The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

12 January, 2015

Lightning Ridge

Lightning Ridge - "A wonderfully crazy place to visit".  This is the caption on the Brochure and it certainly did not disappoint us.  

At the turn off into Lightning Ridge you see one of many old cement truck barrels - these agitators are used to wash and tumble opal dirt.

We hadn't been to Lightning Ridge previously so were determine to have a look.  Without  knowing what to expect we wondered was it going to be another Coober Pedy? As we drove towards Lightning Ridge the first thing that struck me was the abundance of vegetation as I expected the landscape to be similar to Coober Pedy, very barren.  Once again with the weather hovering in the high 30 + we headed for the Opal Caravan Park (situation opposite the Artesian Baths), with modern clean facilities it was a real treat.

"Stanley" stands at the spot were Lightning Ridge got it's name - sometime around 1870 a shepherd, his dog and around 600 sheep were struck dead by lightning here. From then on this area was unofficially know as Lightning Ridge.
John Murray  the artist and Tim Parson the welder co created the 18 metre high emu from 3 volkswagons, a pair of rusty satellite dishes & a ton of scrap metal

Ma & Pa a couple of local miners!!
Once set up we headed to the Information Centre where an enthusiastic local lady provided a wealth of information. The Lightning Ridge Tourist Association initiated "Car Door Tours" where visitors can follow 4 different coloured car door tours in and around the area (Red, Blue, Green & Yellow). For $1 you get an extensive information sheet to follow individual car door tours.  We found this a great way to see the sights of Lightning Ridge and get an appreciation of the culture and architecture of this "crazy place".

This is the start of the RED door tour

Ridge Castle a private home

The Black Queen is a private home made from recycled materials

Amigo's Castle single-handedly built of ironstone.  Started in 1981 and inspired by Roman ruins in northern Italy, near Amigo's birthplace.

Astronomers' Monument - curious to say the least! Began in 1983 by 'Polish Alex' - every surface has a message.

A random private dwelling

Bottle house, originally a miners camp 

An old FJ Holden remains in the main street.

Coopers Cottage built 1916 

Lunatic Lookout - this picture says it all!!!!

The Fun Bus, another miners camp

This Church was purposely built for the movie "Goddess of 1967" a weird art house film.

A few slabs of VB went into this house - on the Green tour

Interesting way to build.

There are a large number of mine tours and we selected to do the "Chambers of the Black Hand" tour as this offered not only a tour of an underground Opal Mine but also over 500 sandstone sculptures which has been one man's passion for over 40 years.  The carvings include dinosaurs, Buddha, jungle cats, super heroes and Egyptian chambers. After the tour you have the opportunity to admire and purchase some of the local opal in the underground shop.  Even though the opal was magnificent, Hels could not be coaxed into buying one - thank goodness cause that would have blown the budget for the next 2 years!!!  

This is all you see on top of the mine which has been worked for over 100 years.


84 or 83 stairs lead down into the chambers - you'll need to go and count.

Paul was our guide, he also has his own lease 

Typical supports used in mining operations


Hels favouite - Go the mighty Crows

At this level the walls are lined with carvings.

There are different sections, some painted.

Hels likes to rub Buddha's belly

Even meerkats in the African section



A statue of the invisible man??


The display area with lots of lovely opal which you pass thru on the way out.


Hels is a fan of John Murray's artwork which we have previously seen in Birdsville and Bourke so she was excited to visit his Gallery in Lightning Ridge.  We certainly we not disappointed as there was a fantastic display of his paintings and I am also pleased we do not have wall space in the caravan so Hels had to contain her purchases!!


This was John Murray's original van which he started to tour Australia before he stopped in Lightning Ridge.  He made this structure and has his artwork on the sides.


On our last night in Lightning Ridge we ventured down to the Artesian Baths where the average water temperature is 39 degrees.  The water is reputed to give relief to aching bodies and this old body certainly can do with a lot of relief!!

The Artesian Baths

We certainly enjoyed our visit to Lightning Ridge and will definitely come back again to explore more of the area and enjoy its quirkiness.   


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