The Copper Triangle region of Yorke Peninsula is steeped in copper mining history, in the towns of Moonta and Kadina and the smelting of the metal in Wallaroo. Cornish miners and Welsh smelters brought their experience and skills to South Australia to work in these towns, and left their legacy in the characteristics of the architecture, food and traditions that are still acknowledged and celebrated today. As well as the historical aspects, you’ll also find pumping fishing spots, large scale street art and a swanky gin joint that weave the old and the new together.
Moonta became a surveyed town in 1863 after the discovery of copper in 1861. By the 1870s the community had grown to around 5000 people and it became one of Australia’s largest and most profitable mining operations. Today you can still see the state heritage listed ruins of the two stone engine houses that have remained standing since the mines closed in 1923. The role of the engine houses was to pump water from the mine sites, a skill that the Cornish miners brought to Australia.
You can take a self-guided walk around the ruins of the Hughes and Richmans engine houses which are not far from each other on the outskirts of Moonta, and then driving through the town of Moonta, you can see many examples of the original miner’s cottages that give the town an historic charm.
While in town it’s a must to try a traditional Cornish pasty, packed full of vegetables and wrapped in a crimped pastry crust. For a fuller experience you can plan to visit around the time of Kernewek Lowender, a Cornish festival which has been held biennially for more than 40 years. This year it will be celebrated again from the 17th to the 23rd of May. During the week, all things Cornish are celebrated in a program of events held across the towns of Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo.
While in Moonta, if you take a drive to Moonta Bay you can entertain the kids with a visit to Splash Town, a water park on the foreshore where they can have hours of fun, or the whole family can take a dip in the ocean in a safe fenced area with steps leading down from the jetty and floating pontoons in the crystal clear water.
Yorke Peninsula is renowned for excellent fishing and from the jetty you can try crabbing with a net to catch blue swimmer crabs or you can try raking for them during the day in the shallows. The bay is reasonably calm and sheltered and suitable for fishers with small dinghies, and there’s a variety of seafood for the taking from squid, King George whiting, garfish, salmon trout and plenty of other species found in the Spencer Gulf.
Another popular fishing spot is the Wallaroo jetty because of its deep water access. The jetty is 869 metres long which means you can be fishing in water up to 10 metres in depth, but only when there aren’t any grain ships docked at this working jetty. When in Wallaroo you can mix history with pleasure by visiting the Bond Store in the centre of town. This microbrewery, distillery and restaurant is housed in an historic 150 year old building which was once Eland’s Bonded Store, where barrels of wine, whiskey, rum and other goods were unloaded from ships docked in the port.
Today at the Bond Store you can enjoy a tasting experience with 12 beers brewed on site to select from, or try a colourful gin flight, distilled with native botanicals. There are also liqueurs to taste and Tapas plates and larger meals to complete the experience.
The third town making up the Copper Triangle is Kadina, around 9 kilometres inland from Wallaroo. Kadina is the largest of the three towns and is the commercial hub for the area with a variety of shops to explore as well as historic buildings and a number of old character-filled hotels.
Victoria Square is a large green park space in town which has a huge treetop adventure playground and a full size train for kids to play on. This park also becomes a hive of activity when the Kadina market is held, usually on the last Saturday of each month. Kadina has also become home to some bright and colourful street art that you can discover as you walk around town, including on a disused water tower. The impressive mural was painted by Melbourne artist Resio and depicts more of the Cornish historical links with a May Queen holding copper and wheat painted on one side and a steam engine on the other.
The Copper Triangle towns can be found on the western side of upper Yorke Peninsula, around a two hours’ drive north west of Adelaide.