This is my experience of visiting Coober Pedy when my family went on our Aussie Adventure we called ‘Our First Big Trip’ travelling Australia. This involved camping as much as we could, seeing and experiencing this amazing country. My family have been to Coober Pedy three times now, every time we are amazed how unique it is.
Coober Pedy Facts
- Coober Pedy is an opal mining town located on the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and port Augusta in the outback of South Australia.
- Coober Pedy is renowned for its underground living, due to the harsh climate of the region and for being the largest producer of opals.
- Coober Pedy can be found 850 kilometres north of Adelaide and 680 kilometres south of Alice Springs.
- Coober Pedy has a population of approximately 4000 people, most live in underground dwellings.
- There are approximately 400 aboriginals living in Coober Pedy. They originally named the town and the translated meaning is ‘white man’s burrow’.
- There is many underground, caravan parks, motels and hotels for travelers to stay – an extremely unique experience.
In July 2000 my family and friends from Melbourne embarked on our ‘First Big Trip’ travelling from Victoria, up the Stuart Hwy to Darwin, Kakadu and returned to Victoria via Outback Queensland and New South Wales. We arrived home absolutely amazed at what we had experienced and can’t wait for the next trip.
This trip was for 6 weeks and we travelled about 10,000kms.
As we drove into Coober Pedy first thing you see is dirt and more dirt in the shape of mullock heaps, certainly not very inviting. But once you get into the town it has a very unique appeal.
We had planned to stay for 2 nights and not booked any accommodation, but had the plan to camp at Stuart Range Caravan Park. So we drove in and drove over to the camping area and realised there was no way a tent peg could be hit into ground as hard as a rock. New plan – stay in a motel room – much easier than camping anyway.
Looking around town the first thing I noticed that there was not a blade of grass, the only plants I saw were two pot plants outside a shop. Gardens just didn’t exist as there is limited water and the heat gets to extreme temperatures in summer. There is at least 10 or more Opal shops, we looked in most of them and they started to all look the same, but the owners were interesting they all had a story to tell or something special to show. There is some very impressive opals and with prices to match.
There is a full range of accommodation, several kms out of town camping can be done underground which sure would be unique, you can stay in underground homes, various motels, hotels even a 5 star underground hotel, the Desert Cave Hotel we had a look in the foyer, unfortunately that’s all we could do, would be a special place to stay.
There is a terrific lookout in the main street where I took the above photos, they show how barren Coober Pedy is. Even the football oval is dirt, the gold course has to be one of a kind, dirt for fairways and the ‘greens’ are definitely not green, they are dirt mixed with oil so they have a black appearance, a very unique experience for golfers
The main street has the usual things newsagent, supermarket, fuel, post office, takeaway food – we can recommend the pizza shop – tested several times!!
The underground homes are cool and so unusual, the entrance is a ground level with steps and walk in. The one we visited had the normal rooms also had a pool and billiard table. Most of the walls had the rough touch with a painted finish with a few panelled feature walls. All the furniture was just like we would have – like the photos show. When the temperatures outside get to 50 – 60 degrees the temp inside stays at a comfortable level.
There is quite a few tourist things to do, we went to ‘The Old Timers Mine’ which was very interesting it explained and showed the history of Opal mining. Others things to do are the Aboriginal Interpretive Centre, Umoona Opal Mine and Museum, Underground homes and other buildings, search for your own opals in the public noodling area or buy your own at an Opal Shop, Coober Pedy Pottery, The Big Winch Gift shop and lookout, the Breakaways are out of town, but well worth a look.
If you get the opportunity I highly recommend visiting this unique Aussie Town. You can get around this town easily with a car hire from carhirecooberpedy.net.au.
We stayed at Coober Pedy twice in 2003 on our ‘Kimberley’ trip these were overnight stays, this time we stayed at The Opal Inn. Our ‘Kimberley’ Trip was another great adventure….that’s another story!