Time frame 3+ days
The Adelaide to Coober Pedy trip forms part of many adventures. For the most part, people explore Coober Pedy as they head north or south from Alice Springs. Others do this as a side trip while travelling around the Adelaide region.
Last year, we enjoyed this route, on our way north to Uluru. Having collected our camper in Adelaide and stocking up with supplies, it didn’t take long before we’ were on the road heading towards Port Augusta.
There is plenty to see around the Adelaide region, for example the Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills and Hahndorf. These are all great areas for those who enjoy wine and fine food, or even just the very pretty drive. However we’ve got our sites set further north for exploring this time.
Port Augusta is about 300km north ofAdelaide, or just over three hours driving and is a good place to spend the first night. PortAugusta is set on the shores of the Spencer Gulf and where the ‘outback meets the sea’. It’s also the crossroads for travellers heading north to Coober Pedy as we are. Alternatively you can head left towards the Nullarbor and Perth, or right to Sydney.
While in Port Augusta we had a look at the Wadlata Outback Centre which really interesting and gives you a feel of how life in the outback of South Australia and the Flinders Ranges has changed over the years. We also enjoyed a walk along the pier watching the locals attempting to catch their dinner. For those with an interest in plants, we’ve heard about the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens which sound like they’d be worth a visit. We didn’t get to check these out on our last visit, but intend to next time – they’re on theStuart Highway just past the turn off to theEyre Highway towards Western Australia.
Another interesting side trip while heading towards Coober Pedy is the Flinders Ranges National Park. It is a sealed road into the scenic Wilpena Pound, and through some of the park. There are still a number of unsealed roads within the park, so if you want to really explore this area, you’ll need to consider a vehicle that will allow you to drive on unsealed roads. In spring, the iconic brown, grey and orange colours of theFlindersRanges have the added bonus of wildflowers and native plants coming alive.
For us though, we’re continuing our trek along the Stuart Highwayto Woomera. The Stuart Highway is a very well maintained two lane road, with a number of rest areas to pull off and take a break. If you’re travelling in a self-contained motorhome, some of these are also suitable for overnight camping.
It doesn’t take long for the scenery to become more arid along with some salt plains as we head north. We keep our peepers peeled for emu’s and it’s not too long before we find one. We just about always see them as we head throughSouth Australia. We also saw a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles along the way.
Our next destination is Woomera which is a mysterious town with a large area that is sealed off from the public for rocket testing. A visit to Woomera is not complete without seeing the Aerospace Missile Park in the centre of town. The park features missiles, rockets and planes that were developed and tested in Woomera over the last 60 years. The park also contains a museum that houses the history of Woomera from its very beginning.
We continue our drive along the Stuart Highwayto Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy is unique with its underground houses and is Australia’s largest and oldest mining community with an amazing ethnic mix of miners.
The original opal miners built the town underground to escape the extremes of heat and cold of the outback desert. We discovered while we were on a tour of the town that a standard three-bedroom cave home with lounge, kitchen, and bathroom can be blasted out of the rock in the hillside for a similar price to a boring old surface house, and doesn’t seem to take much longer. We were also told not to be fooled by the rundown look of the place — some of the motley cave dwellers will have millions of dollars of opal stashed away in their underground safes.
A mine tour is a must, when visiting Coober Pedy and our favourite is the Old Timers Mine and Museum Tour. This large mine dates back to 1916. A self-guided tour of the mine will show you how miners used to dig deep shafts and tunnels, all by hand and by lamplight. You will also see what life was like living underground from the 1920s, by exploring the many rooms of an old dugout. If you time it right, you might also see the blower in action as well.
Check the information centre if you are interested in doing a little ‘noodling’ yourself, as permits are required. I would not want to be caught fossicking on someone else’s claim – I think there could be a high risk that questions would be asked later.
If you’re a golfer, you’ll want to check out the golf course in town. This one’s a little different as you hire a square of artificial green turf to carry around with you, since the entire course is devoid of grass.
When staying in Coober Pedy there is also a good opportunity for ‘star watching’, where millions of brilliant stars light up against the crisp deep darkness of the skies amidst the quiet of the Australian outback.
In Coober Pedy we stayed at the Stuart Range caravan park – which was a nice place to stay. Please note when staying in Coober Pedy you will need to pay a small extra charge to fill your water tanks, as water is a very precious resource in these areas.
To travel this route, it can be unbearably hot in summer, so the best time to visit is during the winter months of May to September.
For this trip, a 2WD camper is perfect. If you would like to take advantage of the numerous freedom camps en-route, hiring a campervan or motorhome with an on board toilet and shower would be ideal. We took three days to get up to Coober Pedy, however you could easily take longer. There is no option to return the camper in Coober Pedy, so you’d need to continue heading north to Alice Springs or Darwin, or retrace your steps back to Adelaide.
Russell and I really enjoyed this outback trip and getting amongst the locals who are only too happy to share tales of their own adventures. These days, there is really nothing stopping anyone from having their own adventure in the Australian outback and hiring a campervan or motorhome is the perfect way to do it.
For more information on campervan/motorhome hire in Australia contact us.