Southern Outback Queensland & Lightning Ridge
There are a couple of choices for travelling over the QLD/NSW border to Lightning Ridge. Our first intention was via Nindigully -Thallon-Murigindi. However, locals advised that after recent rain, there had been some washouts on the road which had unsealed parts. Unfortunately, this meant missing the Thallon murals and other local sights, it is best, though to heed local advice, particularly for unsealed roads.
After farewelling St George with breakfast at St George Bakery, we headed along the sealed Castlereagh Highway towards Dirranbandi, a short 1 hour drive.
Located on the traditional lands of the Kooma people, the indigenous population here identify as Gamilaroi. And what a lovely spot for the township, with the town reserve surveyed around 1885. This makes Dirranabandi a comparatively young town, with a population of approximately 700, which varies each year as seasonal workers stay whilst working for the cotton farmers.
Around 9kms from the township, is the largest cotton producing property in the Southern Hemisphere. The 80,000 hectare (over 197,600 acres), Cubbie Station and their cotton ginnery, making them the major employer for this area. This station also is the largest irrigated station in the Southern Hemisphere, being a role model for inland Australia’s sustainable development, both ecologically and economically.
Such a beautifully clean township with plenty of interesting structures to see as you wander the reserve stretching the legs.
But, the jewel in the crown was quite possibly, the Dirranbandi Bakery. Decorated with reminders of the owners home Russia, including simply gorgeous tea sets, this spacious bakery was very popular.
Multitudes of sweet delights and pastries, beckoned from their various cabinets. Stocking up on supplies for ‘later’, it was time to continue a short 45 minutes to Hebel.
Located close to the border, Hebel’s population is around 70, with the township boasting a pub, General Store and Camping ground. All which have withstood the passing of time, reminiscent of the good ole days.
Being around 4kms from the QLD/NSW border, Hebel was originally established as a border town with a customs post, around 1886. Once part of the trail for Cobb & Co and a with the pub previously a hideout for the Ned Kelly gang, Hebel has its fair share of history to share.
An easy 45 minute drive from Hebel and you arrive in Lightning Ridge, opal country. Our accommodation here, was the easily located Bluey’s Motel, directly across the road from the Bowls Club.
More about Lightning Ridge, in the next story. Cannot give it all away here!