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White Cliffs

White Cliffs is a well serviced little town with petrol, food and accommodation. White Cliffs is a fascinating place with a number of attractions including the Solar Power Station, old opal mine workings and art galleries. See how the locals live underground. White Cliffs Tourism (08) 8091 6611 or Broken Hill Tourism (08) 8087 6077.

Spend five minutes in White Cliffs and your head will fill with questions: why, who, how......when? At least some of the answers can be found on the White Cliffs Heritage Trail, after that you're on your own! Fossilised Dinosaurs, pioneering opal miners and tales of beer well shaken and warm, all await you on the trail. Download and follow the map on this page, and the directional markers along the trail to experience the early days of the Australian Outback. Be sure to visit the other Heritage Trails in Menindee, White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Tilpa and Broken Hill.

How To Find Us?

From Broken Hill drive the Barrier Highway then turn at Wilcannia to the sealed Wilcannia-White Cliffs 'OPAL MINERS WAY', a trip of approximately three hours. The road is suitable for all vehicles, you don't need a 4WD to visit us!

If you are in Bourke head down to Louth, Tilpa and across to White Cliffs, a gravel surface road partly following the Darling River Run and passing through the Paroo Darling National Park.

Cobar is approximately four hours away, turn off the Barrier Highway at Wilcannia.

Where Pioneering Is A Way Of Life....

White Cliffs is unique! There is more to be discovered than opal in them thar hills!

Precious seam opal was discovered in White Cliffs in the 1890's and opal from this field was the first to be marketed overseas (giving White Cliffs the distinction of being known as Australia's first Commercial Opal field).

Opal as a gem has long been admired, the Romans considered opal a symbol of hope, a gem with 'a rainbow locked inside'. The Arabs also had an affinity with opal believing the gemstone fell from heaven in flashes of lightning. Shakespeare too had a word to say about opal, calling it 'the queen of gems'.

Scientifically the brilliant colours of opal are produced by the diffraction of light in the layers of silica spheres in its composition.

As the Roman historian Pliny wrote opal had 'the fire of the carbuncle, the brilliant purple of the amethyst, and the sea-green colour of the emerald, all shining together in incredible union'. It is little wonder miners have long sought the elusive stone.

As the word spread of the discovery in White Cliffs, opal miners came to seek their fortunes on the field, many were successful, many more were not. Conditions were at times unbearable-bad water, disease and the extreme temperatures took their toll.

To escape the high summer temperatures, early miners soon began to live in their working mines enjoying the constant underground temperature in the mid twenties all year round. These were known as 'dugouts' and became home for many miners.

The mining field is often described as a 'lunar landscape', it has been estimated that at the height of mining activities 50,000 holes were dug, largely by hand, and when seen from the air the description applies!

One hundred years ago more than four thousand people called White Cliffs home. Today pioneering is still a way of life for our residents yet history and technology can be found side by side.

Today modern Dugout homes provide a unique housing style for many White Cliffs residents-with all the conveniences of any modern home but being environmentally friendly little heating or cooling is required.

Current figures put the population at 210 but not everyone lives underground. There are approx. 140 dugouts and about 20 substantial above ground dwellings.

Here in this sunlight-rich environment you find Australia's first Experimental Solar Power Station, see our few remaining historic buildings as well as marvel at unique geological formations, opal 'pineapples', found only in White Cliffs opal fields.

Check out the surrounding region, Menindee Lakes, and the many National Parks-Mutawintji, Paroo-Darling, Sturt, Kinchega and Mungo to name a few.

We invite you to explore and enjoy all we offer the visitor to our unique area.

Some Of The Unique Things To See And Do In This Area

  • Visit Dugout homes.
  • Fossick for opal in the 'Old Field'area-40 acres have been declared an historic field.
  • Learn the town history by following the Heritage Trail.
  • See the Dugout Museum fashioned from an old mine.
  • Visit the many underground Opal Showrooms where opalised fossils as well as rough, cut and polished opal can be seen.
  • Sleep underground or stay above ground if you prefer.
  • Bring your caravan or tent and stay in the pleasant town caravan/camping area
  • Meet local characters.

How Do We Describe Our Area?

White Cliffs is in a semi-arid area of Far Western NSW, as such you will find stands of eucalypts, mulga, leopardwoods (quite a variety of trees in fact but not in forests as you would find in coastal areas). There is a variety of low shrubs and grasses.

In White Cliffs itself much regeneration work has been done as, it must be remembered, many trees were cut down to provide materials for housing and shoring up mine shafts!