Nine hours west of New South Wales’ coastline is a town that consists of a few restaurants, a couple of pubs, and one surprisingly decked-out grocery store; Lightning Ridge.
Home to more than just a well-stocked IGA supermarket, Lightning Ridge is renowned by collectors, miners, and admirers for the beautiful black opal that can be found under its sun-baked plains.
Lightning Ridge is known for producing some of the finest opals on earth so it’s no wonder it has become a popular spot for miners and opal-fanatics to settle down in the, sometimes lengthy, search for its rich, black beauty.
So, is it possible for anyone to find opal in Lightning Ridge?
As I drove into the dusty town of Lightning Ridge I had one question; what exactly had I signed myself up for? The experience was more than I could’ve expected.
In today’s video, we follow Justin on his journey from the busy streets of Gold Coast City to the vast, dry terrain of Lightning Ridge. Justin meets up with his team for the week and takes us on a guided tour of the best places to find opal in Lightning Ridge; no machinery needed!
The Grawin Field Dumps
The blue sky is a cool contrast to the red dirt that covers most of our drive out to our first opal fossicking spot; the Grawin Dumps.
The Grawin Dumps are about 70 kilometres (45 miles) drive from the Ridge’s main drag, and contain mostly seam opal. As the name suggests, this dusty expanse is a dumping ground for all of the dirt that miners dig out of the ground thinking that it contains no opal… but that’s not always the case.
Justin has seen quite a few quality gems that people have found in the dumps with some stones being worth around $50,000. The best part about the Grawin Dumps is that anyone can fossick for opal here without the need for big tools or complex machinery with just a water bottle and a scraping tool. A scraping tool, like a gardening fork or shovel, helps you sift through the white and pink opal dirt while the water makes any chunks of opal easier to see.
Justin has brought along one of his mates, Dave the opal miner, to teach Ben and Melinda about how the color and texture of the dirt can tell you whether you could be close to finding opal.
The side of the road…
Yep – that’s right! Justin shows us that the next hidden spot to find opal in Lightning Ridge is actually the side of the road!
Trucks dump that white and pink opal dirt on the roads to smooth them out which creates another unexpected place that anyone can fossick for opal. You have a with a good chance of finding something and don’t need any tools to do so.
But what about when you’ve satiated your opal fever and are looking for something else to do?
After a long day hunting for gems, there’s nothing like a nice cold beer at the Glengarry Hilton.
The Glengarry Hilton is a relaxed outback pub popular with miners sharing stories after a long day in the dirt. They serve cold drinks and good food and it’s a great place to stop by if you’re ever in Lightning Ridge.
After winding down with a cold beer, the crew packs up and heads back to town to soak our muscles in the beautiful, warm bore baths.
Lightning Ridge’s bore baths are natural hot baths that draw their water from a 1-kilometre deep hole that has been drilled down to the Great Artesian Basin. This water is so hot that you have to get in slowly otherwise you could come out looking like a tomato, but it does feel great on sore muscles.
We finish our day with a cold beer and good company at Nettleton’s Shaft, the Ridge’s sunset spot. Nettleton’s Shaft is a great place to sit by the campfire with friends and watch the sun hang low over the desert plains.
We hope that you enjoyed this weeks video on finding opal in Lightning Ridge and that it’s inspired you to visit the town we love so much.
Let us know what you think of the Ridge! Have you been there? Would you like to go?