More than a hole in the ground

THE Desert Cave calls itself the world’s only luxurious underground hotel. Other, more modest establishments also offer subterranean accommodation in a town that produces 70% of the world’s opals. 

Coober Pedy is arguably Australia’s oddest town. Half its roughly 3500 inhabitants live underground. These modern-day cave-dwellers live in what they term ‘dugouts’. Economic necessity and a desire to escape the summer heat spawned the idea of living in former mines. Even the town’s doctor lives in a dugout. Many shops, offices, galleries and churches lie beneath Coober Pedy’s surface. 

At the Desert Cave, 19 of the 50 rooms are underground, machine-scooped from rock. Also underground at the Desert Cave are two restaurants, a bar, a shopping arcade and a museum.

Underground guest rooms (furnished like those at a top-drawer city hotel) are dark when you switch off the lights – really dark. But they