The Town that went Underground

By

2nd Jul, 2014

coober_pedy_house

In the remote South Australian desert, temperatures reach 125 °F / 51 °C – in the shade. Can you imagine the air conditioning bills? Neither could the residents of Coober Pedy, the world’s only underground town.

cooberpedychimneys

Coober Pedy’s Chimneys / (c) Nicholas James

Coober Pedy is a small mining town with a population of just under 2,000, but it’s also the “opal capital of the world” and has been supplying most of the world’s gem-quality opal since it was founded in 1915. In this waterless environment, not much activity goes on above ground and instead, the community exists in a network of tunnels underneath the desert earth, inside some 1,500 homes and dwellings they call their “dug-outs”. 

cooberpedybedroom

(c) Benjamin Jakabeck

 An average cave home at 8 to 22 feet below ground level with modern amenities, several bedrooms, living area, kitchen, and bathroom can be excavated out of the rock for pretty much the same price as building a house above surface (minus the air conditioning bills). The homes have support pillars about 40 inches thick and natural air shafts for ventilation. However, there’s no sewage in underground Coober Bedy so kitchens and bathrooms are always situated above ground, essentially the front rooms of the house, where the dug-out entrance lies.

cooberpedy

cooperbedyentance

(c) Peter Hemmingher

On the plus side, if you happen to need an extension on the house, perhaps to welcome a new member of the family, all you need to do is start drilling. And of course every time you start drilling in Coober Bedy, there’s always a chance you might strike it rich. A local motel opening in the town found $360,000 worth of opal when they were digging out their rooms. Even if you decide to drill yourself a simple wine rack into the walls, you might just uncover enough opal to fill it with all the expensive vintage wine your heart desires!

cooberpedyhotel

(c) Albert Llaussas

Coober Pedy began attracting curious tourists in the 1980s when the first hotel was built– underground, of course. Besides the interest of subterranean sleeping however, the town boasts a network of underground bars, shops, museums and churches to visit.

cooberpedybookshop

cooberpedychurch copy

(c) Benjamin Jakabeck

cooperbedycave

cooberpedycafe

At night, you can head above ground for a game of nocturnal golf on Coober Bedy’s unusual grass-free desert golf course. After dark, players use glowing balls and a carry a small piece of “turf” around to use for teeing off. 

(c) F8BThere(c) BozzyD200

cooberpedygolf

On an end note, I’m quite proud of myself for getting through this article without cracking any “Down Under” jokes…

If you’re heading to the Australian outback, perhaps you’ll consider a room at Coober Pedy’s luxury underground hotel.

Find out more in this insider’s tour of the town:

You Might Also Like

Comments

More in Art & Design AwesomenessDesirable DigsDon't Be A TouristHow to start a subcultureInspiration VaultLife is MessyOff-Beat & Little Known

Hot Off the Press

Editor's Picks

5126739968_1a75759ab9_b

The USB Sticks Hidden in Walls across the World

Five years ago, Berlin-based media artist Aram Bartholl launched a project called 'Dead Drops'. I know, I'm a little late in taking notice, but the trouble is, Adam's project is rather hard to spo...

Trending 3,484
denver13

Take a Tour of a 1964 Underground Fallout Home

I found this little gem of a photo series on my weekly fish through the LIFE archives, accompanied by just a few clues to the full story behind it. Filed under "Underground House in Denver, phot...

Trending 6,890
donuthole

Documenting the Giants of Roadside America

California native, Debra Jane Seltzer, must have the most sizeable independently-run website I've ever come across– and that's not just because it's full of the roadside giants she documents. Road...

Trending 6,541
6844474921_98bf0fc0d6_b

Check into a Tiny Paradise Resort

You already know I dig miniatures but another thing I particularly love is bonsai trees, so when you throw the two together, I'm going to get a little over excited. Today I found the work of Takan...

Trending 4,941