Bucket List: Coober Pedy, South Australia

A lap of Australia generally includes The Red Centre, and an outback pilgrimage to “the opal capital of the world”, where living underground is the norm. Coober Pedy   attractions in South Australia are a must see – here is where to camp!

Noodling – not canooodling – is mandatory when you visit Coober Pedy on the Explorers Way. Basically it is fossicking for opals, but we all loved the name. 

And do you know what the words Coober Pedy means? White man in a hole! 

Coober Pedy, SA

What to see and do

We stopped in at the Tourist Info Centre and here’s what they suggested for our crew (in order):

  • Serbian Church and Hall  ($5 donation entry)
Big Winch Lookout, Coober Pedy SA
Big Winch Lookout, Coober Pedy SA
  • Big Winch Lookout (free, and there is a bar with views, too!)
Kangaroo feeding, Coober Pedy SA
  • Kangaroo Feeding – at Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage (you can also see Indigenous art and artifacts here).
  • John’s Pizza Bar for lunch (biggest pizza ever – 18 inches and it is still there)
  • Desert Cave Hotel underground museum and walk. Since then it has changed ownership – we believe the display is still here.
  • 2pm was Tom’s Opal Mine – this tour was awesome! The kids were able to do heaps like activate a blower, go up a shaft. We travelled really deep down and he explained the process for mining opals. Then they noodled. 

Petrol, shop and playground before we returned to accommodation. More noodling – our daughter found so many. 

If we returned, I’d visit the Kanku Breakaways and Dog Fence for sunset, about 70km out of town. 

Coober Pedy Sunsets

I called the Visitor Centre for an update and they advised the wonderful Tom and Mary’s Greek Taverna, where we all ate up, has sadly closed. But one of the wonders about Coober Pedy is the multicultural history, population and cuisine.

Barry from the Visitor Centre told me that several of the other eateries still have Greek food, and even the bakery has Asian cuisine as well! 

Driving north of Coober Pedy
Driving north of Coober Pedy

When we return, I’d visit the Breakaways for sunset, about 70km out of town and the Historical Society’s Heritage Trail. It includes an opal field you can noodle in, dugouts, churches, views and monuments. 

Barry also says there is so much more on offer, he recommends a longer stay. Cemeteries, a Saturday night drive-in, underground living and galleries! Take a photo of the new Coober Pedy sign, too. 

Check out Indigenous history and from when opals were first discovered in 1915. There are plenty of tours to choose from including a Mail Run Tour! 

Big Winch Lookout views - Coober Pedy SA - Gilmore Lap 2013
Big Winch Lookout views

Where to camp

As we stopped only one night, we splurged on underground accommodation – I can count on one hand how many times we did this on our entire lap! So a “real” bed and our own bathroom was special enough for our tribe. But sleeping underground? Wow! It is estimated that half the population live underground in hillside dugouts. 

Hutchison Memorial in South Australia - image Adventures Captured by Lea
Hutchison Memorial in South Australia - image Adventures Captured by Lea

We stopped at a free camp the night prior, Mulga Well, south of town, so we had a good amount of the day to sight see. The Hutchison Memorial is very close to town and another free camp – and the Old Timers Mine is right in town, too. 

Then there are five caravan parks to choose from as well. Note that Riba’s Underground Camping and Caravan Park offer free unpowered camping with their tours. 

We also topped up our water – it was the first time we paid for water, from a bowser like a petrol station. Coin operated water dispensers are available in Hutchinson Street. 

Find these sites and more nearby in the CAMPS guide books, CAMPS Pendium boxed set and CAMPS AUSTRALIA WIDE App.

One Other Note

We only list authorised sites, for lots of reasons. In Coober Pedy, South Australia, it is even more important because stealth camping or wild camping could lead you deep into a mine hole. So please stay in authorised sites. 

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