Friday, 26 August 2016

Bourke and Lightning Ridge

The final leg of our month long road trip was from Broken Hill to Bourke then on to Lightening Ridge and finally the big push to home.
As we traveled through this part of outback we really enjoyed the scenery that is so unique to this part of the world.
There had been quite a bit of rain recently so things were showing signs of new growth and the wild flowers were abundant.
However as you can see from the below photo the conditions are still very dry and lots more rain is needed, I guess this is the reality of the outback.

We also saw lots more wild life.

At the Back of Bourke Information center we were treated with a large flock of Black Cockatoos eating the berries of the cedar trees and I was able to get a few snaps.  They are such magnificent birds.  We also learnt all about the history of the area including the early explorers, the history of the paddle steamer trade which made Bourke a significant inland trading port.

Bourke has some amazing scenery nearby and this has kept local artist Jenny Greentree very busy. Her gallery was great and we came away with a few prints to take to NZ with us.

Our final stop on out rip was Lightning Ridge and by far this was the most interesting place we visited.  It was just so unique and like nowhere else I have ever been.
Lightning Ridge is an opal mining town and home to the Black Opal and the site of some amazing hot artesian springs and John Murray's gallery.  John Murray produces some comical art that captures the essence of the outback and is know for his below painting of Tony Abbott our former Prime Minister.

We made good use of the hot pools every day but being pregnant I had to be careful not to get over heated as the blood vessels dilate and then the baby can have reduced oxygen, so I sat on the step of the kiddy pool and just had from my hips down in the water and then only for 10 minutes but even that was great and enough.
The hot pools, free to access 23 hours a day with change rooms, great lighting all night
and picnic facilities.

Australia produces a lot of the worlds opals and where as Coober Peedy tends to produce pearly coloured opals Lightning Ridge produces Black Opals and while there I treated myself to a set of earrings.  They were not cheap but they are my treat to myself for finishing work and having a baby and I will get a lot of wear from them.

Lightning Ridge is a funny town to drive around as when you drive down the main street it looks just like lots of other outback towns other than the fact that every second shop either buys or sells opals. But venture off the main street and you are confronted with homes made of every conceivable material and yards full of piles of spoil as people hunt for opals in their back yards.
And if you want to get a taste of opal mining you can fossick for free in the big pile of spoil outside the information centre where people have found opals up to the value of $5000.

Us outside the information center beside the fossicking pile
Tourists fossicking outside the information centre
Front yards of Lightning Ridge
One of the best ways to have a nosey around Lightning Ridge without getting lost is to do the car door tours.  Because many of the streets look a bit like they might just be a private driveway or road these tours let you have a good sticky beak without trespassing, falling down a mine shaft (yes a real concern) or getting lost.  There are 4 different self guided tours you can do Red, Green, Yellow and Blue and you pay $1 at the information center and get a map with directions and a guide to what you are seeing.  All you do is follow the signs to the starting point then follow the painted car doors.

As I mentioned the people of Lightning Ridge live in all sorts of home and these are just a sample.

A castle.

A home made with bottles and cans.

Another Castle.

Help wanted in the castle.

An assortment of materials used for building.

On one of our tours we stopped off at Bevans Cactus Nursery which has the largest collection of cacti in the southern hemisphere some of which are up to 150 years old.  I wish we had been there to see them flower but that is September/October and we will be busy with Peanuts arrival.

An old miners house - boy it would have been hot in summer

On our last day at Lightning Ridge we made an effort to go and see something that the ridge is famous for - Outback sunsets.
We followed the Green Car Door tour to one of the first mine shafts ever sunk in the area traveling past a lot of moonscape type land on the way.

It was really cloudy up at the lookout and we were not sure if we would get a great sunset or if it would be too cloudy and be a fizzer.
But we were patient and it paid off as you can see from the following photos.

As you can see we were not disappointed.

We stayed at the Opal Caravan Park which was fantastic.  The park is only 5 years old so the amenities are well designed and modern.  There was entertainment every afternoon and they are just 200m from the hot pools.

If you ever have the chance to go to Lightning Ridge you should take it as it is so worth a visit and a week would be the ideal amount of time to look around as well as have some down time to just relax.

We made the big push to home from the ridge in just 1 day which was 10 hours of driving but if we had stopped on the way and set up camp again then packed up the next day it would have taken the same amount of time so we decided to just push on and sleep in our own bed which after camping for a month we were looking forward to.


  1. Those black cockatoos....I remember as a kid watching them bite of small tree branches with a single bite. Such powerful creatures. I love the flash of red in their tails (I cannot remember the indigenous story about the red in the tail)

    1. Mr Home Maker they are amazing to watch and when we move to NZ I will miss the Australian bird life.

  2. the sunset photos are stunning... I had to laugh about the pic of tiny Abbott and the buggie smugglers... I was only talking to my nearly 13 year old about this last week and he didn't understand it... I think if I show him the photo it will make more sense.. Good old Aussie humour.

    1. Kathy you are right about the humour and perhaps the picture will explain it all.

  3. I've never seen black cockatoos! What a treat!

    1. Bev they are amazing and really big (nearly 50cm tall) There are a few types that have either red, yellow or white under their tails.

  4. Those wide sunset skies are so beautiful, Fiona. Such colour! And seeing your photos of the black cockatoo was lovely too - we occasionally glimpse or hear them in the skies here but never up close. I bet you were happy to get back to your own bed but what a wonderful trip to have been on before you leave Australia.

    1. Meg you are so right about getting back to our own bed. It was a wonderful trip before leaving Australia.

  5. What an amazing place Lightning Ridge is! The sunset photos are stunning, thank you for sharing them with us.

    1. Jan Lightning Ridge is somewhere everyone should make an effort to get to.

  6. There is nothing like outback sunsets. Beautiful photos. :)


  7. beautiful photos - makes me yearn for a road trip!

    1. Shangri La a roadtrip is something everyone should do.


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