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Lightning Ridge road trip

Artesian Bore Baths, Lightning RidgeCREDIT: Destination NSW

Take an invigorating soak in Lightning Ridge’s artesian bore baths.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Lightning
Ridge road trip

Artesian Bore Baths, Lightning Ridge CREDIT: Destination NSW

Take an invigorating soak in Lightning Ridge’s artesian bore baths.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Hashtags #lovensw #newsouthwales

Looking for a different outback New South Wales road trip option? Then set your satnav for Lightning Ridge. The historic opal mining town is a nine-hour drive northwest of Sydney, and there are plenty of great stops to make along the way. 

This seven-day itinerary won’t just take you to Lightning Ridge, but also get you all the way back to Sydney. With 1,500km to cover, it’s a road trip best suited to couples or a small group of friends who can share the driving; with sealed roads all the way, you can undertake this journey in any type of vehicle.  

Highlights: 

  • Sipping fine wines at the cellar doors of Mudgee and the Hunter Valley 
  • Exploring atmospheric outback towns like Coonamble with its Art Deco architecture  
  • Taking a relaxing soak in Lightning Ridge’s artesian bore baths under a twinkling night sky  

Day 1: Sydney – Blue Mountains 

Depart Sydney for the 90-minute drive west to Katoomba in the heart of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, where you can enjoy superb views of the Three Sisters rock formation at the Echo Point Lookout, go for bushwalks, and browse antiques stores to your heart’s content. Katoomba has plenty of cafes (try Pomegranate Cafe or the Yellow Deli) but for a smart meal to remember, book a table at award-winning Darley’s Restaurant at Lilianfels Resort and Spa. Treat yourself to a night here, too, or opt for one of Katoomba’s many cosy guesthouses.  

Day 2: Blue Mountains – Mudgee 

It’s only two hours’ drive northwest of Katoomba to the relaxed wine region of Mudgee, leaving you plenty of time to start your day with a Blue Mountains bushwalk before an afternoon of wine tasting. Try Logan Wines, the first winery on your way into Mudgee, or First Ridge, closer to town, which has a striking cellar door built out of shipping containers. On a stroll through Mudgee’s attractive town centre, you’ll also find plenty of boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants — try Eltons for a casual dinner in the 1896 Eltons Pharmacy building. While you’re out and about, pick up some nibbles from High Valley Mudgee Cheese Co to snack on during the next day’s drive. 

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains CREDIT: Filippo Rivetti

Sunrise over the Three Sisters and Mount Solitary in the Blue Mountains National Park, Katoomba.

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Three Sisters, Blue Mountains CREDIT: Filippo Rivetti

Sunrise over the Three Sisters and Mount Solitary in the Blue Mountains National Park, Katoomba.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Logan Wines, Mudgee CREDIT: Destination NSW

Woman enjoying a round of wine tasting at Logan Wines, Mudgee.

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Logan Wines, Mudgee CREDIT: Destination NSW

Woman enjoying a round of wine tasting at Logan Wines, Mudgee.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Day 3: Mudgee – Coonamble 

Set off along the Castlereagh Highway to the small town of Coonamble, 264km north of Mudgee, and spend your afternoon admiring the town’s Art Deco architectural influences. Don’t miss the Outback Arts Centre, a small gallery displaying locally made ceramics, sculpture, and more. 

Alternatively, take a detour to Warrumbungle National Park via the Newell Highway and stretch your legs on one of the park’s many walking trails. If it’s a clear night consider camping here to enjoy the spectacular stargazing opportunities in Australia’s first Dark Sky Park.  

Day 4-5: Coonamble – Lightning Ridge 

It’s only 190km (or two hours’ drive) to Lightning Ridge from Coonamble (or just over three hours from Warrumbungle National Park). Once settled into one of the town’s holiday parks or bed and breakfasts (Sonja’s Bed and Breakfast is a popular choice) it’s time to explore ‘The Ridge’. There are plenty of activities to keep you occupied: shop for precious gems, take an opal mine tour, try your hand at fossicking, or explore the town’s quirky arts scene — don’t miss the John Murray Gallery and Chambers of the Black Hand, which features engravings in an underground mine. Other attractions include the Heritage Cottage Museum, housed in a1932 miner’s hut, and the Australian Opal Centre, where you can view rare fossils from the age of the dinosaurs, and learn how to cut and polish an opal.  

After dinner (try Bruno’s Italian Restaurant), unwind in one of Lightning Ridge’s naturally heated bore baths. The outdoor pools, which have no entry fee, maintain a temperature of between 40 to 50°C and are open 24 hours a day, so you can enjoy a spot of stargazing during a nighttime soak.  

Day 6: Lightning Ridge – Gunnedah 

Take a different route back to Sydney by heading east on the Kamilaroi Highway just before you reach the town of Walgett on the Castlereagh Highway. Roughly half-way, the agricultural town of Gunnedah makes a good place to spend the night. Allow time to explore the country towns of Wee Waa (Australia’s cotton capital) and Narrabri (where you can visit the Paul Wild Observatory, which is used for radio astronomy) along the way. When you arrive in Gunnedah, stop by the visitor’s centre for tips on where to spot the region’s thriving wild koala population before checking into your accommodation. Refurbished in 2019, the Gunnedah Hotel also has an excellent bistro.  

Day 7: Gunnedah – Sydney 

It’s a 440km drive from Gunnedah to Sydney on the main highways, but it’s worth taking the scenic route through the Hunter Valley (turn off the New England Highway onto Hermitage Road at Belford), which only adds a few kilometres to the journey. Treat yourself to a smart winery lunch showcasing Hunter Valley produce at the likes of Muse Kitchen at Keith Tulloch Wine, sister venue to two-hatted (Australia’s version of Michelin stars) Muse Restaurant, before heading back to Sydney – perhaps grabbing a few bottles from the onsite cellar door to take with you.  

Welcome Signage, Lightning Ridge CREDIT: Destination NSW

Sign welcoming visitors to Lightning Ridge.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Welcome Signage, Lightning Ridge CREDIT: Destination NSW

Sign welcoming visitors to Lightning Ridge.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Chambers of the Black Hand, Lightning Ridge CREDIT: Destination NSW

Carved and painted artwork on sandstone in the Chambers of Black Hand art gallery in Lightning Ridge.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Chambers of the Black Hand, Lightning Ridge CREDIT: Destination NSW

Carved and painted artwork on sandstone in the Chambers of Black Hand art gallery in Lightning Ridge.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

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