You won’t forget White Cliffs in a hurry – it’s truly a one-off in look and feel. The arid, almost lunar landscape dotted with thousands of disused opal diggings is like nothing else, and the area showcases a colour palette as splendid as any classic Australian outback scene in changing light.
Take a good look at the town and surrounds when you visit, and you might just be surprised. With its intriguing history and last frontier-like setting, there’s plenty to keep you interested. The population is about 200. Because of the heat, most of them live underground – for every building you see, there are about 10 you don’t see beneath the surface. Summer temperatures can be searing and rainfall is low all year round.
During winter when temperatures are cooler, the population increases as visitors in search of opals come to stay a while. The original Indigenous custodians of the area were the Barkindji people.
White settlers arrived after opals were first discovered in 1884. Unlike other examples of the discovery of precious metals or gems, it didn’t bring a huge, immediate influx of fortune-seekers, but numbers gradually grew. By 1892 there was a hotel and store, and some big opal finds lured more people.
The population grew to about 1,000 by the turn of the century, but declined again over the next decade or so as opals became scarcer and men left to sign up to fight in WW1.
The ancient landscape of Mutawintji National Park, north east of Broken Hill, is rich in Aboriginal history. Explore bushwalks and camp under the outback night sky.