Home to the rare black opal, Lightning Ridge is a unique and historic opal mining town in Outback NSW. Marvel at extraordinary gems in opal stores or try your hand at fossicking, relax in artesian bore baths and discover why visitors have long been attracted to this colourful town.
Things to do in Lightning Ridge
See precious and rare opals on display at the Opal Bin, open from Autumn to Spring, where raw stones are polished into shimmering gemstones. See a dinosaur fossil at the Australian Opal Centre and join a winter fossil dig.
Purchase opal jewellery at Lost Sea Opals, or venture into a working opal mine on a guided tour at The Big Opal. Then put your new-found mining expertise to use and try your hand at fossicking. You can also visit one of the largest collects of cacti in the Southern Hemisphere at Bevan’s Cactus Nursery.
Visit the Chambers of the Black Hand to see fabulous engravings carved in an underground mine. The John Murray Art Gallery displays the work of a local artist whose vivid acrylic and watercolour paintings capture life, work and play in Lightning Ridge. Take a tour of the quirky Amigo’s Castle with Anita and see her art on display inside. Call ahead to confirm opening hours.
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 temperature between 40–50C. Soak in the bubbling warm water as you gaze up at the starry night sky.
See an astonishing collection of artefacts at the Bottle House Museum - a former miner’s house made of bottles. Uncover more interesting memorabilia and take a step back in time at the Heritage Cottage Museum, located inside a 1932 miner’s hut.
Held in July each year, the Lightning Ridge Opal Festival is a four-day celebration of Lightning Ridge and its luminous opal industry. Browse over 150 stalls selling gemstones, lapidary supplies and more, or join in the fun of the Opal Queen Ball, plus other activities and events.
Eat and drink in Lightning Ridge
Enjoy delicious home-made pasta at Bruno's Italian Restaurant & Take-Away, and pizza at Piccolo Italian Restaurant. Head to Morillas Café for great coffee, cakes and sandwiches and burgers at the Gourmet Gecko. Lucky Brasserie is at Lightning Ridge Bowling Club and offers pub classics as well as Asian cuisine.
Getting to Lightning Ridge
It takes about 9 hours to drive to Lightning Ridge from Sydney and Canberra. Alternatively, you can fly to Moree, which is 2-3 hours’ drive away. 4WD cars are recommended for unsealed roads and many of the national parks. There are a number of places to stay, from motels to campgrounds.