Coober Pedy is a small town in outback South Australia. It’s roughly 800 kms from the nearest capital city and not really a destination unto itself, unless you’re an opal miner.
It is a town used by visitors travelling the main road between Adelaide in the South of Australia, and Darwin to the North. A road that includes many once in a lifetime experiences including the world-famous, Uluru.
Opal was first discovered in Coober Pedy in 1915 and by the 1970s opal mining was in full swing. The town is almost entirely predicated on opal.
Opal sellers. Opal buyers. Opal cafes. Opal inns. Many of which, are underground to get away from the relentless summer heat.
Operating since the early 1960s is Old Timers Mine. A small underground mine that was carved out, mostly by hand, by a family that landed in Coober Pedy at the peak of the rush. Not only did they dig out the mine, but they also dug out a house for themselves as well.
The operation is almost perfectly preserved with the story shared so well. Hidden behind locked tough glass is even large pockets of opal that hasn’t been mined out.
Throughout the museum, you’ll discover how opal mining is done, how people live underground and the history of the town itself.
What is so great about it? Why is it ranked third behind a natural experience and one private tour?
My take on why this tourism experience is an award winner. With a 4.6 rating on TripAdvisor and an absolute must for any visitor to the town
The tour is priced well for a 1-2 hour experience $15AUD for an adult or $40 for a family is great value.
You discover more than you expect. Regardless of how high your expectations are going into the museum, your actual experience is likely to exceed it.
The product itself is meticulously created.
You walk away with a real sense of the town itself. If you’re in Coober Pedy for a short amount of time, you would feel like you’ve got to the DNA of the place. If a tourism business can do their thing exceptional well AND map what they do to the place DNA it’s often a winning formula.
They offer a free camp for travellers right next door. If you’re staying in the free camp, there is almost no chance you won’t check it out.
Better than paying $25 for a campsite for the night. You also feel like you should reciprocate something – quite a clever strategy to capture many of the transient visitors to the town.
It is self-guided, but there is much information easily digested along the way.
You leave with a real sense of the story and history. The experience creators are not too smart at what they do; confusing the visitor or leaving them with unanswered questions.
Their tourism marketing is pretty good.
Like most small tourism business, it is relatively simple, but in this case, incredibly effective.
Head to the business’ website, and you’ll find excellent messaging explaining what they are and why you should visit. The main call to action on the website is to ‘Watch the Video’.
This links to an excellent video that gives you a sense of what to expect underground. There’s a real ‘We’ve got to see this for ourselves’ about it.
If you want to convince visitors to choose your product or experience, show them why they should choose you.
The staff were GREAT. Friendly, engaging, knowledgeable and authentically connected to the story. The team wanted us to discover as much as possible and share the Coober Pedy and Old Timers Mine story with us.
If they hadn’t already over-delivered on expectations, there’s yet another Easter egg to find… On leaving, we were encouraged to do some fossicking out the front in the sandpits. We did and discovered some small pieces of opal to take home.
If you didn’t already feel connected to the story and place, if you take some time to dig around, you’re almost guaranteed to find a tiny fragment of what miners have been flocking to Coober Pedy for decades to discover.
You will almost certainly never forget the place with a souvenir of your own making to remind you forever. How good is this?
Our family loved this place. It exceeded our expectations and raised the entire destination up in our eyes.
This is the power of a great tourism operator in a small town.