Lightning Ridge – the Opal home
Strange place is Lightning Ridge. It’s a small town in NSW Australia with painted car doors instead of road signs, abandoned church that has never been a church, house made of colored bottles, an old opal mine full with sandstone carvings, open unfenced Hot Baths and even 4500 years old lamp.
Even the town’s name itself has a history. The locals say it’s called Lightning Ridge (previously known as “The Ridge”) since 1870’s, when there were found the bodies of 600 sheep, a dog and their owner. The locals believed they were struck by lightning and even if the truth is unknown the name stays since today.
Lightning Ridge has the largest deposits of black opals and opal gemstones in the world, which makes him the home of the Australian national gemstone. Despite that, after the drop of interest in Asia, where was the biggest market for opals, the town has brought prosperity back thanks to the tourism. There is a lot you can see in The Ridge and we’ll try to summarize it here.
The Car Doors tours
One of the first interesting things you’ll notice in the town is the painted car doors stuck in different easily seen places. These are the road signs for all points of interest in the town. You can take guided tours or explore them by yourself for free, and you can be sure that all four distinctive routes will lead you to some of the greatest attractions in Lightning Ridge.
The Astronomers Monument
If you take the Red Car Doors Tour you’ll eventually see strange building from concrete cement columns. This is the Astronomers Monument – build with hands and a bucket like a sand castle by the eccentric engineering mind of the builder.
The Bottle House and the Black Queen
More walk on the Red Car Door Tour and you’ll see unique colorful building. It’s the Bottle House – build with 14 000 color bottles, originally miner’s camp. As the owner says – “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary”. The house itself is huge attraction, but it’s not the only thing. It hosts the daily multi award-winning ‘Black Queen’ weaves drama 3-act performance. Also there you can hold a 4500 years old lamp, to hear stories around a fire and antique lamps, because the Bottle House happens to be also “Australia’s foremost antique lamp museum”.
You will be amazed if you enter in the Chambers of the Black Hand. It’s a 100 years old opal mine carved on hand with more than 500 sculptures. It took 14 years to the artist and owner of the mine – Ron Canlin – to carve these sculptures. You can enjoy animals and gods, snakes, elephants, gorillas, goblins, Archangels, Nostradamus, 10ft high Buddha, The Thinker, even the Simpsons and all Prime Ministers. At the end of the carved tunnels, at 11.2 meters underground, you’ll find an opal shop – The Gem of The Outback Jewellery Shop, to finish your tour.
The Hot Artesian Baths
These free unfenced hot natural baths are one perfect ending of your day in Lightning Ridge. The temperature in these baths is around 42 degrees Celsius and they attract tourists from around the world because of their therapeutic power. You can find yourself soaking all night under the open sky enjoying the serenity.
This is only small part of all attractions you can find in this small unique town. Every one of the Car Door Tours will lead you to other interesting and beautiful places, like the Australian Opal Centre, where you can find opalised fossils from the ages of the Dinosaurs, the Bevan’s Black Opal & Cactus Nursery which is the largest cactus garden in the southern hemisphere, you can take tour in the Big Opal – working opal mine; you can browse the Coopers Cottage – one of the oldest buildings in the town, or to enjoy 1 hour free fossicking, rocks and mineral display, shells, bottles and antique display in the Kangaroo Hill Complex.
The best time to visit Lightning Ridge is in October, when the ARTtober fest takes place – annual festival of Lightning Ridge rich art community with special town trials.
It’s not too late to be part of the fest and enjoy all Lightning Ridge can offer.