There is a lot of unsealed road on this tour and it can be rough in parts. Located around 70kms from The Ridge, turning right off the highway, just after the big Emu, you will find the road leading you into the vast opal mine area. A 4WD isn’t required during dry weather, but definitely not a drive for a low hung sports car! Our Ford Territory took the trip easily in its stride.
The longest of the car door tours, the Orange car door tour, does need a majority of your day put aside as it is a bit of drive, but one which is highly worthwhile.
The first stop on the Garwin Opal Fields Orange Car Door Tour, is the Club in the Scrub. Fully licenced with food available from 10am, this rustic pub is a delight to visit. Boasting its own 9 hole golf course, beer garden, as well as free camping, the sprawling club is full of charm, warmth and local characters. An extra little note here, the Visitor Information Centre at Lightning Ridge has some of the tour maps for $1, but, here they hand them out free, along with a dose of goodwilled advice.
At the first stop, we explored the pub and the area around, wetting the whistle with some cold ones. It was a little early for a meal here, but, we could have easily stayed all day, however those opal fields were calling!
On your way to the second pub, you drive through working opal fields (no stopping here!), as well as a beautifully set up area of remembrance. Quite a surprise to find his tidy, well kept Sheepyard Community memorial amidst the dusty, rocky fields.
The Sheepyard Inn, provides the fields area with another pub, as well as fuel and supplies. Meals here were generous and much enjoyed. Across the road from the pub are numerous vehicles from days gone by, including a double decker bus. Its very dry out here without salt water and humidity so vehicles don’t rust out as fast as they would closer to the coast.
Once you’ve had your fill, head on round to the final pub, Glengarry Hilton. You will pass some interesting miners abodes during your journey, some are very basic, with the odd one a bit more like normal living. Never stop and fossick for opals around the mine fields, there are private claims everywhere and you don’t want to be stealing someones income.
The Hilton has a mound behind the back of the old toilet area, where you can fossick happily. It takes a good eye to find anything with colour.
Theres a quirky little shop, within a very short walk of the Hilton too, be sure to check that one out. Even selling Air guitar strings and other humorous items, it really is worth a look.
Should you be expecting the Hilton to look like the Hilton Hotels, you might be in for a bit of a surprise! This pub is of similar rustic, quirky design to the other two. Once you’ve satisfied you’ve seen all you want to see and picked up some souvenirs, follow the circuit road back.