Spring is the perfect time to explore the vast and rugged outback region of NSW, which is home to many epic and memorable adventures. Lightning Ridge is a great place to start! This historic mining town is famous for its unique landscape, and for being home to the rare gemstone – the black opal.
If you want to get a taste of life underground, there are several mines open to the public in town. The Chambers of the Black Hand runs tours that are taken by ex-miners who can explain how the mining process works, and how things have changed over time. This mine is over 100 years old, but the big draw card here has got to be the unique carvings that are etched on sandstone walls throughout the mine. It’s an art gallery 12 metres below ground! While you’re there, make sure you visit their shop for a souvenir. After all, it is the only underground opal shop in town.
You can also tour the first licensed opal mine that was open to the public in Lightning Ridge. The Big Opal is run by miner Steve, who’s an expert on all things opal – from mining, to cutting, polishing and valuation. His tour will show you a real working mine, plus you can have a go fossicking, and the on-site store is filled with some absolute gems.
If you want to see an interpretation of the outback landscape, make sure you stop by the John Murray Art Gallery. John is a local artist and much of his work over the years has been inspired by his surroundings. Stop by for a chat and to check out some of John and his wife, Viki’s, latest artworks.
Your Lightning Ridge trip wouldn’t be complete without a dip in the Artesian Bore Baths. Admission is free and they’re open to the public 24 hours a day. The baths are naturally heated by water flowing from the Great Artesian Basin – the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world. The temperature stays between 40-50 degrees all year round.