Countless times have been presented where I was in a conversation with people talking about their trips to the central parts of Australia. It doesn’t matter who it is, Coober Pedy has been one of the most talked about locations in that part of the country. This is of course the time where I like to talk about my visit to White Cliffs, New South Wales last year because – from what I hear – they have some very similar qualities: they are both really outback, both really hot and both big opal mining towns where people live underground.
Only no one has really heard of White Cliffs, so if there are at least 2 other people in the conversation that know about Coober Pedy, I’m often slightly acknowledge and skipped over. Luckily, I have this blog, so I can take the time and tell you about the interesting outback NSW town of White Cliffs in a leisurely pace.
White Cliffs, NSW
White Cliffs is a small (very, very small with a population of 225) outback town out west in New South Wales. It is known for being an opal hot spot where locals live in dugouts underground, or just plain choose to convert old mines into living quarters. This is because it’s known to reach outback temperatures near 50 degress Celsius, and the dugouts maintain a cool and steady temperature underground.
It’s a quirky sort of place where the ground starts to take on a lunar-like landscape at the hands of the dug up mines.
Oh, and be careful; the mines are very much open to the elements meaning you could potentially fall right in if you step wrong.
Stay in the World’s Largest Underground Motel
It’s a quaint and unique experience to spend a night in the White Cliffs Underground Motel, one that I will never forget. I remember walking through the hallways of chipped away rock and feeling as though they never ended.
Apparently kids love the maze-like grid, and I can totally see why. We were greeted with lounge rooms along the way where you can get away from the more public bar areas towards the front. The outdoor part of the motel is equipped with a swimming pool, and the dining room is there to serve you a three course meal as part of a social experience, meaning you are sat with other motel patrons at the same table basically making it essential to meet others. It’s not a bad thing in the least.
After dinner, you can climb up to the roof of the motel to enjoy a special piece of the outback: the sunsets. Australian sunsets are some of the most amazing in the world (in my opinion), and you’ll sometimes feel as though you’re looking at a painting.
Things to Do in White Cliffs
Okay, so there isn’t much to do in White Cliffs in terms of city features, but the location will capture your minds. There is the one main hotel (pub) in the town, and the opal mines provide an opportunity to purchase some of these beauties from the source. The seclusion provides a retreat for artistic minds, and you can check out the local artist galleries to pass the time. Of course, locals that have built their homes from dugouts are willing to open them up to the viewing public since it is such a unique way to live.
Beyond this, there are the glorious sunsets to enjoy, along with the starry night skies. If this isn’t enough nature for you, then you can try and head to one of the two national parks within driving distance, which are either the Mutawinji or the Paroo-Darling.
Also on the list of things to do include walking the heritage trail or learning about the history of White Cliffs at the Pioneer Children’s Cemetery (if you can handle that).
How to Get to White Cliffs
There is no direct train or bus service to White Cliffs, unfortunately, but you can drive there – especially if you are already heading to Broken Hill. Broken Hill is what is known as the “accessible outback” in New South Wales that you can get to either by train or by driving a good 15+ hours west of Sydney. From Broken Hill, White Cliffs is located about a 3 hour drive to the northeast, or it’s just 1 hour north of Wilcannia. You will easily be able to follow the signage to reach this remote town. White Cliffs takes half has long to reach from Sydney as Coober Pedy.
Lucky for those with cars is the fact that the road to White Cliffs is paved, so no 4WD vehicle is needed.
I know the title of this article speaks for itself, but I’ll say it again. Coober Pedy, what’s all the fuss, really? White Cliffs is just as cool, and a whole heck of a lot closer to the east coast, so why aren’t more people speaking about it? Well, I guess we’ll just have to see if I’ve changed my mind after finally getting out to Coober Pedy myself.