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A visit to Lightning Ridge is a must-do when in outback New South Wales! Known as the Black Opal capital of the world, Lightning Ridge was the first stop on our road trip with the new caravan, so that we could fulfil Zed’s dreams of finding an opal ✔ and visiting the Taronga Western Plains Zoo ✔ for his birthday. In hindsight, we wished we had allowed more than 2 nights there to see the sights, as there are so many things to do in Lightning Ridge with kids!
Chambers of the Black Hand
Our visit to the Chambers of the Black Hand was literally hands-down (pun intended!) our favourite Lighting Ridge attraction, and one of the best things to do in Lightning Ridge with kids!
The creation of Ron the artist over 20 years, you’ll descend the stairs to an underground gallery showcasing his sculptures carved into the walls, from classical to political figures, and even kid’s movie characters! The artwork is incredible, especially when you realise most of it was completed using a butter knife.
A special treat for the kids playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ – count all the miniature Wally’s as you tour through the tunnels for the chance to receive a special prize at the end! Our kids were thrilled to receive a small bag containing traces of opal.
There is also an optional mine tour available, and Lightning Ridge’s only underground opal shop.
Where: 3 Mile Road, Lightning Ridge (follow Yellow Car Door tour)
Opening Hours: Seasonal, see website for times.
Cost: Adults $40, children over 8 years from $5
Artesian Bore Baths
Pumped up from the Great Artesian Basin over one kilometre underground into two pools, these baths are open 24 hours a day and free to use! With an average water temperature of 40ºC, the pools are perfect for relaxing in, and the waters are reputed to provide relief for sore and aching muscles.
Where: Pandora Street, Lightning Ridge
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours a day
John Murray Art Gallery
The artwork of John Murray is not just limited to his gallery in Lightning Ridge! You can find his colourful and quirky paintings all around the town. Photos inside the art gallery itself are not permitted, but we enjoyed posing with some of the artworks we found around town.
Where: 8 Opal St, Lightning Ridge
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 2:00pm Saturday and 10:00am – 2:00pm Sunday.
Our kids love nothing more than digging through piles of dirt, so fossicking in the hopes of finding precious rocks – or even opal – was the perfect activity to keep them occupied! The Visitor Information Centre has piles for visitors to search through, as well as a lovely playground next door.
Where: Bill O’Brien Way, Lightning Ridge
Car Door Tours
As you come into town, you’ll notice the colourful signs made from old car doors! These are the free, self-drive tours around the area, with four different routes available (Red, Green, Blue and Yellow). Pop into the Visitor Information Centre to grab a copy of the Car Door Tours map for $1.
Cost: $1 for the map from the Visitor Information Centre.
Water Theme Park
This was unfortunately closed for the winter season when we were visiting, however what I could see was amazing! Guaranteed to keep the kids entertained for hours during the hotter months.
Where: Gem Street, Lightning Ridge
Opening Hours: November to April, Monday – Friday 3:00pm – 6:00pm, Saturday – Sunday 11:00am – 6:00pm
Sunset At Nettleton’s First Shaft Lookout
Follow the Green Car Door Tour signs to get to Nettleton’s First Shaft Lookout, where you can enjoy the views of the surrounding landscape as the sun sets. It was here that the first-ever shaft in Lightning Ridge was dug, back in 1902. There is also the remains of a house built from beer cans, and a maze made of rocks to wander through. Be aware that there are old open mine shafts scattered around the area, so keep the kids close.
Where: Follow the Green Car Door Tour signs from the highway.
Follow the Red Car Door Tour signs to reach Amigo’s Castle, an amazing hand-built, heritage-listed castle made from local rocks.
Where: Follow the Red Car Door Tour signs
Lightning Ridge is approximately an 8-hour drive north-west of Sydney. For our visit, we stayed in our caravan at the Opal Caravan Park.