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Andamooka in South Australia.
Andamooka in South Australia.
Ben walks around Andamooka.
Ben finds Ettamogah Pub.


Thursday, May 25, 2000
There's just one road into the tiny town of Andamooka... Ben follows the road and finds the Ettamogah Pub.

Australia produces about 90 percent of the world's opal supply. In Roman times the opal was declared a gemstone. More recently it was elevated to a precious stone. Opals were discovered in Andamooka in 1930, and in 1969 the world's largest stone, weighing 7kg, was found there.

There are 350 mines in the area; it's one of the last places in the country where mining is allowed by individual registration.

On the river bank are the original miners' cottages and dugouts. These go back to the 1930s and were lived in until the late 1980s. These days they're maintained as a tourist attraction. They were mudpacked, lime-washed, had pine tree roofing and were designed to suit the harsh local weather conditions, with temperatures averaging 41ºC in summer (the record high was 49.7). Modern dugouts are fitted out with local rock, slate or cement.

Margot Duke's Bottlehouse Motel and post office are on Opal Creek Road, the town's main street, which is an old creek bed. The post office has the only phone in the area and also sells fuel. There's also a supermarket, the Tuckerbox Restaurant, two hotel/motels, two campsites and the Opal Creek showroom. Everything in this small town is within about a 100m radius.

One-hour walking tours from Duke's Bottlehouse take in several historic dugouts and an underground mine. The bottlehouse itself has an interesting history — Margot's dad built the beehive-shaped structure for a South African resident. A week after completion he skipped town; no-one knows why.

The Ettamogah Pub still stands. When its owner Bill McDougall died, he left it to Margot. The pub was actually an unlicensed corrugated tin shed, where people would drop by for a drink after a day of gouging. Bill refused to take money, but accepted donations for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and raised about $240,000 that way.

The Tuckerbox Restaurant, owned by Steve Smirnos, has saved many a poor miner living off credit. Steve has always served hearty meals to hungry miners who pay him back when they strike opal.

Lake Torrens, a massive, dry salt lake, is just 30 minutes away by four-wheel drive. Roxby Downs, where uranium, copper, gold and silver are mined, is also 30 minutes away on unsurfaced roads.


Andamooka is about a seven-hour drive north-east of Adelaide.


Town tours cost $10 and can be booked at Duke's Bottlehouse.
The best time to visit is from late March to mid October.
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More information

Duke's Bottlehouse: Ph: (08) 8672 7007 or (08) 8672 7062.
Best Western: 13 1779
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission.

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