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Lightning Ridge

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Northeast of Bourke and almost on the Queensland border, the opal mining town of Lightning Ridge contains the world’s largest deposit of black opals.

The black opal found at Lightning Ridge. Black opals are highly valued with their black or very dark backgrounds and vibrant color flashes.

Opal was being mined in the Lightning Ridge area back in the 1880’s but it was not until Charles Nettleton sank a shaft in 1902 and discovered the first black opal, that the mining rush began.

Lightning Ridge is literally pitted with the various opal workings that occurred for more than a century. there are many small claims being worked using a variety of machinery to dig, sort and separate the opal from clay.

A typical claim at Lightning Ridge.

The original tent city of the 1900’s has gone and has been replaced by a small township which is also now something of a tourist town with its attractions and caravan parks. There is an underground opal showroom and cinema and a opal bazaar and town museum in a house built of beer bottles.


The town is lucky to have a supply of water through artisan wells, the product of which are a well manicured lawn bowls centre, an olympic swimming pool and a water theme park. The town also has two thermal spring baths. Among the more modern aspects of the town can still be seen some of the old shacks and equipment from the early miners.

The town name comes from a farmer and sheep found to have been killed by lightning in the 1870s in the area.

The population sits at around 2,000 but miners come and go as time goes by.


The preserved shack of Fred Bodel who arrived in 1905 and lived as a miner for 40 years. 


The Lightning Ridge thermal springs baths.