Have you ever met someone from a small town? It’s not uncommon for such people to say things like “if you blink you might miss it” as a way to indicate just how small their hometowns are. However, there is a town in the outback of Australia where you can keep your eyes wide open and still miss it despite the 1,695 residents that live there full-time. The town is Coober Pedy and the reason you might miss it is because it is entirely underground! The town would be your typical mining town except that instead of living on the surface the residents have gone below ground in order to escape the excessive heat which can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Their homes are called ‘dugouts’ and they cost about the same as building a regular house above ground, only you have the possibility of finding Opals in the “opal capital of the world” as you dig out your house. Many of the residents have found opals that not only covered the cost of building their homes but sometimes exceeded the cost by millions of dollars. This town is simply amazing in its strangeness.
You would never know there was a booming mining town from the surface. The only evidence that people might live here is the ventilation pipes sticking up from the ground. These pipes allow oxygen into the caves and also allow the CO2 to escape. The name of the town is derived from the aboriginal term “Kupa-Piti” which translates to “White man’s hole.”
Besides the ventilation pipes the only thing above ground is the entrance to each dugout, right in the side of the limestone hills. The homes are 8 to 22 feet bellow the surface of the ground.
The townspeople explain this lifestyle as “Flinstones meets the Jetsons” because it is primitive living with modern amenities.
The kitchens are always closest to the entrance of the dugouts, and are the only rooms in the house that have windows, if they have windows at all.
There are about 1500 dugouts in the 7,000 acre sandstone hills and the average family home is 3-4 bedrooms, with living room, bathroom and kitchen. If you need more room, you can simply dig another bedroom deeper into the hills.
Many of the homes have fault lines running through them, which can be seen in the walls of the sandstone. And each home is supported by pillars that are 40 inches thick. The homes also have concrete floors, which are often carpeted as seen here in the living room of this home.
Coober Pedy has two underground churches.
An underground library.
An underground bar called “Desert Cave”.
Not everything is bellow ground though. Their golf course remains above ground although there is no grass on the course, unless the players bring their own from home, which they do in order to tee off.
When 15-year-old William Hutchison and his father discovered this opal mine while digging for gold in 1914, 500 miles from the closest town, they probably never dreamed it would become what it is today.
Coober Pedy is probably one of those types of towns that look awesome online but I don’t think I’m going to put visiting this small town on my bucket list any time soon! In this case, I believe seeing pictures gives you a clear picture of what it’s like to actually be there without actually having to go there. Besides, my husband already works for a gold mine, I wouldn’t want him to fall in love with the place and decide to relocate our family so we can live like rabbits in burrows, albeit nice burrows, while he mines for opals instead of gold!