Australia & Pacific Travel News

Take a trip down under in Australia's underground city

A tour of Australia should not overlook the small town of Coober Pedy, though you may be forgiven for not immediately spotting it on the horizon. That's because Coober Pedy is an opal-mining town whose residences exist primarily underground. 

Miners and Outlaws
Subterranean living in Coober Pedy is neither a gimmick nor post-apocalyptic preparation. The summer temperatures reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, meaning that the original settlers of Coober Pedy - miners taking advantage of the vast amounts of opal in the otherwise barren landscape - took to the earth and developed a network of tunnels and dwellings. The generally inhospitable nature of the Outback region later made the town a famous hideout for criminals and convicts. It has also been a popular filming location for sci-fi and post-apocalpytic films such as "Mad Max" and "Ground Zero."

The town's 1,900 citizens offer up a number of mining museums, home tours, Outback-specific cuisine featuring kangaroo and emu and even the opportunity to go fossicking. For the uninitiated, fossicking is an Australian term for recreational prospecting, and in Coober Pedy, you're likely to find your own batch of cheap opal stone at any of the free, publicly designated fossicking sites.

Walk on the Moon Plain
The Breakaways are 19 miles northeast of Coober Pedy, and are comprised of breathtaking flat-top hills, jagged sandstone pillars and gulleys. Amongst the harsh landscape are the remains of old life in the form of fossils and petrified forests. This area, the imprinted shores of a long-receded ocean, is most beautiful at sunset, where all is set aflame. Coober Pedy hotels offer evening tours to the Breakaways that stick around after the light show to admire the celestial display at night. 

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