Moonta, South Australia

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South Australia
Moonta Town Hall
Moonta is located in South Australia
Coordinates 34°06′0″S 137°32′0″E / 34.10000°S 137.53333°E / -34.10000; 137.53333Coordinates: 34°06′0″S 137°32′0″E / 34.10000°S 137.53333°E / -34.10000; 137.53333
Population 3,350 (2006 census)[1]
Established 1863
Postcode(s) 5558
Elevation 44 m (144 ft)
LGA(s) Copper Coast
State electorate(s) Goyder
Federal Division(s) Grey
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
35.0 °C
95 °F
10.8 °C
51 °F
386.7 mm
15.2 in
Localities around Moonta:
Wallaroo Kadina
Moonta Bay Moonta Paskeville
Balgowan Maitland Arthurton

Moonta is a town on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia, 165 km (103 mi) north-northwest of the state capital of Adelaide. It is one of three towns known as the Copper Coast or "Little Cornwall" for their shared copper mining history.

It is about 17 kilometres (11 mi) south of Kadina, site of the famous Wallaroo Mines, and 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) southeast of the port of Wallaroo. At the 2006 census, Moonta had a population of 3,350.[1] There are several distinct localities or hamlets surrounding Moonta, including Moonta Mines, Cross Roads, North Yelta, Moonta Bay, Port Hughes and Simms Cove.

It is thought that the name "Moonta" is derived from Moontera, an (Indigenous) Narungga word meaning 'impenetrable scrub'.[citation needed]


Prior to European settlement, the Moonta area was occupied by an indigenous community known as the Narungga. When Matthew Flinders was navigating the coastline of Southern Australia in 1802 he explored the coastline near Moonta.

The first Europeans to explore the district were John Hill and Thomas Burr. Under instructions from Governor Gawler, the pair were landed near Moonta Bay on 28 April 1840 from the government cutter Water Witch. They then made their way back to Adelaide on horseback, traversing Northern Yorke Peninsula.[2] They reported the discovery of 'a very excellent tract of country'.[3] Based on that report a few pioneering British settlers arrived in the Moonta area in the 1840s, as pastoralists, but there was no significant development until the 1860s, primarily because of the lack of water. The scrub in the area was difficult to penetrate (as testified by the town's name) so the first settlers had a hard time clearing the land.

Church in Moonta

Large and rich deposits of copper were discovered at Moonta in 1861 by shepherds from Walter Watson Hughes' sheep farm. This became a prosperous mine, named Wheal Hughes, with other mines soon to follow. The town was laid out in 1863 and a horse-drawn tramway to Wallaroo was established in 1863. Following advertising by the South Australian Government, Cornish miners arrived in Moonta soon afterward.[4] The mines at Moonta proved to be the richest mines in the whole of South Australia by 1917, exceeding the total wealth created by all other mines since 1836, the year of establishment of South Australia. The population of Moonta in 1875 was 12,000. The primary copper mining operations ceased in 1923, but smaller-scale operations recommenced in the area in the 1990s, and ended 2 years later.

Geography and climate[edit]

Moonta exists in a semi-arid location, above Goyder's Line. Moonta is surrounded by mallee scrub. The centre is located four kilometres inland and is 20 metres above sea level. Moonta has a dry Mediterranean climate with seasonal temperatures about the same as Adelaide's temperatures. The temperature ranges are similar to those of Kadina and the weather patterns are similar to those of both Kadina and Adelaide.

Following the demise of copper mining, the district successfully merged into dry land farming. Moonta's surrounds are used for growing barley, wheat and other crops such as legumes, canola, chickpeas and field peas. Barley from the region is considered to be some of the best in the world.


Shops in Moonta

Moonta, the town centre, consists of old limestone miners' cottages and churches, giving the town a historical feel. There are several eateries in the town centre, as well as at Moonta Bay and Pt. Hughes.

The nearby locations of Moonta Bay, Port Hughes and Simms Cove are on the foreshore and are rapidly developing. They are extremely popular locations for retirement and holiday makers. The beaches, with fine white sand, are popular with recreational anglers and sailboarders. The natural state of the coast has largely been retained.

Tourism is a significant local industry, focusing on the availability of beachside accommodation,including several caravan parks, holiday houses, bed and breakfast and a motel.

North Yelta is an old mining village just north of Moonta. Like Moonta, it has an historic ambience.

Moonta also contains the Moonta Heritage Site, the Moonta School of Mines, family history centre, a mining museum and a small narrow gauge railway. There is also a quaint old fashioned sweet shop and an excellent visitor information centre.

The popular three-day Kernewek Lowender Cornish festival is held every odd year in May in the Copper Coast towns, where each of the three towns hosts the festival for one day.


Starting in the 1880s, agitation for conversion of the horse tramway to a steam locomotive railway commenced.[5]


Aerial view of Moonta, looking west into Spencer Gulf

The District Council of the Copper Coast governs Moonta at the municipal level. Moonta lies in the state electoral district of Goyder and the federal electoral Division of Grey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Moonta (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  2. ^ State Library of S.A. Archival Maps, C 223, Outsize 6.
  3. ^ Register, 9 May 1840, p.5
  4. ^ For a discussion of the development of "Cornishness" see Philip Payton Making Moonta: The Invention of ‘Australia’s Little Cornwall, Exeter, University of Exeter Press, 2007 ISBN 978-0-85989-796-9 paperback ISBN 978-0-85989-795-2
  5. ^ "MEETING AT MOONTA,.". The Kadina and Wallaroo Times (SA : 1888 - 1954) (SA: National Library of Australia). 12 July 1890. p. 2. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 

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