It was once known as the “opal capital of the world” for the huge quantity of opals that used to be extracted here. But the search for opal has given more to Coober Pedy than just the gemstones: due to the extremely high temperatures which frequently exceed 40 °C (104 °F) especially during summer, many years ago a few locals started to convert abandoned mine shafts into cool (in every sense) underground homes.
They usually started out as one-room houses, which would be expanded later, whenever more space was needed: maybe a second bedroom, then a living room, then a walk-in wardrobe, then a wine cellar, then…
Many of the “dugouts”, as these residences have been called, that are open to the public are now museums, except one: Faye Nayler’s is the only underground home open to visitors that is actually lived in. Even though she now lives in Queensland, her dugout has been taken care of by a friendly couple who allows tourists to visit their home, which started as just one room, and had been slowly expanded by the patient work of Faye and two friends of hers, who even added a billiard room and a swimming pool!
The climate in these underground homes is perfect: whether it’s above 40°C or below zero outside, the temperature inside is always comfortable. Also the humidity is pleasant, especially when compared to the dry air of the surrounding desert.
And, of course, if you feel like praying, you can connect to God in one of Coober Pedy’s underground churches.
This unique town and its vicinities have attracted film makers from all over the world, and many movies have been filmed around here, among which “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, “The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert”, “Pitch Black” and Wim Wenders’ “Until the End of the World”.
A few props can still be seen when walking around town (above ground this time!)