COOBER PEDY – THE GUIDE
Coober Pedy has been known as the Opal Capital of the World since 1915, when the precious stone was first discovered. Once in the dusty town it’s hard to escape the hundreds of stories the locals have to tell you. Here is our essential guide to accommodation and things to do.
Almost half the population of Coober Pedy lives underground in huts called dugouts, escaping the inevitable heat of the rough Australian outback. Summer in Coober Pedy can reach a scorching 50°C climax, with winter nights sending chills along your spine. To experience the local way of living in Coober Pedy, spend a few nights in either the Underground Motel or the Underground Bed and Breakfast. You’ll find out what it’s like to live like a real miner underneath the earth while keeping warm at night and cool in the mornings.
WHAT TO DO
Opal mines are still working and there are hundreds to see. Visitors are welcome to try their luck at Tom’s Working Opal Mine, located 1km north of town. Get your hands dirty with the tour operators as they show you how to ‘noodle’ through the mullock for precious gems.
At Old Timers Mine, opals still line the walls and there are demonstrations of mining machinery.
Being one of Coober Pedys’ most infamous characters, visiting Crocodile Harrys’ strange dugout is a must on your holiday to-do list. Famous for being used as a location ‘Mad Max- Beyond the Thunderdome,’ the bizarre dugout will shock you, as will the amount of women’s names he has scrawled on his bedroom roof.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
The best time to visit Coober Pedy is between April and October. The semi desert climate keeps the days between 16 and 20°C with freezing-cold nights. Between November and March the weather is much warmer and subject to dust storms, with tops of 45°C in the shade.
Coober Pedy is 846km from Adelaide and 686km south of Alice Springs. Either rent a car or book ahead to get your hotel to meet you at the airport.
For more information about Coober Pedy, go to: www.cooberpedy.sa.gov.au
Where is it? 846km north of Adelaide, SA Some people will do anything to escape the heat. After opals were discovered here in 1915, the Coober Pedy community got innovative and built their town underground. Now you can stay in underground B&Bs, visit underground museums and have an underground beer here. The best time of the year to visit is between April and October, when the weather is mild and the nights are cold. You take your chances rocking up in summer, when it can reach 45ºC and dust storms can blow in from nowhere....
The Opal Capital of the World has a varying population from around 2000 to 4000, with 45 different nationalities. Far removed from the rest of mainstream Australia, the wealth brought in during the mining boom has allowed residents to build luxurious underground dwellings complete with swimming pools and entertainment rooms, and four out of five residents live underground. The stark landscape surrounding Coober Pedy, including the 40km or so in every direction that’s dotted with shafts and mullock heaps from opal workings, as well as the moonlike Breakaways and not-too-distant Stuart Ranges, has formed the backdrop for films like Mad...
No wonder the interstellar crew were freaked out – they found themselves crashed and stranded in Coober Pedy. Head down Hutchison St in Coober Pedy today and you’ll see the Pitch Black spaceship parked out front of the Opal Cave opal shop. The futuristic craft has that beaten-up, just-crashed look about it, and should look totally out of place here. But get used to the unusual – this is Coober Pedy. SA’s outback region makes for great sci-fi movie sets: the stony Moon Plains aren’t too far out of town and The Breakaways colourful mesa formations are a ready-made...
The painted hills in the rugged Breakaways in SA is a recently discovered phenomenen in the SA outback. “We get people through here who’ve seen the Grand Canyon, who’ve been to Uluru and the Bungle Bungles, and they reckon this is better than the whole lot.” That’s the word from Wrightsair’s Trevor Wright, who conducts flying tours to SA’s newest – and by the sounds of it most spectacular – natural attraction: the Painted Hills. They’re part of a recently discovered 30km by 10km section of the extraordinary Breakaways country in SA’s far north, and take the form of brilliantly coloured...
Flying tour to Aboriginal art centres in the Outback Have you ever been to an art gallery (or, more often, a touristy gift shop), taken a look at the Aboriginal works on display there and wondered to yourself at the – how can we put this – at the authenticity of the pieces? One great way of knowing for sure that what you’re looking at is the real deal is to take an aerial Aboriginal Art Tour. Fly to incredibly remote outposts to watch works of extraordinary beauty and complexity being produced right before your very eyes. Trevor Wright from...
Peter Rowe has one of the world's biggest mail runs, and you are welcome along for the ride. “EVERY TRUE BLUE AUSSIE SHOULD DO THIS TO APPRECIATE HOW VAST OUR COUNTRY REALLY IS.” – Chris Smith Peter Rowe delivers the mail in outback SA with nary a dog in sight – a 620km round trip in all. And you’re welcome to come along for the ride. “The business people keep telling me to get a bigger bus,” says the sardonic Rowe, who commences his run twice weekly from Coober Pedy. “But I don’t want that. I want to share the...
Checklist: Hardhat, torch, handpick, kneepads. With more than 90 percent of the world’s opal mined from 70 different fields around northern SA’s Coober Pedy, you’re bound to find something, aren’t you? Perhaps it can pay for your trip. The friendly people of Coober Pedy will teach you how to noodle (fossick), allow you down their mines and happily sell you an opal if you don’t manage to find one. No licences are required these days, thank goodness. In between your mining excursions, you might want to take a look at the remarkable desert country near Coober Pedy – aptly named...
A Detours & Diversions piece on opal mining and houses in Coober Pedy, SA. Opal mining in Coober Pedy, SA “And on Sunday, the whole family – the dad, the mum and the five-year-old kids – will all sit around making bombs.” Now, before any ASIO agents start getting excited, it should be pointed out that this is, apparently, entirely normal practice in Coober Pedy, in the dead centre of South Australia. Well, as normal as anything can be in this bizarre desert town, anyway. Round these parts, people don’t buy houses. They don’t even build their own houses. In...
They bury blokes under beer kegs in Coober Pedy, where there's ample opals underground and plenty of 4WD flunkies from the cities above. By John Borthwick "Hoy! You can hop back on the plane now!" It's a promising sign when the official re-boarding call is a basic "rattle-yer-dags" shout. You know you are on your way from Almost Nowhere to somewhere even less pretentious.In this case, from Olympic Dam to Coober Pedy in the South Australian Outback. "Is a coober sort of an Aussie goober?" asks an American who arcing his hand and forearm like a windscreen wiper, trying to...
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