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Coober Pedy | A Curious Town

Updated on July 21, 2014

The lowdown on underground living

Nothing but dust, heat, flies and more dust. No water, scarcely anything green to rest your eyes from the orange and ochre of a stony, treeless desert.

It gets to 52 degrees Celsius, 126 Fahrenheit, in Summer and it's always cold at night.

Out here, in the middle of South Australia's barren Outback desert where a few thousand people burrow underground to survive, is one of the most unusual holiday destinations in the world. Welcome to Coober Pedy!.

South Australian Government

Nothing for Miles

Kupa Piti

What does the name mean?

The Aboriginal People called this place Kupa Piti which means White Man in a Hole and it describes Coober Pedy exactly!

Get Really Down Under - Six Metres Underground

South Australian Government

People live underground in Coober Pedy. They have to.

If the idea of living in a cave seems unappealing to you, the houses here are cut into the hillside and not quite what you imagine a cave to be. Some of the subterranean homes are just stunning.

Cathedral ceilings are no problem and, if you need another room, you just dig one out. There's always the chance of digging out some opal while you're about it.

Living Underground in Coober Pedy

Swimming pools and 17 room homes

The big boring machines can dig out a four-bedroom home in a day.

The cost is 30-50 percent less than conventional housing, but the real saving comes in energy.

While several air conditioners struggle to cool a normal house to under 30 degrees C (86 F) in summer, Coober Pedy's dugouts remain a comfortable 25 degrees C (77 F) year-round, free of charge.

Subterranean Homes - It's cool down here

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Inside a Miner's homeEntrance to a Miner's homeA cool and efficient kitchen undergroundLots of living area
Inside a Miner's home
Inside a Miner's home
Entrance to a Miner's home
Entrance to a Miner's home
A cool and efficient kitchen underground
A cool and efficient kitchen underground
Lots of living area
Lots of living area

Lovely Livable Homes

Plenty of Comfort Underground

They call them dugouts here, a word which conjures up a dismal picture but the truth is far different.

Merv's Dugout - Take a quick peep in Merv's underground home

So where does a visitor stay?

You can't camp out in the open

There are places to stay in Coober Pedy, from budget backpacker style to very comfortable hotel/motels. Some of the rooms are above ground.

Coober Pedy Accomodation - From Radeeka Downunder

The Jewels of Coober Pedy

The radiant opals

Opal is one of the world's most beautiful and precious gemstones, predominantly found in Australia. It's one of only six types of precious gemstones found on planet earth, sharing prestigious company with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls.

Over 95% of the world's precious opal comes from Australia, and this magnificent jewel is our national gemstone.

Opals

There's something extraordinary about Opal. What causes this fantastic chameleon of a thousand colours? Colours in crystal clear translucent blues or greens, in sharp lemon, and dull gold. Colours of warm and deeper pinks to blood red and black. Colours that roll, flicker and shimmer into change as the Opal is moved.

Technically, small spheres from silica gel, arranged in more or less compact structures, dissect and refract the light on its passage through the gemstone. Silicon dioxide (SiO2) in gel form contains millions of tiny pores that can absorb about 40 percent of its weight in moisture.

Silica gel is essentially porous sand. .

Sand it may be, but this memory of an ancient sea transforms the light into all the colours of the rainbow, always new, always different, and always beautiful

The Opal fields of Australia are legendary and Coober Pedy is the Opal capital of the world.

The major finds are remembered mainly in museums nowadays, although flashes of color can still be found in the fields. Instead the town has turned to the motherlode of tourism.

Digging for Opals in Coober Pedy

Precious Opal - A beautiful gemstone

Opals (Fred Ward Gem Book)
Opals (Fred Ward Gem Book)

A compact, beautiful, and informative coverage of the fascinating and beautiful opal.

 

Catch the Ghan to Coober Pedy - One of the Great Train Rides of the World

Coober Pedy. net

You can catch The Ghan from Adelaide or Darwin, and experience one of the most fascinating great train journeys of the world across the spectacular Australian landscape.

From the fertile countryside surrounding Adelaide to the rusty hues of the Red Centre, onto the tropical splendour of the Top End, The Ghan is the ultimate journey through the heart of the continent.

Journey to Coober Pedy on the Ghan from Alice Springs to Manguri, transfers from the Ghan to Coober Pedy, 2 nights at The Desert Cave Hotel, breakfast daily, and tours to the Painted Desert and working Opal Mines. Board the Ghan at Alice Springs

Getting around in the Outback - The Lonely Planet Guide

Lonely Planet Outback Australia (Serial)
Lonely Planet Outback Australia (Serial)

This particular Guide isn't aimed at the high end tourist, but the middle of the road traveler, like myself, and just perfect for the adventurer.

It's a wonderfully detailed resource. Don't go anywhere remote without picking up the Lonely Planet Guide first.

 

Where is it exactly? - Look up Coober Pedy on the map

A markerGet down and dirty in the Opal Capital of the World -
Coober Pedy, South Australia
get directions

Fly or Drive to Coober Pedy

From Adelade you can fly in with Regional Express Airlines cheaply enough.

Drive to Coober Pedy with Budget Rent a Car between March and November when the weather is pleasant, typical of a semi-desert climate, with warm days but remember that the desert nights are cold.

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How about you?

Hve you ever been to Coober Pedy?

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All comments are appreciated. You don't have to live in a hole to add yours

Leave your comment for the intrepid explorers

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    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 3 years ago

      Opals or no opals, I can't imagine being able to live underground, but, oh, how I'd love to experience a holiday at Coober Pedy; it is remarkable!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 3 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      I've always wanted to live in an underground house. These homes are remarkable!

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Wow have never been anywhere that remote

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 4 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I'd love to see more opals tho. I adore them. I'd heard of Cooper Pedy but not realised houses were underground there

    • profile image

      HouseBuyersOfAmerica 5 years ago

      beautiful place...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What an awesome place this would be to visit. :)

    • profile image

      EraGlassCo 5 years ago

      I spent several months in WA a few years back. Coober Pedy was on my list of places to get to, but I never did make it. I will have to make another trip soon! Thanks for the great information!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The housings in Coober Pedy sure looks great. As a tourist I could stay a few nights in there. But I don't think I could live underground year long.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Sounds like a hot idea to visit there! Like the idea of living in caves. :)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      I am absolutely totally and completely fascinated by the underground homes in Coober Pedy. The images of these underground homes sort of take us back into caveman days with a novel and richly elegant twist. I don't think that I would want to live there but Coober certainly is interesting and unique.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Fascinating lens. Thank you for sharing the story of this wonderful town.

    • profile image

      Tanami 5 years ago

      Job well done, great images and good content, I am an Outback South Aussie

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 6 years ago from New York

      Fabulous lens. I would love to visit Australia and stay overnight at Coober Pedy, but I could not live underground unless I had to because of nuclear fallout. I know I would become mentally ill if I didn't have windows to look out and could not see the sun. Enough about me. You lens is very well done and I did enjoy my armchair travel there! *Squid Angel Blessed* and I've added your link to My Squid Angel Wings, featured in the "Travel & Places" neighborhood.

    • bernie74 lm profile image

      bernie74 lm 6 years ago

      What a great Lens, thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      thebearsguide 6 years ago

      Great site. Brought back many happy memories of visiting Coober Pedy many years ago.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Coober Pedy is indeed a unique place to visit. The area around it looks like a lunar landscape. I wish I'd tried noodling in some of the heaps of dirt out of the mines. We camped on a paved campground. You fed coins into a machine to get water for a shower in the bath-house. Sure wish I'd bought more opals while there.

      Blessed by a squid angel and featured on You've Been Blessed.

    • profile image

      resabi 6 years ago

      Fascinating. Despite being a lover of opals (black in particular), I didn't know about Coober Pedy's underground housing. Hobbitses... I'm crazy about this lens.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Beautiful lens and presentation, love the place.Michey

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 6 years ago

      Coober Pedy is a great little place to visit. I don't like the idea of living underground but it was a great experience when I visited.

    • PizmoBeach LM profile image

      PizmoBeach LM 6 years ago

      One of my friends is from Coober Pedy. I am sure he'd approve of your lens!

    • Kitty Levee profile image

      Kitty Levee 6 years ago

      How wonderfully odd!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Very interesting

    • EdTecher profile image

      Heidi Reina 6 years ago from USA

      Underground home and opals AND breathtaking scenery. Makes me want to take another journey down under. Blessed by a Squid Angel ~

    • SusannaDuffy profile image
      Author

      Susanna Duffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @tandemonimom lm: You're right - there was one module in which I hadn't entered the Fahrenheit equivalent That must have been the one you read :) OMG 25F would kill me!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 6 years ago

      Fascinating place. The opals are gorgeous!

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 6 years ago

      Very interesting. Love the underground homes.

    • Bus Stop Toy Shop profile image

      Bus Stop Toy Shop 6 years ago

      I've never seen Coober Pedy before - absolutely fascinating - I'd love to pay a visit.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 6 years ago

      This sounds absolutely fascinating! I'd love to visit! But you might want to specify "Celsius" when you mention temperature for us poor Fahrenheit folks, who think 25 degrees is not comfortable at all! ;-)

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      Very interesting, love the thought of the cathedral ceilings.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      I heard about this town through the Travel Channel. It's one odd place, very interesting.

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 7 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Hi Susanna I would love to ad this page to my australian travel lenography - currently a work in progress but hopefully published in a week or so.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image
      Author

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @anonymous: But the opals!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I'm also adding this to my new fan club thank-you lens. I am so amazed by human ingenuity. How to live in a brutal climate. Me, I would move.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I'm making a lens of "favorite purple star lenses" and I keep trying to stop but I can't! This one is going in. Although Merv's place makes me shiver.

    • profile image

      sandralynnsparks 8 years ago

      I sold opals for a living for awhile. Nothing compares to the ones from Coober Pedy. I would love to see the place...

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      Wow, very interesting, it would be fabulous to visit. I like my sunshine but I guess if I had to live with 126 degrees F....I'd learn to live with less of it pretty quickly.

    • NAIZA LM profile image

      NAIZA LM 8 years ago

      I've never been in Australia.. But for sure it is included in one of my dream travel destination someday. I want to congratulate you on your purple star as well. This is a great lens and full of interesting contents. Very well deserve.

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      So interesting! I'd love to explore Australia...maybe in my next life...blessed. :-)

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      This is so cool!