Located 72 km south of Adelaide, on the main road from Adelaide to Cape Jervis, Yankalilla is surrounded by grazing land, pine forests, conservation parks and bushland. The population of 4500 swells on weekends and during the holiday season.
What draws visitors to the town is a mixture of history, proximity to the coast, wineries, a stopover on the journey to Cape Jervis or Kangaroo Island or perhaps the abundance of second hand dealers and vintage wares on offer in the town.
Yankalilla is a town of historical significance in the early story of South Australia. There are various opinions about the origin of the town's name. Some believe it originated from the indigenous inhabitants, the Ramindjeri people, who lived on the land between Cape Jervis to the Gulf of St. Vincent. Others believe that the name is derived from Colonel Light referring to the town as Yanky-lilly and Yanky Point in his writings and others speculate that the town was named after an American ship named Lilly that was wrecked off the coast; none of these suggestions can be substantiated.
Soon after the land around Yankalilla was surveyed in 1838, sheep and dairy farming commenced, followed by the first settlement in the area by Reverend Father Henry Kemmis who came to live on the land allocated to him by his cousin Governor George Grey in 1839. Septimane Herbert and George Worthington who acquired and cleared their land to build houses and plant wheat and barley followed soon after. The town continued to grow rapidly, by the late 1860s; Yankalilla and neighbouring Normanville had three flourmills, five stores, two breweries, four blacksmiths, three hotels and five churches.
The Yankalilla District Heritage Trail provides the opportunity to view many historical sites. Starting near Bungala House, built in the 1850s by the Butterworths, operators of a local flour mill, the trail passes the Shrine of Our Lady Church, which first attracted media attention on August 1994, when a parishioner saw an image of the Virgin Mary on the back wall of the church. Now a private residence, the St Mary McKillop Old School House was operated by Mary McKillop from 1867 to 1874. The Yankalilla Hotel and Yankalilla Institute, both circa 1930, as well as the Christ Church, circa 1909, also form part of the trail. Further information about the heritage trail is available from the Yankalilla Tourist Information Centre.
Today, the historical buildings and rural architecture form part of the appeal of the town, mingled with the retail hub in the main street, the sporting facilities such as the community golf club, and the growing wine business in the surrounding areas.
Wine lovers will enjoy the local wines from Allusion Wines on Southhill Road, Brocks View Estate on Bower Road.
A rare find on Main Street is 21 Junk Street, a quirky vintage style café and retro collectible store. Serving all day breakfast, fair-trade coffee and light lunches, customers can visit the rear shed, complete with an old red phone box, to find an interesting selection of pre-loved and repurposed treasures.
In the winter months, the Yankalilla Golf Club, a community club located behind the Yankalilla Sporting Club in the Yankalilla Memorial Park, offers an 18-hole course. The Yankalilla Lions Youth Park with a skate park, BMX track, playground, BBQ and toilet facilities might be more suitable for a family.
For those in pursuit of aquatic activities, a short car trip will get you to the Normanville beach or, if diving is your thing, take a trip to the dive site of the ex-HMAS Hobart at Yankalilla Bay. The ex-Navy ship did three tours of Vietnam before being scuttled to the bay to form an artificial dive reef in 2002. Divers need to be with a licensed operator to dive the 90,000 square metres of open ship.
Yankaliila hosts a variety of events through out the year including the Easter Art Show and the Yankalilla Show in October. A list of upcoming events is available from the Made by Nature- Fleurieu Coast website.
In the 1890s, bones attributed to the Diprotodon, Naesopus, a giant kangaroo and Thylacoleo, a marsupial lion were discovered in a swamp near Yankalilla. In 1994, an image of the Virgin Mary was discovered in a church.
Next time you are travelling on the Fleurieu Peninsula, check out what is on offer, you might just make a discovery of your own.