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10 March 2013 / leggypeggy

Coober Pedy—don’t forget your hardhat

Looking out on Coober Pedy

Looking out on Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy was a must-see stop on our outback road trip to the Red Centre.

This South Australian country town is famous for two main reasons. For starters, it’s considered the Opal Capital of the World, plus, because it gets so hot there, a lot of the town is built underground.

Underground kitchen

Breakfast anyone?

Underground bedroom

No need for curtains in an underground bedroom

You can live in an underground house, sleep in an underground motel, dine in an underground café, visit an underground gallery, attend an underground church, shop in an underground store, work in an underground mine.

The piles of dirt and rock that extend for many kilometres in and around Coober Pedy are evidence of the digging that goes on there.

It all started in 1915 when a father and son team, Jim and William Hutchsion, who had been searching unsuccessfully for gold found surface opal instead. The resulting settlement, originally known as the Stuart Range Opal Field, was renamed in 1920. The current name comes from the Aboriginal words ‘kupa piti’, commonly thought to mean ‘white man in a hole’.

Conditions were harsh in the early days and life was not easy. Water and provisions were carted in from great distances. Each person was entitled to only two gallons of water a week.

Coober Pedy has changed a lot, and tourism is a big drawcard.

Coober Pedy

Quirky art at the Coober Pedy lookout

Our first stop was aboveground—at a lookout near the Big Winch. As an aside, Australia has lots of goofy big things—the Big Lobster, the Big Beer Can, the Big Bushranger, the Big Banana to name a few—and I’ll share those with you as I come to them.

The entrance to the Big Winch is closed now, but a nearby lookout is still open. You can get a good overview of the town and a good laugh at some of the quirky art that’s on display.

Next stop was the Old Timers Mine. This is a great place for an all-in-one glimpse of Coober Pedy’s history.

We donned hardhats to visit the 1916 mine, underground house and museum. It doesn’t take long to figure out why hardhats are compulsory—the ceilings are low, jagged and unforgiving!

After touring the mine and at the owner’s suggestion, we had our picnic lunch in the shade by the entrance. As the owner said, it’s probably the best shade in town.

We were also impressed to see a large fenced area off to the side, complete with water bowl, where travellers can park a pet while they tour the mine. Nice thinking.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Sechys Diary / Mar 10 2013 4:14 pm

    I really can’t wait to venture into the outback more. These pictures tell a great story! xoxo


    • leggypeggy / Mar 10 2013 5:30 pm

      I love the outback. Stay tuned because many more posts are on the way.


  2. Susan / Mar 10 2013 6:35 pm

    Hoping i am not too old to see all of this someday when I am able to travel more.


    • leggypeggy / Mar 10 2013 7:08 pm

      If you come to Australia, I’ll drive you around the outback.


  3. Dr Rick / Mar 11 2013 1:57 pm

    Thanks, Peg! Very interesting!! Regards to Poor John!


    • leggypeggy / Mar 11 2013 3:04 pm

      You are most welcome. Thanks for dropping in. Poor John says hi.


  4. artandkitchen / Mar 13 2013 3:52 am

    Thanks Peggy for showing us your picures and sharing some words about this place.
    Coober Pedy’s story is really interesting. Coober Pedy has found a very good mine:” tourism”!
    A perfect stop travelling across Australia!


    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2013 7:53 am

      Very happy to share. We’ve been to Coober Pedy twice in just over a year. We also went in December 2011 when we travelled overland from Darwin to Sydney.


  5. gpcox / Apr 7 2013 9:03 pm

    Since I was a child, I loved opals. This is my kind of town.


    • leggypeggy / Apr 7 2013 9:10 pm

      Opals are amazing. They range from milky white to brilliant black. What’s your favourite?


      • gpcox / Apr 7 2013 9:12 pm

        Milky with the speckles of blues, greens,etc.


      • leggypeggy / Apr 7 2013 9:14 pm

        I have a nice piece from my mother-in-law. I’ll share a photo when I get it out of the safe. It lives securely these days.


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