Driving into the dry, hot desert stretches of Australia’s Outback, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Coober Pedy was abandoned long ago. However the barren landscape hides a thriving community of over 4,000 permanent residents, who live under the earth’s surface. Coober Pedy was first established in in 1915, shortly after a mother lode of opals was discovered in the area. Prospective opal miners from around the world flocked to town to seek their fortune, establishing this settlement in the sun. The harsh weather conditions caused the locals to drive their living spaces underground, converting old mines into cosy houses.
Today, tourists visit South Australia’s Cooper Pedy not only to find out more about it opal mining heritage, but also to see what life is like underground. You can stay in an underground hotel, get a bargain on precious gems at the opal jewellery shops, and even enjoy a gourmet meal below the earth’s surface. The following are a few attractions that make this historic town a fascinating place to visit.
You may assume that the dugout homes in Coober Pedy will feel small or claustrophobic, but they rival many of the finest examples of real estate SA in cosmopolitan Adelaide. You can tour some examples of the homes, which feature modern kitchens, walk-in closets, and a warm glow from the red rocks that comprise their walls. Many visitors choose to stay in the Desert Cave Hotel, which offers 4 star accommodations and an on-site opal gallery. There are also underground gift shops, museums, churches, and cafes to keep you busy when the sun is at its brightest outside. The Umoona Mine and Museum contains an underground house, theatre, cultural displays, and Aboriginal interpretive centre to learn more about the region’s history.
Coober Pedy Golf Course
In the evening hours when the temperature drops, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a round of golf with glow in the dark golf balls. There isn’t any grass or trees in the area, so the course uses mounds of sand, oil and diesel pits, and a large sand trap. This makes it a uniquely challenging and bizarre golf course that will test even the most avid golfer’s skill.
If you want to try your hand at opal mining, you can visit the “noodling” area open to the public in Coober Pedy. There are designated areas that are open for noodling, so be sure to stick to these to avoid a fine. No permit is required if you don’t use a digging device, shovel, or pick. However, if you plan to use digging tools, explosives, or heavy machinery you’ll need the appropriate permit from the Mines and Energy office.
If you’re looking for an intriguing day trip from Coober Pedy, you might want to venture about a half hour north of town to the Breakaways Reserve. This includes bright and colourful rock hills which were once part of the Stuart Range, but have broken away over time. Be sure to pack plenty of water, as temperatures can soar. However, visitors are rewarded with amazing views of the Outback. The desert changes colours throughout the day depending on the position of the sun, creating a surreal and completely unique impression on viewers.
A day in Coober Pedy is unlike anywhere else on earth, allowing you to experience what life is like below the earth’s surface.