Coober Pedy – Coober Pedy, Australia - Atlas Obscura

Coober Pedy is a mining town in South Australia, which calls itself the “Opal mining capital of the world”. The town’s name comes from the Aboriginal term for “boy’s waterhole,” but the joke is that it actually means “white man in a hole.”

While Aboriginal people have long inhabited the area, miners first moved to Coober Pedy in 1916 after the discovery of opal in the surrounding rocks. As a result of the intense heat, a number of miners living in town have chosen to live underground, either in the beginnings of old mines or in purpose-dug underground houses. This has continued with much of the modern town being built underground. Among the local public buildings found underground are three churches, a bookstore, an art gallery, a bar, and hotels. Opals can be seen embedded in the walls of some of these hotel rooms.

The area doesn’t support much life and the first “tree” in the town was welded together from scrap iron. The metal tree can still be seen on a hill overlooking the town. The daytime temperatures of Cooper Pedy in the summer get so high than most sporting activities take place at night. Golf played with glowing balls is a popular pastime.

The towns unusual and bleak landscape, made even stranger by the mining efforts, has made it an attractive location for Hollywood. Coober Pedy has appeared in a number of movies, including “Pitch Black”, “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” and “Red Planet”.

One must be careful in Coober Pedy, however. The area around the town is riddled with pits and caverns dug in search of opals. This is especially true at night when one is out playing a round of glowing golf.

Worth looking out for are Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest, a bizarrely decorated cave home, and screenings at the Coober Pedy Drive-In, a popular event in the town.

Know Before You Go

Coober Pedy is accessible via a small airstrip, via coach tour or private car, and via the Ghan railway line running between Darwin and Adelaide. Coober Pedy is located in South Australia, 846kms from Adelaide, 685kms from Alice Springs, and 2,170kms from Darwin.

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