Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist. Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.



Sunday, 17 November 2013

South Austalia-Part 5 - Woomera, Coober Pedy & the Painted Desert

Welcome back for Part 4 of our trip through South Australia. If you missed the first three parts, please scroll down to the bottom of this post to go to the links.  Here is the link to the quick overview - On the road through South Australia.

Today we leave Port Augusta and the coast and travel up the Stuart Highway to Woomera, Coober Pedy, Arckaringa Station and the Painted Desert.  The blue line of this map shows an approximation of our route - 

The Stuart Highway runs for 3000 kilometres between Port Augusta up through central Australia to Darwin on the north coast. The Highway was named after explorer John McDouall Stuart who was the first European explorer to achieve the crossing in 1861-62, although the highway doesn't follow his exact route. His exploration to Darwin opened up the north and resulted in both the Overland Telegraph line and the Great Northern Railway. 

Travel along the Highway today is vastly different to what Stuart and his party would have experienced in 1861.  

 Please click on "Read more" to keep reading - there are lots more pics!

 Our first stop is the town of Woomera -
Woomera is an Aboriginal word which means “spear-launcher.” The Woomera Prohibited Area is the largest land-based missile and rocket range in the western world. Initially a joint project between Britain and Australia, the site continues to host space activities for Australian and international defense and aerospace organizations. 

Today the town has a population of around 120 people, plus contractors and those who work behind the gates at the restricted facility. The town has a very interesting Missile Park where you can see aeroplanes, rockets etc, a Visitor Centre where you can learn more about Woomera's history, Community Centre, Museum, and even a bowling ally which was built by American's during Woomera's heyday.  

This old medicine chest in the Woomera museum actually dates back to a sailing ship from England in 1836. The chest was used until the Royal Flying Doctor became available in the 1930s. 

Woomera is only about 9 kilometres off the highway, and makes a very interesting side-trip.

 Returning to the Highway, our next stop is Coober Pedy 540 kilometres from Port Augusta, and our stop of the next couple of days.

Opals were discovered here in 1915, and Coober Pedy is now the centre of opal mining in Australia. The town has a lunar like landscape and frontier feel about it. It is also a town where most of the residents live underground due to the extremely hot temperatures - you can even eat in an underground restaurant and stay in an underground hotel, though my sister says you wouldn't want to be scared of the dark when you turn the lights out - underground means pitch black! - make sure you bring a torch!  An interesting tour is the Old Timers Mine which features a self guided walk through an opal mine hand-dug in 1916 and two underground homes. You can also try "noodling" - searching through heaps of discarded mullock for pieces of opal.

You can also visit underground churches - this beautiful little church is the St Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

34 kilometres out of town are the spectacular Breakaways. A perfect place to watch the landscape change colours under the desert sunset. Some scenes for the movie "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" and "Ground Zero" were filmed here.

 The 70 kilometre round trip will take you along part of the "dog fence". This two metre high wire barrier fence stretches for over 5,300 kilometres across three Australian states, protecting sheep country in the south from wild native Dingos. 


Further out along the dirt Coober Pedy-Oodnadatta Road you will pass through the Moon Desert.  Originally an ancient sea bed, this flat rocky plain is almost completely devoid of vegetation. You might however see a lizard

 After a couple of days exploring around Coober Pedy we returned to the Stuart Highway and continued north to Cadney Park Roadhouse, where we turned east through the Copper Hills to our next destination, Arckaringa cattle Station and the spectacular Painted Desert. (100 kms east) The stony dirt road winds through breakaway country - watch out for creek lines, washaways and dips and drive to the conditions - 4WD recommended. Also watch out for kangaroos, emus and cattle especially if travelling dawn or dusk or after dark.

You can also get to Arckaringa from Coober Pedy via the dirt Coober Pedy-Oodnadatta road instead of going via the Stuart Highway - check with the Coober Pedy Visitor Information Centre about current road conditions.

 You can pitch your tent under the shade of the few scrubby trees near the Arckaringa Homestead, or there are a few "bunk houses" for rent. The facilities might be basic, but they are clean and you can have a hot shower (bring your own drinking water. No powered sites, no phone or internet. Pay your camp fee at the homestead). 

And wow, what a view from the camping area. Time to sit in the shade and read a book - make sure you bring a fly net! Arkaringa is a working cattle station, so you might see cattle mustering.There are no fences, so watch out for cattle on the tracks around the property and please keep to the tracks and away from cattle watering points.

 The Painted Desert is only a few kilometres from Arckaringa homestead. You can see them from the camping ground.  The Painted Desert is a spectacular area of coloured hills, mesas and rock formations formed over 80 millions years - a photographers delight with the colours changing through the day. We drove out to the desert and walked amongst the hills - make sure you wear good walking boots, wear a hat and fly net, and carry water. 
My pictures really can't adequately show you the full beauty and granduer of the Painted Desert. 

 Some desert wildflowers....it is amazing to see how these beautiful flowers grow in the harsh rocky red dirt landscape.

 And at days end you can't beat a desert sunset. 

 Arckaringa was one of my favourite places on our South Australia trip - I hope these few pictures can help you appreciate it's raw beauty. To find out more please click on the link to go to their website - The Painted Desert and Arckaringa

You can also read more about Arckaringa Station in my campsite report printed in On The Road magazine, April 2014 edition.

If you missed any of my previous posts about our South Australia trip you can catch up by clicking on the links below -

Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to hearing from you.

I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Travel Photos Monday, Our World Tuesday, Tuesday Around the World, Travel Photo Thursday, What's It Wednesday, and Oh the Places I've Been. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!

Mosaic Monday
Travel Photo Mondays
Our World Tuesday
Tuesday Around the World  
What's It Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
 Oh The Places I've Been


  1. Amazing landscapes, Jill! I love the beautiful stained glass in the church! And the wildflowers and skies are just gorgeous. What a great trip, thanks for sharing. Have a happy week!

  2. An underground church at the mines was quite interesting. We have coal type mines of course down in Southeastern KY and I wonder if they have chapels underground here...hmmm
    Sunset at the Breakaways is certainly quite glorious!
    Coober Pedy, it looks pretty desolate... and like some of the roads that we have traveled, you sure don't want to run out of fuel, or breakdown!
    Your Painted Desert seems to have more plateaus then ours has, yet both are such fascinating forms in nature. Such fun seeing your journey images and knowing that you made remarkable memories~

  3. Beautiful, I love the changing desert colours.

  4. I don't underestimate the time it takes to make the beautiful photo collages and put a story together like this to share with us - thank you Jill. Today I've been transported to out of the way places and desert scenery that I can only imagine sitting here, at my computer, in the more Mediterranean South West of Australia. I loved the painted desert, which looked 'out of this world', and the scenery where Mad Max was filmed looked familiar (from the film memories!), but it was going back to Coober Pedy that did it for me, as I stopped there as a back packer in 1983 and can well remember the little underground church among other things. I think a trip like the one you've just done is all the more interesting for things like the missile and space testing area that you wouldn't otherwise know about, and the dog fence - and those sunsets are intense as well :)

    1. 1983 - Coober Pedy must have been very different back then Jo. I am glad you enjoyed the trip back through my pics.

  5. I love the colors of the desert...

  6. What an excellent history and geography lesson! With gorgeous photos to match. It must be challenging and rewarding to travel in such an extreme climate.

  7. Wonderful post and photography ~ real 'flavor' of your world ~ thanks, carol, xxx

  8. The desert and it's colors are very similar to our Utah desert. I found the underground church very interesting. I stayed in an underground motel once and it was freaky to hear the air being piped in.

  9. As a lover of landscape the Painted Desert lookes absolutely gorgeous -
    Wide open desert country and arid wildflowers - Heaven!

  10. Gorgeous scenery and skies! I love those underground churches too.

  11. A wonderful series of photos here and so much information to take in. I love Australia but haven't had a chance to travel to these parts that you feature. The Breakaways look like a fabulous place to enjoy the sun "playing" on the hills.

    1. it has taken us a while to finally get around to travelling to South Australia - and we glad we made the effort. Still much much more to see!

  12. Amazingly beautiful landscape and scenery


  13. Great tour!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  14. Beautiful shots!! It would be so cool to visit there!

  15. I haven't been to this part of Australia, but it looks beautiful.

  16. Wow, just fabulous! Wonderful shots of your trip. I thought Coober Pedy is awesome. We stayed four days there.

  17. I love to check in to resume each new leg of the journey with you, Jill! Is the dog fence truly effective in protecting the sheep. That's a lot of distance to keep repaired...wow! The pictures as always are absolutely spectacular. Living in Nevada I have even more appreciation for those desert photos you've captured. But, I would absolutely spend a day at Woomera as I'm absolutely fascinated by the space program, missle testing, etc...ever since I was a kid! Looking forward to the next chapter :)

  18. What a wonderful collection of shots! Everything looks just beautiful. I particularly love the sunset shots and the one with the lizard. :)

  19. A Unique series of the great landscapes shots and skies! such remarkable tour..

  20. Oh my - your photos leave me breathless and wanting to hop the next flight to 'down under'!!! Another fantastic tour you gave us, Jill.

  21. What an excellent tour Jill, love the images when sunset is happening and magic !occurs

  22. As everyone has observed, the landscape is absolutely stunning and so varied.
    I'm surprised there are so few people in Woomera and a 3000 km highway sounds mind boggling. Hats off to John Stuart.
    Would be great to visit one of the underground churches.
    Wonderful tour, Jill. Thanks!

  23. Great landscapes shots, beautiful wildflowers and stunning skies..such that remarkable journey... thanks for sharing your experience with us and waiting of your next update..
    Take care, Jill!

  24. I really wanted to visit Coober Pedy when we were in Australia last January but simply couldn't squeeze it in. Your description of the town and underground buildings sound fascinating. I especially like the close up of the lizard at the Moon Desert and the juxoposition of the colorful flowers and the harsh looking landscape.

  25. Every time Pilchard & I have been to/through Coober Pedy, it's rained!!! We've never made it to either the Breakaways or the Painted Desert - our rig isn't suitable - but one day it's SO going to happen!! And I'm already missing those glorious Outback sunsets ...

    1. I can hardly believe that you haen't been to the Breakaways or the Painted Desert - you really must go there! You would LOVE it Red!
      thanks for stopping by. I have enjoyed hearing from a fellow Ozzie travellier.


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