minefields (50x50m blocks called claims scattered all over the place).

    After a quick safety induction, we put on hard hats and approached a tiny blue shed. Inside it were simply some stairs into the ground which we walked down one-by-one. The mine was a long way down but not too far - when we got down it opened up into a welcome room where we handed over our money to visit the gallery and the mining level. We heard about the history of the gallery: Ron Canlin who immigrated from the U.K. purchased the mine in 1982, but it was a total flop. Around 1996 he decided to open the mine to tourists, and he decided to carve a welcome sign in the wall using a butter knife. He never stopped, and now the caverns and halls in the mine are filled with thousands of individual sculptures from Egyptian rooms, Buddas, cartoon characters, Star Wars characters, David, The Last Supper, and much more. He uses only the original butter knife and a fork to make his carvings, though paints some of them.

    Every year Ron makes the chambers bigger and bigger, so they are changing continuously - locals go down every year or two to see what he's been up to! After browsing the sculptures, we went down one more level to the mine to discover how Opal is mined. We were given a lot of information about the manual labour and safety requirements for mining - Lightning Ridge is the only place in the world that has Black Opals, it only costs $400 to get a mining licence, and it's only $1000 to get a claim. Overall, to set up a small mine it's only around $10,000 and has become very tempting to us given the interesting lifestyle the miners seem to lead. After the tour we went upstairs for a cup of tea and accidentally sat down right next to Ron which was very lucky indeed. He joked a lot, and talked about how he made his decision to come to Australia which was simply because he thought Opals were nice and he wanted something special. His wife decided it was a great idea and came with him, she ran and edited the local newspaper for many years.

    After this tour we went back to the room and had a rest because we were tired from the heat outside. After about 20 minutes rest we decided to go for a walk to the other end of town to take a look - we saw the Visitor's centre and went for a little fossick in the free area, finding what we thought were Opals (to be confirmed). On the way back, we saw a VW Combi Van with wings and a propeller, a few old cottages, and went to a few Opal stores where we learned more about their composition. From what I can see of Lightning Ridge, it is an absolutely eccentric and admirably eclectic township with lots of friendly and amazing people. Afterward we went to IGA to get some ingredients for pizza to cook in the special pizza ovens at our caravan park, then went back and watched a movie because we were hot and bothered (it was around 3pm). We had made a decision to stay one more day and cancel our stopover in Dubbo for one night as we didn't want to go and hang with the junkies at Tower's or pay overpriced rates for a pub room, and Lightning Ridge was fascinating us. We changed our bus, cancelled Tower's Lodge, and paid for another night at the caravan park. While doing these things we drank some Stone's ginger wine and some goon, then prepared the pizzas. We gradually transferred the ingredients to the BBQ area fridge and sat under the pagola watching the sun set while we cooked and ate them listening to 'Outback Radio'. The pizzas were delicious - afterwards we decided to go back to the room where I did some writing, backed up my photos using remote desktop to my server, and we watched some TV. At around 10pm we decided it was time to go for a walk to the hot springs, so we left for the 2km journey in the 30 degree heat to discover whatever we could.

    Distance Travelled: < 20km / Steps Taken: 15,000 / Temp: 37*C
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  • Day12

    Lightning Ridge Day 2

    January 9, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    The Artesian Bore Baths were quite a site at night. It was a dimly lit circular pool about 10m across, 2km out of town, so we could see the stars. As it was so hot it was not steaming, however it was around 42 degrees inside the water! I read a lot of the signs around which described a water conservation project to limit the amount of water going into the baths to 9l/second, down from 20l/second. The runoff water from the baths is used for mining and gardening operations (townspeople have two water supplies). There is another bore nearby which runs at 2l/s (down from 20l/s) that supplies drinking water. We sat in the baths with children jumping in and screaming, then they decided to leave. After a few minutes, a man came to the pools and introduced himself, then we had a chat. After a while chatting, he invited us to come over to his house to look at his opals, drink beer, and learn about some of the mining processes.

    His house was only about 5 minutes walking from the baths, and we talked along the way. He told us about his past life and about what he does in Lightning Ridge. There were some other people at his house who we had a chat with for around an hour then they left - after they left he showed us how to cut opals using a diamond grinding machine which was fascinating. After many hours of this, we decided it was time to go to bed at 5am. He invited us to his mine the following day to give him a hand and to have an experience, so we organised to go out with him the next morning and said goodnight.

    The next morning he didn't call us so we just went about doing our own thing - we ate breakfast, cleaned and packed, and cooked pizza for lunch. I did manage to get in touch with him at around 5pm, and he said that he was trying to call us but it didn't go through - perhaps the phone was out of reception. He said that we are welcome to come back any time (which we probably will because it was so much fun) to do a bit of mining experience with him - Riagan is really keen to get a mining claim and go digging for a year. I'm keen to have the experience and see how it goes at a minimum.

    We went to see the house made of glass bottles, and went fossicking in the evening. It was quite interesting because we seemed to find a lot more opal after we had spent time at the miner's house, we had got an eye for it. We also watched a movie in the afternoon, had some naps, and ate leftover pasta extended with tomato paste and walnuts for dinner which was quite nice. It was bed time quite early because we had to be on the bus at 5.50am to go back to Dubbo - so it was with disappointment that we said goodbye but not forever to Lightning Ridge. Going to the miners house was definitely the highlight of the trip so far, I really want to go back to experience more one day in the near future!

    KM Travelled: A few / Steps Taken: 12,120
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  • Day24

    Day 24

    June 23, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Had a good night at the free camp last night very quite considering it is on the highway, nice clean and new toilets good overnight stop. Headed off at 8 this morning, stopped in at St George for fuel and kept on going to Dirrinbandi then down to the Hebel gate the Qld and Nsw border, weather still very good 23 degrees so decided to stop in at lightning ridge for the night. At the Opal caravan park, good as usual this is our 3rd time here very busy lucky to get a powered site, had lunch and drove in to town for a look around, booked the bus for 6 o'clock to take us to the bowling club for drinks and tea.Read more

  • Day35

    Day 35

    July 1, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌧 12 °C

    A little bit noisy last night till the road trains stopped but otherwise all good, on the road by 8 this morning, taking a shortcut from Mitchell to St George good road a small amount of single lane the rest of the 200km was very good. Stopped at St George to top up with fuel and to grab some cold pasties for lunch, and had a cuppa had to find a dry spot had a lot of rain here overnight. Onto the Castlereagh Hwy heading south next stop was Dirranbandi for lunch it rained nearly all the way there and the temperature is only 13 degrees here back to reality after 5 weeks of warm weather, Hebel Gate was next to pass through and then the NSW QLD border, we got into Lightning Ridge about 2 o'clock our stop for the night. Had some good rain here too but a little warmer at 17 degrees, lucky we booked as the van park is full school holidays now so busy everywhere, off to the bowling club on the courtesy bus for drinks and dinner a tradition when we are here 👍Read more

  • Day107

    III. AUS - OA/NSW 2; Sunshine Co-Ligh EN

    December 14, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Tu, 13.12. Sunshine Coast
    I met Tom and his 7 year old daughter in the early afternoon. I will be Ester's nanny for food, accommodation and transport for the next few weeks, spent Christmas and New Years Eve together with locals and travel around New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, CBT and Queensland in a more than luxurious campervan.
    After a short introduction they immediately showed me their hometown Sunshine Coast: we first went to Noosa, famous for shopping, surfing, beaches and national parks - very nice but already now pretty busy and touristy.
    After a short stop at Aldi and German memories especially thanks to the cheapest prices I have seen so far we went to Yandina to see a viewpoint which is only known amongst locals and saw some really big and tall kangaroos.

    We, 14.12. Sunshine Coast/Noosa/Rainbow Beach: Fraser Island
    On Wednesday I spoilt myself with another expensive tour but again it was really worth it :)
    Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island with 180,000ha and only 200 people living there. The island can be reached by ferry via either Hervey Bay, Rainbow Beach or Noosa. Despite the sand the vegetation is unique, there are whole rainforests with a lot of different flora and fauna. The most popular animals are probably the fox similar dingos but unfortunately we could not see any. It is possible to drive with a 4WD on the whole island but you really need to consider the tides - as it didn't rain for a long time and especially with more and more people coming during the upcoming peak season and school holidays it is more likely to get stuck in the sand.
    From Coolum Surf Club we roughly drove 1,5hrs through a lot of forests quite similar to Germany along some mango and aqua farms and through kangaroo area to Rainbow Beach. We released the tyres' air pressure to catch the ferry at Inskip Point which brought us, pelican spotting included, to Fraser Island.
    We then roughly drove for 2hrs amongst the famous 75 Mile Beach; this is like a normal road meaning that you have to adhere to the usual traffic rules, but with a max. speed limit of 80km/h. After a delicious breakfast we drove further inland via a very bumpy road to Lake McKenzie, probably the most popular lake here. The crystal-clear blue lake is about 150ha, 7-8m deep and 100m above sea level surrounded by dunes and rainforests; it was so nice to swim again in normal, non-salty water :)
    After an - especially for me as a backpacker - really luxurious lunch (grilled fish and amazing salads including eggs, potatoes, rice, feta, melon and pineapple) we continued to Central Station and Wanggoolba Creek to do a nice small hike in the rainforest. For me the huge diversity of flora and fauna is still incredible - everything just grows in pure sand :)
    After that we started heading back via 75 Mile Beach which looked totally different in the afternoon. Unfortunately we also saw two huge bush fires, the season is only starting now.
    After that we drove for another 45km on Rainbow Beach to Double Island Point and via a river ferry back to Noosa where we then could enjoy the moon rising (full moon night) - an absolutely amazing day :)))

    Th, 15.12. Yandina
    On Thursday I had the chance to better explore Tom's and Ester's home town and Yandina on the Sunshine Coast is really nice. After seeing a bit of Australia's work life and some more beautiful beaches I visited the ginger and macadamia factory, tried several different nuts and flavours before being packed up by Tom in his 54 year old shiny car.
    In the evening we then packed the car and the caravan before watching some nice videos from Tom's and Ester's one year trip around Australia.

    Fr, 16.12. Yandina - Toogoolawah
    Wohooo, this day I finally hit the road again:
    Next road trip but this time in luxury and style in a 12m long car and campervan vehicle, own house built up within 14s including gas stove, fridge, freezer, microwave, sink, proper bed, tables and windows ;)
    From Yandina we drove inland to the west into mountaineous hinterland to Montville, a small town with a lot of shops and nice lookouts. This is also a good spot to view the Glasshouse Mountains, a very beautiful mountain range.
    Via Woodford which is particularly known for its music festivals we then continued through mountaineous and later hilly and green grasslands that reminded me a lot of New Zealand, especially with all the sheep.

    Sa, 17.12. Toowoomba - Goondiwindi - Moree
    Toowoomba is located a little bit higher on a mountain and popular for the nice flowers and botanical gardens of Kings Park. The latter was already nicely decorated for Christmas. Not far from there we went to a nice lookout and the witches playground.
    After Goondiwindi we then drove over a bridge to the next small town Boggabila, crossing the border from Queensland to New South Wales. NSW has daylight saving so that we lost an hour and had to change the time from 6-7pm - but as a result sunset is not before 8 :)

    Su, 18.12. Moree
    Veeery relaxing day: we got up early in the morning to go to the Hot Springs, two swimming pools up to 42* hot. There was also a super huge slide which we used more than often ;)
    In the afternoon we drove a little bit further, with the landscape getting remarkably drier with a lot of farmland. We also saw kangaroos again :)

    Mo, 19.12. Lightning Ridge
    Lightning Ridge is a mining town in the Outback, particularly known for black opals. On the way we saw a lot of emus, amongst them also 9 baby ones. The town itself is very deserted with a lot of unsealed roads. However, there are some interesting museums and galleries such as:
    - Underground sculptures
    A man carved a lot of different sculptures in the rocks, just using a butter knife and doing so over a couple of years - very detailed and impressive.
    - Art Gallery
    Ester has been portrayed here 2 years ago and the picture is still being displayed.
    - Walk in Mine
    Visit of a mining site
    - Aboriginal sandwich for lunch
    The so called Abosangas are made of toast, butter, vegemite, chips/French fries.
    - Amigo castle
    A castle built out of stone
    - Oval Museum
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  • Day4

    Lightning Ridge

    July 19, 2017 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 16 °C

    Drove to Gilgandra, the Information Centre had a very informative display on the Cooee March. Travelled to Lightning Ridge via Walgat and booked into the Opal Caravan Park. Happy Hour in the camp kitchen had entertainment by Mel Hall and Sue Carcary.
    Day 2: Went on an Opal tour with Terry, very informative. Happy Hour again with Mel and Suzie.
    Day 3: Did the Black Hand tour, underground mine with carvings by Ron. He did a carving of Peppa Pig for Leslie. Inspected the Bottle House.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Lightning Ridge, LHG, Лайтнинг Ридж

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