Any visit to Lightning Ridge should start with an orientation trip with Black Opal Tours (tel. 02/6829 0368; www.blackopaltours.com.au). The company offers 3-hour tours starting at 8:30am, 9:30am, and 1:30pm (Mar-Oct only). Tours cost A$30 for adults and A$12 for kids, and a family A$68.
The 15m-tall (49-ft.) Amigo's Castle, dominates the worked-out opal fields surrounding the modern township of Lightning Ridge. Complete with turrets, battlements, dungeons, and a wishing well, the castle has been rising out of these arid lands for the past 18 years, with every rock scavenged from the surrounding area and lugged in a wheelbarrow or in a rucksack on Amigo's back. Black Opal Tours visits this place on its tours.
The Artesian Bore Baths, 2km (1 1/4 miles) from the post office on Pandora Street, are free, open 24 hours a day, and said to have therapeutic value. The water temperature hovers between 104°F and 122°F (40°C-50°C). A visit at night, when the stars are out, is amazing.
Bevan's Black Opal & Cactus Nursery (tel. 02/6829 0429) contains more than 2,000 species of cactus and succulent plants, including rare specimens. Betty Bevan cuts opals from the family's mine, and many are on display. Admission is A$10 to the cactus nursery, free for kids.
Lightning Ridge has plenty of opal shops, galleries, walk-in opal mines, and other unique things to see. You might want to take a look at Gemopal Pottery (tel. 02/6829 0375), on the road to the Bore Baths. The resident potter makes some nice pots out of clay mine tailings and lives in one of his five old Sydney railway carriages.
The Bottle House, 60 Opal St. (tel. 02/6829 0618), is worth seeing too. Originally a miner's camp, the Bottle House now houses an astonishing collection of artifacts and other items of curious interest. It's open from 9am to 5pm daily, and entry costs A$10 for adults (free for kids).
The Walk in Mine (tel. 02/6829 0473) is just what it says. Hear the tales and stories told of mining and witness for yourself the hardships that the miners endured to find that elusive black opal. Open daily from 9am to 5pm. Entry costs A$16 for adults and A$6 for kids.
The Big Opal Underground Mine Tour (tel. 02/6829 0247) is a tour of another underground mine. You can take a self-guided tour costing A$10, or go on an informative guided tour at 9am or 1pm costing A$22. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.