Think of ‘Australia’ and ‘Paradise’ in the same sentence and I’ll bet you’re thinking tropical. White sandy beaches, palms and and clear blue sea. Colourful fish, corals and lush rainforest. Balmy, moonlit nights and cocktails under the stars.
But that splendid vision – while undeniably fabulous – is only one of many versions of utopia in this country of diverse delights. We never know where we’ll find it next – so we keep our minds AND eyes wide open!!
Even so, to discover the ultimate paradise in remote Outback opal mining town White Cliffs was a surprise, even by our standards.
But to find it lasted for exactly 7-and-a-half minutes was completely unexpected!
In the depths of the remote New South Wales Outback, White Cliffs isn’t the sort of place you stumble across by accident, unless you’re lost or maybe on the run. But whoever you are, and however you arrive, there’s a paradise for everyone in this small (~200 population) community’s many attractions.
For a start there’s the scenery. The endless blue skies over the vast moonscape of the opal mines, pocked with slag heaps and scattered with genuine Aussie dunnies. The colours and light unique to this archetypal outback landscape have inspired more than one artist and photographer! But this lasts WAAAAAAY more than 7-and-a-half minutes!
Then there’s the opal. The first commercial opal field in Australia, and the only place in the world where ‘White Cliffs Pineapple’ opal is found, the unbelievable landscape left by thousands of abandoned mines still attracts opal hunters.
But we didn’t even have to leave the excellent Opal Pioneer Caravan Park to find it – a few questions about the town’s attractions and the manager was pressing bits of opal into my open and willing hands! Even our amateurish fossicking field foray was ‘successful’ – even though the few bits of ‘colour’ we found didn’t amount to a hill of beans in the REAL world of opal trading!! Paradise could be a chunk of high quality black opal – but I’d want a bit more than 7-and-a-half minutes worth for the kind of money I’d need to get me one!
But it’s almost worth NOT finding your own opal when the local dealers offer world class experiences. The 50,000 stubbies* from which Joe’s Opal Showroom is made house fabulous opal jewellery, gifts and artwork, for example. And (arguably) the cheapest above ground opal mine tour in the world is on offer at the Red Earth Opal Showroom and Cafe!
A fine substitute for those (all right, ME) too gutless to follow Pilchard’s lead down a 45 ft shaft on a shaky iron ladder into the depths of the owner’s mine …
And there’s more unique experiences up for grabs on the self-guided White Cliffs Heritage trail tour. The interpretive signs give fascinating snippets of local history and the tour takes you through all the town’s vantage points – and the colourful array of opal field dwellings. Ironically, despite being the first of its kind in Australia (and possibly the world), the innovative White Cliffs Solar Power station is no longer operational, with town power supplied from the grid.
But the golf course IS functional – and provides a unique challenge to those more accustomed to conventional courses. But enticing as these attractions are, do they comprise the ultimate paradise? No way! And even the most experienced golfer needs more than 7-and-a-half minutes to get round THIS course!!!
We didn’t need the helpful ranger at the eco-friendly Paroo-Darling National Park Visitor’s Centre to tell us we’d landed in bird watcher’s heaven! The Nankeen Kestrel on the ‘White Cliffs’ sign at the town entrance did that! As did Orange Chat, Stubble Quail and Horsfield’s Bushlark feeding in the gutters on the Tibooburra road, and Chestnut-crowned Babbler and Chirruping Wedgebill rampaging in the scrub around the fossicking pits.
The early morning splendour of this water-bird filled dam and sightings of dry country nomad White-fronted Honeyeater made up for the tyre-shreddingly rugged road to massive Lake Peery – full on our June 2011 visit.
Meaning we didn’t get to see the artesian mound springs on the lake bed that provide a habitat for the rare salt pipe wort (eriocaulon carsonii) when the lake is dry! Paradise, yes. Ultimate? Not quite …
So what DOES the ultimate 7-and-a-half minute paradise look like?
Before we got to White Cliffs, the magnificent setting of our campsite at Lake Pamamaroo made up for the nearest loo being 1 km and the nearest fresh water 16 km down the road. And after 6 nights of severely curtailed ablutions also due to a) low temperatures; b) the absence of a shower block; and c) minimal gas and water? Well … you figure it out!! The excitement of having possibly the only Milo-swigging, bird watching, pyromaniac, fisherman partner on the continent was starting to wear off …
So as darkness fell on our first night in White Cliffs and the temperature plummeted, Pilchard and I headed for the caravan park amenities. Where for the absolute bargain price of $1, a wondrous heart-stoppingly blissful geyser of HOT water poured through the shower. For exactly 7-and-a-half minutes!!
That’s what I’m talking about! Paradise!!
And not a palm tree in sight!
- Where is White Cliffs?
- White Cliffs general information
- White Cliffs Scenic Public Toilet
- White Cliffs ‘Pineapple’ opal
- Paroo-Darling National Park and Lake Peery
- White Cliffs Solar Power Station
- Lake Pamamaroo, Menindee Lakes
* One stubby = one 375 ml beer bottle