Some 850 kilometres north of Adelaide you can find a small remote town called Coober Pedy. For many people the town is nothing more than a place to stop for one night on a way to Uluru or Alice Springs. The ones who decide to explore the place a bit more might be surprised. The town was established in 1915 when opal was found in the area, and even today it is still called the opal capital of Australia, or even the opal capital of the whole world. With opal discoveries in the early 1900s came the miners. And with the miners came families. And families needed services, they needed housing and infrastructure. Coober Pedy was born.
However, especially during the summer, the temperature can rise up to unbearable levels and often exceed 40 degrees of Celsius. Living on the ground was simply too hot so people came up with the idea of building houses underground. Even today the majority of the homes are located under the ground where the temperature stays at a nice, moderate level, and this really gives the town a unique touch and makes it very different from any other small Australian town. Even the visitors can try if they can get a good night sleep at an underground hotel or hostel. At least I slept really well when I visited the town on my tour with Groovy Grape.
There are several interesting places to visit in Coober Pedy. The top place is the Umoona opal mine & museum where you can learn about the history of the town, about opal mining and see what the underground homes look like. Naturally Coober Pedy is the best place to purchase opals and you can get them a lot cheaper than anywhere else in Australia.
I also visited an underground catholic church which was very interesting even though I’ve seen so many churches on my travels in Europe. The town itself is relatively small and consists of just a couple of restaurants, supermarket, liquor store and a few other basic services. Visit John’s Pizza Bar & Restaurant for one of the best pizzas I’ve had in Australia.
My favourite place in the town was the kangaroo orphanage where good hearted, devoted people take care of baby kangaroos whose mothers have been killed in road accidents. Visitors (or at least tour groups) can feed the older kangaroos and pet small baby kangaroos. For a tourist like me, this was just one of the most memorable experience of the tour. When you see this cute face, doesn’t your heart just melt?
If you are interested in aboriginal art, in the same premises with the orphanage, there is an art gallery where you can admire or purchase indigenous art, paintings and wooden objects. We were lucky to have one popular artist, Tommy, there to tell us about his art, creative process and philosophy behind his paintings. Some of us were also lucky to participate and had the honour to finish one painting with him.
Personally for me Coober Pedy was a surprisingly interesting town where you can easily spend one day just exploring and enjoying the unique outback atmosphere.
To find more things to do in Coober Pedy, click here.