Journey to South Australia’s desert underground mining settlement of Coober Pedy – Australia’s opal capital. The backdrop to many movies, Coober Pedy is famous for its sun-baked lunar landscape, fascinating history and quirky lifestyle. Descend beneath the ground and discover a labyrinth of underground houses, hotels and even shops. Spend a peaceful morning in underground churches, fossick for your own opals or take a tour to one of the many surrounding natural wonders.
Where To Stay
From modern dug-outs to hotels tucked inside hills and campsites burrowed into the red dirt of the Outback, Coober Pedy is jam-packed with unique accommodation options. Perched above Coober Pedy with epic views across the mining town, Lookout Cave Underground Motel blends life underground with all the modern creature comforts and is the perfect base to explore Coober Pedy. Just a quick three-minute trip from the red centre of town, major tourist attractions, shops and cafes are all just a stone’s throw away. Choose from accommodation options ranging from single rooms tucked up to 50 metres into the hillside to fully-equipped two-bedroom apartments. Before heading underground, head up to the roof (the top of the hill!) and enjoy a glass of bubbles under a blanket of stars – there’s nothing like the night sky in the Outback.
What To Do
1. Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park
Experience the expansive, rugged beauty of the Outback at The Breakaways, a 15,000 hectare conservation park 25km outside of Coober Pedy. The striking sandstone tablelands, that turn to spectacular reds and oranges at golden hour, are also home to a unique array of native flora and fauna. Jump on a guided tour with Arid Areas Tours or grab a permit from the Coober Pedy Visitor Centre and explore this ancient landscape yourself.
2. Anna Creek Painted Desert
Hidden in the South Australian Outback lies one of nature’s greatest and oldest masterpieces. The vast, magical landscape of Anna Creek Painted Hills is a spectacular outcrop of otherworldly deep orange mountains that emerge from the flat desert landscape. Carved out in the red earth of the Outback, it’s hard to believe this 80-million-year-old beauty is actually an extinct inland sea. Only accessible by air, jump aboard a Wrightsair tour from Coober Pedy, William Creek or Arkaroola to see this ancient landscape from the air. The tour will land between the peaks so you can walk among the colourful hills on foot and experience solitude like nowhere else.
3. Umoona Opal Mine and Museum
Delve deep into life in Coober Pedy at this underground museum and opal mine. Learn about the history of aboriginal and European settlement in the area in the underground museum and see fossils gathered from the area’s extinct inland sea. Join a tour to see how life is lived in a modern Coober Pedy underground dugout. Tours at Umoona Opal Mine and Museum through the aboriginal interpretive centre, underground home and the opal mine run daily. There’s also a café and souvenir shop on site.
4. Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage
Incredible local artwork and baby kangaroos… a match made in heaven! At Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage, you can wander through an impressive collection of unique aboriginal art and local artefacts before heading outside to get up close and personal with some of the adorable locals. See firsthand how the orphanage cares for sick and injured joeys and head along for one of the bottle feedings at 12pm and 5.30pm for your daily dose of cute.
5. Old Timers Mine
Step back in time and into an opal mine dating back to 1916 to unearth the history of this world-famous opal mining town and the unique Coober Pedy way of life. Rediscovered in 1968, take a self-guided walk through the Old Timers Mine to truly appreciate the mining conditions of the time and why Coober Pedy was the place to strike a fortune. There’s also a museum and historic home to visit and you can even try your luck fossicking for opals, or noodling, as the locals call it.
6. Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest
You’ve heard of Crocodile Dundee, but what of Crocodile Harry? Visit the home of the Outback’s legendary croc hunter and step inside a quirky world of eclectic artwork and walls adorned by graffiti, bras (yes, bras!), trinkets and paraphernalia left by the guests of Crocodile Harry’s infamous parties. One of the most famous Coober Pedy characters, ‘Harry’ hunted crocodiles in the Northern Territory before moving to Coober Pedy in 1975 in search of fortune and opals and quickly became one of the town’s most interesting and well-known locals. His eccentric underground dugout, which even made an appearance in the classic Australian film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, is now a museum to the Outback legend, open daily.
7. Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Course
Tee-off at the local Opal Fields Golf Club, without a blade of grass in sight! Where the greens are red and the fairways are dusty, it’s the first and only golf course that has been granted reciprocal playing rights at the oldest and most prestigious Golf Course, St. Andrews in Britain. Head to the club on a Friday evening for a round of golf with the locals or pop in to Opalios Jewellers in the main street of town to organise access to the course. You never know, you may even find your own opal in the rough.
How To Get There
Explore Coober Pedy
Stay longer in Coober Pedy and check out our guide to the best places to unwind underground while visiting this quirky Outback town. Ready to explore more of Outback South Australia? Check out our guide to the best experiences and tours for an unforgettable Outback adventure.