Destination Fast Facts – Lightning Ridge

Lightning Ridge

Lightning Ridge is a small outback town in north-western New South Wales, Australia and is located at the start of the Darling River Run, one of Australia’s most iconic touring routes.


Lightning Ridge is located 729 km north west of Sydney via Mudgee and Dubbo; and 64 km south of the Queensland border.

Population: 2,284 (2016 census)


Initially the settlement was known as Nettleton’s Hill because Charles Nettleton discovered the opals in the district in 1902. It was later renamed by the New South Wales Lands Department as Warrangulla but after World War I it was named Lightning Ridge. It is claimed that the name dates back to the 1870s when a farmer, his dog and 600 sheep were all killed by lightning. It is almost certainly an outback myth.

Known for: Home to the rare black opal, Lightning Ridge is a unique and historic mining town in Outback NSW.

Top 5 Musts: 

Big Opal Underground Mine

Visit a genuine working Opal mine. First licenced opal mine open to the public in Lightning Ridge. Explore this underground mine at the Big Opal and experience what it is like to be in a real working mine. You can take a guided or self-guided tour and also try your hand at fossicking.

Artesian Bore Baths

Lightning Ridge is also popular for its naturally-heated artesian bore baths. Water from deep inside the Great Artesian Basin flows into an outdoor pool, maintaining a temperature between 40-50C.

The Bottle House Museum

See an astonishing collection of artefacts inside a former miner’s house made entirely of bottles.

Coopers Cottage 

An authentic abode of the early miner, built in 1916 and is one of the oldest houses in The Ridge. Its historical setting embraces the living conditions of the mining pioneer.

Chambers of the Black Hand

See fabulous engravings carved in an underground mine. The Egyptian chamber has humorous hieroglyphics and is a replica of an Egyptian tomb. Atlas holds the world while Adam supports the roof of the entrance to the working mine. Also includes The Last Supper and the pondering Nostradamus, depicted in magnificent detail.

And for something extra:

Self-Drive Car Door ‘Tours’

There are four drives to follow, all marked with colour coded and numbered doors. You simply follow your chosen trail and colour – blue, red, green or yellow. The trail of doors are positioned randomly wither strung up in trees or leaning against direct all directing you to the next one.