Port Wakefield, South Australia

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Port Wakefield
South Australia
Uniting Church at Port Wakefield
Port Wakefield is located in South Australia
Port Wakefield
Port Wakefield
Coordinates 34°11′0″S 138°09′0″E / 34.18333°S 138.15000°E / -34.18333; 138.15000Coordinates: 34°11′0″S 138°09′0″E / 34.18333°S 138.15000°E / -34.18333; 138.15000
Population 476 (2006 census)[1]
Postcode(s) 5550 [2]
Location 99 km (62 mi) North West of Adelaide via Australian National Route A1.svg
LGA(s) Wakefield Regional Council
State electorate(s) Goyder
Federal Division(s) Wakefield
Localities around Port Wakefield:
Kulpara Lochiel
Port Clinton Port Wakefield Balaklava
Gulf St. Vincent Gulf St. Vincent Two Wells, Adelaide

Port Wakefield was the first government town to be established north of the capital, Adelaide, in South Australia.

Port Wakefield is situated approximately 98.7 kilometres from Adelaide and lies on the Port Wakefield Road section of the A1 National Highway. Port Wakefield is situated on the River Wakefield, at the head of the Gulf St Vincent.


Port Wakefield was first visited by Matthew Flinders in 1802, while he was travelling to the Flinders Ranges and was originally named Port Henry. The name of the town was, around 1849, changed to Port Wakefield, the surname of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a former British Politician who was the driving force behind the colonisation of South Australia.


Port Wakefield is a major stop on the Adelaide – Yorke Peninsula and Adelaide – Port Augusta road routes. Just north of the township there is a major forked intersection where the Yorke Peninsula traffic diverges west from the main highway. The intersection is notorious for road accidents.

Located thus, Port Wakefield is known mostly for its roadhouses and trucking stops, including Shell, United, Tucker Time and BP. Travelers heading north from Adelaide to either the Flinders Ranges, Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula or the Nullarbor Plain will likely travel through Port Wakefield.

Port Wakefield has several adjacent beaches and caravan parks. Accommodation is available at several places in town, including the Port Wakefield Motel (located just off the highway) and the Port Wakefield Caravan Park.

The Port and the Railway[edit]

In 1848, the Patent Copper Company agreed to build and operate a smelter at Burra. Seeking to reduce cartage costs, a track was surveyed to its port established at the mouth of the River Wakefield. By securing leases of the appropriate Crown Land, the company obtained a monopoly of the port. The Government declared the track the Great Western Road. The wharf was constructed along the bank of the river and cargo was transferred between the wharf and ships at anchor in the Gulf on lighters.

With the opening of the railway from Adelaide to Gawler in 1857, the Copper Company's traffic came to a sudden end, leaving only pastoral produce to flow to the port. Mixed farming was established on lands opening up by the Government along the River in the mid-1860s and this called for improvement in transport to the Port.

William Hanson, Manager for Railways, selected a route for a horse-drawn tramway terminating at Hoyles Plains, later renamed Hoyleton. The enabling Act provided for a tramway of 28 miles 41 chains (45.9 km) in length to a gauge of 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), the first line in South Australia built to that gauge. Subsequently, the Government agreed that the line should be operated by a private body. The successful tenderer was one Paul Badcock who opened the line to traffic on 4 January 1870. Horses were worked in three relays between the stations on the route.

The choice of gauge was influenced by the argument that costs varied with the cube of the gauge.[3] As this railway had its own port, it wasn't expected to link up with any broad gauge railways which avoided of course any break of gauge problems.

Following a surrender of the lease, the line was taken over by the Government at the end of 1870.

On 1 March 1876 the line was extended from Hoyleton to Blyth. Steam locomotives were subsequently obtained and, by August, 1876, the entire line was being worked by steam power. The line was extended at the other end from Port Wakefield to Kadina on 9 October 1878.

In 1927, these railways, and the remainder of the Western system that grew from them, were converted to the broad 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) gauge.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). Port Wakefield (Urban Centre/Locality). 2006 Census Quickstats. Retrieved on 2008-05-29
  2. ^ Port Wakefield Postcode. Australia Post. Retrieved on 2008-05-29
  3. ^ "RAILWAY GAUGES.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) (Adelaide, SA). 9 January 1867. p. 2. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Horse and Steam, Wheat and Copper Callaghan, W.H. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, January;February, 2002 pp9-27;46-63

External links[edit]