Should you be headed south of Uluru and Kata Tjuta on your epic Aussie adventure, be sure to visit Coober Pedy, just a rough 750km drive from the Red Centre via the Stuart Highway. Out in the middle of nowhere, it’s known for underground dwelling residents, a golf course void of any grass (the only green patch you’ll find is at the primary school) and a space ship left over from Pitch Black. Fellow nerds, be sure to come here!
Despite my school camp hitting the place on our way north back in 2005, I’ve chosen to highlight the sights you’ll come across should you hit the town from the opposite direction. One such marvel is the Breakaways, a unique setting of flat-topped outcrops you have to save some camera time for.
This breathtaking landscape, thirty kilometres north of Coober Pedy and on a reserve of forty square kilometres, was where Tina Turner was seen hunting down a fella called Max in a flick named Beyond Thunderdome. Rich with fauna and wonder, this is another example of how out-there the Australian landscape can look.
Further south you’ll come by a few bodies of glistening saltwater that’re worth a walk along. Provided you come by the lake I’ve posted photos of (I do apologise but I wasn’t able to learn the name) have a look for the rusted up camper van rocking the graffiti. Thanks to the cover of Tim Winton’s The Turning, abandoned car wrecks now have some appeal.
Should you be stretched for time and feeling fatigued, stop over at the Cadney Homestead. We had a relaxing time here amongst the locals and road trains but the one let down was the suss smell that was going around. Fingers are crossed it’s been taken care of.
And now we’re at the prize of this journey. First established by gold prospectors on February 1st 1915, Coober Pedy’s name originates from the Aboriginal phrase ‘Kupa Piti’ which loosely means ‘white man’s hole in the ground’. Whilst the prospectors didn’t come by much gold, they did discover what would become the world’s largest deposit of opals, ahead of Mexico and Brazil. The town makes a living off of these minerals so you’ll find more than enough on offer. If a walk about is your agenda, suss out a guide beforehand because trespassing on claims comes with a $1000 fine, and there’s also the added risk of falling through the ground.
Another most unique feature about Coober Pedy are the underground homes, dugouts, that are considered (in this most severely tempered environment) ingenious. We did stay underground for our night here, due to safety reasons, and I have to say that fragments of the ceiling did fall to the ground and ignite the freak out effect but that was all. We had a very cool nights sleep. As well as homes, we did come by a swimming pool and a chapel functioning beneath the surface so that’s what you’re like to find.
When it’s a clear day you’re awarded a great view atop one of the many dirt hills that provided its share of wind and dust, which is to be expected, but who would really care. The view is brilliant. Coober Pedy is one of Australia’s most unique townships, thanks to its hobbits and space ship, so you have to give it a shot.