Find out why everything happens underground in the world’s opal capital.
There’s a relaxed and friendly vibe in Coober Pedy, where 3,500 residents from over 45 different countries have literally gone underground to avoid the searing outback heat. Most people work in the opal fields but their quirky underground community – complete with a church, hotels and a grassless golf course - has made tourism the second biggest industry.
Discovered in 1913 by 14-year-old Willie Hutchison, Coober Pedy takes its name from the Aboriginal word kupa (uninitiated man or white man) and piti (hole). Today its 70 fields cover almost 5,000 square kilometres and produce most of the world’s opals.
This is the place to ‘noodle’ - or fossick - for opals, meet people from across the world in their dugout homes and visit an underground art gallery. Don a hard-hat and explore Coober Pedy’s history in an abandoned mine that is now a museum. Or relive the days of pick-and-shovel mining in the labyrinth-like passageways, where seams of opal are still in the walls.
When you venture above ground, tour the area’s awesome apocalyptic landscapes and see part of Dog Fence. Measuring more than 5,000km, it was built to protect farm animals from dingos, Australia’s wild dogs. Don’t forget to look up at the outback sky at night, blazing with stars brighter than opals.