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Published June 27th 2015
Plenty to do in this old mining town
Burra, in South Australia's mid-north, has a rich history stemming from pastoral origins in the early 1840's, followed by several decades as one of the most significant mining centres in Australia. The closure of the mines in 1877 saw a change in direction with a subsequent period of farming and cropping being the main focus for local residents.
It was 1980 when this started to change with the filming of the Australian movie Breaker Morant in Burra and the Redruth Gaol. This movie created tourism in Burra, which was followed by some renovation monies in 1986, and then the proclamation of Burra as a State Heritage Area. Some 50,000 tourists now flock to Burra each year, with many of them seeking things to do while in the area. The following represent my top 7 things to do while in Burra.
The emergence of Burra as a tourist town based on a mining heritage saw the introduction of Tourist Drive 16. This self-guided tour takes visitors past some 43 items of significance in the town of Burra, and provides a great insight in to what the town may have once looked like.
The tour passes iconic and stately buildings, the Monster Mine facility, Redruth Gaol and associated law enforcement buildings, Paxton's Miner Cottages and the Miners Dugouts that were built in to the walls of Burra Creek during the initial boom period of the 1850's.
Located within the aptly named World's End Conservation Park, the Burra Creek Gorge is a popular camping ground for those looking to stay in a natural bush environment. Mighty river red gums feature in this extensive reserve and provide shelter during warmer days, while becoming key attractions for birds.
Winter rains put water in to the creek, and wildlife is known to come some distances for a drink. There are several nature walks within the area including some climbs to nearby hills to get an extended view over the eastern plains Camping fees are by donation, with toilets and some water provided.
Goyder was a famous SA Surveyor who identified areas where rainfall was good and consistent, and areas of poor rainfall. His identification gave rise to Goyders Line some 150 years ago, and something that has stood the test of time.
Dares Hill Circuit is a 165km loop that departs Burra, and highlights the struggles that pioneers had in establishing properties on the poor side of Goyders Line. The poor rains led to many of them abandoning their dreams, and heading westward to lands which Goyder promised would be more lucrative for farming.
Antique shops seem to thrive off each other, and it is rare to see one on it own. Burra is no different with as many as six stores in close proximity to each other, each offering something different and unusual, and no doubt special to the keen buyer.
Each May Burra hosts an antiques and collectables fair where people come from afar to buy, sell, value, look, and just generally enjoy each other's company as they reflect on many items from yesteryear.
In one of only a few South Australian towns, the long distance Heysen Trail and Mawson Trail join together along the path alongside Burra Creek. Burra provides a perfect mid-route destination for long distance hikers and cyclists with plenty of areas for them to rest and replenish supplies.
But you don't have to be a long distance walker or cyclist to tackle these trails. Following the walking or cycling trail 10km north or south of the town will provide great views of the Bald Hills surrounding Burra, while a little further north the Heysen Trail tackles Mt Bryan, the tallest of all mountains in the area. A short 6 km return walk provides 360 degrees views of the entire region.
Every great town has some good coffee shops, and Burra is no exception. A good brew is available from the Burra Bakery, while the Town Square Gallery and Café combines a good cup of coffee with some light meals and a small niche art gallery.
However the best coffee we have found when in Burra comes from the Gaslight Collectables and Old Books Café. A solid cup of coffee in a large mug was just the tonic each morning. The Gaslight Café is also the home to a bookshop and an antiques store, so waiting for a coffee never seems to take very long with so many distractions in eyesight.
A mining boom led to the creation of many residences in the town to cater for the 5,000 people required at the peak. At the end of the boom, a number of miners, and their children stayed in Burra until the lack of employment opportunities forced them to abandon or sell their properties and move. Some properties disappeared, but a large number of them have fallen in to the hands of caring owners, who have renovated and restored them, and converted them in to bed and breakfast houses.
Burra is now SA's largest bed and breakfast centre with around 30 premises of differing qualities available for rent for a night, a week or even longer if required. Personally we have stayed in four different B&B's in Burra over the years, and have enjoyed each of them, with our most recent stay at Kookaburra Cottage being particularly enjoyable.
It was tough to finalise the top 7, and to leave out some out worthy contenders. A trip to Redbanks Conservation Park to see some rugged earth gorges from 65,000 years ago, or perhaps a wander through Tiliqua in search of the pygmy bluetongued lizard. And what about the Museum which also doubles as an old English Lolly Shop ?
What about the Black Sheep restuarant? Fantastic Italian food and great atmosphere.Have been back just to go to this place and will go back again and again. Nutella croissants and coffee for breakfast were a highlight for my daughter.