Lightning Ridge Area
From fossicking for opals to admiring sculptures in an underground cave and relaxing in naturally-heated springs, the Lightning Ridge area offers a bounty of memorable experiences against the backdrop of the majestic Outback. Explore the Darling River and enjoy all the wonders this unique and colourful region has to offer.
The star of Australia’s opal mining history, Lightning Ridge is also famed for its elusive black opal. See these rare gems at the Opal Bin, where raw opals are polished into shimmering gemstones. Tour an opal mine at The Big Opal and try your luck fossicking or visit the world-class underground Australian Opal Centre.
The Lightning Ridge Opal Festival is a four-day celebration of Lightning Ridge and its luminous opal and gem industry, held every July. Browse over 150 stalls selling gemstones, jewellery and collectibles. The opal and gem expo culminates with the unmissable Red on Black Opal Queen Ball and the crowning of the Opal Queen.
Visit the amazing Chambers of the Black Hand to see fabulous underground carvings, or browse vivid landscapes by local artist John Murray at his art gallery. The Lightning Ridge area is also well known for its soothing artesian bore baths, where naturally-heated water springs from the Great Artesian Basin below.
One hour south of Lightning Ridge is the charming town of Walgett, a former paddle-steamer por, near the junction of the Namoi River and Barwon River. Here you can enjoy more thermal artesian bore baths, with gorgeous temperate waters famed for their therapeutic qualities.
Walgett is the northern starting point of the Darling River Run, an epic 950km touring route that follows the river all the way to the historic river port of Wentworth. This fascinating four-day road trip brings to life Australia’s pioneering days, passing wonderful scenery, riverside wineries and rolling agricultural lands.
Eat & drink
For coffee and sweet treats, visit local favourites Stone's Throw in Walgett and Morillas Cafe in Lightning Ridge. Enjoy Italian cuisine at Piccolo Italian Restaurant and Bruno's Italian Restaurant & Take-Away, and meet local opal miners over food and drink at Grawin Opal Miners Sports and Recreation Club.
Getting there & where to stay
From Sydney and Canberra it takes about eight hours to drive to Walgett and nine hours to drive to Lightning Ridge. Alternatively, you can fly into Moree and hire a car for the 2-3hr drive. 4WD vehicles are recommended for unsealed roads and many of the national parks. There are a number of places to stay, from motels to camp grounds.