Old Timers Mine

This is probably the best chance you’ll have to see real opals still in the ground. As you don  your hardhats and descend into the depths of this historic mine, you begin to feel the  anticipation the first opal miners must have felt back in 1916. Your kids will point with excitement  at all the glimmers of precious stones in the walls around you, still waiting to be dug out. As  you all peer into the shadowy hand-gouged shafts, it will seem as if time has stood still. You’ll  see miners (life-sized models) busily at work. Travel further and you will discover a whole  underground lifestyle, including real dugout homes, still furnished, and a post office.

Contact details

Crowders Gully, Coober Pedy; (08) 8672 5555

Price range


Don't Miss

■ The opportunity for kids to try their luck at noodling. There are real bits of opal to find!

■ One of the interactive demonstrations of modern mining machinery that take place three times  a day. Kids can actually load dirt in the blower and watch it being sucked into the big bucket.
■ The William Hutchison exhibit – it’s a story that will capture the imagination of kids.

Fabulous Facts

A 14-year-old boy called William (Willie) Hutchison was the first European to find opals in  Coober Pedy. Willie was the youngest member of a syndicate searching for gold in the area in  1915. When the party split up to look for water, he was left behind to mind the camp. Against  orders, he wandered off looking for water himself. When the others returned and couldn’t find  Willie they were anxious and angry. Then the missing boy came strolling back, grinning from ear  to ear. He had found not only water, but the world’s largest opal-bearing region. In the museum  you can read a letter Willie wrote to his mum, and view the opal he found.

Insider Tips

■ This tour is self-guided (and multilingual) so you can vary the pace to suit your kids. There  are lots of interesting stories to read along the way, but if the kids get impatient they can run  ahead and start to noodle (fossick for opals) in the pit outside. At the time of writing, the mine  was preparing audio guides that you might like to try.

■ Make sure you look up the shafts as well – you might find some surprises.

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