Few earthly environments are as formidable and unlivable as our deserts. Scorchingly hot during the day, often frigid at night, it’s the sort of habitat that takes a strong body and a resourceful mind to endure.
Still, outside of snakes and scorpions, what sort of thing would choose to live somewhere like that? As it so happens, there are some folks brave enough to do so, but you’d have to head to Australia’s Outback to find them.
Not only that—you’d have to look underground!
Miles away from any reasonable place to live in southern Australia lies its infamous Outback. The region is known for its treacherous terrain, suffocating heat, and dangerous animals. Not only that, but deep inside its red plains is the town of Coober Pedy. No, literally: the town is inside of them.
While most would never think to look for people here, the town is home to nearly 1,700 residents. What sets these hardy folks apart, however, isn’t just that they choose to live somewhere hot, but how they went about turning an unlivable patch of earth into a home.
In this region of Australia’s Outback, summer highs can regularly reach temperatures over 104°F. In order to avoid that sort of brutal heat, the founders of Coober Pedy decided to build the town somewhere the temperature wouldn’t bother them…
That’s right, it’s beneath the ground! Just like any regular old town, Coober Pedy is full of homes, beds, televisions—all the usual items. The difference, of course, is that the entire community is underground.
The town consists of miles and miles of manmade tunnels that weave underneath the sweltering red earth, much like an ant colony of sorts. There’s even a hotel for adventurous tourists!
Only, Coober Pedy isn’t some gimmick built to bring in tourists. No, it’s a genuine town with a heck of a history. And it all began way back in 1915 with a father and son who were in search of a fortune…
Outback Australia Travel Secrets
The story goes that this father and son were in search of gold, which led them to this particular area of the Outback. Sadly, they never found the treasure they were looking for, but they did uncover quite a bit of opal.
After the stone became popular across the world, with Coober Pedy as the primary provider, the miners decided they needed to set up permanent shop. Instead of building above the earth, however, they sought shelter beneath it.
These days, the town is home to about 1,500 homes, which are referred to as “dugouts.” While some buildings exist on the surface, the vast majority of the town still exists underground.
The somewhat bizarre name of the town comes from an aboriginal term, kupa-piti, that means “boy’s waterhole.” To this day, there are just shy of 300 indigenous Australians living there.
These days, the town relies as much on the tourism industry as it does opals. Still, it’s the largest opal mining operation in the world, and the town takes a good deal of pride in their unusual origin story.
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These incredibly neat dugout homes aren’t the only things inside the red plains of Coober Pedy, though. The residents have built a beautiful church there, as well as several restaurants and shops.
Stuart Range Outback Resort
For the visiting reader, there’s a bookstore that houses all sorts of literature about the town itself. This is just one of the many ways in which Coober Pedy is like any other town in the world. After all, where else can you find an underground book shop?
Not only that, but there’s a jewelry store in the town! In all likelihood, it is home to some of the best opal in all of the world. A good bit of it was probably mined very recently, too!
As any town worth its weight should, Coober Pedy is also home to a local watering hole. Here, patrons can settle down, enjoy some pints together, and swap mining and traveling stories.
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Though it might seem just a bit strange, the town actually has its own golf course. The residents typically choose to play the game in the cool of the night, using glow-in-the-dark golf balls.
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Though it might be one of the most unusual towns on the planet, Coober Pedy clearly has a lot to offer! What do you think? Are you ready to book your adventure to this underground town?
It must be pretty odd to live underground, but the people of Coober Pedy make it work. Not only that, but they actually make it look pretty neat!
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