Australian Towns & Cities
South Australia: Coober Pedy
Incorporating photos and Information from Michael Greenslade's former Australian Towns, Cities and Highways site

Coober Pedy is a major regional service centre for Outback South Australia, with essential services including medical, health, welfare, law and order, education and leisure. The four main industries are opal mining, tourism, primary production and support services. Together with nearby Andamooka and Mintabie, Coober Pedy produces 85% of the world’s opal supply. 1

Famous for its inhabitants living underground, it is believed that the soldiers who returned from the trenches of France during the First World War introduced the idea of living underground in homes commonly known as “dugouts”. The miners quickly discovered the advantages of living underground to escape the heat of the summer and winter’s cool desert nights. No matter how harsh the climate, the underground rooms maintain a comfortable, even temperature ranging from 19ºC to 25ºC day and night throughout the year. It is estimated that about 50% of the population live underground now. Most dugout homes are excavated into hillsides rather than dug from shafts. 1

Coober Pedy was originally known as the Stuart Range Opal Field, named after John McDouall Stuart who, in 1858, was the first European explorer to visit the area. In 1920 a new name was needed so a post office could be established, Stuart Range being unsuitable owing to the similarity to Stewart Range in Western Australia. Prior to European settlement, the area was occupied thousands of years by Aboriginal people, who walked across this area. Living in a desert environment, the people were nomadic hunters and gatherers who travelled constantly in search of food and water supplies, as well as to attend traditional ceremonies. In June 1975, the Coober Pedy Aboriginal Community adopted the name “Umoona”, meaning “long life” – the name also used for the “Umoona” or mulga tree; a common tree to the area. At a Progress Committee meeting the opal miners chose Coober Pedy, an Aboriginal term meaning white man in a hole. 1

View Larger Map

Preview: Description:
Coober Pedy Town Centre:
Northbound along Hutchison St, Coober Pedy, near Trow St, November 2011.

Image © Paul Rands

Coober Pedy Town Centre:
Southbound along Hutchison St, Coober Pedy, near Winch St, November 2011.

Image © Paul Rands

1 Coober Pedy Retail, Business & Tourism Association
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016 Census QuickStats

Last updated: 20-May-2019 11:10

This site © Paul Rands. All rights reserved. Some portions © (copyright) by their respective and credited owners. Permission must be obtained before using any images from this site. For details, please email by clicking here.