Unearth treasures: where to noodle for opal in Coober Pedy

noodle for opal in coober pedy

Coober Pedy, in South Australia, is a place unlike any other. Known as the opal capital of the world, this remote town is famous for its unique underground dwellings, vibrant sunsets, and, of course, the thrill of fossicking for opals. 


While traditional mining operations dominate the landscape, there are still many opportunities for enthusiasts to noodle for opal in Coober Pedy.

Opener: Tom’s Opal Mine. Image: South Australian Tourism Commission.


Coober Pedy township. Image: KaZKaptureZ.


Where to noodle for opal in Coober Pedy


One of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in Australia’s most famous mining town is noodling for opal. This practice involves searching by hand through mullock piles: heaps of discarded rocks and dirt from mining activities. These piles often contain opal remnants overlooked by commercial miners, making them prime hunting grounds for amateur fossickers.

The Old Timers Mine and Museum is the best place to step back in time and learn about the history of opal mining in Coober Pedy. On a free self-guided tour, you can explore an original 1916 opal mine, historical museum and underground home, and see some of the original opal found by Willie Hutchison in 1915. Check out the free noodling pit with mullock brought from the opal fields.

Visit Tom’s Opal Mine for another chance at hand noodling. A guided tour through this mine that was active during the 1980s and 1990s will give you a history of Coober Pedy, opal mining and noodling techniques. You’ll be equipped with a mining helmet and blacklight to see opal seams visible throughout. Kids can go on an opal hunt on the tour, and afterwards you can try out your new skills at the free noodling pit.

There’s also a public area specifically set aside for noodling on the outskirts of town along Jewellers Shop Road. 


Noodle for opal in Coober Pedy. Image: South Australian Tourism Commission.


Do I need a permit?


Fortunately for aspiring noodlers, fossicking for opal in Coober Pedy does not typically require a permit. The town embraces its reputation as a hub for opal enthusiasts and encourages visitors to explore its opal-rich terrain. However, it’s essential to respect any private property boundaries and adhere to local regulations. 

Most importantly: you can only use your hands to noodle. Using any type of digging tool, such as a shovel or pickaxe, requires a permit as it is then regarded as mining. It’s always a good idea to check with local authorities at the Coober Pedy Visitor Information Centre for any updates or restrictions.

If you are entering the opal fields, always stay extremely vigilant of mine shafts which can drop up to 30 metres, and always check behind you before taking a step backwards. Make sure to check all peg tags to confirm you aren’t stepping onto an active mining lease.


Noodle for opal in Coober Pedy. Image: South Australian Tourism Commission.


What to bring


Setting out on a noodling expedition requires minimal equipment, but the right tools can greatly increase your chances of success. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet, while a wide-brimmed hat, fly net and sunscreen will shield you from the intense Outback sun (and those pesky flies). A pair of gloves is also useful, and don’t forget to carry plenty of water to stay hydrated.

If you plan to explore into the cooler evening hours, a headlamp and UV torch will also prove useful.


Desert Soul Jewellery. Image: heidi who photos.


What to look for


Opals come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, ranging from translucent white to dazzling rainbow. The most common is potch, a colourless and valueless type of opal, which lacks precious opal’s colourful play of light. 

Not every rock will yield a gemstone, and success often comes down to patience and persistence. Check each piece for the glimmer and colour that shows it’s a real opal. While there’s no guarantee of striking it rich, many fossickers have been rewarded with valuable opal specimens, ranging from small fragments to larger, more valuable stones. 

If you can’t leave without taking home a piece of opal for yourself, there are plenty of shops in town selling a variety of opal souvenirs and jewellery. Check out Desert Soul Jewellery, Old Timers Mine Opal Shop and Opal World in the Desert Cave Hotel.

If you enjoyed reading about where to noodle for opal in Coober Pedy, check out our guides to the top things to see and do and the best places to eat and drink in town.


Travel to Coober Pedy

Rex flies to Coober Pedy. Book your flights here and check out the route map below.

Scroll to Top


For travel inspo and recommendations, flight deals, and awesome giveaways straight to your inbox!

TrulyAus for Rex Subscriber Form