About The Grawin
If you think the Ridge is unique, head out to the Grawin; the opal fields where it all began. Full of unique welcoming characters, a landscape that often resembles a moonscape, a few places to wet the whistle along the way, and even a place to swing the clubs. The Grawin is a not to be missed experience.
The Grawin, located about 40 km south-west of Lightning Ridge, refers to the group of opal fields made of Grawin, Glengarry, Sheepyard, and Mulga Rush.
Opal was first discovered in the region in 1905 by Charles Phipp while working on Morendah Station (a few kms to the east of Grawin), but little mining was carried out there at the time.
With the discovery of opal at Hammond Hill in 1908, The Grawin was established and further discoveries at Richards Hill in 1920 saw the establishment of a small village.
Early opal mining in the area, was a lot more difficult than that of today (not that anyone would describe opal mining as easy) with picks and shovels to dig ground and hand operated windlass’ to get it all to the surface. Add to that, it was all done by the light of a candle.
In 1928, an opal named ‘The Light of the Worlds’, which was the size of a man’s fist and weighed 0.45kg was unearthed at Richards Hill. This huge opal caused a flurry of activity and inflow of miners seeking to make their fortune on the Grawin opal fields.
During the 1950’s, post-war technology enabled more technology to be used in mining and with it came electrically generated light, motorised hoists as well as electric jackhammers. These innovations enabled a lot more opal dirt to be extracted and also opened the door for more potential miners as the task of opal miner become ‘easier’; the process that is, not finding the elusive stone.
Although mining at Glengarry had been going on for some time, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that Glengarry become the focus for opal mining in the region due some good early finds.
The 1980’s was a boom time for a lot of the country and the Grawin shared the experiences of the heady time with a opal rush that started on Melbourne Cup day, 1985, when the an opal named 'Sheepyard Rush' was unearthed. It was on for young and old, and with it came the short-throw tipping hoist and tip-trucks to remove the soil. It was becoming big scale and led to the more stream-lined process of ‘rickshaw to wheelbarrow to hoist’.
'Carters Rush' was the next big event in the 1990’s and with it saw the introduction of blowers, which were primarily giant vacuum cleaners, as well as hydraulic diggers and boggers.
The new millennium brought with it the 'Mulga Rush' in 2000, and was the biggest rush since the rush at Corcoran opal field in the early 1900s.
Today, the Grawin is still actively mined and now the mining exists with efforts to attract more visitors to the area as a way of spreading the opal experience and giving visitors an insight to the life on an opal field.
The Grawin Tour
The Grawin is an easy 40km drive south-west of Lightning Ridge. Heading back out of town then along the Bill O’Brien Way (Morella Street) and back to the Castlereagh Highway and turn left towards Walgett, after about 8km, turn right onto Cumborah-Lightning Ridge Road.
From there, it is 36km to Cumborah, at which you turn right and proceed another 13km and you will see the turnoff to The Grawin on the left. Then just follow the signs (and car doors) to do the loop.
A word of warning before heading into the area. It is a working mine area and as such, be very careful about walking around/through the mining areas as open shafts and mining operations can be dangerous and also, it can be viewed as trespassing. And under no circumstances dig or pickup material from the mining area without permission of the mine owner/operator. Taking from someone’s claim, or ‘ratting’, is not taken kindly and is akin to stealing.
The first point of interest, besides the masses of mine openings, will be the ‘Club in the Scrub’ which is not only a great place for a feed and drink, but also a round of golf. One not to miss!
Grawin Opal Miner's Club
Phone: 02 6829 3810 - Grawin Opal Fields (60+kms from Lightning Ridge)
Have a yarn with the miners, or some laughs in the games room over a game of table tennis, snooker or darts. Check out the wildlife on our golf course while you sip a refreshing ale.
Opening Hours: 11am till late Everyday
Features: Bistro Thursday to Saturday night and Sunday lunch. Fresh sandwiches available daily. Free camping, Golf Course, Tuesday night Bingo and Saturday night entertainment.
Refreshed and with a few holes played is the mood takes you, time to continue around the loop to the Hilton… well, the Glengarry Hilton which is not as posh as its namesake, but better in so many other ways.
Phone: 02 6829 3983 - Glengarry Opal Fields. (60+kms from Lightning Ridge)
Experience the delights of the Glengarry "Hilton", nestled in the heart of the infamous Glengarry Opal field. Nothing like the Sydney Hilton but with lots more atmosphere, the Glengarry Hilton is a unique pub & its inhabitants will keep you intrigued for hours.
Opening Hours: 11 am till late.
Features: Backpacker style air-conditioned accommodation $16.00 p.p includes breakfast. Meals & snacks are available everyday & can cater for large groups.
Having played golf and eaten at the Hilton, it’s now time to head to the Sheepyard. This opal field is so named as the first opal of the field was found at near the sheepyard and after long deliberation and much consultation with the locals, they decided to call it Sheepyard. And the place of choice to eat and have a beverage has to be the Sheepyard Inn… ‘has to’ as it is the only one. Like the ‘Club’ and the ‘Hilton’, Sheepyard Inn is a unique outback experience and the locals will welcome with that infectious outback hospitality.
Phone: 02 6829 3932 - 1 Anzac Parade
Sheepyard Inn: A truly unique bush Pub. Ice cold beer, groceries & gas and local tourist information. Located approximately 70km NW of Walgett and 70km W of Lightning Ridge in the heart of the NSW Opal Fields, the Sheepyard Inn offers a completely unique outback experience. Come along and share a cold beer, cooked meal, great yarn, with local miners and other colourful characters. Enjoy a free game of pool, and some amazing photo opportunities. See you there! Open hrs: 11:00am - Late 7 Days. Products & Services Free camp area available Shower and toilets Groceries and gas available Local baker on site with fresh bread daily Tour groups welcome and tourist information available. There are walls of great Pubobilia.