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Hebel & The Grawin Opal Fields

Hebel & The Grawin Opal Fields

Here is an interesting little place you may not have heard of before.   Hebel, no, not the bricks, the place.

Welcome to Hebel

Accessed via the Castlereagh Highway it is located about 4km from the border, 69 km north of Lightning Ridge, and 66km south west of Dirranbandi.

Which way to go?

If you love the outback, old pubs and history, then this is a region you should explore.  Hebel is located so close to the QLD/NSW boarder you can barrack for either team in the state of origin and still be a winner.

Whilst its nearest major town is Lighting Ridge, Hebel has its own places of interest and place in history that makes it worth a visit in its own right.

In the same vicinity, only some 100km to the south, but this time in NSW, lie the Grawin Opal Fields home of one of the biggest pieces of opal ever found and more iconic outback pubs that welcome RV’s and campers.

Hebel & Grawin Opal fields map

Let start at Hebel

Population 20 – friendly people that love visitors especially RV’s with either Free Camping at the pub, or a Caravan Park with powered and un-powered sites for those that need a bit extra.

Hebel is RV Friendly

Consisting predominantly of the General Store, Caravan Park and of course the Hebel Hotel, it was formerly sheep grazing country, but excessive drought over the last few years has resulted in many farmers looking for alternatives.
So why would you go there, we asked Kim, one of the new managers of the pub. She tells me its well worth a visit, ‘because she is there’, so what more reason do we need. But, other than that, the Sunrise and Sunsets are said to be spectacular and the place is also steeped in history.

A Hebel Sunrise

Originally called Kelly’s Point, it was home for a period of time to bushrangers Dan Kelly (Ned’s brother) and Steve Hart, before a German family with the name of Hebel moved to town, and the name subsequently changed.
The Pub was established back in 1848, and originally called the Commercial Hotel, but later changed to the Hebel Hotel. The building is quirky and decorated with old wares and memorabilia. It was also a regular stopping point for the original Cobb & Co wagons with some original Gigi wood rails still intact from where the horses were tethered.

The Pub with original Gigi Wood rails

Kim is only too happy to share a few of the local yarns, including the one about the bottle stack across the road from the pub.  It was a large wall of old bottles which were stacked neatly, but which allegedly got so big that the aviation department asked them to get rid of all the bottles as the glare was effecting passing pilots.

The old Bottle Stack @ Hebel

Apparently the bottles were all buried somewhere under the pub, causing the bar to be on a lean, but never fear it is not enough to spill your beer.

The Leaning Bar of Hebel

Kim also tells us the Bokhara River nearby still has water in it and apparently is a great place to catch the yabbies!

Catch a Yabbie in the Bokhara River 

For anyone interested to know more there is a Historical Circle in the middle of town which showcases the history of Hebel.

Hebel Historical Circle

The General Store in town is well stocked and also acts as the towns Post Office, Grocery Store and prepares dine-in and take away meals. It too has been around for over 100 years and also has a fully serviced caravan park at the rear, catering for powered and unpowered sites, as well as cabins and a cottage for 10.

The Hebel General Store

Head further west of Hebel and you will find the Culgoa River and Culgoa Floodplain National Park. Both form part of the floodplain in the Murray-Darling Basin and contain significant Aboriginal cultural sites with stone tools scatters and cooking sites.  Camping is available within the National Park and Birdwatchers are well catered for with the park said to have more than 150 species including 10 honey eaters and all six species of wood swallow and beautiful parrots.

Camping & Birdwatching @ The National Park

The Grawin Opal Fields

If you are a prospector at heart and looking for something a little different the Opal Fields at Grawin are the perfect place to explore. The fields stretch out south west of Hebel and include Grawin, Glengarry, Sheepyard, and Mulga Rush with the area commonly referred to as Black Opal country. From Hebel, you can head south west in along from Wilby Wilby Road or via the Castlereagh Highway. As you approach the opal fields you can lookout for old car doors scattered along the way to guide you through, and some of the many quirky signs in the area.

Some of the many quirky signs @ The Grawin Opal Fields

Opal was first found in the area in 1905, consequently also giving life to the region, but things really didn’t kick in till around 1970 when it experienced the Big Rush after a few good finds, with one of the most iconic finds being on Melbourne Cup day, 1985 when the opal they named ‘Sheepyard Rush’ was discovered. The place has not looked back since and the area is now a thriving mecca for both Opal Minors and visitors that want find out more about Opal Mining.

However, just a quick word on etiquette around Opal Mines. The area around the Grawin Opal Fields is a working mine area. This means there are many open shafts (big holes in the ground) so be very careful when walking around. It is also advisable not to walk into someone else’s claim, or dig or pick up any material from these areas without permission.

Use Caution & Don’t go wandering without permission

The Opal Field Pubs

One thing the Opal finds did give way to are some of the regions iconic pubs which are all unique and each one worth a visit in its own right.

The Glengarry ‘Hilton’
Is the oldest pub on the opal fields and probably a bit different to the Hilton chain of hotels we have come to expect from its city counterparts.  Its rustic bush setting is a favourite among the locals and it has come to be known as a world famous hotel in the bush. They serve some great meals and provide a free camp for RV’s.

The Glengarry Hilton

The Sheepyard Inn
About 3km south is the locality of Sheepyard, aptly named because the first piece of opal here was found next to … a Sheepyard. A focal point of Sheepyard is the Sheepyard Inn, which started its humble life as a hut in 1985, before growing to become one of the most popular pubs in the area, before being destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 2010 as is now still stands today.

The Sheepyard Inn

It is still one of the most unique bush pubs you will be likely to see, full of colourful characters and walls full of Pubobilia. The pub provides for campers with a free camp out the back and also doubles up as the Tourist Information centre where you can organise tours and find out lots more information about the area, or you could ask the local minors to see if they have some hot tips on where to find some Opals.

At the bar of the Sheepyard Inn

The Grawin Club in the Scrub
Only a few more kilometres away is the local sporting club in the area. It boasts a games room including table tennis, pool and darts and caters for golfers with its own outback golf course, complete with brown greens and kangaroos.
Open for lunch every day of the week with dinner served Wednesday to Saturday, it also offers Free Camping out the back and is pet friendly.

The Grawin Club in the Scrub

So if you are planning a trip out west, be sure to leave aside a few days to check out this rustic outback area and even try your hand at noodling.  You can find all these listings and more in the FRC Directory.

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