A unique and historic opal mining town in Outback NSW, Lightning Ridge is famed for its rare black opal, mining history and colourful locals. Get up close to an array of beautiful gems at markets and opal stores, try your hand at fossicking and relax in artesian bore baths as you savour the outback wonders of this iconic town.
Rare opals & jewellery
With opalised fossils and handmade jewellery on offer, the Opal Bin is also where you can see raw stones polished into shimmering gemstones. Explore the glittering displays from Autumn to Spring. You can also join a winter fossil dig and find a dinosaur fossil at the Australian Opal Centre.
Put your new-found mining expertise to use and try your hand at fossicking on a guided tour at The Big Opal. Shop for opal jewellery, including the rare black opal, at Lost Sea Opals or visit one of the largest collections of cacti in the Southern Hemisphere at Bevan’s Cactus Nursery.
Art & artesian baths
Visit the Chambers of the Black Hand to see fascinating sculptures carved into the walls of an underground mine. You’ll find carvings of Jack Sparrow, Shrek, a Samurai warrior and much more. The John Murray Art Gallery displays vivid acrylic and watercolour paintings that capture life in Lightning Ridge.
Lightning Ridge is also popular for its naturally-heated artesian bore baths. Water from deep inside the Great Artesian Basin flows into an outdoor pool, maintaining a constant temperature of around 40C. Relax in the heated bubbling waters as you gaze up at the starry night sky above.
You’ll find a huge collection of artefacts at the Bottle House Museum, a fascinating dwelling built entirely of bottles in the 1960s, from what was originally a miner’s camp. Uncover more interesting memorabilia and take a step back in time at the Heritage Cottage Museum, located inside an authentic miner’s hut from 1932. Or explore Amigo’s Castle, an Italianate castle built from ironstone boulders by a former miner.
Festivals & events
The Lightning Ridge Opal Festival is a four-day celebration of the luminous opal industry held in July each year. Browse over 150 stalls selling gemstones, jewellery and collectibles, or join in the fun of the Red on Black Opal Queen Ball, plus other activities and events.
Each year, The Lightning Ridge Easter Festival showcases exciting and fun events, market stalls and a fireworks display. Check out workshops and pop up performances in The Edge Fest, a six-week program that runs from March to May or enjoy yoga, meditation and camping on a Full Moon Dreaming retreat.
Eat & drink
Enjoy delicious home-made pasta at Bruno's Italian Restaurant or pizza at Piccolo Italian Restaurant. Morillas Cafe serves great coffee, and you’ll find delicious burgers at the Gourmet Gecko. Lucky Brasserie is at the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club and offers pub classics as well as Asian cuisine.
Getting there & where to stay
It takes about nine hours to drive to Lightning Ridge from Sydney and Canberra. Alternatively, you can fly into Moree and hire a car for the three-hour drive. 4WD vehicles are recommended for unsealed roads and many of the national parks. There are a number of places to stay in town, like the Wallangulla Motel and self-contained Bagala Cottage, as well as campgrounds and caravan parks. For an authentic Outback experience, book in for a farm stay at Carinya Station or Kigwigil Country Estate.