Wallaroo - South Australia
Wallaroo is a port town on the western side of Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, 160 kilometres north-northwest of Adelaide. It is one of the three Copper Triangle towns famed for their historic shared copper mining industry, and known together as "Little Cornwall", the other two being Kadina (about 8 kilometres to the east) and Moonta (about 18 kilometres south). At the 2006 census, Wallaroo had a population of 3,053.
The name "Wallaroo" comes from the Aboriginal word 'Wadlu Waru' meaning wallabies urine. The early settlers tried to copy the aboriginals[why?] by calling it Walla Waroo, however they found this too big to stamp on the wool bales, so they shortened it to Wallaroo.
Prior to European Settlement, Wallaroo was occupied by the indigenous tribe of Narangga. Matthew Flinders was the first European to visit the location; on 15 March 1802 when he sailed by he recorded that "the immediate coast ... which extends several leagues to the north of the point, is low and sandy, but a few miles back it rises to a level land of moderate elevation, and is not ill-clothed with small trees."
Wallaroo foreshore with silo
Wallaroo was first settled in 1851 by a sheep grazier, Robert Miller. In 1857, Walter Watson Hughes purchased the land and named it "Walla Waroo". The name was subsequently shortened to "Wallaroo".
Copper was discovered in the Kadina area in 1859, and in Moonta (in a wombat hole) in 1861. Confusingly, there were no copper mines at Wallaroo itself. The so-called Wallaroo Mines were actually at Kadina, for which the port of Wallaroo provided smelting and export facilities. The first copper smelter, which also smelted gold and lead, was lit in 1861 at Wallaroo.
Wallaroo settlement was established on Wallaroo Bay by 1861 and was proclaimed as a town in 1862. By 1865 the population was 3,000, and peaked at 5,000 in 1920. It was Yorke Peninsula's largest and most important port until 1923 when copper production ceased, and the largest and most important on Spencer Gulf until the Port Pirie smelters were established in 1890.
Wallaroo was connected to Kadina by horse-drawn tramway in 1862 and to Moonta in 1866. A connection to Adelaide was completed by 1880.
Trading prospered, and a jetty was built in 1861 for ships to bring in coal, timber, food and mining equipment. The first load of refined copper was shipped in 1862, and by 1868 over 100 tons were produced each week. Distilled sulphuric acid was also produced and superphosphate was manufactured between the 1890s and 1920s.
The Narungga had a healthy population during the early years but the population has since dwindled. The smelters were closed down in 1923 due to low copper prices.
There is now a ferry from Wallaroo that goes to Lucky Bay near Cowell on the Eyre Peninsula.
Geography and climate
Wallaroo exists in a semi-arid location, above Goyder's Line, and is surrounded by scrub mulga. It is located on the foreshore and is 13 metres above sea level. Wallaroo has a dry Mediterranean climate with seasonal temperatures a few degrees above Adelaide's temperatures. The temperature ranges are similar to those of Kadina and the weather patterns are similar to those of Kadina and Adelaide.
Wallaroo's surrounds are used for growing barley and other crops such as legumes, canola, chickpeas and field peas. Barley from the region nearer Kadina is considered[by whom?] to be some of the best in the world.
Shops in Wallaroo
Wallaroo exports various agricultural products such as [fertiliser], and continues to handle grains through conveyor jetties and silos. One of the large mining chimneys still stands, aptly named the ‘big stack’.
There is a Heritage and Nautical Museum with information about the ships that sailed to the area as well as a Heritage Walk around the town. New housing developments have been started on the former area of Office and North Beach.
Wallaroo offers a number of places to stay including several hotels and a campsite. Most of the hotels have their own restaurants, and there are also a few cafes and snack bars in the town.
The popular three-day Kernewek Lowender Cornish festival is held every odd year in May, with Kadina, Moonta and Wallaroo each hosting the festival for one day.
The Lions Club of Yorke Peninsula Rail operates tourist services between Wallaroo, Kadina and Bute on some Sundays on the previously disused railway line.
The Sea S.A Ferry departs from Wallaroo daily towards Lucky Bay, near Cowell.