White Cliffs

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White Cliffs makes a great grey nomad destination
Let’s see ... where shall we start digging?

White Cliffs is one of those Outback destinations that no grey nomad visitor will ever forget.

Even before travellers reach the town itself, it’s clear this place is different … very dif­ferent. The moonscape-like landscape is dotted with tens of thousands of holes, each of which is surrounded by piles of dirt. These ant’s nest-like diggings were created by an army of ever-hopeful opal miners … and somehow rep­resent perfectly the never-say-die spirit of the town.

The quest for the elusive gemstone is what has defined White Cliffs, located 100 kilometres north of Wilcannia in remote western New South Wales. After opals were first found here back in 1884, the town’s population soared to around 5,000. Now, just 200 or so people live here, with many more gem-hunting characters arriving –and stay­ing – for the cooler months.

On the surface, the town has have a wild and woolly frontier-like feel, but most of the ‘buildings’ here are under­ground. Resourceful miners have dug themselves veritable mansions in the sandstone, delivering year-round cool de­spite the searing temperatures above.

Some grey nomads choose to take a break from the van or motorhome to spend a memorable night or two in the ‘cool’ underground visitor accommodation available. There is also a caravan park in town though, and some of the neighbouring stations also welcome grey nomads to camp in their motorhomes or caravans. It’s all an amazing experience.

White Cliffs may be small but there is no shortage of things to do, with mine tours top of the list, along with a visit to an opal shop, or an opal mining museum. The best way to get your bearings is to follow the self-guided heritage trail that has been created to direct

visitors to a dozen significant sites around town

Among the spots to look out for are St Mary’s Anglican Church, the General Store, the Post Office (which is built out of corrugated iron and gets hot!), and the Pioneer Children’s Cemetery (which includes the graves of chil­dren who died from typhoid, and of a man who died from thirst.) Fascinating stuff!

But there’s more to White Cliffs than opals and opal-related history. This is the home town of famed Aussie cricketer Bill O’Reilly, and it’s also the site of Australia’s first ever solar power station built way back in 1981, and it’s probably the only place to have a house built out of more than 50,000 stubbie bottles. Wow!

For grey nomads who set out on the Big Lap to discover the ‘real’ Australia, White Cliffs could be described as ‘it’.

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