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This Australian Outback town gives new meaning to living ‘Down Under’

coober pedys residents live in underground dugouts pedy drive
Some futurologists predict the changing climate will force coming generations to live underground in earth-scrapers. It’s not so far-fetched, because there’s already a model for underground living in Coober Pedy, an Australian town in the Outback where residents escape the extreme conditions by dwelling under the dirt.

Before Mad Max: Fury Road, there was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Mel Gibson and Tina Turner filmed the movie in the mining town of Coober Pedy back in the 1980s. Beneath the sun-scorched earth (the average high temperature in January is around 98 degrees Fahrenheit) is the legacy of the town’s opal-mining past, which started over a hundred years ago when a teenager found several of the precious stones. That legacy: dugouts, where residents can live at a comfortable 75 degrees Fahrenheit all year long, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Coober Pedy has become a popular tourist destination, thanks to its unique attractions.

Where to stay

Desert Cave Hotel

Though you can stay above ground, the Desert Cave Hotel has dugout rooms, as well as underground shops, a bar, and opal-viewing area.

Lookout Cave Underground Motel

If you want to “live like a local,” you can book a room, about 82 feet below ground, at the Lookout Cave Underground Motel. There’s also a lookout point for when you do venture above.

Where to eat

The Big Winch Scenic View Cafe


The lookout has a 360-degree view of the town, while the cafe has Belgian waffles.

Underground Cafe

True to its name, the Underground Cafe is surrounded by sandstone. You can order a T-bone steak, and its price depends on how well-done you want it, thanks to increased electricity costs.


Umoona Opal Mine and Museum

What started as an opal mine was converted into a museum that’s described as looking like the surface of the moon.

Tom’s Working Opal Mine

If you’ve always wondered what goes on in a mine, you can take a trip down to Tom’s Working Opal Mine, where you’ll learn how a tunneling machine works.

Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest


Crocodile Harry was not a reptile but a man. The former Coober Pedy resident has since passed away, but visitors to his dugout can see memorabilia from the eccentric man’s life.

What to see

The Breakaways Reserve

If you’ve seen Beyond Thunderdome, you’ve seen a portion of the Breakways, the colorful, low hills that “broke away” from the Stuart Range.

Serbian Orthodox Church


There are several underground churches in Coober Pedy, including the Serbian Orthodox one, which is the largest and has intricate carvings.

The Dingo Fence


Because it’s 1,553 miles long, Coober Pedy is obviously not the only place you can see the Dingo Fence. It keeps the wild dogs out of the southeast part of the continent, where many sheep and cattle graze.

Anna Creek Painted Hills

These recently discovered hills are quite fragile and, thus only viewable from the air, but the ionized sandstone makes the sight of the reddish hills spectacular.


Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Course

It sort of sounds like playing golf in one big sand trap: The Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Course is completely grassless.

Coober Pedy Drive-In


Who knew the Outback has a drive-in? You can catch recent flicks at this theater, which was built in 1965.

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