Opal Capital of the World
Coober Pedy, Australia’s unique ‘Underground Town’, is an Opal Wonderland with a huge range of opals on display. Most of the opal shops belong to miners, who are skilled jewellers with extensive knowledge of high quality gems.
Located in the heart of South Australia’s Outback, this friendly town has all the modern facilities. There’s a wide range of accommodation in Coober Pedy, both above and below ground, as well as choices of eateries and restaurants.
Go exploring – see underground churches, opal shops, art galleries, a pottery, a book shop and opal mines. The unique golf course is one of a kind – an experience not to be missed. Interestingly it is aligned with St Andrews Golf Course in Scotland.
The area around Coober Pedy is covered with mines, so it's a no go area and is out of bounds. The mine shafts are deep and dangerous.
The area just south of the drive-in picture area known as "the Jewellers' Shop" has been set aside for noodling. It was the site of valuable finds of opal – hence it's name. Many of the shops also provide scatterings of their rough opal for visitors to noodle.
Coober Pedy is home to around 3,500 people of some 50 nationalities and takes its name from the Aboriginal word ‘Kupa’ (uninitiated man or white man) and Piti (burrow). The area was originally known as Stuart’s Range Opal Field, named after John McDouall Stuart, the first European explorer in the area. A monument to Stuart is south of town.
In the summer of 1915, a prospecting party called the New Colarado Prospecting Syndicate were in the area looking for gold. They camped just south of where the town is now. While the men were away seeking water, fourteen year old Willie Hutchison left behind at camp found opal ‘floaters’ lying on top of the ground. A claim was soon pegged, but the scorching hot desert conditions and scarce water forced them to leave.
After hearing of the opal finds the O’Neale brothers arrived. They found the first opal field in the area, but the conditions were harsh. Heat, flies, dust and their only water supply was what they had carried with them.
Returning soldiers from the first world war flocked to the area and soon adapted to living underground to escape the scorching heat, the flies of summer and the cold of winter.
Today, visitors can discover the fascinating lifestyle and see underground homes, churches, museums and dramatic scenery. There are town tours and tours to the Breakaways and Moon Plain.
Travellers can accompany the mailman to deliver mail to the outlying stations along the Oodnadatta Track. The spectacular Breakaways and Moon Plain are about 30 minutes drive away. It has been a favourite location for such movies as Mad Max, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The Thunderdome.
The popular Opal Festival is held at Easter each year and the Coober Pedy Races in October.