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 Moon Plain. It looks much like the lunar surface, dotted with mine shafts and mullock heaps from eight decades of digging.
“Hot, hard and usually unrewarding but the locals wouldn’t swap our computercoolie.com lives for their burrows and freedom, not for quids.”
– John Borthwick
Moon Plain has been used as the set of many movies, including Mad Max and Red Planet. It’s most famous for its unique style of underground living. This includes visitor lodgings and the world’s first underground church (now Catholic, but originally, in true pioneering fashion, multi-denominational).
And even if you don’t play, at least check out the golf course– not a blade of grass to be seen. You’ll never, ever go to another place like it. Unless later in life you’re lucky enough to make it to the moon.
Did you know?
Coober Pedy was named Kupa Piti by local Aboriginals, which means “white man in a hole.” Over the past 90 years a unique community of hardened adventurers, drifters and fortune hunters from 45 nations has sprung up around it.
How to get there
Rex operates regular flights between Adelaide, Coober Pedy and Alice Springs.
Greyhound has buses between Adelaide, Coober Pedy and Alice Springs.
If you decide to travel by car, along the Stuart Highway the distance from Adelaide is 846km, from Alice Springs 685km and from Darwin 2,170km.
Coober Pedy can also be accessed by rail via the Ghan route from Adelaide to Alice Springs. You will have to arrange transportation from Manguri Station, 47km from Coober Pedy, prior to departure from Adelaide or Alice Springs.
Best time to go
Temperatures in the Outback can exceed 50 degrees Celsius and winds can create huge dust storms. Optimal seasonal conditions are between May and October.
** This is our original 100 Things to Do Before You Die. First published in 1996. There is an updated 100 Things To Do In Australia Before you die, published in 2011.