Lightning Ridge

Artesian bore baths, Tourism New South Wales

Population 2598

This famous opal-mining town is the only place in Australia where true black opals are found. Miners on the opal fields in most cases need to provide their own electricity and catch or cart their own water as these services are not available, making residents pretty creative and resilient. The otherwise desolate area receives 80,000 visitors each year and has modern facilities in an otherwise minimalist town. Famous finds in the region include Big Ben and the Flame Queen, which was hastily sold for £80 because the miner who found it had not eaten properly in three weeks. Local Aboriginal legend explains the opals by saying that a huge wheel of fire fell to earth, spraying the land with brilliant stones. Lightning Ridge is notoriously hot in summer but boasts ideal weather in winter, and has lots of native marsupials and birdlife.

Visitor Information

Lions Park, Morilla St; (02) 6829 1670

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In Town

Bottle House Museum: collection of bottles, minerals and mining relics; originally a miner's camp; Opal St.

Big Opal: opal-cutting demonstrations and daily underground working-mine tours; Three Mile Rd.

John Murray Art: exclusive outlet for original paintings, limited-edition prints, postcards and posters; Opal St.

Goondee Aboriginal Keeping Place: Aboriginal artefacts and educational tours of the premises; open by appt; Pandora St.

Chambers of the Black Hand: unique underground sculptures and carvings in sandstone walls of an old mine; also underground shop; Three Mile Rd.

Displays of art and craft: including beautiful displays of black opal in the many opal showrooms; several locations; leaflet from visitor centre.

Ridgelightning: local lightning photography gallery and shop; Gem St.

Car Door Explorer Tours: follow painted car doors to find attractions; brochure from visitor centre.


Walk-In Mine: working mine with easy access and tours on demand. Also a cactus nursery nearby; off Bald Hill Rd; 2 km N.

Hot artesian bore baths: open baths with average temperature 42°C; 2 km NE.

Kangaroo Hill Tourist Complex: displays of antiques, bottles, shells, rocks and minerals, and mining memorabilia with a fossicking area outside; 3 km S.

Opal fields: Grawin (65 km W) and Sheepyards (76 km W); brochure from visitor centre.

Designated fossicking areas: maps from visitor centre.

Cafes & restaurants around town

Morilla’s Cafe

This outback cafe enjoys a central location in Lightning Ridge. Visit to find out for yourself if they really do serve ‘the best coffee west of the Blue Mountains’, as the locals strongly attest! The... Find out more

Yook's Chinese Bistro

Find out more

Campsites around town

Bokhara River camping area (bush camping) 54 km

This site with no facilities is set beside the Bokhara River in Hebel, 162 km south of St George and 65 km south of Dirranbandi.... Find out more

Narran River camping area (bush camping) 66 km

This campground beside the Narran River has no facilities. To get here, take Dirranbandi–Hebel Rd, 37 km south of Dirranbandi.... Find out more

Balonne Minor Bridge camping area (bush camping) 94 km

Self-sufficient campers can stay at this site, 3 km west of Dirranbandi on Dirranbandi–Bollon Rd, around 94 km south of St George.... Find out more

Culgoa River camping area 100 km

Don’t get too excited about fishing and swimming, as the river here is often dry. Instead, you can camp among the gidgee trees and take the Riverbank Walk to the river, or the Connellys Walk through stands of tall... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Sonja’s B&B

A cheerful B&B in the heart of black opal fossicking country, Sonja’s bright, comfortable accommodation is a popular choice for travellers. Sonja is a keen opal fossicker herself and a volunteer at the local... Find out more

What's on around town

Easter Festival: streets and various venues; Easter.

Opal Open Pistol Shoot: June.

Opal and Gem Festival: July. ARTtober: Oct. 

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