Going on a Coober Pedy trip and want to know exactly what to do in Coober Pedy? We have you covered! Below you will find our guide to all the best Coober Pedy attractions to plan your ultimate trip.
For a small outback town of around 2,500 people, Coober Pedy packs a big punch. Well known as the city where people live underground, and for its opals, it was somewhere I had wanted to visit since I first heard about it as a child. It sounded fascinating!
Fast forward many years and I have a son who feels the same way. So with the pandemic stopping international travel, 2021 seemed like the perfect time to make the long drive from our home in Melbourne to explore this unique town in the South Australian Outback.
Coober Pedy is a corruption of aboriginal words which mean “white man hole in the ground” which actually seems like an apt name! As the place that supplies around 80% of the world’s opals, there are many holes in the ground here – some for mining and some for people’s homes. With the high temperatures in this part of the world, underground houses make a lot of sense and many homes are built this way.
Coober Pedy is a great place to explore and is truly unique. Everywhere you look are views and sights which look somewhat other worldly. It’s not just the Outback or a mining town, it’s some place all of its own.
Below, you will find everything you need to know about the best Coober Pedy tourist attractions, the best things to see in Coober Pedy as well as a handy map of all the fun activities in Coober Pedy for your ultimate holiday!!
- 1 19 Top Things To Do In Coober Pedy SA
- 1.1 Check Out The Old Timers Mine & Museum
- 1.2 Learn More Of The Opal Town History At Umoona Opal Mine & Museum
- 1.3 Explore Tom’s Working Opal Mine
- 1.4 Noodle For Opals
- 1.5 Explore The Kanku – Breakaways Conservation Park
- 1.6 Stay In An Underground Hotel
- 1.7 See The Serbian Orthodox Church
- 1.8 Visit The Catacomb Church And St Peter & Paul Catholic Church
- 1.9 Meet The Cute Joeys At Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage
- 1.10 Check Out The Famous Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest
- 1.11 Visit The Pitch Black Spaceship (And Shop At Opal Cave)
- 1.12 Stop By The Big Miner
- 1.13 See The Big Winch
- 1.14 Experience The Drive In Cinema
- 1.15 Visit The Famous Dingo Fence
- 1.16 Enjoy A Game Of Golf
- 1.17 Visit The Quirky Coober Pedy Cemetery
- 1.18 See The Moon Plain
- 1.19 Visit A Lived-In Underground Home At Fayes
- 2 Coober Pedy Things To Do Map
- 3 Best Place To Stay In Coober Pedy
- 4 How To Get To Coober Pedy
- 5 Coober Pedy With Kids
- 6 Final Words
19 Top Things To Do In Coober Pedy SA
Here are the best things to do in Coober Pedy, South Australia. Read through and select the ones that fit your interests and timeframe.
It’s also possible to do tours once you are in Coober Pedy which will take you to many of these attractions. The first time I went to Coober Pedy, I did this and it was a great way to learn more and see a lot quickly and stress free. This previous introduction also helped me get more out of my second recent visit.
Check Out The Old Timers Mine & Museum
The Old Timers Mine and Museum is a great place to head to learn more about Coober Pedy’s past, mining and how people live. It’s like a three-in-one attraction with an opal mine to explore, a museum and an old 1920s underground home all seamlessly linked together. It should be on your list of top 10 things to do in Coober Pedy.
Entry is by self-guided tour and it starts in the old mine. Helmets are provided and it’s up to you whether you wear one or not. I highly recommend it since you’ll be exploring a mine which has a low roof at times. My helmet hit the walls or roof quite a few times – so I was very thankful I put it on.
The mine is fun to explore. There are many examples of opal seams/traces, old gear and information about how opal was mined and the people who pioneered opal mining in this area.
There’s a map with some info that you can read as you go around and my 9 year old and I had fun walking around exploring the mine. It was our favourite mine to walk around.
As you follow the map, the mine turns into a museum with a lot of memorabilia and information. We were excited to learn one of the people who first discovered opal in this area shares the same name as my brother-in-law!
Next up, there is an underground home with information about the people who had lived there and how it would have been set up in times gone by.
All in all, it’s a very interesting Coober Pedy attraction. There is also a shop on site.
Learn More Of The Opal Town History At Umoona Opal Mine & Museum
Located on the main street in the centre of town, this museum includes Coober Pedy’s largest underground attraction in town and is a must see.
The museum itself is free to enter and covers lots of information on life of the first people of this region as well as opal formation and the mining process. To see the underground mine, you must join a tour group.
The tour takes you through the underground mine tunnels with an informative guide with lots of information on how opal is formed, mining techniques, history and a tour through underground dugout homes. Tours also include a 20 minute video in their panoramic underground theatre all about opal and the history of the town. There is also complimentary tea/coffee/hot chocolate.
There’s an extensive opal shop. Tours run three times a day. We were disappointed when we went that they were full for that day! So I recommend booking ahead. It seems popular with bus tours.
Ideally, I recommend visiting this one of the things to see and do in Coober Pedy first as the tour gives a great introduction to everything you’ll explore and see.
Explore Tom’s Working Opal Mine
A bit different to the museums above, Tom’s Working Opal Mine is a great choice of the things to do Coober Pedy offers. Located on the Stuart Highway just north of the town exits, here you can learn more about opal mines while exploring a working opal mine. Afterwards, you can noodle for opals by their car park!
There are two options for your mine visit – you can either take a self-guided tour or a guided tour. We took the self-guided tour which started with an introduction to the mine, showing us how to find opals in the walls using UV lights, and a turn on the chair they had set up to take you into and out of an opal mine.
We were given helmets to wear, a map and UV torch. The mine has enough to explore that we spent about 40 minutes walking around, using the UV light to look for opals in the wall and on the ground. It’s fun and works especially well with kids.
Without kids, I would have done the guided tour instead. There isn’t that much information in the mine so I would have appreciated the extra information. The guide also demonstrates the Tunneling Machine and Bosun Winch.
Outside, there are mullock heaps (rocks and ground moved from the mine) where you can noodle for opals as well as equipment and other mining operations.
Whichever tour you take, this is one of the places to visit in Coober Pedy which is well worth a visit!
Noodle For Opals
You can’t come to Coober Pedy without looking for your own opal and “noodling” is the way to do this! The ultimate choice of the free things to do in Coober Pedy, it also gives you a teeny tiny taste of opal hunting.
Also known as fossicking, noodling is sifting through the mullock heaps that are leftover when mines are built to look for opals. The term “noodling” is believed to have come from the Queensland opal fields where people fossicked for nodules of opals – with noodling being a variation of the word “noduling”.
Some people are professional noodlers and find enough great opals this way to make a living. It’s not easy to find something good but it is fun and works especially well with kids as they will hopefully find something they like the look of to take home.
A good place to go is at a public area known as the “Jeweller’s Shop” on Jewellers Shop Road near Umoona Road. There are many mullock heaps to sift through and my son could not get enough of it.
Explore The Kanku – Breakaways Conservation Park
A short drive north of Coober Pedy, you’ll find the Kanku – Breakaways Conservation Park, a stunningly arid landscape with two main lookouts, colourful mesas, hills and desert plains. It certainly looks otherworldly.
On the way here you can see both the Dingo Fence and Moon Plain (both listed below as separate attractions).
The entire park is Aboriginal heritage listed and of great importance to this culture. This area is also home to a diverse range of native wildlife and is just a fascinating place to see with your own eyes. The colour of the landscape changes as the day progresses and the sun moves through the sky.
There is a $10 entry fee per vehicle but you can also visit by tour if you want to learn a bit more about this landscape and its importance to the indigenous population.
Stay In An Underground Hotel
Want to live like a local? Many locals in Coober Pedy live underground. It’s economical, easier than building a regular house and keeps cool in summer.
And while it’s fun to go into museums and check out underground homes, there’s nothing like staying in one yourself!
We stayed at the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience which was the perfect way to experience underground living. Built into an old opal mine, you can have your own room underground. It’s a different way to experience the Outback and I loved it!
Click here for more details on the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience (COMING SOON!).
See The Serbian Orthodox Church
Coober Pedy has always had a diverse population. Thanks to this, you can visit the beautiful Church of Saint Elijah the Prophet, the Serbian Orthodox Church just out of town.
This underground church is definitely unique and stunning with its interior stained glass windows and beautiful carvings. It’s worth the short drive out here to visit this one of the Coober Pedy things to do and see. If you visit just one church in Coober Pedy, make it this one.
Visit The Catacomb Church And St Peter & Paul Catholic Church
The St Peter & Paul Catholic Church was opened in 1967 and was the first underground Catholic church in the world. It’s right on the main Hutchison Street so it’s easy to visit this unique church when you are exploring Coober Pedy.
The Catacomb Church was dug out in the mid-1970’s and is another unique church to sit and enjoy not far from the end of Hutchison Street.
Meet The Cute Joeys At Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage
Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage combines a couple of unique things all in one place – an orphanage for baby kangaroos (joeys), a rehabilitation centre for injured wildlife, an aboriginal art gallery and an opal store.
The major aim of the centre is to raise joeys found orphaned in the wild and nurse them throughout their formative years. The joeys are incredibly cute and totally dependant on the care, and it’s a great opportunity to get up close to a joey. There are two feedings daily – one at 12pm and one at 5:30pm and I recommend visiting during these times.
Other injured animals are also sent here for rehabilitation until they’re ready to be sent back into the wild.
The gallery is crammed with work by indigenous artists and you may even see an artist at work. Fittingly, there is also an underground opal store/gallery.
Due to COVID, you need to book ahead.
Check Out The Famous Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest
For something different (even in a town of underground buildings) check out Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest. This was the home of Captain Harry, a Latvian ex-soldier who settled in Coober Pedy after becoming a crocodile hunter.
His eccentric home has been the scene of a couple of movies (such as Pitch Black). It’s an extensive and odd collection of items ranging from womens’ underwear (rumour has it he was quite the womaniser), statues, artwork and graffiti and much more. It’s worth a visit (for something very different!).
Visit The Pitch Black Spaceship (And Shop At Opal Cave)
You seem to get used to the strange in Coober Pedy. Located on Hutchinson Street is the Pitch Black Spaceship, a prop also from the movie Pitch Black. The spaceship looks as though it just crashed and is quite large. It’s a good place to take photos. You certainly don’t expect to see a spaceship in the desert!
Just next door is the Opal Cave (the spaceship was purchased by the Opal Cave after filming). Here you’ll find a shop with an extensive range of opal jewellery. There isn’t much else to see here but if you want to check out some of the opals for sale, this is a decent place to do it.
Stop By The Big Miner
Australian’s love ‘big’ things and the Big Miner is simply a big status of a lanky miner. The statue stands at 6 metres tall and can easily be seen from the road. However, it’s worth getting up close to take a photo.
It sits just in front of an opal shop (presumably to entice people to enter) which is worth checking out if you want to see more jewelry and opals.
See The Big Winch
When it comes to what to see and do in Coober Pedy, this is top of my list and where I recommend you head first.
The Big Winch is (you guessed it) a big winch standing 8 metres tall. It’s one of those big things us Australians like to take pictures of. However, when you visit here, this isn’t actually the main thing you will want to photograph.
Located in the centre of town on a hill, there are great views over the town from here. It’ll show you just how unique and picturesque Coober Pedy is, in part because it truly is like nowhere else.
Right next to the Big Winch is the Big Winch 360 Experience. Here, you can be surrounded by a 360 degree film about the Explorer’s Way telling the story from the first expedition of John McDouall Stuart in 1858 to modern day opal miners in Coober Pedy.
There’s also two shorter films and all serve to give a great introduction to Coober Pedy, what it might be like to live here and the bigger region with the story of other towns out here in the Explorer’s Way.
We enjoyed this experience but I wish we had visited here at the start of our time in Coober Pedy instead of at the end.
There is also a nice cafe and shop here.
Experience The Drive In Cinema
Looking for a super fun answer to what is there to do in Coober Pedy? Go to the drive in!
Located on Hutchison Street just past the Big Winch, you can’t miss the big screen. Unfortunately, at the time of year we visited, it was only open on Saturday nights and we left on a Saturday but I think it’d make for a great option for things to do in Coober Pedy at night.
Find the latest schedule here.
Visit The Famous Dingo Fence
Also known as the Dog Fence, the Dingo Fence is an iconic 2 metre tall fence built in the 1880’s which protects sheep from predators (particularly the native Australian dog, the dingo). The fence stretches over 5,600km and over three states (Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia).
You can see it as you take the 70km round trip from Coober Pedy to Kanku – Breakaways Conservation Park. It’s fascinating to see it stretch into the distance and contemplate just how long this fence is (one of the longest in the world).
Enjoy A Game Of Golf
If golf interests you, one of the most unique places in the world for a game has to be Coober Pedy.
At the Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club you can play golf on their 18 hole golf course. It’s like playing golf in another world. The entire course is desert and the club provides you with a small patch of fake grass to carry with you, as well as netted hats to protect you from flys (these are recommended).
I’m not a big fan of golf, but it seems like a good experience if you are. I did enjoy the amusing ‘keep off the grass’ signs however!
Visit The Quirky Coober Pedy Cemetery
Coober Pedy has two cemeteries, but the one you’ll want to see is called Boot Hill.
In a town of quirkiness, it should come with little surprise to find a gravesite here dedicated to a cat who was clearly much loved. Another gravestone has a beer keg on top – an actual beer keg bought for a party when the man Karl Bratz knew he was going to die.
It’s worth a wander around for both a smile and quiet reflection. You’ll also find the gravesite of Crocodile Harry.
See The Moon Plain
The Moon Plain is aptly named for its similarity to the surface of the moon. It’s another stop on the route to Kanku – Breakaways Conservation Park.
You’ll want to stop and look out over this 1,500 km squared region. This vast desert plain is an area with thick dust and large surface cracks and low vegetation which you just don’t find in other areas. It is fascinating to see.
In fact, this area is so otherworldly that NASA has considered using it to prepare astronauts for living on Mars!
Visit A Lived-In Underground Home At Fayes
Coober Pedy is filled with underground dwellings but what makes this one special is that it was hand dug! Dug in the 1960’s with two other ladies, you can learn about the life of Faye and see her time warped home.
This home has been left as it was and feels like stepping back a few decades, complete with furniture and fixtures, an indoor swimming pool and several bedrooms to explore. What makes this more interesting than the museum underground homes mentioned above is that it’s still lived in.
Many people find opal when building their homes and it seems Faye was no exception. There’s even an onsite mine you can visit at a small additional cost.
Coober Pedy Things To Do Map
Best Place To Stay In Coober Pedy
When it comes to the best places to stay in Coober Pedy, there’s a surprisingly good range for such a small place at a range of budget points.
The first big question to answer is whether you want to stay above or below ground. You may only ever be in Coober Pedy once, so I do recommend below ground – it’s the best way to experience more of this unique town! It can get hot though underground so make sure you have a room with a fan to help with air movement.
Below, I’ve listed a few different places to consider including a budget, mid-range and more expensive option.
The best place to stay in Coober Pedy is the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience.
This 16 room hotel is completely underground in an original opal mine. It’s cool to just walk around with the seams of opals visible in the hotel hallways and historical pictures of the building and area.
There are a range of room types from doubles to family options. You can stay in a queen room with a microwave and fridge or a five person room with three single beds, a queen, dining table and chairs and a kitchenette. There’s also other options too. All come with private bathrooms.
We stayed in a room with a single bed and queen and a kitchenette area with a microwave and fridge. There were two fans to help with air movement.
There isn’t a huge range of facilities but there is a meeting room, board games you can borrow and free wifi. There’s also a gift shop and a cafe with coffee, cake and breakfast available.
The lounge area with games is particularly cool being down below the rooms and you definitely feel like you are walking through a cave to get to it. There’s both a self-service laundry for $10 or you can pay for the staff to do it for you.
The location is convenient near the Big Winch and next door to the Old Timer’s Mine.
MID-RANGE – Mud Hut Motel Review
Just off the main street in town you’ll find Mud Hut Motel. This above ground hotel is well positioned being a very short walk to the restaurants of Coober Pedy as well as walking distance to many of the attractions listed above.
The motel offers a range of different room types including queen rooms for couples or singles, family rooms with 2 single beds and a double bed and also 2 bedroom apartments. All rooms have comfortable beds, air conditioning and good TV’s.
Two bedroom apartments come with fully equipped kitchens. Other rooms have small kitchenettes with a microwave, fridge and kettle.
The motel offers guests free transfer to Coober Pedy Airport, as well as free parking on site and free wifi. They’re also a pet friendly hotel.
Breakfast is offered in their restaurant from 7am to 9am, and most guests only have good things to say about this property and the service they received.
BUDGET – The Underground Motel Review
The Underground Motel was the first underground motel in Coober Pedy and a good budget option to base yourself while visiting.
The motel isn’t too far from most attractions and is located just a couple of minutes from the centre of town.
You’ll find some good but basic facilities at this motel such as outdoor BBQ facilities, a laundry service, free wifi and a free airport shuttle if needed.
Room types include ensuite rooms with access to a shared kitchen. There are also self contained suites with either a double bed or two bedrooms, and these have air conditioning and kitchenettes. Every room has a TV.
The property also serves breakfast in the common area.
How To Get To Coober Pedy
It’s easy to get to Coober Pedy by plane, bus, train or car. If you have your own car, great! You are good to go.
The access point to Coober Pedy is generally the state capital of South Australia, Adelaide.
From Adelaide, you can opt to take a 2-hour flight via Regional Express, an 11-hour bus travel with Greyhound Australia or allow 8 hours for a car journey.
If you are heading down from Northern Territory, Coober Pedy is about 7.5 hours drive from Uluru or 7 hours from Alice Spring.
My first trip to Coober Pedy, I flew to Adelaide, hired a car and then drove from there. The second time, I drove from Melbourne which was lots of fun.
Coober Pedy With Kids
Coober Pedy is a fabulous place to travel with kids. The attractions are kid friendly and kids are likely to find this town as fascinating as adults.
I have actually travelled here with kids twice. The first time many years ago with my teenage brother and sister and more recently with my 9 year old. I can confidently say all age groups find this place interesting.
My son especially loved looking for opals himself and the experience of staying underground. Tom’s Working Opal Mine works particularly well with kids.
To say I love Coober Pedy would be an understatement.
This town in the middle of nowhere is such a unique place that captured my imagination as a child and honestly still does as an adult even after two visits. It’s such a unique place that looks like nowhere I have ever seen with a way of life unique to this area.
It’s a long drive but it’s worth it.
If Coober Pedy isn’t already on your bucket list, it should be. It’s such an interesting town with some great attractions and hotels like no other in Australia.
I’m sure I’ll be back one day… and another day after that! I hope to see you there.
Sharon is a proud Melbournian mum of 3 who blogs for a living in between parenting and satiating her travel addition.