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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8 thoughts on “Lightning Ridge – town of eccentrics

    • Hi Nathanael, Yes, we passed through in the 70s, too. I gather that it grew and has now contracted, but the hillbilly atmosphere remains. The old pub burnt down in suspicious circumstances. Tourist facilities are now much better developed.

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      • Truth be known, we sort of enjoyed the rustic edge. My parents had a 6 berth caravan they pulled to Lightning Ridge behind a VW Comby van–all the way from Albury, NSW. It was a trip of a lifetime, and although I was about 14 then, even now at 50 I have fond memories.

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      • Ah, those original Kombis were brilliant. Yes, those were the days. we took two toddlers in a little open-out van called a Kabana towed by a Holden Kingswood. Travelling as a family certainly gives kids a taste for the outback. Thanks for letting us know your experience.

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    • Hi Jess, I agree that opals are lovely. But did you see the price! I read some of your site yesterday evening and really enjoyed it. I thought of you when we passed a mustering team south of St George a few days ago. Keep blogging – it’s great!

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      • No I didn’t yesterday, but I just looked! WOW! They are absolutely beautiful though. But I’d rather buy a horse haha! Thank you, I aim to entertain 🙂 Aww, nice to know I’m being thought of! You certainly seem to be having a great old adventure, I look forward to reading more of your adventures 🙂

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