13 Things to do in Coober Pedy

13 Things to do in Coober Pedy

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coober pedy sunset
13 things to do in Coober Pedy and beyond. Photos: Christina Pfeiffer.

Once a magnet for fortune hunters, these days Coober Pedy is more of a hideaway for hobbits. The desert town in South Australia is mesmerising, with spectacular sunsets and wide-open spaces and surprisingly, there are plenty of things to do in Coober Pedy to keep you interested.

Although Coober Pedy might not be an easy place to visit in South Australia, it’s well worth the effort. 

Most visitors to South Australia usually start in Adelaide (here are some things to do in Adelaide)where a light aircraft flight to Coober Pedy is the fastest way to get there but if you have the time, driving to Coober Pedy is another option. 

13 things to do in Coober Pedy

1- Meet the locals of Coober Pedy

man holdeing a huge opal in coober pedy
Meeting the locals is one of the best things to do in Coober Pedy.

Wherever you go you’ll easily find someone in this small town to strike up a conversation (the population is around 3500) .

Most of the town’s folk are pretty friendly and the people who live there are interesting Outback Australians.

Many have come here from far-flung parts of the world and have lived in Coober Pedy for decades.

Seek out the old timers who have fascinating tales about their wonderful discoveries.

Stories about digging out enough opal in 20 minutes to buy two houses in Melbourne are pretty common.

Talking about homes, some of the underground homes in Coober Pedy are surprisingly luxurious.

Think indoor swimming pools, custom-designed closets, polished timber floors and rooms decorated with oil paintings.

Some homes have gyms, media rooms and wine cellars.

2- Shop for opals

one of the top things to do in coober pedy is to buy opals
Shopping for opals is one of the top things to do in Coober Pedy.

 

Opal was discovered in 1915 and in the 1960s hundreds of Europeans came to Coober Pedy hoping to dig up a fortune.

They purchased mining rights to small parcels of land.

A tour of Coober Pedy’s opal fields reveals mounds of debris from prospecting shafts.

If you see a well-dressed foreigner wandering around, he’s likely to be an opal buyer from overseas. 

70% of the world’s opal comes from Coober Pedy and dealers from places like Hong Kong send the stones to China to be cut, polished and set.

3- Visit a real underground home

a bedroom underground - things to do in coober pedy
Visiting someone’s home is such a unique thing to do in Coober Pedy

 

Most of the town’s residents live underground as it sizzles in summer (around 50˚C) and it’s freezing in winter.

Over 40 years ago, Faye Naylor came up with the idea of building an underground house.

She chipped away at the rock for three years with rough hand tools.

Others continued her work and these days you can visit Faye Naylor’s Underground Home, which has a wine cellar and a swimming pool.

4- Play golf in the world’s quirkiest golf course

Dream of playing a round of golf in St Andrew’s?

The 18-hole Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Course has reciprocal rights for members to play nine holes at Scotland’s St. Andrews’ Balgove in January.

5- Attend the Opal Festival

coober pedy attractions
Having fun at the Opal Festival is one of the top things to do in Coober Pedy if you can make it.

 

Coober Pedy is a multicultural mixing pot of over 45 nationalities.

The annual Opal Festival is a fun event and the best place to go to meet everyone in town in one spot. 

Iagine Croatians, Serbians, Bosnians and Greeks relaxing over a friendly beer while cooking lamb on the spit. 

6- Explore an opal mine

coober pedy attractions
Exploring an opal mine is another interesting thing to do in Coober Pedy

 

The Old Timers Mine was discovered in 1916.

No one knows why the original miners backfilled the shafts so the opal was hidden until 1968 when a surprised resident discovered the mine while renovating their home.

The dimly lit tunnels are atmospheric and the life-sized mannequins are a little spooky, although the poses do give you a good idea of what went on in the mining heyday.

You’ll get the idea opal mining was pretty tough but most miners kept going for the thrill of finding that next big stash.

7- Fossick for opals 

group wearing hard hats in a coober pedy opal mine
Fossicking for opals is one of the fun things to do in Coober Pedy

 

Any opal miner will tell you it’s addictive.

Bring your own tools and try your luck away from the crowds or join the Down ‘n Dirty Opal digging tour for a bit of fun.

Armed with hard hats, torches and handpicks you’ll get to hack away at the walls of the Opal Quest Mine.

Who knows what you might find? Apparently, a lucky visitor found themselves an opal worth $50,000.

8- Walk in the footsteps of the dinosaurs

coober pedy
The Umoona Museum is a Coober Pedy attraction worth going to.

 

Umoona Opal Mine & Museum has much more than opals.

120 million years ago, Australia was part of Gondwana.

Coober Pedy was right at the bottom of a polar ocean, near the Antarctic, brimming with marine reptiles and bizarre animals such as the Umoonasaurus (a plesiosaur similar to the Lochness Monster).

9- Walk on the Moon Plains 

coober pedy attractions
The Moon Plains is one of the Coober Pedy attractions not far out of town.

 

Not far from Coober Pedy, the Moon Plains is a landscape of brown ochre and yellow dirt. According to conspiracy theorists, this was where the Apollo moon landing was faked.

Not long after the Apollo landing was in the news, the Adelaide Advertiser published a photograph of the lunar landscape next to one of Coober Pedy’s Moon Plains.

Most people couldn’t tell the two apart.

10- Pretend you’re on the set of a Star Wars sequel

coober pedy attractions
Coober Pedy is a fantasy movie set for Star Wars.

 

The lunar landscape has captured the imagination of apocalyptic filmmakers who have left props strewn around the area.

There’s a giant alien spaceship parked in front of the Opal Cave underground complex and other props from movies like Red Planet and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

11- Visit the underground church

seeing the underground chapel is a must do in Coober Pedy
Visiting the underground chapel is one of the things to do in Coober Pedy.

Yes, there is one and it’s beautiful. 

12 – The Coober Pedy Mail Run

cooper pedy road and desert landscape
Joining the Coober Pedy mail run is one of the most memorable things to do from Coober Pedy.

The Outback Postman delivers mail to remote stations in South Australia.

Join the Coober Pedy Mail Run when the postie delivers the mail and see what it’s like to live in this remote region.

13- Watch the sunset 

coober pedy sunset
A romantic thing to do in Coober Pedy is to watch the sunset.

Stand at the lookout on top of the Opal Cave and watch the flaming sunset. It’s a crimson sky that glows like a giant opal. 

 

Coober Pedy Information

How to get to Coober Pedy

You can fly, drive or get to Coober Pedy by train (The Ghan Railway runs from Adelaide to Alice Springs and the train stops at Manguri Station, 47km from Coober Pedy)

When to go to Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is a place of extreme climate, which is dry and hot in the summer. It can get cold in the winter.

The best time of the year to visit Coober Pedy is when the climate is cooler, between April and October.

The worse time to visit is in January or February when the thermometer hits the mercury (42°C during the day is the norm) and the temperature is too hot to go outside. 

Coober Pedy Accommodation

One of the experiences to try in Coober Pedy is sleeping underground.

You’ll be surprised how well you sleep when you’re underground.

There are a number of underground hotels, motels and B&Bs.

I stayed at The Desert Cave Hotel, which has everything you need including an underground café and opal shops.

BOOK A COOBER PEDY HOTEL

Find out more about South Australia here: 

15 things to do on Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail

8 ecotourism destinations in South Australia

Things to do in Coober Pedy
Things to do in Coober Pedy
13 things to do in Coober Pedy #desert #travel #australia #southaustralia #opals
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I'm a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia, when I'm not on the road. I've lived in three continents and my career as a travel journalist has taken me to all seven continents. Since 2003, I have contributed travel stories to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. I have won many travel writing awards and I'm a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.

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