Posted by: debrakolkka | December 13, 2010

Coober Pedy – anyone for an opal?

opalised seashells in Coober Pedy

The first opal was found in Coober Pedy on 1st February 1915, by 14 year old Will Hutchinson – and they have been coming out of the ground thick and fast ever since.  Tourism is now almost as important to the town as the opals.  People – like us – flock to the town to see the mines, the dugout houses, hotels and churches and the lunar landscape surrounding the town.  The town has featured is several films, including Mad Max and Priscilla, Queen of the desert.

amazing landscape

After flying over Lake Eyre, the landscape changed completely.  To me it looks a bit like a painting by an Aboriginal artist.

Isn't it incredible?

Coober Pedy from above


lunar landscape

opal mines from above

The mounds are the result of the opal mining.

We went to the Old Timers Opal Mine, where it is possible to see how an old mine operated.

the mines used to be dug by hand with fairly crude implements

old mining tools

a seam of opal

Beside the old mine is an underground house built in the 1960s.  It is fascinating to wander through the rooms carved out of the rock.  The temperatures above ground make living impossible in summer, so before airconditioning became possible, the miners and their families lived underground.

an underground kitchen

more kitchen

the old wood stove




The bedroom was hand dug by Ron Gough in 1968 for his daughters.  While digging the room he accidentally broke into the old opal mine next door.  I think there is something quite lovely about a dad digging a room for his children.

Next door to the mine and underground house is an underground hotel.

underground hotel

interesting architecture

inside the hotel

The temperature underground is 23 – 25 degrees year round – perfect.

the walls and ceiling of the hotel

I think the walls are beautiful - and you never have to paint them

Have you ever had to wear a hard hat in a hotel?

Of course, you don’t need to wear them all the time, but if you want to explore some of the tunnels the hat will save your head from scrapes.

a Coober Pedy house

This house had a regular house-like front, with the entire house dug into the hillside.  Note the solar panels.  There would be no shortage of sun here.

a more modern opal digger

The very enthusiastic chap at The Old Timers Mine gave us a demonstration of some of the machines used in mining for opals today.  As well as the hand held digger there was the blower – a very exotic piece of machinery.

the blower

This contraption sucks rocks and stuff up inside and separates the dust from the (hopefully) opal bearing rock.  Like a lot of machinery used in the mines, these are made by the miners.  This particular one was the most beautiful blue.

the blue blower

there is the odd tree in Coober Pedy

a Coober Pedy rooftop

More than 3,500 people live in the town.  It is much too hot and remote for me.  I was happy with a quick visit.

Comfort Inn


  1. Interesting to see how people live in Coober Pedy. Your pictures convey the harshness of the landscape and the resourcefulness of the miners in creating the quirky tools (the blower) and making a life underground. Certainly not my cup of tea to live in such a place but some folks seem to love that kind of life.
    You’ve captured Dorothea Mackellar’s “wide brown land” from the air, and I love the photo of the gum tree reflecting the colours of the land against a vivid blue sky. Fascinating pictures, Deb.

  2. Waw, this is amazing Deb!!!
    thanks for sharing!!!
    especially that all mine’s story are in fashion lately 🙂
    Beautiful pictures Deb!

  3. Fantastic story Deb, thanks. I’m with you, as fascinating as it is to see the underground way of life, its way too remote for me. Sounds like your inland visit over Lake Eyre & Coober Pedy was a fantastic trek. More?

    • That’s it now for outback Australia – back to Italy.

  4. This brings back memories! It certainly is a weird and wonderful place. This place is so off the dish compared to the other places you have presented on your blog! Thanks!

  5. Good story Deb!

  6. Great Photos,

    You have certainly showcased the Australian outback. I have been to many of the places photographed, but not for a long time. I have not seen the outback from the air though. Good stuff.


    • Thank you.

  7. Love those aerial shots of the outback… amazing.

  8. Love these posts from the outback, virtual tourism is great for my carbon footprint as well as taking me to unexpected places like this. Wonderful photos and a great series of posts. Thank you!

  9. I think I just got a little thirsty after looking at all your photos. I can’t imagine how hot it would be in the middle of summer, and working in the mines.
    I’ve often marvelled at pictures of the hotel.
    Thanks Debra!

  10. Love those arial shots – great images.

  11. Wow, that looks quite amazing! I don’t know if I could cope as it seems a little claustrophobic but it’s a cute idea!

    • It isn’t really claustrophobic. Once you are underground for a while, you forget. It seems like a normal environment.

  12. […] post: Coober Pedy – anyone for an opal? « Debra & Liz's Bagni di Lucca Blog Questo articolo è stato pubblicato in Hotel, Hotel Lucca, Lucca e ha i tag dugout, lucca, […]

  13. […] flew in a light plane over Lake Eyre, full of water, and visited some iconic outback towns, Maree, Coober Pedy and Birdsville – what fun!  outback […]

  14. […] of these underground cave houses would be fun. Coober Pedy in Australia has a similar thing. Click here for a […]

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