Opened in 1962 and located on the outskirts of town, the open-air Lightning Ridge Artesian Baths are supplied with naturally-heated thermal bore water from the artesian basin. The water temperature is maintained at approximately 41.5 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) and reputedly contains therapeutic qualities. Perfect at the end of a long day exploring the area, fossicking for opals.
Millions of years ago, the area around Lightning Ridge was the bottom of a shallow inland sea. Fossils dating back as far as the Cretaceous Period have been found in the sandstone rock, including aquatic plants, mammals, and dinosaurs. Lightning Ridge is known for its opals, and a number of opalized fossils have been found in the area.
Though that inland sea disappeared long ago, some of its water was trapped under a layer of stone, forming the aquifer that supplies Lightning Ridge and other bore baths at Burren Junction and Walgett. Known as the Great Artesian Basin, it is the largest and deepest aquifer of its kind in the world. Measuring over 1,700,000 square kilometres (660,000 square miles), the Great Artesian Basin is the largest source of freshwater in inland Australia. The aquifer’s natural pressure sends the water to the surface through boreholes that have been drilled through the ground.
The baths are free to access and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (only closed for cleaning). As a popular social attraction for both locals and tourists, it can occasionally get busy, but the long opening hours mean it’s still possible to find a time where you have the baths to yourself.