2019 - 8 Days: Lightning Ridge Tour
Have they all been touched by the sun? There's something deliciously, refreshingly, awe-inspiringly crazy about the people of Lightning Ridge. Take Brian for example. After reading a book about opals, he arrived home to inform his wife that he'd sold their taxi plates and that they were moving to Lightning Ridge the following morning!! Forty years later, Brian is still at the 'Ridge’, and still pulling black opal out of the ground. The elusive and distinctive Black Opal is unique to the area.
Lightning Ridge is also famous as a thriving frontier town full of the iconic Australian characters, reminding us that the Australian spirit is not a thing of folklore; but the exact qualities that makes the 'Ridge' as unique and elusive as the Black Opal itself. We will experience sculptures underground, bottle-houses, antique lamps, castles, astronomy monuments, hills named 'Lunatic', 'Pig' and Bald', and visit the ‘Glengarry Hilton!'
Day 1 (LD): Melbourne to Narrandera
After we have loaded the coach and completed our passenger pickup up service we are ready to go. Sit back and enjoy the service and facilities aboard our deluxe touring coach as we head north to Echuca and onto Deniliquin on the Riverina Highway. In more recent times Deniliquin has become famous for the annual Ute Muster. On arrival we head straight the Peppin Heritage Centre which incorporates the Crossing Café and the Visitor Information Centre. The building was Deniliquin’s first public school. It has been transformed into a regional museum with permanent exhibitions. After a light lunch and the chance to wander through the Centre, we are joined on the coach by a local guide who will spend an hour or so introducing us to the town. Our afternoon stop is at Conargo. Here at Clancy’s of Conargo Winery we can taste the local produce, browse through the interesting collection of Australian bottles and glassware and take a look at the international licence plate display. Next stop – Narrandera -gateway to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (M.I.A.). Known for its tree lined streets, parks and gardens, Narrandera is often referred to as an ‘oasis’, blessed with abundant water and hugging the banks of Lake Talbot and the Murrumbidgee River. (Light Lunch/Dinner)
Narrandera Club Motor Inn, Narrandera
Day 2 (BLD): Narrandera to Dubbo
This morning we make our way through West Wyalong to Forbes, a substantial country town famous for its connections with the bushranger Ben Hall. The town has some impressive buildings and fine parks and gardens associated with a large lagoon known as Lake Forbes, which bisects the town.
We enjoy lunch at the Memorial Club before continuing north through Parkes to visit the CSIRO Radio Telescope complex. The visitor Centre features many hands on displays and exhibits and our visit also includes a 30 minute audio visual presentation. After our visit we drive to Dubbo where we settle into our motel for our overnight stop. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Golden West Motor Inn, Dubbo
Day 3 (BLD): Dubbo to Lightning Ridge
We continue north to Gilgandra, home of the Coo-ees and the Town of Windmills. In Bridge Street a plaque commemorates that starting point of the famous “Coo-ee” recruiting march of World War I. The beautiful St. Ambrose Anglican Church is also in part a tribute to the march as well. From here we travel through Gulargambone, Coonable and Walgett to Lightning Ridge. After lunch at the Bowling Club we begin our local touring of this rich opal field - the only source of black opal in the world. With its stark and scarred landscape this town has a peculiar fascination for visitors. Opals can be purchased direct from the miners while the novice fossicker can occasionally stumble across a choice stone among the heaps of mullock known locally as ‘shincracker’. We view an open cut mine, see “Amigos Castle” (a huge Italian Style Castle built by one man), the Bore Baths, the Astronomers Monument and Coopers Cottage. Afterwards we head back into town and spend some time at the Opal Cave before settling into our motel for the next 3 nights. Dinner this evening will be at the Bowling Club. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Wallangalla Motel Lightning Ridge
Day 4 (BD): Lightning Ridge
After breakfast we head across to the Walk-In-Mine to experience the atmosphere of an underground mine. We also have a tour including a video presentation and explanation about opal mining. We then visit the showroom to view the opals that came from the mines in this area and have the opportunity to purchase an opal from the showroom. Next is some free time to purchase an early lunch and to have a wander along the main street. Our afternoon appointment is at the Chambers of the Black Hand. Opened in April 2007, this is a unique tourist mine, 11.2 meters down. Local artist Ron Canlin has created the most amazing paintings and sculptures, including The Last Supper, Archangel Gabriel the Chinese Terracotta Warriors.
Ron is constantly carving new work such as a samurai warrior, so there are changes every day as there is no end to his talent. The second level is a mine that has been worked for over 100 years and all the old shafts and drives that were dug by the old timers are still there. On this level you get a Geology tour on the different strata’s opal formation, which is an experience not be missed. It is amazing and there is nothing else like it in Australia. (Breakfast & Dinner/Lunch own arrangements)
Wallangalla Motel Lightning Ridge
Day 5 (BLD): Grawin and Glengarry
No trip to Lightning Ridge would be complete without a trip to The Grawin - and that is where we are heading to day with our local guide. If you think the ‘Ridge’ is unique, you have to see places like The Pub in the Scrub, The Glengarry Hilton and Sheepyard Flats. Located about 70 kilometres west of Lightning Ridge, The Grawin was established in 1908 with the discovery of the opal at "Hammond Hill". Further discoveries in 1920 at "Richards Hill" put the unofficial village on the map. It was at Grawin that the largest opal 'Light of the World' was found in 1928. Since the first discovery of opal in the region, people have come and gone in tides with each new strike, seeking their fortune in search of the rainbow in the rock. It is believed that a field at Grawin was discovered in 1905, but it wasn’t until the 1970's it became a major field in its own right. The Mulga Rush, which began in 2000, is the biggest opal rush since the Coocoran was discovered in the early 1900's. The Sheepyard area was named after a find of opal near the fence of the old Sheepyards. We enjoy lunch at the Glengarry Hilton. After a great day we head back to Lightning Ridge with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner at the Bowling Club. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Wallangalla Motel Lightning Ridge
Day 6 (BLD): Warrumbungle National Park
This morning we farewell Lightning Ridge and travel back through Walgett and Coonamble, then east into the Warrumbungle National Park. This mountain range juts abruptly from the expanse of inland plains, born of violent volcanic action some 13 million years ago. The National Park is home to hundreds of native animals and wildflowers bedeck the mountains and plain lands of the park. We spend time travelling though the national park, experiencing the peace and tranquility of this magnificent protected environment. The picnic areas within the park are plentiful and it’s at one of these areas we stop to enjoy our picnic lunch. There is time to relax or take a walk before travelling onto Coonabarabran. After taking in some of the sights we settle into our motel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Country Gardens Motel, Coonabarabran
Day 7 (BLD): Coonabarabran/Wagga Wagga
After breakfast we travel south via Wellington and Molong to Cowra for lunch at the Japanese Gardens. Afterwards we have time to explore the Gardens – designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Ken Nakajima. The 5 hectare Japanese Gardens follow the edo style walking garden of the Shugakin Imperial Villa in Kyoto built between 1655 and 1659. The garden itself is designed to represent the landscape of Japan and features a stream cascading in waterfalls into two large ponds. Later this afternoon we travel to Wagga Wagga for our last night on tour. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Garden City Motor Inn Wagga Wagga
Day 8 (BL): Wagga to Melbourne
After breakfast we head for home via Benalla. In 1974, the Broken River, which the town lies on, was dammed, creating an attractive and wide waterway known as Lake Benalla. Swimming and boating activities are popular on the lake which is surrounded by parkland and walking tracks. On the western bank of the river lies the town's botanical gardens which feature an art gallery, the Sir Weary Dunlop Memorial Statue and Benalla's famous Rose Gardens which are home to a large variety of colourful roses. The eastern bank of Lake Benalla is lined with a recreational park adjacent to the council offices and a network of bicycle and walking tracks which traverse several islands that exist in the lake. We enjoy lunch before returning to Melbourne to complete our 8 Day Tour. (Breakfast/Lunch)
From $1720 per person sharing a twin or double room (minimum 30 people). Add $320 for a guaranteed single room.
Tour Price includes accommodation as per the itinerary, meals as indicated (B= Cooked breakfast, L= Light or packed lunch, D = Buffet or limited choice dinner) deluxe touring coach with seat belts, attractions/entries as noted.
Terms and Conditions
Contact ARJ with the preferred dates your Club would like to travel. ARJ will then confirm all the arrangements in your Club Name – subject to availability. The Club’s Group Organiser or Tour Manager should then collect a minimum deposit $200 per person from those members who wish to travel on the tour. ARJ will fully refund this amount for anyone who cancels up to 60 days from departure. The deposit becomes non refundable within 60 days of departure. Balance of payment is due 30 days prior to departure. Any cancellation within 30 days of departure attracts an additional cancellation fee of $200 per person. No refund inside 7 days. Travel insurance is strongly recommended.
All itineraries are subject to change due to occasional restrictions in opening times/days of some attractions, e.g. churches, wineries etc. We cannot be held responsible for any changes due to closures, inclement weather etc.