The Bare Traveller

Coober Pedy: A charming town of the Australian Outback

Visiting Coober pedy was part of my road drip Adelaide to Alice springs. Indeed, having joined a tour on a van with other backpackers, it took us a round 9 hours on the road to finally reach this town. 

In total, I have spent a full day in coober pedy so I am able to share my experience with you. Here’s what you need to know about this charming town at the heart of the Australian outback.

Coober Pedy Sign South Australia

Coober Pedy, the world’s Opal capital

Coober Pedy is known as the World’s Opal Capital. Most people are familiar with this beautiful stone.

Opal Coober Pedy South Australia

It is a highly cosmopolitan tiny town of around 3000 residents in the middle of the desert, where temperatures can reach 50 degrees in the summer. 

Many residents live underground to cope with the heat and adapt to the environment.

Tourist Seasons in Coober Pedy

Low Season

The months of January, February, March, May, June, and November are the months with the lowest tourist numbers.

Coober Pedy's peak tourist season

The months of April and October are the busiest in Coober Pedy. Also, the tourist affluence in Coober Pedy peaks in July, August, September, and December.

Coober Pedy weather

When is the best time to visit Coober Pedy you may ask?

Here’s some weather data for Coober Pedy to help you figure out when the ideal time to visit is:

  • The warmest months on average are summer months (From December to February). The weather is pleasant in the month of January. There are some exceptions. For instance When I visited, the temperature was close to 50°C. I understood quickly why the town is built underground.
  • The weather is clement between February and May. Typically, is 14° in the morning on average, and it rains 21mm in May on average. 
  • June is the driest month of the year. June and July are the coolest months of the year as they fall into the south hemisphere winter.
  • The weather is equable during the month of August. This month’s high temperature is 34° and has 0 rainy days.
  • The weather is pleasant from September to November. The temperature rises to 30°C, and there are roughly 38mm of rain every month.

What to do in Coober Pedy?

1) Go to an Opal mine

As I previously stated, life in Coober Pedy is opal-related. It only takes a few minutes to wander around the city centre to discover it. Every 10 metres or so, there are stores selling and buying opal. 

Visit one of the town’s many mines to learn more about opal and how to discover it.

Coober Pedy opal mine South Australia

They are known as the Umoona Mine & Museum, Tom’s Working Opal Mine, and Old Timers Mine, respectively. We have visiter Old Timers Mine, which is a natural mine excavated by hand in 1916.

It is possible to descend into the mine and follow an informative tour about the mine and how to discover opal for AUD 20 per person. It is a fascinating 30-minute tour 10 metres deep, with the extra advantage of a 1920s-era underground house recreation.

Coober Pedy opal mine, South Australia

In addition to the underground tour, Old Timers Mine hosts a free demonstration of how debris was retrieved in the mines every day at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. (with a Blower).

Finally, right beyond the Old Timers Mine entrance is a tiny bin where you may look for opal. I highly recommend, when visiting Coober Pedy to descend into an opal mine.

2) Explore the underground Churches

Aside from opal, the city’s other specialisation is subterranean constructions. The majority of them are residences, although there are also hotels, restaurants, and churches. 

The primary subterranean churches in Coober Pedy are the Catholic Church, Catacomb Church, and Serbian Orthodox Church.

The largest is the Serbian Orthodox Church, with the Catacomb Church having under-the-altar galleries that may be explored. It’s impossible to visit Coober Pedy without taking a stroll through these churches.

3) Watch Sunset from Big Winch Lookout

Big Winch overlooks the town and, in addition to containing two famous works of art (one showing Coober Pedy’s first tree and the other a seal going up the opal), it is a fantastic place to see the dawn and sunset.

Big Winch Lookout Coober Pedy

Due to the town’s modest size, the sun rises and sets over the desert and the opal mines. Outstanding!

4) Feed Kangaroos at the Josephine’s gallery

Josephine’s Gallery is located in the heart of Coober Pedy. An animal lover runs an art gallery that offers Aboriginal art. 

He has kangaroos (5 adults and 2 babies when we visited) and birds that he catches in his yard.

Kangaroo orphenage, Coober Pedy, South Australia

It is  basically a zoo for orphaned animals. Every day at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., you may feed the kangaroos for free (I recommend making a donation to help the orphanage continue its work). 

Unlike the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs, visitors are not permitted to enter the kangaroo enclosure. This makes it more of a zoo type of facility.

5) Go for a walk in the desert

Breakaways National Park, located 28 kilometres north of Cooder Pedy, has been utilised as a film scene multiple times. This was especially true for the movies Pitch Black, Mad Max 3, and Red Planet.

Breakaways Mountain Australia

Breakaways National Park also has a section of the world’s longest fence: the Dingo fence. There are 5300 kilometres between Surfer’s Paradise (Queensland) and Ceduna (Great Australian Bight).

This is an anti dingos barrier. The entrance fee to Breakaways National Park is AUD 10 per car. 

Please keep in mind that only the road between Coober Pedy and the park’s entrance is paved. Then it’s on to an untarred road (therefore not recommended for vans).

Coober Pedy accommodation

We stayed at the Radeka Downunder in the heart of Coober Pedy. The Radeka Downunder is an underground-only hotel/motel/inn. In the 1960s, the owners mined for opal but were unsuccessful, so they built a hotel.

There are both hostel beds and private rooms available at the motel. Parking, a huge kitchen, a TV room, a pool table, washing facilities, a souvenir store, and extremely good wifi are all available at the Radeka Downunder.

Hostel Coober Pedy Australia

The dorms and some rooms are located underground, up to 6.50 metres below ground. Finally, everything is spotless, and the kitchen is well-equipped.

The Radeka Downunder is at an ideal position. Directly in front of a bank, between two gas stations, and near restaurants and a grocery.

Finally, the owners (French Australians) provide excellent recommendations not just on visiting Coober Pedy but also on where to dine. 

A bed in a dorm costs 30 AUD, while a room starts at 80 AUD. It is Coober Pedy’s cheapest accommodation!

Final Thoughts: What do I think about Coober Pedy?

Coober Pedy is a wonderful place to stop on the way from Adelaide to visit Alice Springs. From the surroundings of Coober Pedy, we may deduce that just one ingredient makes the city (and the people’s hearts) go round: the opal.

Coober Pedy Australia

You can easily visit Coober pedy in a day. It is worth a visit, given the history of the miners, its exceptional weather conditions and also the location.

And how about you, did you like your vacation to Coober Pedy? What did you think of Opal’s capital?

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