Lightning Ridge is home to the world’s largest black opal mining which is the reason it’s become a well known town in Australia. But there’s so much more which brings tourists to this remote part of NSW. Think hot springs, a unique underground sculpture gallery, a beer can house and so much more!
There is a combination of free self-drive tours and paid tourist attractions to visit. Camps are built from what people can get their hands on, funny signs on properties abound.
The Car Door Tours are actually free self guided tours in Lightning Ridge, so you can visit all of the tourist attractions in town. You’ll have green car door tour, yellow, red and green to choose from.
The Green Door tour is a must if you like sunsets and strange landscapes. It’s like watching the sunset from the moon. I highly encourage you to pack cheese and crackers and a beverage. Sit back and enjoy.
You can then visit the blue, red and yellow car door tours – pick up the map at the visitors centre and do them all. It’s a free way to see some of the more peculiar sites of the town such as Amigo’s Castle (mentioned in further into this post) and the Lightning Ridge Church, which is actually a prop constructed for the film set of The Goddess 1967.
Make sure you stay on the right roads or you will end up on somebody’s private camp! They are all gravel roads but in clear weather a 2-wheel drive is fine…. ask at the visitor’s centre if you’re unsure. FYI – The green door road can get a bit rough.
Driving from Melbourne to lightning ridge is not a short trip to say the least. Even without any stops the trip is atleast 13 hours, so the best advice for the trip is:
- Get petrol whenever you see a station, especially if you have a smaller car
- Bring lots of water
- Pair of sunnies and sunscreen is a must
- Download your maps in case your signal drops out on your GPS/phone which it will for certain at some point
- Know how to change a tyre
- (this one is a no brainer) book your accommodation well in advance and ensure you arrive within check-in hours or its gonna be an uncomfortable night sleeping in your car.
- Take in the sights, you will see eagles, emus, wild horses and so much more.
- A travel buddy is always a great idea, especially if you’re doing the trip for the first time.
- Always allow yourself at least half a day’s rest when you get to the ridge before you start exploring the town. You’re gonna feel wrecked after the drive.
- It’s a good idea to buy a 24 pack of water bottles for your trip, the only source of water in Lightning ridge comes from underground bores and it tastes like it.
- Bring bug repellent! If you plan on spending a fair bit of time fossicking a fly net to put over your face wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Site Seeing Musts
The Black Opal is reason enough for visiting Lightning Ridge, but it doesn’t end there… there are attractions aplenty from Outback theatre, underground sculptures, bore baths, galleries, jewellers and unique people (just to name a few). Take a step back in time, or try your luck fossicking, whatever your taste, there is something to tickle everyone’s fancy.
The first think you have to do after checking in, is talk to the reception at the motel desk. They’ll most certainly have town maps and tour brochures. If staying in the caravan park, go to the visitor’s centre (https://lightningridgeinfo.com.au/contact.html) and ask for a map; the town is sign posted by coloured/numbered car doors
Just to name a few…
Red Car Door Tour – Between doors 9 and 10 (access off Black Prince Drive). This amazing hand-built castle was a labour of love from 1981 to 2001. It is one of the most famous and televised attractions in Lightning Ridge. Amigo’s was built single handed by an Italian born man who skilled himself in construction, and lifted every stone into place with the aid of 44 gallon drums and wooden planks.
The castle also features an art gallery by self taught artist Anita, who also takes the time to tell Amigo’s story to visitors.
Opening Hours: Most days between 9am – 5pm
Artesian Bore Baths
A trip to the Ridge would not be complete without a visit to the free Artesian Bore Baths. At the end of a hard day fossicking and exploring, there is nothing quite as therapeutic as a long soak in the naturally heated thermal baths.
Opening Hours: Open all the time except between 10am – 12noon Monday to Friday for cleaning
Australian Opal Centre
Meet a life-like dinosaur face to face! Examine rare opalised fossils from long ago, when dinosaurs and other wonderous creatures lived in streams, billabongs and mighty pine forests at the place we now call Lightning Ridge. Learn about Australian opal, opal mining and pioneering life on the opal fields.
Opening Hours: 1pm – 5pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. 9am – 1pm Tuesday. 9am – 5pm Saturday, or by appointment.
Big Opal – Underground Mine Tour
3 Mile Road, Lightning Ridge
Visit a genuine working Opal mine. The First licenced opal mine open to the public in Lightning Ridge.
Hours: From 9:00am 7 days
Features: Opal mine, free entry to above ground opal and souvenir shop, fossicking, and DVD of opal history featuring Lightning Ridge.
A unique structure and an intriguing example of innovative architecture. Originally a miner’s camp, the Bottle House now houses an astonishing collection of artefacts and other items of interest including none other than Harold Hodges Opal Dentures!
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm 7 days
Chambers of the Black Hand
3 Mile Road, 5klms up opposite yellow car door 7
You’ll be amazed… The Egyptian chamber has humorous hieroglyphics and is a replica of an Egyptian tomb. The Last Supper which took six months to complete and the pondering Nostradamus, which took five hours to carve, are depicted in magnificent detail and is testimony to the razor sharp skill and patience of Ron and my personal favourite, none other than Shrek himself.
Opening Hours: Daily Tours at 10.10am and 2.40pm
Phone: 02 6829 1670 – Visitor Information Centre, Lightning Ridge
There is nothing more exciting than that first bit of colour appearing beneath your fingertips as you scratch through the seemingly endless piles of white opal dirt. One of the most generously sized mullock heaps in town, be sure to hit this up!
To read about our Top Tips on Opal Fossicking read our Blog : https://www.goodopalco.com/2021/05/27/lightning-ridge-opal/
But my Personal Favourite place to grab a well earned meal in Lightning Ridge is Bruno’s Italian Restaurant for their great pizza and Piccolo’s for their 3 Cheese pasta and of all things Oysters Mornay!
The Bowls Club make a mean parmi and has plenty of variety, very laid back and most importantly, air conditioned.
Overall, despite it’s small size the food in Lightning Ridge isn’t bad at all! And if you want to opt for a BBQ there’s an IGA in town to meet all your shopping needs.