Opal Fields Grawin Glengarry Sheepyard
Visitors are lured to the opal fields of Glengarry, Grawin and Sheepyard by a rare glimpse into the life on an authentic mining settlement. This cluster of opal fields can be found in a remote area about 70 kilometres west of Lightning Ridge, accessed via the small village of Cumborah, 30 minutes northwest of Walgett.
Here, most opals are discovered wedged between layers of opal bearing clay and stone, known as seam opals. Unlike the native bush environment around Lightning Ridge, the landscape across this region is rugged, comparable to the surface of the moon; dusty and barren, just waiting to be unearthed.
The Grawin Opal Field, under 10kms northeast from Glengarry, was established in 1908 after the discovery of opal at Hammond Hill. It was several years later before the ‘The Light of the World’, an opal weighing almost half a kilo, was discovered at Richards Hill, and put the opal field on the map.
Since then, there have been several opal rushes, each causing the population in this isolated settlement to swell with optimistic prospectors. The town services have grown to cater to the influxes, and now play host to a general store, airstrip, club, and a golf course.
The Grawin Club in the Scrub was built by volunteers in the mid-1970s in protest after another local pub increased the price of beer. The club quickly became the social hub of the area, offering a range of activities, sporting events, raffles, entertainment, and community events. The club serves lunch daily and dinner from Wednesday to Friday, with a different menu each night.
Just down the road is Marg’s Carvings, offering small hand carved figurines, ornaments, earrings, and pendants made from local stones. Marg will carve custom items for visitors; from stones they find during their opal adventures.
Opal was discovered in Glengarry in the early 1900s, however, it wasn’t until the 1970s that Glengarry became popular enough to be considered a major opal field. And we all know what every popular outback location needs, right? You guessed it, their own outback pub.
To satisfy this need, the Glengarry Hilton was built, smack bang in the heart of the opal fields. The onsite Opal Bar serves all the traditional Aussie stubbies like Carlton, VB, Toohey’s and Great Northern. There’s also premix cans of Jimmy, Jack, and Johnnie, as well as Bundy and Canadian Club. Wine makes the list, as well as soft drinks, tonic, water and the trusty lemon, lime, and bitters.
The Hilton wouldn’t be a Hilton without accommodation. Offering backpacker style, airconditioned accommodation with communal flush toilets, hot showers and a washing machine, the Glengarry Hilton doesn’t disappoint.
A few kilometres south of Glengarry is Sheepyard. Established in 1984, Sheepyard is the newest of the three main opal fields.
On the drive from Glengarry to Sheepyard, resting humbly amongst the miner’s shanties and caravans, beside dusty mullock heaps is the Sheepyard Community War Memorial Lake Beard. Built by miners, many of whom were Vietnam war veterans, the memorial has become the ANZAC day commemorative meeting place for hundreds each year.
The nearby Sheepyard Inn sells groceries, souvenirs, fuel, meals, and of course cold beer. Friday nights are Hawaiian themed, so don’t forget to pack your Aloha shirt. There’s a free camp area out the back of the pub, with a shower and toilets, so why not set up camp and stay a night or two?