Travel to Coober Pedy

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Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is the “Opal Capital of the World” and has numerous attractions including underground homes, The Breakaways, Moon Plain, The Dog Fence, and of course, opals.  Located 525 miles north of Darwin, and 450 miles south of Uluru Ayers Rock, this remote outback town is easily accessible by air, road and rail.

If you are a film buff, the local scenery might be extremely familiar to you!  The unique landscape was used to great effect in Mad Max III and Until the End of the World, as well as Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

There is not much to the town of Coober Pedy - just a plain scattered by conical pink mullock heaps, and warning signs alerting you to the unfenced 98-foot shafts and several “above-ground” buildings.  Wandering around the dusty streets, it can be hard to tell whether some of the odd machinery lying about is bonafide mining equipment or left-over props from the increasing number of films using the town as an apocalyptic set. The Big Winch Lookout in the center gives a grandstand view of the mix of low houses and hills pocked with ventilation shafts. The welded metal “tree” up here was assembled before any real ones grew in the area, though in the last few years there have been some attempts to encourage greenery with recycled waste water. 

Visit the Old Timer’s Mine - and original opal mine and underground home dating back to 1916.  The exhibits have been set up by miners to demonstrate the mining techniques and lifestyle of those who worked in the original mine. The actual mine however is not a mock up, it is an actual mine that was buried and forgotten until an excavation for an underground home extension broke through the sandstone earth wall and the mine was rediscovered.

The Opal Cave is an underground complex featuring a display of high quality jewelry, opal cutting demonstrations and an opal museum.  Opal Quest is a working opal mine, that offers visitors a chance to see how the rare and precious stone is mined today.

Twenty five miles north, the Breakaway Range is a brightly colored plateau off the highway for spectacular views of the hostile terrain, and bush walking through two-hundred-year-old stands of mulga. The colors of the Painted Desert change with the passing sun and give the area a surreal atmosphere that should not be missed.

People

The Australian people are well-known for their attitude towards their lives and living life to the fullest.  Australians are fun loving, courageous, talented, devoted and adventurous.  The culture and lifestyle is diverse and reflects liberal democratic traditions and values.

Language

Australia has no official language, it is largely monolingual with English being the de facto national language.  Australian English has a distinctive accent and vocabulary and there is an abundance of slang and colloquialisms.

History

Before the arrival of European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples inhabited most areas of the Australian continent. They spoke one or more of hundreds of separate languages and dialects, and their lifestyles and cultural traditions differed from region to region. Their complex social systems and highly developed traditions reflect a deep connection with the land.

The first recorded European contact with Australia was in March 1606, when Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon (1571–1638) charted the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. Later that year, the Spanish explorer Luis Vaez de Torres sailed through the strait separating Australia and Papua New Guinea. Over the next two centuries, European explorers and traders continued to chart the coastline of Australia, then known as New Holland. In 1688, William Dampier became the first British explorer to land on the Australian north west coast. It was not until 1770 that another Englishman, Captain James Cook, aboard the Endeavour, extended a scientific voyage to the South Pacific in order to further chart the east coast of Australia and claim it for the British Crown.

Britain decided to use its new outpost as a penal colony. The First Fleet of 11 ships carried about 1500 people – half of them convicts. The fleet arrived in Sydney Harbour on 26 January 1788, and it is on this day every year that Australia Day is celebrated.

About 160,000 men and women were brought to Australia as convicts from 1788 until penal transportation ended in 1868. The convicts were joined by free immigrants beginning in the early 1790s. The wool industry and the gold rushes of the 1850s provided an impetus for increasing numbers of free settlers to come to Australia.

The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 through the federation of six states under a single constitution. The non-Indigenous population at the time of Federation was 3.8 million, while the estimated Indigenous population was around 93,000. Half of the people lived in cities, three-quarters were born in Australia, and the majority were of English, Scottish or Irish descent.

The founders of the new nation believed they were creating something new and were concerned to avoid the pitfalls of the old world. They wanted Australia to be harmonious, united and egalitarian, and had progressive ideas about human rights, the observance of democratic procedures and the value of a secret ballot.

One of the first acts of the new Commonwealth Parliament was to pass the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, which limited migration to people of primarily European origin. This was dismantled progressively after the Second World War. Today Australia has a global, non-discriminatory policy and is home to people from more than 200 countries.

After 1945 Australia entered a boom period. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants arrived in Australia in the immediate post-war period, many of them young people eager to embrace their new lives with energy and vigor. The number of Australians employed in the manufacturing industry had grown steadily since the beginning of the century. Many women who had taken over factory work while men were away at war were able to continue working in peacetime.

The 1960s was a period of change for Australia. The ethnic diversity produced by post-war immigration, the United Kingdom’s increasing focus on Europe, and the Vietnam War (to which Australia sent troops) all contributed to an atmosphere of political, economic and social change.

In 1967 the Australian people voted overwhelmingly in a national referendum to give the federal government the power to pass legislation on behalf of Indigenous Australians and to include Indigenous Australians in future censuses. The referendum result was the culmination of a strong campaign by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It was widely seen as a strong affirmation of the Australian people’s wish to see their government take direct action to improve the living conditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Australia today is an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. The British Monarch, although constitutional head of state, plays no active role in the administration of Australia’s government. Australia’s current prime minister is Julia Gillard, the country’s first female leader. The capital city is Canberra, while Sydney is the largest city.

Currency

The official currency is the Australian dollar (AUD), which is divided into 100 cents

Weather

Australia experiences mild temperatures year round. The northern states are typically warm tropical and the southern states are cooler and sometimes snowy.

From December to February is Australia’s summer and wet season in the tropical north. The Winter (June to August) is commonly temperate with sunny days in the northern states and snow in the southern mountain regions.

Health Requirements

Vaccinations are not required unless travelers are coming from, or have visited a yellow fever infected country within six days of arrival.

Visa Requirements

A tourist visa - usually issued as an electronic Travel Authority (ETA) - is required for all US citizens traveling to Australia for a stay no longer than three months.  Possession of a confirmed and onward or return ticket to a place where entry is authorized and sufficient funds to show support is required.  Conditions apply to approval - so please ask your destination specialist for details.

Tipping & Porterage

Tipping is not as entrenched a custom at is in the US, however, generous donations by American visitors have changed the expectations of many in the industry.  Generally, a 10% tip at finer restaurants is sufficient, and taxi drivers only expect a top if they assisted with luggage.

Credit Cards

All major credit cards are accepted in Australia, particularly MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club.

Money

Currency is Australian dollar denominations:
Coins: 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2
Notes: $5, $10, $20, $50, $100

Electrical Appliances

240 volts, 50 cycles A.C. is the standard.  Most hotels have a 110 volt 20 watt A.C. outlet for electric shavers only in the bathroom.  A convertor from volts is required for all other appliances as well as an adapter to suit South Pacific plug shapes.

Water

Drinking water in urban Australia is safe for drinking from the tap or faucet. In rural areas it is suggested that water be treated before drinking or use bottled water.


Related Destinations

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Coober Pedy
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Coober Pedy

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