towns go, Opalton takes the cake. But this tiny settlement wasn't always so
insignificant. In the 1890s, up to 600 miners and their families lived around
Opalton, supported by a pub, a bakery and a police station. They worked one of
Queensland's earliest opal fields, producing many famous claims with names like
"Little Wonder", "Bald Knob" and "Brilliant Claim".
History records some legendary finds: pipe opal as thick as a man's arm; seams of colour
lying just below the surface. In no time at all, a miner could find a stone or a
seam worth the equivalent of 15 to 20 years' wages.
Those were the glory days - unfortunately not destined to last. A
drop in opal prices combined with the ever-present water shortage to cause the field to be
abandoned in 1915. After a long period of absence, miners trickled back into the
area in the 1960s and Opalton is now the hub of fossicking in the Winton district.
Many visitors camp at the Opalton diggings over the winter months, enjoying the isolation,
wildlife and the frontier atmosphere.
As you roll into Opalton
now - past the
solar-powered phone booth and the "Welcome to Opalton" sign (subbed: no
shooting, no rubbish, no hippies) - the only building in sight is the Outpost, a corrugated iron
complete with black netting and a beach umbrella.
next | life - but not as you know it