What's to see? Lots!
Much of the town's treasures – like its opal – can be found underground. Local organised tours or your own walking tour can be organised through the Visitor Centre.
Here is just a taste of what's on offer...Take a true DownUnder trip into a “dugout” home – made by mining families – with some more like mansions, covering 450 square metres. More than half of the town's families live underground, where temperatures are maintained at a pleasant 23-25 degrees C throughout the year.
There are underground churches and art galleries too - plus the award-winning Desert Cave Hotel, the world's first 4-star luxury property of its type, complete with mining display and opal gallery.
The historic Old Timers Mine – hand-dug in 1916, features a self-guided walk through tour of display galleries, two underground homes and precious seams of opal, while the Umoona Mine & Museum contains an underground house, Aboriginal interpretive centre, panoramic theatre, historic displays, opal retailing shop and showroom plus Aboriginal arts and crafts.
And if you like to buy opals, you'll find the world's largest displays in Coober Pedy. You can also enquire at the Visitor Centre how to ''noodle'' through permitted mine areas to seek your own gemstones.
Come and see for yourself!
John McDouall Stuart Monument
John McDouall Stuart (7 September 1815 – 5 June 1866) was the most accomplished and most famous of all Australia's inland explorers. The explorations of Stuart eventually resulted in the Adelaide-Darwin telegraph being built and the main route from Port Augusta to Darwin being established, which is now known as the Stuart Highway in his honour. The monument commemorates his achievements.
Noodling and Mining
Noodling area open to the public. Check with the Department of Mines & Energy on areas to noodle. If you are not on a pegged claim and do not use a pick, shovel or any digging device then a permit is not required. Trespassers on claims can be fined. If you wish to mine in any way using tools, machinery or explosives, a precious stones prospecting permit must be obtained from the Mines & Energy office.
Opal Fossils of South Australia; Origin Energy Fossil Gallery stage one
Called the Opal Fossils of South Australia, the gallery shows the mighty marine reptiles that roamed in the cold inland seas of Australia during the age of dinosaurs 120 million years ago.
The centre piece is the magnificent national treasure, the opalised Addyman plesiosaur, a 120 million year old marine reptile. Suspended from the ceiling hangs a life-size model of this ancient plesiosaur.
Also on display are other magnificant opalised treasures such as shells, sea sponges, worms (the only opalised worms in the world!) and the backbone of an ichthyosaur, a 115 million year old extinct dolphin-like reptile.
The Breakaways Reserve lies 32km north of Coober Pedy. It consists of colourful low hills which have broken away from the Stuart Range, hence their name “The Breakaways”.
There are two lookout points which highlight the open spaces and colourful environment, leaving an impression of the long gone inland sea that our early explorers dreamt of. From the lookout, the locally named “Castle” or “Salt & Pepper” can be seen in an easterly direction. This outcrop has been used in a number of films and advertisements, while Panorama Hill situated in the middle, features in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Ground Zero. As the day goes by, the passing of the sun changes the desert colours, creating photogenic scenes that appear surreal.
The 70km round trip back to Coober Pedy takes you east along the hills to the dog fence. This 2m high wire barrier stretches for over 5,300km across three States, to protect the sheep country in the south from the native dog, the Dingo. The desert-like moonscape along the fence, with its fossilised shells, grey, soft clay dirt and cracks that appear to be bottomless, has been nicknamed the “moon plain”. It too has been the
scene for numerous movies.
Underground Living In “Dugouts”
It is believed that the soldiers who returned from the trenches of France during the First World War introduced the idea of living underground in homes commonly known as “dugouts”. The miners quickly discovered the advantages of living underground to escape the heat of the summer and winter’s cool desert nights.
No matter how harsh the climate, the underground rooms maintain a comfortable, even temperature ranging from 23ºC to 25ºC day and night throughout the year.
It is estimated that about 50% of the population live underground now. Most
dugout homes are excavated into hillsides rather than dug from shafts. The soil in the Coober Pedy hillside is stable enough to allow huge ceiling spans in rooms and it is not unusual for a mining family to buy an adjoining property and tunnel to link two dwellings, or even three or four. Some mansion style homes spread up to 450 square metres underground.
Wind Turbine Generator
Situated next to the Power Supply Plant which is the largest diesel fired station in Australia. Installed in 1991, the Nordex Wind Turbine Generator is mounted on a 30m high steel tower, having an output of about 200KW, which services about 4% of the town’s power supply.