The spectacular Yorke Peninsula! Australia’s Own Italian Boot!

We travelled to the Yorke Peninsula (South Australia) today, Wednesday 11th May 2022, and what stunning weather we had. Blue skies and variegated blue water. We enjoyed an amazing view over Ardrossan from the top of a lookout provided by Simec Mining. We were last here in 2019 and we revisit that story below.

Ardrossan Silos

At the beginning of February 2019, we spent five nights at the small coastal town of Wallaroo on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. When we were first poring over the map, we thought we were back in Italy with its very similar boot looking outline. They may both have a comparable climate and beautiful sandy beaches, but that’s where it ends. The food, the history, the museums, the churches, they are all so very different.

Ray, Liz and John

The Yorke Peninsula has 700kms of coastline, with amazing beaches and scenery. There are a variety of towns, both coastal and inland to explore. Each one is unique in its history and landscape. Although we based ourselves in Wallaroo we didn’t actually explore much of the town itself. They have a Heritage and Nautical Museum, Marina, jetty, playground, golf club, and beautiful beaches. Copper was discovered in 1859 and the ore exported through the port. Today it is a big exporter of grain. Wallaroo, along with the towns of Kadina and Moonta, is also part of the Copper Triangle, because Copper was mined there from the late 19th century. The three towns are also known for their Cornish ethnicity and the area is known as Little Cornwall. Every two years a large Cornish themed festival, Kernewek Lowender, is held and claims to be the world’s largest Cornish Festival outside of Cornwall. The festival is being held this year from the 13th – 19th May. Unfortunately, we will be in Alice Springs, but we have put it in the calendar for 2021! Moonta is another quaint town and we enjoyed walking along the main street before having lunch in The Cornish Kitchen. Ray and Liz had the Cornish Pasty and gave it top marks for taste and authenticity. A five-minute drive from Moonta is Moonta Bay, and wow, how stunning is this beach! There is a long jetty which we walked along and saw quite a few folk fishing and crabbing. Halfway along the jetty, there is an area that has been fenced off as a safe swimming spot.

After visiting the Visitor Information Centre we decided to go on the Moonta Mines Tourist Railway. This was a fifty minute round trip on a narrow gauge rail, taking in the history of the copper mining operations. We went along and joined about forty other people on the small train that was operated by volunteers of the National Trust of SA Moonta Branch.

Rather than relying on our memory of the commentary by the Volunteer Train Driver, here is the explanatory text from the National Trust website – “Until the 1890’s all work underground was done by manual labour. No machines were used. The shafts were dug by hand using basic tools and blasting powder. To get from one level to another miners climbed up or down step ladders. Some shafts went as deep as 2,500 feet. The ore was hauled to the surface by horse whims. Engine houses were built to pump the brackish mineralized water from the mines. Hughes’ Pump House was constructed in 1865 and worked continuously until the mines closed in 1923. In all there was about 80 miles of shaft and drives in the area.

At its peak in the 1870’s around 2000 men and boys were employed by the Company. Pickey boys were paid 11 pence per day for a 6 day week. 16 — 21 year olds averaged 3/- to 5/- per day and men over 21 averaged 5/- to 8/- per day. The miners were paid on a percentage of the value of the copper they dug out.” This was a very informative and enjoyable journey and we would highly recommend if in the Moonta area.

Our last full day we drove from Wallaroo down to the bottom of the peninsula to Innes National Park which was absolutely spectacular. The national park occupies most of the land on the south-western tip of Yorke Peninsula. Some of the places we visited were Marion Bay, Chinamans Hat, Pondalowie Bay, and Stenhouse Bay. One day wasn’t long enough and we will most certainly be returning to explore in greater detail. Huge thanks to John and Liz for their company, their cooking skills and driving us around.

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