You won’t see many buildings when you arrive in White Cliffs – everything from houses to hotels has been built underground to escape the Outback heat. People have been drawn here since the 1880s in search of opals, and you pick up some of the glittering gems in the many shops and galleries around town.
Opals and art
White Cliffs is Australia's oldest commercial opal field.It’s one of just a few places in the world where white opal is found and is most famous for its rare ‘pineapple’ opals with their distinctive spiky shape. Go underground to see a working mine with Red Earth Tours – you might even find a piece of opal yourself.
If you don’t strike it lucky, there are a number of stores and galleries selling uncut and polished opals, jewellery and fossils. Visit the Fossicker’s Den, Aussie Southern Cross Opal, the Red Earth Gallery or Linda George Jewellery and take a piece of White Cliffs home with you.
Things to do in White Cliffs
White Cliffs is the site of Australia’s first solar power station, built in 1981. Visit the station, just outside the town, and see the mirror-plated collector discs that look more like spectacular science fiction props. Some underground houses are also open for tours and you can marvel at the airy white rooms and cool temperatures.
Time your visit with the White Cliffs Music Festival, held annually in May. The great family event brings together a wide variety of musical genres including many internationally acclaimed performers, and includes a poetry breakfast, street party, workshops and plenty of dancing.
Mutawintji National Park, a four-hour drive to the northwest, is home to many well-preserved Aboriginal rock art sites. You will also find the Old Coach Road drive, an historic route that follows a section of the Broken Hill to White Cliffs Coach Run that once connected the two Outback towns. Look out for the ruins of the Rockholes Hotel.
Around an hour from White Cliffs, Paroo-Darling National Park is home to amazing birdlife and significant Aboriginal sites. Explore the Paroo Overflow, an area of outstanding natural beauty and conservation value, and the only unregulated river in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Getting there and where to stay
White Cliffs is a 12-hour drive from Sydney, 10hr 30min from Canberra, 11hr 30min from Melbourne and nine hours from Adelaide. You can also fly into Broken Hill and hire a car for the three-hour drive. You may need a 4WD for unsealed roads and national parks. Accommodation is all below ground at the Underground Motel and a handful of B&Bs.