WELCOME TO THE WALGETT SHIRE
an area of unique beauty emanating from a rich natural and cultural heritage
Walgett Shire is situated on the edge of the Outback in north-western New South Wales. It encompasses
the towns of Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Collarenebri as well as the villages, Carinda, Burren Junction, Rowena, Grawin, Glengarry, Sheepyards and Cumborah. Walgett shire is poised between Australiaís
eastern capital cities, 691 kms from Sydney, 704 kms from Brisbane and 1081 kms from Melbourne and encompasses a vast area of 22,000 sq kms.
Eight rivers flow through the Shire, with the two major tributaries the Barwon River, immortalised by the Australian poet, Banjo Patterson, and the Namoi River. Where theses two rivers meet at Walgett are of
deep cultural significance to the aboriginal people. These rivers are the natural home for Australiaís
most desired fish - the Murray Cod - a fish magnificent in its beauty, and its taste. The rivers also yield
golden perch or yellow belly, as the locals call it.
Vast black soil plains nurture a thriving agricultural industry. The region is rich in cereal crops such as
wheat, sorghum, sunflowers and chickpeas. The plains are also host to our sheep and wool industry,
which was made famous by the invention of the first mechanical sheep shearing hand piece, invented
on the property ‘Euroka’ just 25 kms south of Walgett. Cotton farming is developing into a major industry
for the Shire whilst beef production has increased significantly with the introduction of feedlots.
Brilliantly coloured black opals are the most valuable and Lightning Ridge produces more of these than anywhere else in the world. The colours in these stones are breathtaking; fiery red, flaming orange, deep blue, sea green and canary yellow. The rare black opal economy is estimated to be worth $45million per year, that is perhaps what seduces tourists who have come to visit and ended up staying years. The very nature of the place is as elusive as its gems; people from over fifty nationalities live in Lightning Ridge.
For a unique traditional experience, Grawin, Sheepyards, Glengarry and Cumborah only a few kilometres away, can provide you with this. It was in at Grawin that the largest of the district’s famous opals, the “Light of the World” was found in 1928. Today this field has a delightful, relaxed atmosphere where visitors are welcomed with old-fashioned hospitality.
Artesian water, renowned for itís therapeutic value, flows constantly into free to use bore baths in Lightning Ridge, Burren Junction and Walgett. At a constant temperature of 41.5°C, these bore baths are becoming a popular attraction all year around.
In reality the Walgett Shire is a great place to stay where the people are friendly and the sense of “Outback” is cleverly merged with the facilities and amenities of larger towns.
The people of Walgett Shire pride themselves on the feeling of ‘Country Living’ and ‘Sense of Outback’
TOWNS & VILLAGES OF WALGETT SHIRE
Carinda was declared a village in 1890, and it is thought that the name was derived from an early recorded run called ‘Gurrundy’. The town is situated in a rich agricultural area in which wool wheat and cotton are produced. Visit the annual open day at Cuddie Springs an ancient lake bed where thousands of stone tools, bones, grinding stones, giant kangaroos and goannas have been found by archeologists. Carinda is also in close proximity to the Macquarie Marshes, a wetland famous for its ecotourism and exotic birdlife.
Renowned for its excellent fishing sites and water skiing areas, Collarenebri provides a location for sanctuary and recreation during long hot summers. Originally known to Aboriginal people as ‘Collarindabri’ ‘a place of many flowers’ Collarenebri has a chequered history. Agriculture has been the mainstay of the community with Collymongle Station (Colly farms) producing a mix of cotton, wheat and cereal crops using irrigation. Many of the buildings date back to 1910 and a wander around the town will allow you to have a slight understanding of what the early days must have been like.
Come By Chance
This pleasantly named village on the Baradine Creek (known locally as the Bungle Gully Creek) was pioneered by early settlers around the 1950’s. The name originated from William Colless’ property, Come By Chance station. All the land was thought to have been selected for settlement but, as its name suggests, this block had not been allocated and so came to the Colless family by chance. Every spring the outback comes alive when more than 3000 people converge on the racecourse for the annual Come By Chance picnic races.
In the early days, Cryon was a thriving settlement with a hotel, stores and large trucking areas. Today, most of the buildings have disappeared, however the Cryon wheat silos have expanded with new storage bunkers, a feedlot is operating and the old pub has been converted into a backpackers lodge and licensed restaurant.
Cumborah was once a thriving epicentre for many local graziers and their families, nowadays it is considered as the gateway to the Grawin, Glengarry and Sheepyard opal fields. There are still a handful of locals living at Cumborah who love the quiet lifestyle that it offers. Gravel pits located just near Cumborah are renowned far and wide by Rock hounds as the place to fossick for agate, petrified wood, topaz and other stones.
The town of Burren Junction came into being with the advent of the railway line extension from Narrabri West in the early 1900’s. In its infancy Burren Junction was a railway tent town, which quickly developed into an industrious commercial centre. One of the main attractions to Burren Junction is the hot artesian bore baths which are located just out of town, and attract people from everywhere wanting therapeutic dip.
Grawin, Glengarry and Sheepyard Opal Fields
Many visitors take a break from fossicking to chat with locals at the unique pubs scattered through the opal fields. The Club in the Scrub, Glengarry Hilton and the Sheepyard Inn provide rustic relief from the harsh sun and hard work of opal mining. They are great harbors of knowledge and the locals that enjoy the pub make for entertaining company. You will be amazed at the resilience of the opal miners, their lifestyles and the friendships that endure these characters.
You may be surprised to hear that there is a lot more than just opal mining going on in Lightning Ridge. Itís not only the opals that are colourful, but the local characters as well. An Italian called Amigo has hand built a castle of ironstone boulders. Ron Canlin has carved out an array of sculptures from ‘Shrek’ to the ‘last supper’ throughout tunnels in his mine. The Black Queen was made using empty bottles and cans from the local watering holes and is now home to an antique lamp collection, while local artist John Murray captures the vivid local colour of the town.
Rowena is a tiny village nestled between Collarenebri and Burren Junction. The town’s population is approximately 50, with a lovely old Church of England and a general store. Rowena sits midst a cast cotton and wheat growing area with sheep and cattle. Off the beaten track tourists can find plenty of local handicrafts and woodwork on display.
With a town population of approximately 2,600 people, it is situated in the centre of the Walgett shire on the banks of the Barwon and Namoi Rivers. Fishing is one of the many attractions in the area with the records showing that a 250 pound cod was caught in 1902 by three bridge workers. Walgett is a thriving rural centre producing sheep, cattle, wheat, cotton, and other crops. It is also home to the first mechanical sheep shearing hand piece, invented by Frederick Wolseley of Euroka Station.
For more information about any of these interesting, fun, free activities and other great things to see and do in the Walgett Shire contact the friendly team at the Walgett or Lightning Ridge Visitor Information Centres.