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Rocking the underground vibe in Australia’s subterranean town

rock cave home in Coober Pedy, Australia

Image credit: lonelyplanet images

It’s a snazzy dining room built into a cave. And look – there’s a pick-axe conveniently on hand to (presumably) hack out a few extra shelves or adjacent utility room should they ever be needed.

Unusual as this cosy domestic scene with a Flintstones vibe may seem, it’s pretty much standard in the Australian mining town of Coober Pedy, where almost everyone lives under the ground rather than on it. Here’s why.

Coober pedy landscape, Australia

Some places on earth are just a little more inhospitable than others, the Ozzie outback definitely being one of them. And in Coober Pedy – which was established in 1915 following the discovery of lots of opal - summer temperatures typically soar well above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

Not a place you can spend too long outdoors in, then, and since air conditioning wasn’t an option for the first settlers, they wisely plumped for rock-cave ‘dug-outs’ that were cool in in the day-time heat, but still nice and snug when temperatures dropped (rapidly) at night. Handy for getting to work, too.

Underground interior, Coober Pedy, Australia

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As prospectors from all over the world flocked to ‘the capital of opal mining’, the underground village rapidly expanded to include four (yes four)  churches….

Underground church, interior, Coober Pedy, Australia

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Serbian Church, Coober Pedy, Australia

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… and recreational facilities for those times not spent praying to unearth whopping great opals.

Pool facilities and recreation room, Coober Pedy

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Although today it’s certainly possible to reside above ground in a temperature-controlled environment, subterranean living is still preferred by most of the town’s approximately 2000 inhabitants, who either excavate new homes or adapt older ones into des-res pads with a uniquely rustic charm.

In fact, some of these underground abodes really are the ultimate in James Bond-ish retro chic.

Interior and swimming pool, Coober Pedy underground homes, Australia

What’s more, if you need more space you simply dig it out – with the chance of discovering a bunch of precious stones while you’re at it.

Excavating in Coober Pedy, Australia

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Understandably, Coober Pedy has become one of Australia’s more offbeat tourist attractions, and if, like us, you simply have to visit, accommodation options include what must surely be the world’s oddest ‘Comfort Inn’. We’ve already made reservations.

Underground places to stay and Comfort Inn, Coober Pedy, Australia