Coober Pedy is the most enduring symbol of the harshness of Australia's Outback and the determination of those who live there. It's a place where the terrain and temperatures are so extreme that homes – and even churches – have been built underground, yet it has managed to attract thousands of opal prospectors.
The local scenery might be familiar to you if you're a film fan, as it was used to great effect in Mad Max III, Pitch Black and Wim Wenders' epic Until The End Of The World. There's not much to it, just an arid plain disturbed by conical pink mullock (slag) heaps, and dotted with clusters of trucks and home-made contraptions, and warning signs alerting you to treacherously invisible, unfenced thirty-metre shafts. Be very careful where you tread: the safest way to explore is to take a tour. Past the diggings, the Breakaway Range consists of a brightly coloured plateau off the highway about 11km north of town, with good views, close-ups of the hostile terrain, and bushwalking through two-hundred-year-old stands of mulga.
There are two museums in former mines, including the Old Timers Mine, Crowders Gully Road (Tel:08/8672 5555, Web: www.oldtimersmine.com ; $10), and Umoona Opal Mine and Museum on Hutchison Street (Tel:08/8672 5288, Web: www.umoonaopalmine.com.au ; entrance free, tours $10). There are numerous tours on offer featuring a town drive, a spot of noodling and a visit to an underground home. One of the best is Radeka's four-hour Desert Breakaways Tour ($50; Tel:08/8672 5223; from 1pm) and one-hour Stargazing Tour ($20) which includes a look at the Breakaway Range.