Lightning Ridge is well known as the only place in Australia to produce the very valuable black opal, which can have a fiery red vein running through it. Despite a reduction in mining due to economic factors and regulation changes, Lightning Ridge is now thriving as a tourist destination, 730km south-west of Brisbane, less than 50km south of the Queensland border, and 768km north west of Sydney.
OPAL CARAVAN PARK
The pet-friendly park is a member of the Top Tourist Park group and is rated at four stars. It has very large drive-through sites, suiting even the biggest fifth wheeler, and there is also a large unpowered camping area, as well as a range of cabin accommodation, ensuite sites, and a large amenities block.
Other facilities include two camp kitchens with pizza oven and flatscreen TV, clothes line, fire ring, and a heated swimming pool. The park is within walking distance to the two free hot artesian bore pools and about a couple of minutes’ drive to town.
BLACK OPAL TOURS
Black Opal Tours is the oldest tour company in Lightning Ridge, operating since 1972. There are several tours every day which take you through town and to most of the places tourists would be interested in visiting, including some of the ‘car door’ self-drive tours; the oldest miner’s camp in Lightning Ridge; Lunatic Hill open cut mine; the artesian bore baths; the Astronomers Monument; and Bevan’s Cactus Nursery, among other places.
LIGHTNING RIDGE TOWN
The official population of Lightning Ridge varies between 2000 and 10,000. There are three fuel outlets, a hardware store, an IGA supermarket, post office, banks, bowls and golf clubs, pubs and restaurants as well as several opal sales outlets. Lightning Ridge has an aquatic centre better than those seen in many cities. There is a huge water park including a wave generator, an Olympic-sized pool, and lap pool with nine diving platforms, heated to 27 degrees.
FOSSICKING FOR OPALS
Mining regulations prevent fossicking except in private sites. The Opal Caravan Park has an opal fossicking area at the rear of the park where you can noodle for free. During a Black Opal Tour, the operators will take you to their own fossicking area where you can search for the beautiful opals. The tour office in town has a large display of cut opal and jewellery for sale, plus a lucky dip bucket of opal pieces.