A common saying that I’ve heard numerous times is: “You’ve never travelled until you’ve been to India” and I agree, wholeheartedly. I’ve been to India and can understand what they’re talking about.
I want to rearrange that saying, to suit Australia, to: “You’ve never seen Australia until you’ve visited Lightning Ridge.”
Lightning Ridge is different, and so are the people who live there. It’s claimed that over 63 nationalities live in Lightning Ridge. The closest comparison to Lightning Ridge is somewhere like Coober Pedy. But for folks in NSW, Lightning Ridge is just up the road and it doesn’t take too much effort to get there. Coober Pedy takes a lot more organisation, money and travel time. So we’ll leave that for another trip.
We visited Lightning Ridge on a trip that only lasted a couple of days. But as we departed, we agreed that it was well worth the trip.
Sydney to Lightning Ridge Direct
It’s a long trip from Sydney to Lightning Ridge by train/coach. Departure time on the daily NSW Trainlink service from Sydney to Lightning Ridge is 07:19. Arrival at Lightning Ridge is 18:50. That’s over thirteen and a half hours of travel on the same day. The full fare cost from Central to Lightning Ridge is up to $83 each way. The fare for Seniors Card holders is $57.64 each way. You can view the fares on the NSW TrainLink bookings page.
Seniors Card Holders: Sydney to Lightning Ridge direct – for $7.50
This direct trip to Lightning Ridge for $7.50 can only be done on a Saturday.
The day begins with an early start aboard the 04:24 Opal service from Central (Sydney) arriving at Lithgow at 07:15. Here is the Blue Mountains Line timetable.
Once you alight from the train in Lithgow, walk up the stairs and turn to your left, out onto Lithgow’s main street. From the bus stop, out the front of the Post Office, catch the Lithgow Buslines service number 636 to Bathurst that leaves at 08:57. The bus arrives at Bathurst Railway station at 10.08. Here’s a link to the Lithgow Buslines timetable.
The good folk at Lithgow Buslines have it all worked out for us Seniors cardholders. Onboard the bus, we can use our Seniors card to purchase a Regional Excursions Daily (RED) ticket from Lithgow to Bathurst for $2.50.
The XPT train to Lighting Ridge departs Bathurst at 10:52.
Seven days or less before your departure call NSW TrainLink on 13 22 32 and make and pay for your booking, Bathurst to Lightning Ridge. Ask for the Country Pensioner Excursion (CPE) and it will cost you $2.50. You can also book online on the NSW TrainLink bookings page. Have your Seniors and credit card ready.
Sydney to Lightning Ridge – Overnight in Bathurst
You can break the journey and stay overnight in Bathurst. The suggested accommodation is across the street from Bathurst Railway Station at the newly renovated Victoria Hotel. We’ve stayed there numerous times. The hotel is clean, comfortable and serves meals. The total fare for doing the trip this way is just $2.50 (Opal) from Sydney to Bathurst and another $2.50 (NSW TrainLink) CPE ticket from Bathurst to Lightning Ridge. The total cost is $5.00, from Sydney to Lightning Ridge.
Sydney to Bathurst
There are two Opal services a day that departs Sydney (Central) that run directly to Bathurst. The train is known as the Bathurst Bullet.
The Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Weekends and Public Holidays departures are at 15:05, arriving at Bathurst at 18:47. The Wednesday departure is ten minutes later at 15:57.
There’s also a later departure at 17:47 M to F, bringing you into Bathurst at 21:33.
Always check the timetable before departure at The Blue Mountains timetable
Since these services are Intercity services just tap in with your Opal card. The fare for Seniors card holders is just $2.50. Bookings are not required for these services.
Bathurst to Lightning Ridge
The train to Lightning Ridge departs Bathurst at the civilised time of 10:52 daily. Arrival at Dubbo is at 13:45. Here you’ll change for a coach to Lightning Ridge which departs daily at 14:20 and arrives in Lightning Ridge at 18:50.
There is a 10-minute refreshment stop at Coonamble at 16:15 between Dubbo and Lightning Ridge.
There is a buffet car on the train where you can purchase tea, coffee, drinks (including beer and wine), cakes, magazines and even a full lunch. Cash, Mastercard and Visa are accepted at the buffet.
Before leaving home you’ll need to book and pay for your ticket with NSW Trainlink. The Seniors Card holder’s fare from Bathurst to Lightning Ridge is a Country Pensioner Excursion fare (CPE) of $2.50. You can book online on the NSW TrainLink bookings page. To enjoy the benefits of the CPE fare, you’ll need to book and pay seven days or less before your departure. You can also call NSW TrainLink on 13 22 32 for info and bookings. Have your Seniors card and your credit card ready.
Lightning Ridge Accommodation
There are numerous motels in Lightning Ridge near town and the coach stop. We stayed at the Wallangulla Motel which was on the main street of Lightning Ridge and just down the street from the coach stop. They give a 10% discount if you are a member of any bowling club. The day before leaving home I ducked down to my local bowling club and joined up. The motel is very clean and comfortable and obviously owned by the local bowling club which is across the road from the motel and serves meals and cold beers.
Lightning Ridge Tours
You can hire a car and tour Lightning Ridge or walk but the best way to get a feel for the town is a tour, led by one of the locals.
They start at just $60.00 per person for a three-hour tour. We joined the Outback Opal Tours which was worth every cent.
More info on other tours in Lightning Ridge.
Heading back to Sydney
Basically, heading back to Sydney is the forward journey in reverse. Book the coach/train through to Bathurst, stay the night at the Victoria Hotel across the road from the Bathurst station/coach stop, and then the next morning catch the Bathurst Bullet train to Sydney. The Bullet departs Bathurst for Sydney at 05:46 and 07:35 on weekdays. Weekends and public holidays at 06:07 and 07:40. Click here for the Bathurst to Sydney timetable.
Unfortunately, you can’t do the return journey in one day for just $7.50. The connections don’t work.
Timetables are regularly updated by NSW TrainLink and Sydney Trains. So don’t forget to check and double-check all the departure times.
How long to spend in Lightning Ridge
We only spent one day (and two nights) in Lightning Ridge. We did the organised tour in the morning and then had a look around town in the afternoon. We felt we’d just about seen everything and we were happy with our short stay.