Here is an interesting little place you may not have heard of before. Hebel, no, not the bricks, the place. Hebel was looking down the barrel of becoming nothing but a mere speck of dust on the map. The township has relied on through traffic between QLD and NSW to provide support for the small town’s businesses. With the recent border closures and reduced travel due to covid-19, Hebel’s future was not looking good.
Enter Frank Deshon
Recently the town hero Frank Deshon (a local grazier) came along and purchased the entire commercial entities in the town. Making sure that both the city and its history still remain and can live on for future generations. The 2 lifebloods of the town, the Hebel Pub and the General Store are now under the safe financial control of Frank, which will ensure that the town is able to provide services to travelers well into the future.
In this article, we are going to explore Hebel, and the Grawin Opal Fields. On your next trip, look at adding this wonderful area to your itinery and in turn, let the township and region fill you with wonder and lasting memories.
Welcome to Hebel – Dense in Rich History (source wiki)
- Accessed via the Castlereagh Highway it is located about 4km from the border, 69 km north of Lightning Ridge, and 66km southwest of Dirranbandi.
- The town was named after a German immigrant -Noble Van Hebel. Hebel helped stage the coaches for Cobb and Co.
- Curriwillinghi Post Office was opened on 1 January 1864 (named after the Curriwillinghi pastoral station, which still exists as of 2020 at 28.9317°S 147.7672°E ).
- Circa 1886, Hebel was made a border township with a border customs post- (4.8 km east of Curriwillinghi pastoral station).
- In 1889, the “Curriwillinghi Post Office” was replaced by the Hebel Post Office. The Hebel Post office closed in 1989.
- In 1897, a dance hall was built where the night would be spent laughing and dancing. It is now known as the general store.
- Hebel Provisional School opened on 11 April 1901. On 1 January 1909, it became Hebel State School.
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 border 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 that 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, the Opal Fields at Grawin are the perfect place to explore. The fields stretch out southwest of Hebel and include Grawin, Glengarry, Sheepyard, and Mulga Rush. The area commonly referred to as Black Opal country. From Hebel, you can head southwest in along from Wilby Wilby Road or via the Castlereagh Highway. As you approach the opal fields you can look out 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 giving life to the region. However, things really didn’t kick in till around 1970 when it experienced the Big Rush after a few good finds. 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. The area is now a thriving mecca for both Opal Minors and visitors that want to 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. All are unique and each one worth a visit in its own right.
The Glengarry ‘Hilton’
The oldest pub in the opal fields and a bit different to the Hilton chain of hotels. Its rustic bush setting is a favourite among the locals. 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. It started its humble life as a hut in 1985. Now growing to become one of the most popular pubs in the area. It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 2010 as now still stands today.
The Sheepyard Inn
It is still one of the most unique bush pubs you will be likely to see. It has full of colourful characters and walls full of Pubobilia. The pub provides for campers with a free camp out the back. Also doubles up as the Tourist Information centre where you can organise tours. You can find lots of information about the area. Or 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 game room including table tennis, pool and darts. It also 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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