South Australia forgotten towns, heritage & history trip
Who needs a medieval castle to gawp at. The past is fascinating, even if it is a rusting engine parked on a dusty lot in the middle of nowhere. South Australia is a great place for locals and visitors alike to explore the byways of Australia’s past. The past that is invariably wrapped up in a bit of dust. History does not need to be ancient to be interesting, just visit heritage towns in South Australia. A historical journey is at our fingertips and you did not even have to get on a long distance plane. Architectural monuments and railway tracks, for non-existent trains encourage visitors to imagine the train roaring to a halt at the railway station. As a consequence the visitor’s imagination becomes part of the adventure. It is a journey wrapped up in Australian dust, and a few flies.
What you will discover, highlights:
- Imagination runs riot thinking about nineteenth century struggles in an unforgiving landscape
- Nature outback scenery & waterholes
- Cafes in the most unlikely places, check out Blinman General Store
- Aboriginal perspective of the desert
- Camel trekking
- An underground bakery in Farina
Best time to go: Year round
The trains stopped running and the people left…
Check out a town where the trains stopped running. It is a main street where there is no longer the bustle of people shopping, it is empty of activity with shuttered windows and dusty window fronts. You peer in the windows and it looks as though people have simply got up and left their dinner on the table. Terowie is a designated historic town Goyder Regional Council. The main street with its facades for butchers, grocery stores and banks is largely empty. Abandoned places visitors should include a drive to Terowie in your Burra excursion itinerary.
How to get there: From Clare to Terowie
Planning a weekend in the Clare Valley the abandoned railway town of Terowie is 50 minutes drive from Burra. Approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes or 109km from Clare.
Copper prices collapsed and people left… Check out a town where the copper mines closed.
How to get there
Blinman can be part of your Flinders Range exploration.
Approximately 40 minutes from Wilpena Pound or 66km via Flinders Ranges Way Or join a tour with Wilpena Pound Resort 4WD Tours
Blinman was a thriving copper mining town in the mid 19th century. Mine machinery, early buildings and an historic cemetery remain as a reminder of the town’s history. Similar story to Burra (part of the Clare Valley tour). Blinman has a thriving heritage society Blinman Mine – Underground Experience, local volunteers keeping the past alive.
Climate change lessons where people thought it would rain, what happens when it doesn’t…
Beltana is a town where the trains stopped running. Beltana’s location defines off the beaten track.
How to get there
Off the beaten track (Australian style) Approximately 2 hours or 190km from Wilpena Pound via The Outback Hwy/B83 and Flinders Way.
Beltana is an old railway town on the western fringe of the Flinders Ranges. Beltana is a detour and off the beaten track. Abandoned town fans will not mind the journey. Many of the town’s buildings are being or have been restored, making Beltana a time-capsule of the I9th century. These include the original Beltana Homestead (1855), Police Station (1881), Post Office and Telegraph (1875), Bush Hospital (1898) and School (1882). Beltana witnessed the beginnings of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Australian Inland Mission. In the early days it was a camel breeding station. Beltana’s decline started with the closure of the railway.
Note: the buildings in Beltana are privately owned and are generally not open to the public. Interpretative signs encourage a self guided tour. A self guided walk, in the middle of nowhere is oddly memorising as you keep thinking of why on earth would people think it’s a good idea to grow wheat in the dry dust bowl of Beltana.
ACTIVE: CAMEL TOURS & TREKS
North Head was continuously occupied by an Aboriginal clan, Gayimai. It was a place for ceremonial practice and teaching. North Head marks one of the sites of earliest contact between Aboriginal clans and the British military surveying the harbour. This is recorded in Captain Hunter’s journal. Custodians of the heritage of the station collate oral history records, journal records, newspaper reports of the time as well as official documents describing efforts to continue the spread of typhoid and other infectious diseases from entering Sydney. The site has 65 heritage buildings reflecting the life of its inhabitants.
As well as luxury accommodation guided tours the Quarantine Station conducts well thought of educational programmes making the site a favoured destination for school groups. Immigration and the control of infectious diseases is a hot topic that the world is still grappling with how to isolate without infecting everyone.
MAREE AND FARINA
Remote, dustry and extraordinary… Maree and Farina examify every image of the Australian outback. This is off the beaten track (Australian style). Journeys for the enthusiastic abandoned place explorer. Marree hosts an annual Marree Australian Camel Cup. The action pack day includes camel race, donkey race, dog races, camel polo and tug of war against a camel. What’s on in Marree is worth checking if you have your outback credentials sorted
THE BIG RED BASH
You are planning on attending the Big Red Bash in the desert. Remember to check Marree and the surrounding district. For details check out Birdsville Big Red Bash. Every July, Birdsville’s iconic Big Red Bash kicks off under the open skies of Australia’s Simpson Desert. Thousands of people from around Australia, and the world, head into the desert for the most remote music festival on the planet.
How to get there
Approximately 45 minutes from Marree OR 55km.
Farina is on the edge of the desert, with an unpredictable annual rainfall of 163.6 mm. Lack of water and climate change compelled wheat farms to close. Abandoned buildings are a testament to the folly of farming in areas of low rainfall.
Recommended overnight stay in Marree with local guided tour of the desert and the surrounding towns of FARINA AND MARREE. The sculpture park of Alberrie is extraordinary. And then there is the heritage of hundreds of thousands of years of thriving and surviving in the arid lands of Australia. You’ve got so far, now it’s time for an Aboriginal local to show you the how and why of the region. Tour highlights Marree and Farina tour could include scenic flights exploring the surrounding desert.
Heritage and history with nineteenth century Cornish miners…
Adelaide to Moonta 2 hours, 165km.
Moonta is part of the National Trust Buildings and Monuments.
If you are interested in Cornish copper mining history and heritage then Moonta is worth a day trip from Adelaide. Moonta is a photo moment for abandoned town enthusiastics. The Moonta mines walking trail is a great way to explore the historic town. Information about the trail can be found at the Moonta Mines Museum. In its heyday Moonta had the largest population outside Adelaide. The area is known as Little Cornwall as Cornish miners and their families made Moonta their home. There is an annual Kernewek Lowender (or Cornish Festival) along with the towns of Kadina and Wallaroo. Check out Moonta tourism initiative for up to date information around events and where to go and what to see.
TIP: Patience is needed as off the beaten track (Aussi / Australian style) means long straight roads that seem to go on forever in the glimmering distance).
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
- The Department for Environment and Water is a useful resource with fact sheets that are informative. Department for Environment and Water | Heritage venues and places to visit
The journey is worth it.