History & Heritage

Indulge yourself in the rich history and heritage, and experience the unique culture Yorke Peninsula has to offer.

Yorke Peninsula is steeped in history from Aboriginal culture that began thousands of years before European settlement to our maritime, mining, agriculture and aviation history.

In the 19th century, Yorke Peninsula saw a copper mining boom and an explosion of agricultural trade and the ingenuity of early settlers led to many agricultural inventions. 

Shipwrecks, lighthouses, historic ports and jetties were integral to our past and an era when windjammers rolled on their moorings and towns bustled with sailors and farmers delivering their cargo.

The regions many museums provide you with a vivid insight into Yorke Peninsula’s fascinating history.

 

Museums 

Visit the many museums for a chance to step back in time and enjoy the stories of our fascinating past.

Experience our unique history and culture from the early days of mining to the amazing maritime history of windjammers and shipwrecks in maritime museums, the ingenuity of early settlers and their inventions to modern day agriculture, visit the plane of an aviation pioneer or absorb yourself in a military museum. 

With a short but colourful history, Yorke Peninsula has something to intrigue every visitor.

Ardrossan Museum
Open Sunday & public holidays 2-4pm or by appointment

Bublacowie Military Museum
Open Sunday, Monday & Tuesday 10am–4pm or by appointment

Edithburgh Museum
Open Saturday & Sunday 2–4pm or by appointment

Maitland Museum
Open Sunday, public & school holidays 2–4pm or by appointment

Minlaton Museum
Open Tuesday – Friday 9.30am–1pm, Saturday 9.30am–noon or by appointment

Moonta Mines Museum
Open daily 1-4pm; 11am-4pm during school & public holidays

Port Broughton Heritage Centre
Open by appointment

Port Victoria Maritime Museum
Open Saturday, Sunday & public holidays 2–4pm

Stansbury Museum
Open Sunday & Wednesday 2–4pm, daily during January or by appointment

The Farm Shed Museum, Kadina
Open daily, Monday - Friday 9am-5pm; weekends & public holidays 10am-4pm

Wallaroo Heritage & Nautical Museum
Open daily 10am–4pm

Yorketown Historical Society
Open Friday 10am–noon or by appointment

Ports & Jetties

In the early days of settlement, Yorke Peninsula's ports were full of life with boats loaded up with cargos of wool, lime, gypsum, grain and general supplies that traded as far away as England. 

Imagine the scenes of windjammers, steamships, ketches and schooners tied up to town jetties or moored off shore. 

A visit to the historic jetties and some of our fascinating museums gives you an insight into an era when communities were almost entirely dependent on sea transport.

Today, Yorke Peninsula's ports and jetties are alive and thriving with holiday makers and fishers. Whether you are reliving the history, dangling a line, diving on jetties or shipwrecks or relaxing on the coast, we hope you enjoy our historic ports with the remnants of the past, mixed with more modern facilities of today. 

Ardrossan, Wallaroo, Klein Point and Port Giles are still thriving shipping ports with the export of grain, salt and mining produce. They are serviced by large bulk carrying ships, quite different to the smaller ketches and windjammers of yesteryear.

Download more information on Yorke Peninsula’s Ports & Jetties.

Lighthouses

Lighthouses have been an integral part of Yorke Peninsula’s history, guiding ships and boats safely around the rugged coastline.

The 'bottom-end' of Yorke Peninsula has some of the most treacherous coastline in Australia, which has resulted in many shipwrecks.

If you have ever wondered what it might be like to be a light keeper…you can rent your own island and stay in the lighthouse keepers cottage on Troubridge Island.

Troubridge Island

Troubridge Island lighthouse was the 1st Australian lighthouse to be built of cast iron and it was the 2nd lighthouse to be built in South Australia. The lighthouse was prepared in England and shipped to Australia in pieces, with construction completed in 1855. The lighthouse was manned from 1856 to 1981. The island became a conservation park in 1982 when purchased for $42,000 by the State Government.

Troubridge Hill

Special wedge shaped clay bricks were custom made to build this unusual lighthouse. It is designed to be resistant to high winds and earthquakes, as in the early 1900's the area experienced numerous earthquakes. Measuring 32 metres high, Troubridge Hill Lighthouse has a light range of 22 nautical miles and operates off mains electricity with a backup generator.

Corny Point

Completed in 1882, the Corny Point lighthouse is made of limestone quarried from a nearby farm. De-manned in 1920, the light continued to shine until the 11th December 1942, when a Japanese invasion was feared and it was turned off for several weeks. It was converted to electricity in 1978.

Entries from the light keeper's logs describe how it survived earthquakes and other natural phenomenon such as seeing meteors flying past.

Althorpe Island

Costing a total of £11,000 to build, Althorpe Island's Lighthouse was made out of a mixture of limestone and hard sandstone quarried from the island. Powered by twin diesel generator sets and a 120 volt 1000 watt tungsten halogen lamp, it was first lit on February 14th 1879 and continued to shine for 112 years.

Standing 15 metres tall and 91 metres above sea level, the light reached 24 nautical miles into Investigator Strait. The light was converted to operate on automatic solar power in 1991 and the island was declared a conservation park in 1996.

Today, Althorpe Island is looked after by the Friends of Althorpe Island who work alongside the staff from Innes National Park to conserve the lighthouse, the keeper's cottages, and local plant life. 

West Cape

Constructed of stainless steel and built in 1980, West Cape is a fully automated lighthouse, standing 67 metres above sea level with a range of 22 nautical miles. The lighthouse can be accessed by a walking trail from within Innes National Park and has spectacular views across Pondalowie Bay.

Cape Spencer

An automatic beacon was commissioned in 1950, with a major upgrade taking place in 1970 to the cement structure you see today. Standing 78 metres above sea level and powered by a 120 volt 1000 watt tungsten halogen lamp, Cape Spencer Lighthouse has a light range of 23 nautical miles.

The lighthouse can easily be accessed through Innes National Park and a short walk takes you to the tower itself with a magnificent view overlooking Althorpe Island and on a clear day all the way across to Kangaroo Island.

Aviation 

Yorke Peninsula’s place in aviation history was cemented in 1919 when Captain Harry Butler flew his World War 1 Red Devil Bristol Monoplane on the first mail delivery across the sea from Adelaide to Minlaton. More than 6,000 people were there to cheer and witness the event.

Today, you can see the restored Red Devil in Minlaton, in a display hanger on the edge of town. The Red Devil is believed to be the only genuine one of its kind left in the world.

You can also enjoy stories of Captain Harry Butler and see more of his memorabilia by visiting the Minlaton National Trust Museum, Main Street, Minlaton.

Download more information about Captain Harry Butler’s amazing life.

 

Agriculture

With its history steeped in agriculture, Yorke Peninsula has come a long way since pastoral development began in 1846. Leases were first given in 1851 and had a term of just 14 years. This was enough to give squatters security, and rent was set at just 10 shillings a square mile!

A successful wheat crop grown at Green Plains near Kadina in 1860, saw the growth of agriculture. In 1876, the ingenuity of early settlers helped ease the laborious, backbreaking work of clearing mallee stumps with the invention of the Stump Jump Plough. By 1884, 180,000 acres were planted and reaped and cropping became a viable business.

The rich limestone soils and growth in agricultural knowledge from clearing the land to sowing seeds, produced bumper crops and the Yorke Peninsula soon became known as the 'Barley Capital of the World'! 

Today you will find a little part of Yorke Peninsula in most glasses of Aussie beer, as this is one of the richest wheat and barley regions in the world.

Stump Jump Plough

Invented by R.B and Clarence Smith, this invention helped revolutionise the task of reducing the despised mallee scrub. This South Australian icon made cropping viable and the factory which now houses the Ardrossan Museum, was the most up-to-date factory in the Southern Hemisphere until 1907. 

To find out more, why not put yourself in the shoes of a farming pioneer at one of the many museums throughout Yorke Peninsula?

A visit will help provide an insight into the region’s pioneering families and the impact their farming practices had on modern Australian agriculture

Stump Jump Plough, Ardrossan, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Mining

Copper was discovered near Kadina in 1859, creating a mining boom that populated the area. Skilled Cornish miners worked the Moonta and Wallaroo mines and the area soon became known as ‘Australia’s Little Cornwall’.

The mines closed in 1923 but you can still wind your way through the ruins of the Moonta Mines today. The Moonta Mines Museum provides a fascinating overview into the regions mining history or you can climb aboard the tourist train for a tour. 

Today, several companies are currently exploring for new commercially viable copper deposits throughout Yorke Peninsula.

Gypsum was mined in Inneston, a town at the 'toe' of the peninsula in what is now known as Innes National Park. The park was named after William Innes who discovered gypsum in commercial quantities in the 1880's. A horse drawn railroad ran from the Inneston mining complex to the Stenhouse Bay jetty, where bagged gypsum was loaded onto ketches for transportation. Many remnants of the mining era remain in Inneston as well as the heritage listed Stenhouse Bay jetty. For an insight into the gypsum mining past, you can stay in renovated heritage lodges within the historic Inneston township.

Lime has been utilized since the early days of settlement in its raw form, burnt and marine limestone. Farmers formed rock walls to divide their paddocks instead of expensive fencing and in lean times, burnt lime for shipment to Birkenhead in Adelaide for cement manufacture. As the demand for lime grew, kilns were established at Stansbury and Wool Bay. Marine limestone was also used for flux and was shipped to the Wallaroo and Port Pirie smelters.  Klein Point at Stansbury is now the main supply of limestone for Adelaide Brighton Cement, and supplies around 2 million tonnes of raw limestone per year.

Salt production was first recorded in 1864 when Lake Fowler was leased and mined for butcher's salt that was shipped to Adelaide. Edithburgh and Yorketown boomed as salt production continued to increase peaking at 57,000 tons in 1918, the Edithburgh factory finally closed it doors in 1970. Today, Cheetham Salt at Price produces around 170,000 tonnes of salt a year.

Dolomite is still mined today at Ardrossan. Just south of Ardrossan is a huge man-made hill with a fantastic lookout on the top overlooking Gulf St Vincent. If you walk to the other side of the lookout and look inland you can gaze into the huge hole where the dolomite is mined. The dolomite is trucked across the road to the port facility where it is loaded onto ships and transported all over the world.

Shipwrecks

During 1802 and 1803, European explorers, Matthew Flinders and Nicholas Baudin charted the coastline of Yorke Peninsula. Their skill and accuracy in defining the coastline meant their charts were used well into the 20th century.

From the 1840’s through to the 1940’s, ships were the main transport for people and cargo, to and from Yorke Peninsula. 

Given this, it’s not surprising that there are 85 shipwrecks scattered around Yorke Peninsula’s coastline.

The Zanoni shipwreck lies 10 nautical miles south-east of Ardrossan and is the most intact 19th century merchant sailing vessel in South Australian Waters. If you are interested in diving the Zanoni, a permit is required. 

The Ethel shipwreck has been a landmark of southern Yorke Peninsula since it was wrecked in 1904. The 711 ton sailing vessel was heading to Port Adelaide from South Africa, when it ran aground. That night, a 19 year old crew man attempted to swim to shore with a life line, but sadly drowned. The next morning, the Ethel was found washed up on the beach.

Located in Innes National Park, the wreck of the Ethel is a popular attraction for tourists and photographers. Today, there isn’t much left of the vessel and the hull has totally collapsed. What’s left of the shipwreck lies mostly buried beneath sand but every now and then, stormy weather conditions with the massive high tides and huge swells, siphon the sand out to see, exposing the wreck.

Two underwater Maritime Heritage Trails provide excellent diving opportunities for beginners and the experienced.

  • The Wardang Island Maritime Heritage Trail has 8 shipwrecks within 10 nautical miles of one another. Amazingly, no lives were lost in any of these shipwrecks. Clear shallow waters make it ideal for novice shipwreck divers. 

  • The Investigator Strait Shipwreck Trail is between Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island and highlights 10 of the 26 shipwrecks dating from 1849 to 1892. These vessels range from the famous Clan Ranald, a huge 3,596 tonne steel steamer to the Welling, a 10 tonne wooden fishing cutter.

Why not explore the coastline or pop into some of the many museums to discover for yourself the remains and tales of the many shipwrecks that can be found here?

Aboriginal Culture

For thousands of years before European settlement, the traditional owners of Yorke Peninsula were the Narungga people. They led a peaceful existence, moving among their many campsites while hunting, fishing and gathering food.

For an amazing insight into the traditional owners of this country, and of their rich cultural heritage, dreaming stories and traditions, walk in their footsteps with Aboriginal Cultural Tours.  

 

Ghost Stories

With Yorke Peninsula's rich history and heritage also comes a wealth of ghost stories told through generations.

From haunted buildings and spooky tales to cemetries and guided ghost tours. You can explore yourself, or why not join one of the Wallaroo Heritage & Nautical Museum's Ghost Tours & Historical Walks?

Porter Building, Minlaton

The Porter Building in Minlaton was formerly Mrs Lock's sweets shop which burnt down in 1958. Mrs Lock died as a consequence of the fire. Apparently there are a lot of 'happenings' there. 

Troubridge Island

If Troubridge Island’s guest book is any indication, some of the visitors staying overnight have had some unexplained experiences.

The Dalrymple Hotel, Stansbury

The Dalrymple Hotel has a resident ghost, which is apparently a previous publican who can be heard walking around the pub when it's quiet and the footsteps can be heard following you down the hallway at times.

The Ventnor Hotel, Port Vincent

The Ventnor Hotel has at least one ghost, believed to be a little girl. Waitresses at the hotel have also seen some peculiar things happen, which can’t be explained.

Wallaroo's Ghost Stories

Wallaroo has its fair share of heritage building and spooky tales to share.  Why not explore from the below list, or join one of the Wallaroo Heritage & Nautical Museum's Ghost Tours & Heritage Walks.

  • OLD BOND STORE, 1864 - Owen Terrace
    Reputed to be haunted by a ghost of a little girl who accidentally fell from the balcony of the first floor.  Later died in hospital.

  • POST OFFICE, 1910 - Irwin Street
    Haunted by a ghost of a former postmaster.

  • TOWN HALL, 1902 - Irwin Street
    A female ghost has reputedly been seen appearing on stage, and the projection room is also haunted by a ghost of a former projectionist.  

  • WEEROONA HOTEL, 1861 - John Terrace
    Said to be haunted by 2 ghosts, one a woman who committed suicide there by taking cyanide pills and the second, a stable hand who shot himself in the hotel stables.

  • THE BOATHOUSE CAFÉ, 1868 - Jetty Road
    This former railway office has a ghost who haunts the old cellar.  It is thought to have been an old sea captain who fell off the jetty and drowned in 1868.

  • CUSTOMS HOUSE, 1862 - Jetty Road
    Reputedly haunted by a former occupant – many reports of strange happenings in this house.

  • CORNUCOPIA HOTEL, 1862 - Owen Terrace
    Upstairs section is said to have a male ghost.

  • NINA’S TEA ROOMS, 1903 - Owen Terrace
    The ghost of a little girl, haunts this former grocer shop.

Port Wakefield Ghost

The Port Wakefield Ghost has been reported at various times since the 1940’s.  Most often it’s a dark & stormy night and people are driving along Highway 1 between Port Wakefield & Adelaide.  

One story tells of a couple who picked a young male hitchhiker, dressed in an air force uniform.  He sat in the rear seat and when asked, he said he wished to be dropped off at an address in Adelaide.  When they arrived at the address they looked around and he was gone; they went into the address and spoke to the woman who lived there.  When they told the woman the name which the young man had given them, she said “that’s my son who was killed in a plane crash during a training flight out of Mallala during World War 2”.  It is believed his body was recovered and buried in an unknown location, and that his spirit is still trying to get home to Mum.  

Another tale is that of a local businessman, who recounted how the ghost was picked up one night heading into Port Wakefield.  He related how he was entering the toilets at the Shell Service Station behind a man in a RAAF uniform. The uniformed person went inside first and when the businessman entered the room straight after him, the man had disappeared!  

A third account was some motorcyclists had encountered the ghost on the road between the Hummocks (Kulpara area) and Port Wakefield.