Coober Pedy , (pronounced Coober Peedy) population 3,500, is a small town in South Australia, 846 kilometers north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway.
It is self-described as the "opal capital of the world" and the opals are the only reason why there is a town. Located in the Outback, it is hundreds of kilometers from the nearest settlement. The harsh summer temperatures and the dominant industry mean that most residents live underground, ie in caves bored into the rock of the hills around the town. There are houses and other buildings on the surface but the advantage of being in a cave is that the temperature remains fairly constant. Surface living requires air conditioning.
Regional Express  operates flights from Adelaide to Coober Pedy on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The flight departs at 9.55AM and arrives 11.55AM.The airport is just outside town on the other side of the Stuart Highway and could be walked to if you've no other means, but arranging a ride into town is a better idea. Always check with Rex airlines, the runway is set for upgrade and could close while the work is underway.
Adelaide to Coober Pedy - departs 7:45PM arrives 6:15AM.
Alice Springs to Coober Pedy - departs 10:30AM arrives 7:30PM.
The bus station is just on the edge of the central business district, shops and services can be walked to.
The Stuart Highway
The Painted Desert Road is a formed sand road linking Coober Pedy to Oodnadatta. Although only days drive, take the precautions for remote area driving. This road has very light traffic.
Coober Pedy can be accessed by rail via the Ghan route from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Transportation from Manguri Siding, 47 km from Coober Pedy, has to be arranged prior to departure from Adelaide or Alice Springs. Departs Adelaide on Sundays & Wednesdays and arrives at Manguri Siding on Mondays & Thursdays. If you are alighting at Manguri, especially in the winter months, make sure you have warm clothing at the train arrives very early in the morning.
There are no taxis or local buses in Coober Pedy.
- Coober Pedy Visitor Centre This should be your first stop. The visitor center is in the Coober Pedy District Council office in Hutchison Street quite near the intersection with the Stuart Highway. Lots of printed materials to leave with and a local employee to answer all your questions and provide advice. Air conditioned!
- Mines It is dangerous to wander among the diggings. You could fall down a shaft or be mistaken for a thief. Miners in Coober Pedy are a secretive lot and suspicious of interlopers. It is much safer to go to a worked out mine that has been opened as a tourist attraction!
- Crocodile Harry's Home Arvid von Blumenthal, called Crocodile Harry, lived in an old mine. He collected bras and one of the attractions is his collection of bras together with photographs of the donors. Apparently the first bra in the collection was donated by Tina Turner when the mine was used as a set during the filming of Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome. Blumenthal was an opal miner and crocodile hunter and is said to be the inspiration for the Crocodile Dundee films.
- Some of the tours take you to a mine dump where you can legally fossick for opals among the waste rock.
- Graveyard This is a fascinating site where you will see headstones for a large number of nationalities. The town is a veritable "united nations" and the graves reflect this. One intriguing monument is an empty beer keg which acts as a headstone for a miner who left his fortune to his mates for them to have a drink on him. Unfortunately his debts exceeded his assets. However, his mates saw him off as he wanted and the keg serves as a reminder of the wake and the man.
- Serbian Orthodox Church, St Elijah Dr (3km west of town centre), ☎ + 61 8 8672 3048. The Serbian Orthodox Church is bored out of solid rock and has a beautifully ornamented interior. $5.00 "donation" is asked.
- St Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Halliday Pl (Town centre). Not quite as intricate or as large as the Serbian Orthodox Church but is still a significant site.
- Catacomb Church, Catacomb Rd. Another underground church.
Interior of Serbian Orthodox Church
- Josephine's Gallery & Kangaroo Orphanage, 111 - 113 Hutchinson St, ☎ +61 8 8672 5931, . Aboriginal art, especially dot paintings, also boomerangs, didgeridoos and other artifacts. The owners also take care of orphaned kangaroos, you can watch the feeding sessions at noon and 05:30PM. Do not be late. Latecomers will not be admitted no matter what circumstance.
- The stars The night sky in the Outback has to be seen especially on a moonless night. The stars and planets are awe-inspiring. At about 20km from town there is no electric light pollution and you can see by starlight. The constellations and planets appear to move across the sky and if you can get on a tour with a local expert it is a learning experience not to be missed.
- The first tree ever seen in the town was welded together from scrap iron and sits on a hillside overlooking the town. The golf course is completely free of grass and golfers take a small piece of "turf" around to use for teeing off.
- Umoona Opal Museum, Hutchinson St, ☎ +61 8 8672 5288, . Opal exhibition and shop, dugouts, Aboriginal interpretive centre.
- Desert Cave Hotel Museum, Hutchinson St, ☎ +61 8 8672 5688. Exhibitions about opal mining and Coober Pedy's history and landscapes.
- Breakaways Reserve. A lunar landscape of plateaus and rocks. Some hotels offer short tours to the reserve. Usually on the tour will be included seeing the local portion of the 5000+ km long dingo fence. The Breakaways themselves also have 2 nice lookouts. $10 fee requested by the Australian Parks Service, pass can be arranged at Coober Pedy District Council office or take your chances. Entrance to the reserve is about 32km north of Coober Pedy on the Stuart Highway, look for the brown Parks sign, its not huge.
There are a number of shops selling opal jewelry and single stones.
The town of Coober Pedy is the setting for the recent film Opal Dream (2005) which tells the story of a young girl and her imaginary friends. The countryside around Coober Pedy has also featured as a backdrop to some movies including Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Some of the film props from Mad Max are still to be seen in town.
- Old Timers Mine, Crowders Gully Rd, ☎ +61 8 86725555. 9am-5pm. Opal mine, dugouts, opal exhibition. Learn everything about the history of opal mining in Coober Pedy and see how people lived underground in different decades.
- You can buy opals just about everywhere in Coober Pedy, however don't necessarily expect bargain prices.
- Underground Bookshop, Post Office Hill Rd, ☎ +618 8672 5558. 8:30am-5pm M-F, 10am-4pm Sa.
Many restaurants are located underground. The Opal Inn serves many tourists with unique food.
- John's Pizza Bar, 1 Hutchinson St (Town centre), ☎ +61 8 8672 5561, . 9am-10pm.
- Mud Hut Motel (Mud Hotel Motel, Coober Pedy), St Nicholas Street, Coober Pedy (On your right as you drive into town from the south.), ☎ +61 8 8672 3003, . Made of rammed earth. The motel is small (28 rooms in total). Fast, reliable broadband internet available in most rooms. Dining area and bar. $100+.
- Radeka Downunder Underground Backpackers & Motel (Radeka Downunder, Coober Pedy), 1 Oliver St, PO Box 808, Coober Pedy, Australia (Located at No.1 Oliver Street on the main street corner between the BP & Mobil Service Stations. When in town look for the Red Digital Time / Temperature Display on top of the Accommodation.), ☎ +61 8 8672 5223, . Underground hostel. Internet available. Courtesy pickup from bus or airport. Tour of underground mines can be purchased here and if you stay two nights in private a free stargazing is included if the weather permits it. $32-125.
- Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience, Crowders Gully Road, Coober Pedy (From Stuart Hwy turn right into Hutchinson St. Then right into Umoona then right into Crowder Gully Rd. Motel is 100 meters), ☎ 08 8672 5777, . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 10:00. Coober Pedy hotel offering unique underground accommodation in an old opal mine. Complimentary wireless internet. Walking distance to local attractions, shops, museums.
There are many signs in the area warning visitors for falling into an abandoned mineshaft. If you intend to travel even slightly outside town you should have plenty of water with you and
preferably means of contacting others in case of a breakdown. Mobile phone service ends about 30km from Coober Pedy. Temperatures can easily exceed 40 degrees C in summer and also be very cold in winter. Between towns/roadhouses there is no assistance of any kind beyond occasional rest areas you might be able to flag down assistance in. Bush flies are plentiful and some kind of bug repellant will make you a happier traveller if you intend to spend time outdoors, especially picnicking at rest stops or even walking through town. Expect to travel at least 150-200km or more between assistance points. Driving at night outside Coober Pedy business district is highly discouraged due to high risk of wildlife on the road, which in addition to blocking it can dart in front of you from a hidden area.
Coober Pedy has a large regional hospital.
You can head north along the Stuart Highway to the Red Centre. The other opal mining town of Andamooka can be reached there and back in one day if you start early, turnoff by the Pimba Roadhouse towards Woomera. Its a far cry from Coober Pedy however and the opal selection is quite limited due to economic downturn. The beautiful town of Roxby Downs is a wonderful outback community just on the near side of Andamooka and is well worth a visit. Just outside Roxby Downs is Olympic Dam Airport, with regularly scheduled air service. The airport is small and luggage allowance is limited. Car hire available also, but its several hours drive to Coober Pedy.
|Routes through Coober Pedy