What It's Like To Live In The Underground Aussie Town Of Coober Pedy

Nine hours from Adelaide sits Coober Pedy, a remote country town where people live underneath the red-hot sand to escape scorching 40-degree days.

With just 1,762 residents, Coober Pedy is country living at its finest.

Unlike major cities like Sydney and Melbourne, rent in the historic Opal mining town is affordable, averaging $150 per week.

The catch? You'll have to live underground.

Man in Coober Pedy mine. Image: Getty Images.

Coober Pedy -- sometimes dubbed the 'opal capital of the world' -- was founded in 1915 after a young Mount Gambier boy named Willie Hutchison discovered gemstones in the area.

These days, the isolated mining town has more than just the bare essentials, boasting a school, hospital, underground churches, a drive-in movie theatre, hotels, a golf course, a karate club and kangaroo sanctuary.

It also has all the unique strangeness of a country town, with its own Hollywood-esque Coober Pedy sign.

Coober Pedy's got it's own Hollywood sign. Image Supplied.
Serbian Orthodox underground church. Image: Getty Images

The local R.S.L opens once a week for townsfolk to get together over a few beers, and "small town gossip" is alive and well.

Coober Pedy resident Matt Key describes the town as "a little bit Wolf Creek and a little bit Priscilla Queen of the Desert".

"I would describe Coober Pedy as very, very red. It's very flat. It's very dusty. Mostly red, dust and dirt. It's got very unusual people and an even more unusual landscape," Key told 10 daily.

Six years ago,  Key uprooted his family from Adelaide to Coober Pedy for a teaching job. In Coober Pedy, his driveway is full of opal remnants and he lives in one of the town's underground homes.

The father of two spends his spare time volunteering at the local radio station and operating the town's drive-in movie theatre.

Matt Key moved his family to Coober Pedy from Adelaide. Image Supplied.

Before every screening at the drive-in, Key is sure to play an 'explosive warning', asking miners to keep calm and not deploy anything.

The warning has been a staple of the theatre since the 1960s when miners would cruise around with explosives in their cars.

"It's very Wild West. Back in the old days, people would let off explosives if something happened that they didn't like," Key said.

Coober Pedy Drive-In. Image: Facebook.

While watching a movie under the stunning night sky, you might catch a  glimpse of a shooting star, or a launching missile from the largest land testing range in the world, Woomera Missile Range.

Living in the town has been a "strange experience" for Key. The school has just 270 students from kindergarten to year 12 and so bumping into local kids outside school hours is not uncommon.

"You need to be aware that you're always in public. You don't have a lot of privacy. But we love it here," Key told 10 daily.

Matt Key and his family. Image Supplied.

Another Coober Pedy resident, Anthony Daelman, moved from the Barossa Valley to the remote township with his partner Ashley almost a year ago to take a job as an ambulance officer.

He transports patients to Coober Pedy Hospital, which he estimates has just 20 beds.

"I'm really enjoying living here. It's a massive lifestyle change. It's so isolated from metropolitan cities like Adelaide," Daelman told 10 daily.

Anthony and his partner Ash. Image supplied.

"It's pretty much the only town that you live underground. Coober Pedy is an oasis in the outback that appears out of nowhere," he said.

Since moving to Coober Pedy, Daelman has joined the local shooting club and spends his Friday nights at shotgun practice.

On his nights off,  he takes in panoramic sunsets from the beloved local Italo-Australian Miners club that has been a town staple for the past 50 years.

The stunning sunset in Coober Pedy. Image supplied.

Living underground means Daelman's house is kept at a constant 22 degrees and he escapes costly electricity bills to keep air-conditioning running all year round.

But unlike your average suburban household, he has had bats fly into his home through ventilation shafts, mistaking his house for a cave.

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The underground homes and opal mines attracted tens of thousands of visitors every year, with Coober Pedy being a gateway from Adelaide to the Northern Territory.

Tourism is the backbone of the town's economy and locals are always pushing for tourists to add Coober Pedy on their outback bucket list.

Anthony's underground abode in Coober Pedy. Image Supplied.

"The town pretty much survives on tourism and a lot of the bars and hotels need tourists to stop and spend money for the town to keep moving forward," Anthony said.

"We need tourists to stop and buy some milk or some petrol. Every little bit helps."

Contact the author: @edengillespie