making our way to australia’s red centre

theromanticAfter 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!

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.

coober pedyFamous 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.

coober pedy - underground motelThe 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).

opal mine museumThe 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:

coober pedy 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.

red center - cows

…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:

kings canyon

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.


the romantic









  1. September 11, 2013 / 22:56

    Great post! We are just planing out route for our three months in Australia starting in November. How long did you spend on the Great Ocean Road? Did you stay over night in any great towns along the way?


    • September 12, 2013 / 05:11

      ahh, you’re going to have such an amazing time! the great ocean road only took us about 6 hours, but we didn’t stop for hikes as much as we should have due to my cold and crummy weather. i definitely recommend arriving at the 12 apostles in time to see the sunset, and you HAVE to spend time out near the cape otway lighthouse for some serious koala-spotting. we then spent the night with a really great airbnb host in warrnambool, but didn’t see too much of the town. we did head to the tower hill wildlife reserve the next morning, though, and hung out with a few emus 🙂

      from there, we went straight to adelaide for a few nights, and then onto the outback. happy to answer any other questions during your planning! so jealous of your adventure 🙂
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..making our way to australia’s red centreMy Profile

  2. Laura
    September 12, 2013 / 01:57

    This post came at a perfect time! I’m just started to plan my trip into the outback. I think we’re going to go with a campervan and avoid the scam motels where we can! Your photos have gotten me so excited!
    Laura recently posted..Taronga ZooMy Profile

    • September 12, 2013 / 05:14

      YES, if we were going to do it again, this is definitely the place for a campervan. i think the campsites are still pretty pricey, so i’m not sure just how much $$ you’d actually save… but if you have a good van, it’s totally worth it.
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..making our way to australia’s red centreMy Profile

  3. Britany
    September 12, 2013 / 09:11

    Wow, so flickering bathroom lights and endless expanses of nothingness… you’ve confirmed my fear that every trip into the Outback comes pretty close to the Wolf Creek experience. But seriously, it looks awesome, in a really bizarre kind of way and I’d love to go someday! Especially to that underground hotel!
    Britany recently posted..Mongol Rally Part VIII: The Finish Line, Ulaanbaatar, & The End of a JourneyMy Profile

  4. September 12, 2013 / 09:49

    In the entire year I spent in Australia, I never once made it to the Outback. I really wish I had! I did find everything in the land of Oz to be wayyyy more expensive than I originally budgeted for, so I will have to save this adventure or another trip out there. Learning about your experience there will definitely help when it comes to planning!
    Amy Lynne Hayes recently posted..Luxury Under the Tuscan SunMy Profile

  5. September 15, 2013 / 14:10

    Ayers Rock looks pretty cool. I’m not going to lie to you, flourescent lights are creepy. So I share your feelings about that. Brings a little extra creepiness and makes putting on makeup difficult. =)

    • September 15, 2013 / 14:46

      UGH yes, the make-up. luckily by this point of the trip, i was hardly bothering, but there is something about seeing your face in flickering greenish light that just makes you wonder if somewhere along the way you accidentally developed a meth addiction.
      Lazy Travelers recently travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

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