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Published April 7th 2015
Take a tour of this terrific tourist town
Wallaroo, on South Australia's Copper Coast, is a town undergoing regeneration as tourism and a burgeoning fishing industry transform the town. However it wasn't that long ago that Wallaroo was a port of major significance and was a hive of industrial activity. From 1861 to 1923, Wallaroo was the principal port for the export of copper from Australia's Little Cornwall, and it is that copper heritage which has inspired the creation of the Wallaroo Heritage Trail or Tourist Drive 37.
The Tourist Drive commences outside the old Post Office which is now a Heritage and Nautical Museum, and continues for 9km through the town. Open daily from 10am to 4pm, this historic building houses extensive displays of the copper smelting era, postal and telephone history, religious and civic affairs, industry, sport, entertainment, extensive nautical, and general local history.
The original Tipara Reef lighthouse stands nearby. Originally erected in 1877 on the reef about 15km west of Wallaroo, the lighthouse was replaced by an automatic lighting system in the 1960's, and this original lighthouse was relocated on to the mainland as a static display.
From the Museum the Drive takes visitors past the 1862 built Customs House and the former Railway Office (now café) to the large grain handling jetty which was built in 1927. In years gone by, there were three jetties at Wallaroo, each with a different gauge of railway line, and each servicing the booming copper or agricultural industry.
Past the jetties and the large grain silos the Drive heads past some of the more commercial sites of Wallaroo including the Court House, Police Station, Waterside Workers Hall, some early shops and the Wallaroo Hotel, all of which are well maintained and reflect the architecture of the late 19th Century.
The former private residence of Caroline Carleton appears amongst the residences. Caroline was a South Australian poet, born in England, who is best known for her prize-winning poem Song of Australia, which, put to a tune by Carl Linger was used as a patriotic song in South Australian schools and elsewhere, and was one of four in a national competition to select a National Song in 1977.
Back to the centre of town, and the drive passes the original and only guesthouse of Wallaroo in 1914 being Sonbern Lodge, before diverting past the restored yet non-operational Railway Station, Fire Station and the Town Hall, all of which are majestic buildings in their own right.
Heading to the northern side of town and we head past the retail precinct and the Cornucopia Hotel, the National Bank and the Post Office before viewing a series of churches that were built in the mid 1860's.
A large and empty parcel of land greets us on the foreshore and our map informs us that this was the former home of the Wallaroo Smelting Works, which has long since been demolished. Getting out of the car, we take the short walk alongside the front of the land as to where the Smelting Works would have been, and the interpretive signage gives us a feel as to the size of this operations in its heyday.
A small park greets us at the end of the drive where there is playground equipment, facilities and further static displays and information boards on the history of the Smelting Works and the Port of Wallaroo. The photo boards highlight extent and busy-ness of the town of Wallaroo in the early 20th Century, a period that helped stamp Wallaroo as a key part of Australia's Little Cornwall.
In the early 1920's, Wallaroo's population had reached 5,000 people with many working in the Smelter or on ancillary activities. Today's district population is around 3,000 people with most people involved in tourism or agriculture. New housing developments to the north of the township and a large Marina have helped rejuvenate the town as a destination for holiday makers all year round.
Wallaroo is 160km northeast of Adelaide, or a comfortable two hour drive along the majority dual lane Port Wakefield Road. The Wallaroo Heritage Trail is open all year round, and provides a terrific insight in to the life and history of Wallaroo and its residents during the copper boom. Information brochures are available online from the South Australian Mining History website or from the Copper Coast Information Centre in Kadina.
Thanks Steve for giving Wallaroo a plug or two.Does not get the publicity of Moonta or Kadina for that matter;but it does have a lot going for it.Being a 'sailors" town,it had a bit of a rough edge to it back in the 40's and 50's and there was no development.Locals did most of their shopping in Kadina , as it was only "6 miles" away.The locals use to say,it was the shortest 6 miles in Aust.A little "Cousin Jack" humour I suspect.