Life feels a bit hurried but we did pretty much completely tune out and switch off for a few days with our short escape to Lightning Ridge. Loved Lightning Ridge, it is a unique place, with a very different vibe and character. It has a kind of rough and ready character, down to earth, get things done, no BS kind of place, it may not appeal to everyone, but I really loved it.
It is unique in so many ways, a wide open space with a kind of moonscape landscape, wherever opal mining is occurring and yet it is not an unattractive landscape. There is a kind of rustic aesthetic that is really appealing. Recent rains have made the place look fresh and green. The locals are friendly, down to earth, easy to engage in conversation and I really enjoyed the experience. I can easily see why people come for a visit and end up staying, it is that kind of place. The kind of place that speaks to the adventurous soul, the free thinker, the misfit.
We stayed at a really great park; Opal caravan park Lightning Ridge. Some parks can have everything you could ever want and still feel kind of cold and characterless, even unwelcoming, not the Opal caravan park. This great little park is beautifully positioned and perfectly designed, with flat drive through sites and while the park is unsurprisingly rock and dirt, there are regularly positioned little green oasis of green lawn with shady trees despite the dry environs. Communal fire pits are also located on these little green centres, so if you are looking for a bit of company and conversation the fire pits are a welcoming sanctuary. All the usual facilities are provided, some of the bathrooms are particularly comfortable and everything is clean and well cared for. You have the option of en suite sites if you so desire. The park also has a small pool which is appreciated, especially on hot days and the days can be very hot at Lightning Ridge. There are several camp kitchens, all well equipped with BBQs. There is a pavilion for entertainment when available, and it also hosts a coffee shop, open in the mornings.
What was really appreciated though was the welcoming, friendly vibe of the place, the friendly staff, the enthusiastic knowledge and support of the local area and community. And what was extra special was the doggy day care the park offered! For $5 for a half day we were able to leave Ada to spend a morning doing some dog free exploring. The staff were great, I think Ada hardly missed us, she ended up in with a couple of other large dogs and staff let me know that other than a little anxious panting at the start, she coped really well and seemed pretty happy with the arrangement for the day. I had warned them she had not been left alone a lot and to just give us a call if needed but Ada settled in. While I suspect she does miss us, she coped well and liked the staff and her new canine friends. They have a couple of separate large runs for the dogs and as long as they get on, they will put a couple of dogs together for company. I felt confident in leaving her with staff as they seemed to provide knowledgeable, caring over sight and the resident lab welcomed Ada into the fold. We really appreciated this extra service and the park was very dog friendly with lots of dogs at the park and all well behaved. There was a dog off leash area, although it was a bit prickly and small for Ada to have a serious romp in.
Lightning Ridge in general was very dog friendly with several venues openly welcoming our hound. G and I will sometimes take turns waiting with Ada while one of us will visit a location/store and then swap over but while at the opal centre they invited Ada in, with a: “she’ll be right, bring her in, she’s not going to bite anyone is she?” Ada was a bit suspicious of the dinosaur coming through the wall but seemed to accept it as par for the course in Lightning Ridge.
The park also provided a booking service for tours and helpful advice. They had their own fossicking area where the spoil from the mines is regularly dropped, so you can try your hand at finding some of the smaller less obvious pieces the miners have missed. The miners are really only interested in the larger more valuable pieces and the fossicking areas like this one often contain smaller, less valuable finds and fossils.
After the doggy day care the best thing about the opal caravan park was it’s location: right across the road from the free artesian bore pool! More to come on the pleasures of Lightning Ridge.