Lightning Ridge – The Allure of The Black Opal

One hot lookin’ couple!

Since I was a kid I have always had this desire to see Lightning Ridge. I don’t know why exactly, maybe because it is in NSW where I live and I figured it’s probably the only opportunity I would have to see the ‘Outback’ or maybe it had something to do with my love of Opals (my birth stone which also happens to be as Aussie as vegemite. meant to be!) but regardless of why, it’s always been in the back on my mind to get this ticked off the bucket list.

Characters Of The Outback

I had previously seen Coober Pedy in South Australia where they are famous for mining white opals. But Lightning Ridge has a special quality that makes it truly unique. This is that it is home of the Black Opal. Very rare and most valued, the Black Opal is distinguished from other opals by their dark background which makes the bright colour of the stone to really ‘pop’.

When you first enter Lightning Ridge you are immediately met with a wonderful vibe of both Australian larrikinism that the outback is synonymous for with a good dose of arty creativity. From the huge metal sculptures lining the main roadsides, the wooden caricature cut outs, kombi vans with wings flying outside your caravan park and of course Lightning Ridge’s famous car door signs guiding your way to tours and attractions in the area.

Chambers Of The Black Hand

On this particular road trip we had planned to just stay the one night. We arrived mid-afternoon and after getting to our caravan park (Lightning Ridge Outback Resort and Caravan Park) and sorting out our rooms, had a quick leg stretch and then we were immediately back in the car to see as much of Lightning Ridge as we could while still light outside.

We drove out to the 3-mile mine where we had a quick look at Lunatic Lookout and the harsh landscape, peppered with piles of ground sandstone where miners have tried their luck at finding the elusive gem. We tracked down ‘Chambers of The Black Hand’ which was something we all were eagerly anticipating… We donned our yellow safety hard hats and went forty feet underground to experience the most amazing images carved and painted on the sandstone walls and columns. Local opal miner Ron Canlin is the mastermind behind these amazing works of art. Everything from The Last Supper to an Egyptian tomb are there in spectacular detail. We all thoroughly enjoyed this tour, even little Charlie who was 3 years old and having a ball Finding Nemo, Superman, Lion King and all his other favourite characters. Our admission also included a tour and talk of the mine which was really informative. The steps down to the mine were quite steep, so for safety Charlie and I took the lift. The staff running the tour were really great, very knowledgeable and we ended up spending way too long just hanging out chatting afterwards with them all. It was fantastic!

Outback Oasis

Before our BBQ that night we thought a nice dip in the Artesian Bore Baths would be perfect after a big day of travelling. These naturally heated springs are amazing! We were lucky to be there by ourselves and as the sun set it was so therapeutic just laying back, looking up at the beautiful starry sky on a gorgeous balmy night. The baths include a clean and tidy amenities block and entry is free!

Before we continued our adventure the next morning we took a little trip down the main street for a coffee and a look through a few gift stores and let Charlie loose in their main playground. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there is definitely something about this town. It really grabs you. Sitting back enjoying a cuppa, the peace and contentment you have just watching the town move about in its normal way just makes the stress melt away. Out of all the places we visited on our road trip, this was the place our friends said they wanted to return to. I think I might join them too.

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