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Hunt for opals in White Cliffs

Opal Mining, White CliffsCREDIT: Destination NSW

Head to Outback NSW to explore White Cliffs, an opal-mining town with a difference.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Hunt for opals
in White Cliffs

Opal Mining, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Head to Outback NSW to explore White Cliffs, an opal-mining town with a difference.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Hashtags #lovensw #newsouthwales

In northwest New South Wales, the small town of White Cliffs has a big history as Australia’s first commercial opal field. Add it to your next outback NSW road-trip itinerary to discover its fascinating mining history, spend a night in an underground hotel, and more.  

Staking a claim 

The remote outback NSW town of White Cliffs is a 12-hour drive northwest of Sydney, or a 2.5-hour drive from the regional hub of Broken Hill. It was founded in the late 1880s after a couple of stock hands found colourful rocks and sent them off to Adelaide to be analysed. Those sparkling rocks turned out to be opals — the first commercial seam opals to be discovered. As well as flat opal stones, White Cliffs produces the highly sought-after double pseudomorph opals, commonly known as ‘pineapple opals’ because of their distinctive spiky shape.  

To get a sense of opal mining, visit Red Earth Opal, the world’s only company mining and dealing in pineapple opals. Take a tour with owner Graeme Dowton, who’ll tell you all about the town’s mining history, demonstrate mining equipment and give you the chance to try it yourself. If you don’t have any luck, you can buy gems from the Red Earth Opal’s shop, which doubles as a gallery and coffee house. 

Under the Mining Act of 1992, anyone can fossick on the White Cliffs Reserve and no licence is required; however, many miners have registered claims that should be respected. 

Red Earth Opal, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Couple enjoying a guided tour at Red Earth Opal, White Cliffs with Graeme Dowton.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Red Earth Opal, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Couple enjoying a guided tour at Red Earth Opal, White Cliffs with Graeme Dowton.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Going underground 

Today, the White Cliffs landscape is littered with around 50,000 disused diggings, which gives the town its lunar landscape. Many of these ‘dugouts’ have been converted into comfortable homes that provide respite from the high temperatures above ground. The White House, an architecturally designed dugout and the home of a local couple, offers tours each day at 11am and 2pm — look for the sign 150m back from Red Earth Opal.  

Red Earth Opal, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Red Earth Opal is home of the rare double Pseudomorph, commonly known as the White Cliffs opal pineapple.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Red Earth Opal, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Red Earth Opal is home of the rare double Pseudomorph, commonly known as the White Cliffs opal pineapple.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Exploring above ground 

Although only around 150 people live in White Cliffs today, plenty of heritage relics remain. The original post office is still in use, the old church and butcher shop are still standing, and the former police station has been converted into a private residence. The White Cliffs Hotel has hosted guests since 1893; come for a good pub meal or stay overnight.

White House Dugout Tour, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Kitchen and living area shown during the underground White House Dugout Tour in White Cliffs.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

White House Dugout Tour, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Kitchen and living area shown during the underground White House Dugout Tour in White Cliffs.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Staying cool 

If you want to live like the locals for a night or two, book in at the White Cliffs Underground Motel. Dug into Poor Man’s Hill — so named due to the lack of opal — the motel opened in 1989 and has gradually expanded to the size of a football field underground, with 30 rooms under the earth and two above.  

The hotel’s facilities, including bathrooms, are shared. Within the complex you’ll find a games room, a history and culture centre, an art gallery and shop, a bar, restaurant and café. You can also have a dip in the pool and take in the views of the surrounding landscape, and imagine the inland sea that once existed here. 

Opal Mining, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Head to outback NSW to explore White Cliffs, an opal-mining town with a difference.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Opal Mining, White Cliffs CREDIT: Destination NSW

Head to outback NSW to explore White Cliffs, an opal-mining town with a difference.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

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