Multi Generational Family Travel Plan (Top Tourism Town Entry)
A last minute decision was made to take our two grandchildren from the city to experience the town of Lightning Ridge in Outback New South Wales. I soon realized that I’d planned this trip too hastily. There is far too much to see and do in just two days.
With our accommodation situated 10 minutes out of town at Carinya Station Farm Stay, we booked the full day bus tour with Outback Opal Tours before arriving and we were required to meet the bus at the Visitor Information Centre, situated in the Lion’s Park.
The “Pubs in the Scrub”, although not technically in Lightning Ridge itself, is a 74km drive further west to a separate opal mining community called Grawin, Glengarry and Sheepyard.
Enroute to the fields, our guide informed us of the differences in opal and various points of interest along the way.
Our first stop was The Sheepyard Inn for morning tea of scones with jam and cream, followed by the War Memorial just down the track.
We ate lunch at the Glengarry Hilton Hotel, we did some fossicking at a remote mining claim. The kids loved trying to find their own gemstone to take home to show their parents.
Last stop on the tour was The Grawin Club in the Scrub for our final drink and yarn with the local miners about finding the elusive big red on black opal.
The tour bus was abuzz with conversation about everyone’s individual experiences throughout the day.
After returning to Lightning Ridge from having an eventful day of adventure we picked up wood-fired pizzas from Bruno’s Italian Restaurant to eat around the camp fire back at Carinya Station.
Waking up in this tranquil setting, listening to the bird song, overlooking the dam with my morning cuppa was a refreshing change to the start of the day.
Carinya Station is a low impact and eco-conscious farm. Our stay includes the Introductory Tour, Jacinda took us on an instructive and interactive stroll around their property, capturing the pastoral history and operations. The children were thrilled to have the opportunity to cuddle the different baby farm animals that were born that week.
After having a late breakfast at Busy Bee Café to fuel us for another busy day, we popped into the Visitor Information Centre to collect a copy of the self-drive, self-guided map of the “Car Door Tours”. When visiting attractions, we
noticed that around every corner you’ll find a local carving out a way for themselves, a love of either opal mining or something that inspires them.
Drive drove to the Chambers of the Black Hand where we embarked on an adventure into the mine and discovered a gallery underground of carvings in the sandstone.
Returning to town we passed the newest attraction the Outback Opal Putt-Putt Golf and Sculpture Park. There are novelty obstacles made of all sorts of abandoned machinery and anything that catches the inventive imagination of the owner to build. Unfortunately, the Putt-Putt course was still under construction at the time, another reason to return in the future.
Australian Opal Centre is a must see for both kids and adults. A museum with a large collection of opalised flora and fauna fossils. We were a little early in the season for the screening of "Spark", a cinematic film depicting the journey of Lightning Ridge, from Dreamtime to the future Museum being built on the opal fields.
The colour and humour of life in the bush, jumps out of the work with the whimsy and realism that sets John Murray’s artwork apart from other outback artists. As well as John’s gallery, his images spill out from his gallery and can be seen throughout the streetscape of Lightning Ridge.
A visit to Lightning Ridge would not be complete without looking at the brilliance of a polished Black Opal. We visited two of the many opal retailers, Down to Earth Opals and the Opal Cave showcasing locally mined opal presented at all stages of production. Ranging from roughs, rubs and pieces that have been intricately formed into unique, creative designs.
As afternoon slides into dusk, we ventured up the “Green Car Door” track to read the plaque on Nettleton’s First Shaft. We then visited the Beer Can House. “Don’t forget to sign the guestbook in the fridge!”. The kids then walked through the Abraxas Maze as we settled down to watch the vibrant pink, purple and orange sunset unfold before us.
On our return to town, we stopped in for dinner at Wattle Bistro in the Bowling Club where we enjoyed a meal from an impressive menu of cuisines. We couldn’t stop talking about how sumptuous the cheesy-garlic dinner rolls were. We were pleasantly surprised with the quality and portion sizes of the meals as well.
The Artesian Bore Baths are a magical finish to another thrilling day in Lightning Ridge. The healing waters, at a temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius, relaxed and soothed our weary muscles as we gazed at the majesty of the Milky Way overhead.
After a short trip back to Carinya Station we slept soundly through the night. Waking up early to say last good-byes to our hosts, Jacinda, Joe and their children before heading home.