Tips for driving from Adelaide to Coober Pedy

In Travel
2 April 2016
5 min read

1 roadtrip

The road stretches in a straight line to the horizon where it disappears under the silver shimmer of heat waves… a road trip through the Australian outback is the only way you can truly appreciate the size of this humungous country.

It’s over 800kms from Adelaide to Coober Pedy and I was Designated Driver and unofficial Tour Manager for our special mother-daughter desert adventure.

Flying from Brisbane, we collected our hire car at Adelaide airport, (convenient and easy), set ourselves up with sat-nav and water bottles, cranked the AC and hit the road.

My boyfriend said we’d have a more comfortable ride in a mid-sized car and our Camry was smooth with plenty of power and stacks of room for our gear. Being an automatic it was easy driving for me too (I usually drive a manual). The roads are sealed the whole way so no 4WD needed.

The speed limit

Yes, even the open road has a speed limit! 110kms seems crazy low to me (it’s 130km in the Northern Territory) and I often found myself drifting above this. It doesn’t actually feel fast at 120kms when the road is so long and straight and the traffic so sparse. You can see other vehicles long before you reach them and the roads are in excellent condition (no pot holes). But you need to keep in mind that cows, sheep, emus and kangaroos may wander onto the road so you can’t get complacent. Every second vehicle is a big truck (road trains are boss) and every 3rd vehicle is a 4WD pulling a caravan (thousands of ‘grey nomads’ head north when the weather gets cooler in the south).


I was so glad I broke up our drive to Coober Pedy with an overnight stay in Port Augusta. I would’ve struggled driving it all in one day, but if you have 2 people sharing the driving you could make a big push and save yourself the cost of extra accommodation. We stayed at Oasis Majestic Apartments in Port Augusta where our twin room cost $150.


There are a couple of places to refuel on route to Coober Pedy. We topped up the petrol tanks at Port Augusta and Glendambo (which is the last place to refuel before Coober Pedy – 253kms with no servo). There are 3 petrol stations in Coober Pedy (Shell is the most expensive we were told). In total we paid $173 for petrol for the trip (which also included Clare Valley and the Adelaide Hills).


The scenery

If you’ve already done some driving through the outback you might find the scenery boring and monotonous, but for me it was simply spectacular. Burnt orange dust mixed with thorny scrub bushes, black skeleton trees stand out like crazy emus, and iridescent salt lakes shimmer like the moon. A big dump of rain 2 weeks earlier meant there was actually some greenery around too. The best time of day for photos is dawn and dusk, when the colours are amplified by the soft light. Look for road signs with a camera symbol to see the best photo stops along the way. And be warned, your patience will be tested the second you step out of your car, the flies take a nano-second to find you!


My top tips for driving from Adelaide to Coober Pedy

  • Opt for a mid-size car for a more comfortable ride (rather than a small car)
  • When you pick up your car take a note which side the petrol tank is on.
  • Make sure you have lots of water with you, just in case…
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses, you will need them!
  • The speed limit is 110km and even though you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, we did see cop cars on the road.
  • Watch out for roaming cows and sheep, the big farming properties (known as stations) are unfenced so cattle can find their way onto the road.
  • Stay hydrated (hours of air-con can dry you out) and take lots of breaks to stretch your legs (my Mum’s feet swelled up after so much sitting).
  • Turn your lights on during the day so you can be easily seen from a distance.
  • Take your camera, the scenery is spectacular!
  • There are lots of dedicated rest areas along the way, but they don’t include toilets.
  • Mobile phone coverage will drop out but you can get a signal in the towns along the way.
  • The one-finger-wave is the local way to say hi as you pass other cars on the road, simply raise the index finger on your right hand.

I hope this post encourages you to plan your own road trip, it’s a great way to see Australia! You can find more of my travel photos on Instagram, and don’t forget to join me on Facebook for lots of travel stories and inspiration. Eat Well Travel Often my friend!road

biopicShannon Gordon is a travel writer and award winning photographer who shares her life mission to Eat Well Travel Often. Her wanderlust has taken her from the jungles of Papua New Guinea to the Galapagos Islands. Subscribe to her newsletter for travel photos and inspiration as she works through her bucket list. She also hosts fun events for women who like to wine and dine



Hi Shannon, this sounds so awesome. We’re planning on driving from Melbourne to the Red Centre and beyond this June. Great post which has me inspired.


Thanks Miriam, so glad my post has inspired you – it’s such a beautiful country and driving is the best way to see it! Good luck with your road trip!


Thank you for the info Shannon, I am heading off soon on a ‘short’ 3 month ‘easy’ drive from Adelaide to Darwin, then to Cairns and then back to Adelaide via the coast road. I have booked an underground room in Coober Pedy, just for the experience…..I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks again.


Hi John, thanks for letting me know you enjoyed my post, I’m planning a big road trip next year in my new camper, very exciting! You must do the underground room in Coober Pedy, it’s great fun, so dark with the lights off, literally can’t see your hand in front of your face! Happy travels my friend!


thanks for the info, I read on NRMA site that best have 4WD as unsealed roads along the way?
So id it all sealed??


Hi Katherine, yes, as I mentioned in my blog post, the road is sealed the whole way. Happy adventuring!


Doing this drive now but continuing north and came across this page! Great stuff Shannon, looking forward to travelling this country for a few weeks with the family.

Mike Smith

Great advice thanks if you look at your fuel gauge
in the car there is an arrow to tell you which side the fuel filler is.




Ahh yes, since writing this blog post many people have told me this tip, amazing how many people dont know it though so thanks for posting it here Mike!


I really want to take my boys on a road trip through the centre of Australia. We live in Adelaide and I’ve been thinking about Coober Pedy. Is there much to do when you get there?


Hi Kate, it is a small town, not a lot to do, but I would recommend the Old Timers Mine and perhaps a guided tour through the mining area and the famous golf course to learn some of the history of the town and opal mining. Happy travels!


Thank you Shannon, this is great help for our planning


Excellent, thanks for leaving your comment Crystal. I wrote the post as I was looking for something like this when I was about to do the trip!


Great artical Sharon, well presented and has some great tips! Cheers


Thanks Steve, great to know you found it useful!

Fiona Carty

Amazes me to read these threads. Adelaide not far away all bitumen. People pass regularly. Get on the road and enjoy the country. Number one rule…… TAKE WATER enjoy the country and do not drive when tired. Lovely country relax and enjoy xoxo

gel joseph

Just done the trip Uluru to Melbourne via Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, Coober Pedy and Adelaide.
Absolutely brilliant. We were lucky we had 3 drivers so were able to cover greaer distances through the day. Definatly a mid size car and plenty of water,but some good food stops on the way.
Glad I did it although I was a bit apprehensive at first


Hi Gel, I was a bit nervous setting out but it all turned out fine and easier than Id imagined. Your road trip sounds like fun, hoping to do a big trip next year in my new camper, very excited!


We will be doing the Adelaide to Coober Pedy in one day, but it is good advice about filling up in Glendambo, we will make sure we do.

Fiona Keatings

Great article, very helpful, thank you. We have a few days free and can’t decide if we want to do the great ocean road or Adelaide to Cooper pedy.


Thanks Fiona, glad you found my post helpful.
Both are great options!


Very insightful article, thanks! I’m gonna be doing this trip with my daughter at the end of this week – via Pimba on the way there and Clare Valley on the way back – can’t wait!

Gospel RALTE

Hi Sharon,

My family, four adults, are heading to Coober Pedy tomorrow by car. I find your writing so useful and helpful. Thank you.

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