On 1 February 1915 a group of gold prospectors discovered opal in the area surrounding Coober Pedy. It was to become the biggest opal field in the world, which today provides around 80 per cent of the world's gem-quality opals. The name Coober Pedy is derived from the Aboriginal phrase 'Kupa Piti', loosely translating to 'white man's hole in the ground'. The town's unique underground style of living was first established by soldiers returning from World War I who were used to trench life. Today much of the population call the 'dugouts' home – as ideal places to escape the severe summer temperatures and cold winter nights. The landscape of Coober Pedy is desolate and harsh, dotted with thousands of mines. It is also home to one of the most unique golf courses in the world.
Coober Pedy Visitor Information Centre, Hutchison St; (08) 8672 4617 or 1800 637 076
Nearby national parks
Umoona Opal Mine and Museum This award-winning underground centre provides an all-round look at Coober Pedy. A detailed town history and an Aboriginal interpretive centre comprehensively document Coober Pedy's evolution. Experience 'dugout' life in an underground home or mine life on an on-site mine tour. An excellent documentary on Coober Pedy is shown in the underground cinema. Hutchison St; (08) 8672 5228.
Old Timers Mine:
Old Timers Mine:museum in an original 1916 mine featuring 3 large opal seams and interpretive centre with self-guide walk; Crowders Gully Rd.
Underground churches: St Peter and St Pauls was the first underground church in the world; Hutchison St. Other interesting churches include the Catacomb Church on Catacomb Rd and the Serbian Orthodox Church with its 'ballroom' style.
Desert Cave: international underground hotel with shopping complex and display gallery detailing the early hardships of miners in Coober Pedy; 8am–8pm daily; Hutchison St.
Underground Art Gallery: works of central Australian artists, including Aboriginal pieces; Hutchison St.
Opal retailers: outlets offer jewellery and stone sales. Many demonstrate the skill required to cut and polish opals; 10am-6pm; (08) 8672 5985.
Big Winch Lookout: monument and lookout over town; Italian Club Rd.
Outback scenic and charter flights: local and outback tours; depart from airport; bookings (08) 8672 3067.
Mine tours: to local mines; contact visitor centre.
Moon Plain and the Breakaways The rocky landscape of Moon Plain (15 km NE) has been the backdrop for many movies, especially those with a science-fiction bent. Likewise, the 40 sq km reserve of the Breakaways (30 km N). The unique arid landscape of flat-topped outcrops and stony gibber desert is breathtaking, as is the wildlife that has adapted to these harsh conditions. Passes to the reserve are available from the visitor centre and other outlets in town. Return via the road past part of the Dog Fence, a 5300 km fence built to protect sheep properties in the south from wild dogs.
Coober Pedy Golf Course Play on a unique 18-hole grassless course. The only golf club in the world with reciprocal playing rights with the 'home of golf', St Andrews in Scotland. Night Golf is available by appointment, minimum of 4 people; (08) 8672 3535; 3.5 km N.
The Mail Run This overland adventure is a unique way of discovering the remote outback. Travelling with Coober Pedy's mailman, the tour travels past waterholes and through scenic landscapes on its delivery run to Oodnadatta, William Creek and the remote cattle stations in between. Travelling 600 km over outback roads and the renowned Oodnadatta Track, the mailman offers up fascinating stories and history of the landscape and people. Tours depart from the Underground Bookshop at 9am on Mon and Thurs; bookings (08) 8672 5226 or 1800 069 911.
Underground Pottery: handmade pottery depicting the colours and landscape of the desert; 2 km W.
William Creek: the smallest town in the state. Flights offered over Lake Eyre; 166 km E.
Painted Desert: rich colours paint the Arckaringa Hills, also noted for flora and fauna; 234 km N.
Travellers note: Opal fields are pocked with diggings. Beware of unprotected mine shafts. Avoid entering any field area unless escorted. For safety reasons, visitors to the mines are advised to join a tour. Trespassers on claims can be fined a minimum of $1000. Coober Pedy is the last stop for petrol between Cadney Homestead (151 km N) and Glendambo (252 km S).
Cafes & restaurants around town
Campsites around town
Bush camping areas 139 kmBush camping is permitted (with a permit) in Tallaringa in cleared areas within 50 m of the Anne Beadell Hwy.... Find out more
William Creek Campground 154 kmBasic camping is offered across the road from the pub in this tiny settlement on the old Ghan Railway. A popular lift-off point for scenic flights over Lake Eyre, it’s 204 km west of Marree and halfway to... Find out more
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Oodnadatta Caravan Park 174 kmCamping and van sites, along with cabin accommodation, are offered in the centre of this famous outback outpost 406 km north-west of Marree. Bring your own wood and water.... Find out more
Coward Springs Campground 205 kmThis heritage-listed former railway siding on the old Ghan Line is now a comfortable stopover for self-sufficient campers on the Oodnadatta Track. It’s surrounded by Wabma Kadarbu Conservation Park, a wetland fed... Find out more
Halligan Point camping area 213 kmThe only designated camping area on the lake rim has sites along the western shores of Halligan Point, 71 km east of William Creek. A great place to birdwatch, relax and absorb the dazzling white open spaces. Access is... Find out more
Marla Travellers Rest 218 kmA sprawling roadhouse-cum-motel and caravan park, this travellers’ hub is 233 km north of Coober Pedy on the busy junction of the Oodnadatta Track and Stuart Hwy.... Find out more
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Caravan parks around town
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Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town
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Rest areas around town
Pootnoura rest area 69 km
76km N of Coober Pedy (R) or 76km S of Cadney (L)
Just off the highway. Emergency phone only.
Ingomar rest area 87 km
161km N of Glendambo (L) or 91km S of Coober Pedy (R)
Just off the highway with good views over the surrounding countryside. Emergency phone only.
Mathesons Bore rest area 101 km
111km N of Coober Pedy (L) or 41km S of Cadney (R)
Secluded in the scrub well off the highway.
What's on around town
Opal Festival: Easter.
Coober Pedy Greek Glendi: celebration of Greek culture; July.