The well sign-posted self-guided Tourist Drive 38 commences from Queens Park in the centre of town and continues for around 16km, initially through the town, and then in to the Moonta Mines area, and provides a great insight in to the township of Moonta as it would have existed in the middle of the 19th Century.
Alongside the start in Queens Park is the impressive Town Hall which was originally built in 1885, while over the road is the Henry on George Café. Boasting the best coffee in town, they are certainly worthy of a visit while reflecting that this building is the former Roach & Sons Butcher Shop which was one of the earliest buildings in Moonta having been built in 1863.
From Queens Park the drive takes you past some original Moonta cottages on George Street before meandering through the back (southern) streets of Moonta past numerous other fine houses, churches, the Salvation Army Hall, the School of Mines, the original Fire Station, the Moonta School and the Moonta Hotel. Aside from the Churches, the majority of these buildings are now privately owned so are not available for visitation.
Cothele House, built in 1890, is an impressive building. Standing tall over the Oval and its historic Pavilion, and also looking out across Victoria Park, it is easy to see why this stately home attracted much interest in recent years.
Leaving the main township of Moonta, the Drive heads east to the Moonta Mines Heritage Area passing numerous items of significance. The Moonta Mines were a series of successful copper mines that operated in the 19th Century, but which economics gradually caused their closure around 100 years ago. Around the Hamley Flat area of the mines, the Miners Cottage is a beautifully restored building which is open for viewing on Wednesday, weekend, school and public holiday afternoons.
As the Drive circumnavigates the Mines area, the massive tailings heaps stand tall over the horizon. These heaps are treated byproducts of the copper production which have been carefully mounded in to small hills, and which are available for climbing. For kids, this is almost a must-do activity as they seek to race each other to the top to get a view of the whole Mines area.
The Drive continues in to the restored Moonta Mines "suburb" where a miniature tourist railway line runs through part of the mines, and is alongside the Museum, which was the former Moonta Mines School. Across the road is the Moonta Sweet Shop in the former local Post Office. Again, kids will have a field day in this area of the Drive, although they may not be so happy if you ask them to do one of the three short Heritage Walks that commence from here.
Leaving the tourist part of Moonta Mines, the Drive continues in to the actual copper fields themselves where opportunities exist to view Ryans Shaft and Taylors Shaft, while contemplating a climb up Ryans Tailings Heap. Richmans Enginehouse is a mighty building and a reflection on the size of the operations from many years ago. Nearby the Tourist Train makes its way past, and heads through a purpose built tunnel built in to one of the large heaps.
Hughes Enginehouse is perhaps the most widely photgraphed of the buildings remaining in the Moonta Mines district, and it is not hard to see why. The tall building, and the chimneys and funnels strike an imposing figure with the sky as a background.
The Drive continues to circle the Mines area where odd remnants of the past are seen. Before long we are back in to the main township of Moonta with a stop at the Moonta Railway Station. This glorious old building was built in 1909 by Gambling & Son, and has stood the test of time despite formal rail services ceasing almost 40 years ago. The station is now the Visitor Information Centre and is open daily from 9am-5pm. The Moonta Station Markets also occur under the gum trees and in the car park on the Sunday of every March and October long weekend.
From the Station, the Drive continues through the commercial part of town where former hotels, stores, shops, banks and the Moonta Institute were all thriving enterprises of days gone by. A number of these have been converted to attractive private dwellings including the beautifully restored 1866 built Druids Hall.
The Moonta Heritage Trail is open all year round, albeit most of the Tourism sites within the Mines area are closed on days where the temperature exceeds 37 degrees. The Trail is 16km long, and is estimated to take 1 to 2 hours. A copy of the Heritage Trail Map can be obtained online from the South Australian Mining History Website or alternatively collected from the Visitors Information Centre at the Moonta Railway Station. Further details can also be found on their facebook page.
Well put together article.There is no doubt Moonta is a gem of a place to look around and stay for a short holiday.Combine this with a visit to the Bay and Pt.Hughes,so close by and the short drives to scenic Wallaroo and Kadina,you can have a wonderful holiday,anytime of year.What's more,it is close enough to the city of Adelaide, for a day trip.