Lightning Ridge – town of eccentrics

In Lightning Ridge, inland New South Wales, Australia, many signs are written on car doors, as there are plentiful old car-wrecks lying around. The local tourism people have made car door signs a feature, with four colour-coded self-drive tours.

Instead of driving, I followed the Red Door tour by foot between the mine sites. Then after lunch, we took a bus tour of the mining area, went down a mine and watched a demonstration of opal polishing. I was particularly impressed with three dimensional opals, that are polished by hand using an instrument similar to dental drill. But they were pricey, so I didn’t succumb to the temptation.

The town has more than its share of eccentrics, who have built amazing, illegal structures on crown land without permits that are now heritage-listed. We met 80-year-old Brian who in his time had played bit parts in many films including Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max Thunderdome. Even the mine we visited had been used as a set for a movie called Goddess of 76 (remember the Citroen Goddess)?

Apparently there are now only 100 or so working miners, plus hobbyists who work a claim during their spare time, but the town has more than its share of both millionaires and people on welfare. Tourism has grown in importance as mining has declined.

For swimmers, I have included a photo of the fantastic indoor swim and dive complex, built largely with funds raised by the local community.

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