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  • Writer's pictureDorothy Snyder

Coober Pedy: Yes You Should!

Updated: May 8, 2023


If you're looking for an unexpected adventure, it's time to pack your bags and head to Coober Pedy. This unassuming desert town in South Australia's depths has captivated adventurers looking to uncover its unique allure for over a century.


Famous for beautiful sunsets and never-ending stretches of the outback, this place is unlike any other. Whether you are searching for natural wonders, Aboriginal culture or breathtaking wildlife, there's enough in Coober Pedy to satisfy even the most seasoned explorer.


Dorothy snyder In Coober Pedy

Before embarking on this journey, I read an article calling the 9-hour (840km) drive from Adelaide to Coober Pedy "an excellent opportunity to see the land." At first, I was skeptical of the writer's enthusiasm and thought this was a case of someone trying not to deter people from travelling.


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Bill and I have been travelling together for several years now, and we've discovered something significant about ourselves: we are not a nine-hour car ride type of people. We can do it, of course, but after about five hours of driving, the sound of our breathing starts to get on each other's nerves, and by hour six, all bets are off; and my off-key singing gives Bill cause to consider leaving me in the roadside outhouse, and making a run for it. Knowing this, we decided to break up the drive and stop halfway-ish for the night.

Yes, it was a long drive—but one punctuated by some amazing sights we would have otherwise missed if we had opted to fly. It was well worth the effort! It just shows that there is something special about seeing the land up close.


outside #woomera  #dorothysnydercanada

Philip Ponds Homestead Ruins, Woomera, South Australia



 

Woomera


Unofficially known as "Woomera village," the domestic area of RAAF Base formed the larger entity known as the "Woomera Range Complex." Not only did this range serve as an essential military base back in the 1950's, but it also now serves as a research area and a public attraction. Public members can access some of the complex and even rent rooms at Eldo Hotel. The best part? The accommodations are surprisingly clean and comfortable, and the town has a sports bar, museum, cafe, convenience store, and some pretty neat rockets on display in the town centre.


There is also the amazing Woomera Observatory, and the volunteers do a fantastic job giving free views of the stars and planets.



Andamooka


The origins of 'Andamooka' - are arguable; some sources claim that Andamooka was a Kuyani word for a large waterhole pointed out to explorer John McDouall Stuart when he explored the area in 1858. However, other sources have argued that Andamooka comes from an entirely different Kuyani word - 'Arndoo-moku', meaning a loaded or powerful bone which was part of local Aboriginal lore. Andamooka is a town full of passionate people who dig tirelessly for opals, hoping their hard work will one day pay off with a gemstone of extraordinary value. After all, the most famous opal from Australia was the "Andamooka opal," which was presented to Queen Elizabeth II during her 1950s visit to Australia — While there, you should go to the Andamooka Dukes Bottlehouse Motel & Andamooka Opal Showroom.


Dorothy Snyder Ontario

We met Margot, one of the owners and had the most wonderful conversation about the area and her family... and then we bought the most beautiful earrings!

After seeing all that woomera and the surrounding area had to offer, we set off for part 2 of our outback adventure. After a short 5-hour drive, we arrived in Coober Pedy, checked into our underground hotel room, and settled in for the next 3 days.




 

COOBER PEDY



History


"Opal was first discovered in February 1915 by members of the New Colorado

Prospecting Syndicate, following 14 weeks unsuccessfully prospecting for gold.

The number of miners making their way to what was first named the Stuart Range

Opal Field was sporadic, owing to the lack of surface water and extreme isolation.

But by 1920 following good rainfall, miners had increased in number to a few

hundred. There was a store, a Post Office and plans for an underground water tank,

which became a reality in 1922. In 1920 an official name of the opal field was needed

and the Progress Committee voted that it be ‘Coober Pedy’, an aboriginal term

meaning ‘white man in a hole’. " District Council Of Coober Pedy



It is Illegal to fill in any of the holes dug in the mining process. Some of these shafts can measure 30M, which is almost as deep as a wind turbine is tall. Due to the past and current explorations, there are so many holes in the landscape, that this is a real and current danger for anyone who wanders off the main paths.

Day 1: First things first, let's buy some opals!


On day one of our quest to find opals to bring home, we visited Opalios, where we met George, who spent his life working alongside his Father. Throughout the years, George gained the knowledge and enthusiasm that makes his Opal jewelry pieces something as unique as the family history. His Father had come to Coober Pedy in 1987 and arrived with nothing more than a month's wage - and plenty of determination for success!




We could quickly tell that George held pride in the history of this family-run business, and it was almost like opening a history book whenever he spoke. George took time to explain the area's opal varieties and show us pieces from his collection, and it was an incredible way to start our journey!

We then went to the Big Winch for a sunset supper.



We ate from the special daily menu and shared a bottle of wine while we sat on their patio to take in the sunset views! That night, the food, wine and sunset did not disappoint! Day 2:

Drive Around The Area. We set out sights on Oodnadatta, a place I wanted to visit just because I loved the name.

Dorothy Snyder , Dorothy Snyder Ontario Canada , Dorothy Snyder Australia , Dorothy Snyder Production Manager

The road was long and winding and provided us with views we didn't expect. When you step outside your car window, you are transported to a different world with an incredibly calming atmosphere and never-ending skies above your head.


"Oodnadatta lies on the Neales River, southwest of the Simpson Desert. Founded in 1890, Oodnadatta served as the northern terminus of the Central Australian Railway (until the railway was extended to Alice Springs some 280 miles [450 km] north-northwest in 1929), and it was the starting point for camel caravans laden with supplies for the remote communities of the desert interior". Britannica,

Upon our return to Coober Pedy, we reached out to Aaron Noble and Tine Brinckmeyer of Noble Tours to rent "noodling" equipment. A black-light, a shovel and a sifter.

Noodling, or fossicking as it's sometimes referred to, is the sifting of small pieces of precious opal discarded by miners. In this process, individuals search hills and terrain for hidden treasure. If all goes as planned, we will discover beautiful pieces of opal. The best part? These areas are open to the public and free!

Finding Opal Treasures. Day 3:

The Tour With Noble Tours Australia


Are you looking for a way to explore Coober Pedy in style? Look no further than Noble Tours; this family-run business offers a fantastic tour experience. Please know that I am not in any way sponsored to promote this business, but I feel so strongly that I just had to include my recommendation for this tour.

Aaron, the tour operator, has one of the voices that, if you close your eyes, you would think you are listening to a television personality. He came prepared with information, a collection of his own photos to accompany the mine tour, along with a plethora of little-known facts we appreciated hearing.

This tour was more than the typical "let's just tell a story and keep the tourists happy ." Within moments of meeting, you can tell he loves his job and takes pride in giving people the best bang for the buck. His partner Tine was kind and one of those people you can't help but like immediately. Although busy herself, Tine took the time to speak with us providing us with things to see and do in the area. When she dropped off the noodling equipment, she provided us with a tutorial on what we were looking for and the best free spots to start our opal hunt.


On the tour you'll be able to enjoy the sites with a comfortable and air-conditioned 4WD bus. The tour includes all the must-see stops, including Umoona Opal Mine & Museum (with an underground fully guided mine tour), a modern underground home, the Serbian Underground Church and an exclusive look at a private claim in the opal fields. In addition to these sites, you will also see the iconic Dingo Fence and Moon Plains and marvel at the spectacular Breakaways. So hop aboard one of Noble Tour buses, sit back and let them show you all that Coober Pedy has to offer!




Dorothy Snyder , Dorothy Snyder Ontario Canada , Dorothy Snyder Australia , Dorothy Snyder Production Manager

Dorothy Snyder , Dorothy Snyder Ontario Canada , Dorothy Snyder Australia , Dorothy Snyder Production Manager

here babe, hold my glass...ok, don't mind if I do! And if that wasn't enough, they provide water throughout and a glass of bubbles when you reach the top of the breakaways. Don't forget your camera – this is one photo op you won't want to miss.


Dorothy Snyder , Dorothy Snyder Ontario Canada , Dorothy Snyder Australia , Dorothy Snyder Production Manager


That night we returned to our room and ordered take out from John's Pizza Bar and restaurant. This Pizza was the best Pizza I have ever had. Large and cooked perfectly with an abundance of toppings. It was so good we ate and ate until our tummies hurt.

Edit Image Day 3: The Last Day. Josephine's Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage.




We spent some time visiting Josephine's, where we were greeted by a baby kangaroo exploring the shop. This little bundle of knee-high cuteness would follow us around and demand our attention as we admired the original aboriginal art for sale. This orphanage is not government funded and relies on the kind hearts of its staff and donations made by the public. I was shocked to learn that these fantastic people rescue more than 100 joeys yearly. If you have the time, stop in, say hello, and drop a little coin in the donation box. From underground city tours to the mind-blowing scenery, Coober Pedy will let you pick between exploration and tranquillity – making it the ideal destination for an unforgettable holiday. Just be prepared – once you've spent time in Coober Pedy, it won't be easy to leave.


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