The South Australian outback can be a tough place to make a living—particularly when you live underground, and hope everyday you’ll find opals. That was the lifestyle of early miners who lived here in Coober Pedy, literally making their homes underground, beginning in 1916. For reasons still unclear, however, the miners up and left the area sometime around World War I—leaving behind opals they’d placed in the ceiling, never again to return. It wasn’t until 1968 that a local miner found the shaft while exploring around his own mine, and rather than simply harvesting the opals and reaping financial reward, he created an underground visitor attraction that details the area’s history. When you go beneath ground at the Old Timers mine, you truly are stepping back in time to experience a hard way of life, and even have the chance to search for opals while noodling through leftover mullock.
You visit the mine through a self-guided tour, and hard hats are provided to keep from bumping your head on the low-hanging ceiling. Tours take approximately 30 minutes, or up to an hour if you read all the history.
Did You Know? Opals are found in numerous colors—many of which are on display in the adjoining museum and gift shop.