After Melbourne and Phillip Island and Melbourne again, the hubs and I high-tailed it for Australia’s Great Ocean Road. To be honest, I was sick as a dog, and sidebar: why is that a saying? So even though the Great Ocean Road was beautiful, it wasn’t enjoyable for me and my runny nose. I spent most of the time napping, with the hubs dutifully waking me for anything photo-worthy.
At the end of the Great Ocean Road came Adelaide, which was mostly spent recouping in one of our favorite AirBnb experiences to date and planning our next leg: the Outback.
Way back when we mapped out our Australian itinerary, the Outback was a priority. We had already nixed the Great Barrier Reef! I felt very strongly that we couldn’t miss two iconic Australian experiences on our first time in Oz.
So, to the Outback!
This is what 92.7% of the drive through the Outback looks like (educated guess). The other 7.3% is gas stations, random hotels, and tiny little towns–such as our first stop, Coober Pedy.
Famous for its opal mines, Coober Pedy personifies everything you imagine when you think of a desert town in the middle of the Outback. We arrived at The Underground Motel right at sunset, and kicked off the kitschiest 24 hours of our lives.
The Underground Motel is the first of its kind to offer you the chance to sleep, why yes!, underground in Coober Pedy. Since its opening in 1984, it has inspired many other hotels in the area to do the same.
The Coober Pedy Dream, if you will.
The entire town kind of enjoys living somewhere between above and below ground… there were hotels and churches and bars that all boasted the chance to kick back in an opal mine. After we dropped off our things, the owner of the hotel, Mike, advised we head to John’s Pizza Bar & Restaurant for a slice of Coober Pedy’s best, and thus resulted in my first taste of Emu. It was… emu-y.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early and headed to the Old Timers Mine, which Mike assured us was the best mining museum in town (yes, there are multiple).
The museum was actually a really interesting look into life in Coober Pedy at the height of opal mining’s heyday–complete with a peek into what the miners’ underground homes looked like. I also learned that the hubs knows how to rock hard hat.
After our tour, we chatted with the museum’s owner, Trevor, about what brought him to Coober Pedy. He told us that he lived with his wife in Adelaide, and just made a spur of the moment decision one day to move them both to Coober Pedy and start over. He was particularly proud of the town’s unspoken rule of welcoming newcomers without asking for too many details about their past. We didn’t ask for any details about Trevor’s past. It was all very Red Dog (a moved we watched–and sobbed over–after our host in Adelaide recommended it).
We said our goodbyes to Trevor and headed back out on the open road–but not before stopping for a quick picture of the Coober Pedy Golf Club’s 18-hole grassless golf course:
This was the first place we hit on our Outback Experience so we didn’t know it at the time, but Coober Pedy ended up being our favorite town on our four day roadtrip.
But for now, we were back on the open road.
…With only a few roadblocks.
To be perfectly honest, the rest of our roadtrip up towards Alice Springs was a blur. A dusty, red blur. It was all very interesting and definitely a worthwhile experience, but the scenery really did not change very often.
Finally, we reached our next destination and stopped in Uluru to watch the sunset on Ayers Rock:
And woke up extra early to see the sun rise over the other side:
This led to some of the most gorgeous sunset and sunrises we’ve ever seen. The entire experience was as mesmerizing as we had heard.
As we made our way, we slept in the weirdest hotels, each one worse than the last–and all costing us more than twice as much as we wanted to pay for our nightly accommodations. Really, the hotels deep in the Outback, as it turns out, are total scams. They’re all run by the same company, and it’s a straight up monopoly. All are more motel than hotel, and even the “budget” options can cost you as much as $270 AUD. Guys. $270 AUD.
I did learn just how much I loathe flickering florescent lights in bathrooms, though. We also may or may not be featured in a documentary about the real Horse Whisperer, who was filming at our “resort” in Kings Canyon. I don’t know, Uluru > Kings Canyon was a weird time in our lives.
It was at the same Kings Canyon resort that we saw repeated signs warning us of the dangers of dingo interaction. One sign reminded us that a fight with a dingo is a FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE. This led to a very serious door locking ceremony before we tucked ourselves into our (separate) twin beds for our second to last night in the Outback, and then to the startling realization that the cooling system in our prison cell doesn’t work without air flow from outside. Naturally, our window only opened a smidge (any wider and a dingo could have entered the room, probably!)
It was all the most stressful… and the most sweaty. But it did force us to rise early and head to the Canyon for a rite of passage sort of hike. We picked the short version due to our lack of sleep, but it was beautiful all the same:
And this is where the Outback works its magic. You can sleep in a creepy hotel room with plenty of bugs, listen to dingos mauling babies in the distance, and drive through absolute nothingness for four hours. But before you know it, you’re in the middle of a red and hazy dreamscape.
Complete with wild camels, smiling as you pass on by.