7-and-a-half Minutes in Paradise! White Cliffs, New South Wales

Last Updated on August 18, 2019 by Red Nomad OZ

White Cliffs Waterhole, Outback New South Wales
White Cliffs Waterhole, Outback New South Wales

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.

Welcome to White Cliffs + Kestrel!
Welcome to White Cliffs + Kestrel!

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.

Fossicking Fields, White Cliffs, Outback New South Wales
Fossicking Fields, White Cliffs, Outback New South Wales

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.

50,000 'Stubbies' and counting ...
50,000 ‘Stubbies’ and counting …

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!

50c for an above-ground mine tour - Bargain!
50c for an above-ground mine tour – Bargain!

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 …

Home on the White Cliffs Opal Fields, Outback New South Wales
Home on the White Cliffs Opal Fields, Outback New South Wales

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.

White Cliffs Golf Course
White Cliffs Golf Course

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.

Dam near White Cliffs
Dam near White Cliffs

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 …

Lake Peery, Paroo-Darling National Park via White Cliffs, NSW
Lake Peery, Paroo-Darling National Park via White Cliffs, NSW

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 …

Still life at White Cliffs
Still life at White Cliffs

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!

Want MORE?

* One stubby = one 375 ml beer bottle

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  1. Beautiful landscape, so miss it! On our first journey I had the free cold showers always, even when it was only 20C. On the second… I found paradise in Mt Isa´s tourist info 🙂
    I even spend two dollars, it was so dang cold (and Spouse was tough, he went for a cold shower, so…).
    And I was so pleased to find free hot showers near outback Roma!

  2. @Anne – Would have LOVED to stay in the underground motel … one of the disadvantages of towing!! Like you, we’d recommend it, and plan to go again!!

  3. We also visited White Cliffs last year. While we didn’t visit the lake, we did stay in the Underground Motel, which was a great experience.

    The sunrise and sunsets were spectacular from the top of one of the three hills. We also enjoyed star gazing in a crystal clear sky with no light pollution.

    We would thoroughly recommend White Cliffs to any visitor.

  4. You were able to do so many things! I would love to have a few useless trinkets of Opal to show off and admire after my trip. Your pics were great. Can’t wait till I get my own pictures of Australia!

  5. @Michaela – I wish the useless bits of opal I found would add up to enough for a spectacular piece of jewellery, but I fear not!!

  6. @Kalpana S – I’m flattered – and honoured! Of course you’re welcome to use them. Email me – I may have some others that might work as well.
    @Aiketa – I don’t know what it is about that shot, but it’s my favourite too!
    @Beach Bum – You’ll be well rewarded if you do! The Outback sky full of stars on a clear night is STUPENDOUS!
    @Mark – Why, thank you! I hope to see these places through your eyes as well some day!!

  7. Red I love your blog. Always fun and interesting.
    One day I hope to go to these places, your guides offer the quirky and off beat suggestions.

  8. @Journey Jottings – yes, I’ll remember the shower long after the opals are dust …
    @Jidhu – there’s even a kangaroo in the middle of the last pic if you look hard enough!!
    @Tina – In the Outback, sky is king!
    @Manzanita – Welcome back!! Although the sun was shining, it was generally less than 20 degrees C, so not enough heat for sunburn!! Not happy when Red is RED!
    @LadyFi – I couldn’t go ANYWHERE without my camera!!
    @Karin – The landscape is extraordinary! Leave the town and you don’t see too many other people!
    @lisa – Thank you! It’s almost impossible to take a bad shot!!
    @Jeanne – Glad you enjoyed it! Now – come on down for the real thing!!

  9. Dear Red,
    I haven’t visited the Aussie Bunch for a while. (Nor my own blog, either) I had thought, when I reached a certain age, life naturally slows down…..WRONG.

    I see a lot of color blue…. skies and water. Oh, how I love a blue sky. Australia does have the variety of geography and critters. White sand…. good place to get a sunburn really fast. 🙂 How did the Red fare there?

  10. @George – Why thank you! Come back ANYTIME with comments like this!!!
    @Bush & Beach – Plenty more where this came from!! SO much more to see!
    @Al – The ladder was the scariest thing of all … WAAAAAY down into the darkness!!
    @Dan – That’s pretty much as long as I was actually there!!
    @NixBlog – It’s a whole different light, colour palette and landscape out there!!
    @Diane – Amenities aren’t always necessary – but in this case I made an exception!!

  11. @Saucy Kod – Thank you! Great to know my words and pix aren’t dropping into some black hole …
    @diane b – Haha! What were you thinking??!! But the shower made it all worthwhile …
    @Tatjana – Thank you! The last is my favourite too – I didn’t realise how much I liked it until much later!!
    @Kath – Hahaha! I might have been in paradise for 7 1/2 mins, but I wouldn’t want to live there either!
    @ruma – I think my world is a lot warmer than yours!!
    @PDP – I wouldn’t have traded my shower for quids OR giant opals!!

  12. @River – I’m SO with you on that one, girlfriend! In fact, I’d rather have a hot shower than … well … almost ANYTHING!
    @Tito Eric – It’s amazing what you can find if you head off the beaten track …
    @Joan Elizabeth – Opal towns have a personality of their own – but they’re all different!! Enjoy!!
    @Nadege – You have to really WANT to go there, I think!!
    @Angela – Yes, I agree! Your photos really ARE the opposite!!

  13. As usual, your picture make me feel as though I had been there with you! Amazing vistas. And I do mean vistas! And, after the exceptionally described sights and the *ahem* lack of amenities, the 7 1/2 minutes of paradise sound like . . . paradise!

  14. Thank you for a fascinating (and fun) post. I enjoyed the tour of White Cliffs, and with each attraction I became more and more curious about the seven and one-half ultimate paradise. You are a marvelous writer as well as a neat photographer.

  15. It looks like a picturesque place, and that’s funny about the 7 1/2 minutes of hot water. I wouldn’t have gone down the ladder either. Nice shots!

  16. Thank you for an “aMAZEing” insight to a corner of AUS which even most Aussies don’t get to see … well done!!

  17. Excellent post Red, it’s so good for people around the world to see the ‘real’ and sometimes (often) harsh interior of Australia. Still beautiful but unforgiving if you think you can head out there not equipped adequately to deal with the unique conditions! Under circumstance like this that 7 and a half minute shower would have probably been better than finding a humongous opal!!

  18. Terrific photos, Red.

    We had friends who lived there for about five years. I think their view is that ‘seven a half minutes’ was long enough…..

  19. What a wonderful adventure you are having in life Red. I so appreciate the wealth of information you share with us and I loved this post. Fav photo early morning reflection – great beauty. THANKYOU

  20. I was with you all the way; great reading, always. Are you typing your posts while on the road; does it all go straight into your laptop when you can’t find any midnight opals anymore, and then you wait for some wild hotspot in a caravan park to zap it on up the wires to us? (I’m picturing a little of the movie RV in here)

  21. Red, I agree 150% Paradise is a hot shower! I’d be happy to personally shake the hand of whoever invented this marvel. I like the image of the fossicking fields very much. If there wasn’t a human in it I’d save it for a bookmark.

  22. @Betty – I’ve had a spot of internet trouble myself recently! Not being connected made me feel like I’d lost an arm or something!!
    @Sallie – It always confuses me when people try to define the ‘real’ Australia when it’s so big and diverse!!
    @Magsx2 – That’s my favourite because I rarely get such a good chance to photograph a completely calm water surface!!
    @Andrew – So weird it hasn’t been resurrected … there’s certainly enough sunlight to run it out there!! Next time I’ll do the tour!
    @Windsmoke – So many contrasts in this area – that’s what makes it fascinating!
    @Carole – Sadly, I’m not on the road 24/7 … but my internet access comes from the mobile phone network so I can post (and have posted!) from just about anywhere!!!

  23. @Rubye – You’re right, it IS desolate – but in a harshly beautiful way! And the ultimate paradise was only such because of what preceeded it!!
    @MJWC – The opal still IS considered unlucky in many areas! And thank you for sharing about opal therapy – now I’ve got a GREAT excuse to go get that $900 ring I admired on the opal fields …
    @FruitCake – Hahaha! I’m not one for digging around in the ground for long, but once you get started it REALLY sucks you in! The next spadeful just MIGHT contain the big one …
    @Miss Tina – Thank you!
    @TMWH – It’s easy to find these places in OZ if you’re up for it! But for every place in OZ I’ve shown you, there’s probably 100 places in your homeland I haven’t seen!
    @SFlaGuy – Beaches? Shrimps?? You HAVE been sucked in by the advertising, haven’t you?!?!?!

  24. The closed solar electricity generating plant was interesting. I suppose it was uneconomic to run it, but as symbolism, quite important I would have thought. Very nice photos. Just as well our land is resilient.

  25. Great post!

    how interesting!
    i’d love to go opal hunting.

    the lake is so beautiful!
    looks like a fascinating place to visit.

    gorgeous shots! i love every single one.

    have a great weekend!

    p.s. i was not able to connect to the internet until today, hence my late comment.

  26. So that’s were opals come from. I have always wondered. I’m starting to wonder if there are any beaches or “Shrimps on the Barbie” down under. I have really learned a lot about Australia from you and it’s nothing like I learned at the movies.

  27. You have the most amazing fun out and about! And you seem to find the most fascinating places to explore, too!

    I’m a bit jealous. 🙂

  28. Gosh we’ve made a mess of the landscape, yet in amongst all of that are some impressive sights, and a host of exciting birds.
    As for fossicking, I’d totally lack the discipline to stick at it for more than ten minutes.
    Opal therapy, MJWC? Sounds intriguing.

  29. I would love to go gemstone hunting. My sister does it at least once a year.

    Did you know at one time the opal was considered unlucky?

    Now, people use opal for therapy and supposedly it can be used for problems with the digestive organs….. something I should learn how to do.

    Great post as always Red!!

  30. It seems so desolate Red. The lake is beautiful, and the sky, and opal hunting would keep me happy for half a day, but it doesn’t look like my ultimate place to visit. It kinds of reminds me of the Oklahoma panhandle plains.

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