In the town of Coober Pedy located in Australia’s Outback opal was first discovered on February 1, 1915. Ever since that time the town has been supplying the world with the majority of the gem – opal. It has become known as the Opal Capital of the World. It is an amazing cosmopolitan town where residents from over 45 different nationalities live.
Visitors are captured by the most amazing scenery when they see The Breakaways. There are impressive flat-topped mesas, stony glibber desert and geological remnants. Some 70 million years ago, a vast inland sea once covered this area. It is rich with European and Aboriginal history and home to a wide variety of native flora and fauna. The Breakaways are located 33 km north of Coober Pedy.
There are two lookout points from which you can have fantastic views of the open spaces and the colorful environment. One lookout has been named “Castle” or “Salt & Pepper” and can be seen in an easterly direction. This particular outcrop has been seen in a number of films and advertisements.
Panorama Hill, located in the middle has been featured in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Ground Zero. As the day heads toward sunset the desert changes colors and a surrealistic scene appears.
Heading east along the hills is the Dog Fence. This 2 m high wire barrier stretches for more than 5,300 km across three states built to protect the sheep country in the south from the native dog – the Dingo. This fence counts as the longest continual construction in the world. It begins east of Surfer’s Paradise in Queensland and ends up north of Ceduna in the Great Australian Bite. Along the fence you can see the desert-like moonscape with fossilized shells and the grey, soft clay dirt has cracks that seem to resemble moon craters and has been nicknamed the “moon plain”.
One of Coober Pedy’s most infamous characters was Crocodile Harry who lived in the most bizarre dugouts. Many people all over Europe have come to know him through the Lonely Planet’s “Guidebook to Australia”. Movie fans might recognize his home from the underground scenes of the movie “Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome”. Crocodile Harry has long passed on but his dugout is open to the public.
Another underground home is Faye’s Underground Home. This underground home or dugout was excavated using picks and shovels. It was built some thirty years ago by three women and has become a tourist attraction.
To get to know about days past visit the Old Timer’s Mine. This is an original opal mine that dates back to 1916. Since in those days miners had filled up the shafts to hide the mine below it wasn’t discovered until 1968 and revealed the wealth of opals underneath. Now visitors can explore this mine.
The first underground church in Coober Pedy was St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church. It has a great historical value and was originally used by all denominations.
The Catacomb Church was originally built in 1977 and is a most unique church, cut out of sandstone in the shape of a cross. The communion table was created from local mulga wood and an old miner’s winch.
The Painted Desert is an ancient Inland Sea where all of the hills have been created by the weather and erosion. Here you can see many amazing different colors in fantastic shades of orange, yellow and white. Views here are particularly lovely at sunrise and sunset where the deep reds, browns, oranges, yellows and whites blend together. Among all of the spectacular hills is the Mirackina Range, a long dark line of mesas running about 5 to 10 km to the west. The Painted Desert offers a fantastic hiking adventure with walks through the hills and marvelous natural wonders.
A most unique experience is The Underground Art Gallery. This unusual underground gallery displays a selection of artworks from central Australia’s finest artists. There is also an awesome opal display.
Located on the opal fields is Tom’s Working Opal Mine. It has been developed to offer visitors the experience of seeing how local miners work and excavate opal underground.
A most unusual underground museum is the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum. It also contains an Aboriginal Interpretive Center which is an underground home and an original opal mine. Visitors can see an eighteen minute documentary “The Story of Opal” in the underground cinema. There are permanent displays of fossils from the South Australia Museum and you can see an impressive collection of some of the finest opals.
For a chance to see and interact with kangaroos up close visit Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage. This gallery opened in 2009 and hosts one of South Australia’s largest regional Aboriginal Art Galleries with artworks from both world renowned and local artists. There is an opal showroom, mine and museum. There is also an extensive collection of didgeridoos, boomerangs and other artifacts.
Visitors enjoy seeing the kangaroo orphanage where you can learn how the “big red kangaroo” survives and prospers in the harsh conditions of the Outback. If baby kangaroos lose their mothers this is the place that takes care of them with artificial pouches and bottles of milk. Baby kangaroos can be viewed two times at day.