Located in the north-west of NSW, White Cliffs is a pioneering town born through the discovery of opal in the 1890s.
While the days of great prosperity have past, the town today is characterised by an air of optimism, eccentricity, ingenuity and an enduring sense of peace and quiet.
Kangaroo shooters first found the fiery white crystal opals on the ground in 1889 and a year later the rush was on. By the turn of the century about 4000 people were digging and sifting for treasure, creating the lunar landscape that remains.
The captivating town belies its small, dusty and ramshackle appearance, and harbours an ‘old’ soul, immense skies and a colour palette that will take your breath away. The opal-rich country around White Cliffs appears at first like a moonscape, with the craters of more than 50,000 mines dotted as far as the eye can see.
Really get under the skin of White Cliffs by visiting opal showrooms, trying your hand at fossicking, or stopping in at the photographic gallery. The White Cliffs Outback Store forms the hub of the community and is therefore well worth a look, too; it provides good, honest and generous meals as well as fuel and supplies.
Being underground is a way of life here and certainly the most pleasant way to deal with summer when temperatures can soar to more than 50 degrees. To escape the summer heat, houses are built underground in mine shafts where the temperature is a constant 23 degrees.
If you want to experience this for yourself, the White Cliffs Underground Motel provides a taste of life underground. Nestled into the side of a mesa known locally as ‘Poor Man’s Hill’ due to its lack of opal, the motel has operated for more than 20 years and attracts visitors from around the world.
And for a true taste of local living, consider Underground Retreat; a three bedroom self-contained underground home built in a former opal mine.
When above ground expect to see lava-like sunsets that span the horizon and, after the sun has gone down, a crystal clear mass of stars.
The town is filled with friendly, quirky and welcoming locals, all of whom have dreams and ambitions deeply rooted in the rock and landscape that has withstood the test of time over millions of years. White Cliffs is a one-of-a-kind experience and, at only three hours from Broken Hill, it’s just waiting to be explored.