By Samuel Smith
Published: Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Moonta – one of the largest, most historic towns along Yorke Peninsula’s Copper Coast – has been crowned South Australia’s Top Tourism Town by the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia.
And it’s no surprise why.
Back in the 1800s, Moonta was a booming copper-mining town with a large Cornish population. Part of the traditional lands of the Narungga people, the town’s name is said to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning “thick scrub place” or “impenetrable scrub”.
Today, Moonta is a haven for seaside holidaymakers. Quaint, quiet and brimming with relics from its glory days, the town is dotted with imposing Gothic-style architecture, bordered by stunning family-friendly beaches and filled with history.
It’s also, reportedly, home to the best Cornish pasties in South Australia, but we’ll let you be the judge.
Baked goods aside, here are 5 reasons you should put Moonta on your map, next time you’re in need of a South Aussie escape.
1. Location, location
It’s no secret – South Australia’s beaches are some of the best in the country, and Moonta’s are among the best of the best.
The pure-white sands and crystal-clear waters of Moonta Bay and nearby Port Hughes are well worth the trip, especially if you’re staying a few nights in town. In summer, the idyllic panorama of Moonta Bay, with its gentle lapping waves and meandering jetty, is nothing short of magical.
Moonta Bay Jetty is an angler’s delight, and a great spot for little ones to learn the ropes. King George whiting, Australian salmon and blue swimmer crabs are generally caught all year round in these parts, so you might be lucky enough to reel-in your lunch or dinner.
2. History and heritage
Back in the late 1800s, Moonta was the state’s largest country town.
Why? Well, rich deposits of copper were discovered in the area in 1861, leading to a mining boom. Cornish miners flocked to the region in droves, and by 1917, Moonta’s mines were the most lucrative in South Australia.
Unfortunately, only a few years later in 1923, the monolithic Moonta Mine closed due to a significant drop in copper prices that continued throughout the 1920s.
Today, you can relive Moonta’s heyday, exploring the Moonta Mines National Heritage Area. It encompasses the Moonta Town Hall, Cornish cottages, a church, the Hughes Pump House ruins and Taylor’s Shaft – the deepest mining shaft in the area.
The Moonta Mines Museum provides a fascinating insight into the region’s mining heritage, while the Tourist Railway takes visitors on a tour through the mining complex.
Around town, you’ll also find stunning historic buildings like the imposing, Gothic-style Moonta Uniting Church (built in 1873), the charming 1940s-built sweet shop (still in operation), Richmans Enginehouse and ornate Freemasons Hall.
Those looking for an extensive history lesson can follow the fascinating self-drive Moonta Heritage Trail.
3. Fun for the whole family
Moonta is the perfect family holiday destination – far enough away to disconnect, but not so far you’ll run out of eye-spy material during the drive.
For families, the town’s main drawcards are its beaches and jetties. Port Hughes and Moonta Bay are mere minutes away from the town centre, both boasting calm, translucent-blue water and expansive, sandy shores where the littlies can run free. Both jetties are perfect for amateur anglers.
Back on land, Moonta’s main street is home to a variety of shops open 7 days. All the essentials are there, along with antique stores, gift shops, cafés and hotels – if you’d like to treat your travelling tribe to something special.
In summer months, one of Moonta’s main family attractions is Splash Town – a sprawling water park located on the foreshore of Moonta Bay.
Splash Town is a free community waterpark, featuring 4 large waterslides, a smaller slide (perfect for youngsters), a giant tipping bucket and 4 water mushrooms.
4. Excellent food
With bakeries, trendy cafes, pubs and restaurants all at your forktips, there’s no excuse for a rumbling tummy when holidaying in Moonta.
Those with a sweet tooth should make a beeline for Coffee Barn Gelateria. This beloved spot is known for its mouth-watering gelato, pancakes and Belgian waffles, which go down a treat on those long, summer afternoons.
Hankering for a full meal? Café Capella’s plates up some of the finest Italian cuisine on the Yorke Peninsula, while trendy Taste the Yorke and Nook & Nourish specialise in brunch fare, accompanied by a delicious range of smoothies, juices and coffees.
With rave Tripadvisor reviews, many claiming they make the best Cornish pasties in the country, Moonta’s Cornish Kitchen is hallowed ground for pastry lovers. Just ask the locals – nothing else compares.
Sink your teeth into succulent seafood at Port Hughes Tavern, just a 5-minute drive from the heart of Moonta. Wash down the ocean views with a crisp South Aussie wine, then chomp into melt-in-your-mouth barramundi, lobster, or their specialty – feathers and feelers – a mix of chicken and prawns that tastes far better than it sounds.
5. Charming accommodation
You’ll find a plethora of places to stay in Moonta, as well as neighbouring Moonta Bay and Port Hughes.
Looking for a little luxury? Just a 10-minute drive from Moonta lies Redwing Farm Barn. Don’t let the name deceive you – Redwing is a beautifully converted 1950s barn featuring 2 plush bedrooms, a deluxe bathroom with double spa, a modern, airy loungeroom (with espresso coffee machine) and polished floorboards throughout.
Families looking for cheap, cheerful and comfortable accommodation will find everything they need, from campsites to cabins, at Port Hughes Tourist Park, Moonta Bay Holiday Park or BIG4 Holiday Parks – Port Hughes.
A bit more about the award
The SA Top Tourism Town program recognises South Australian towns offering outstanding visitor experiences. The aim of the program is to increase visitation to our regions.
Winners for 2021 were announced at a Government House Reception on Thursday, 20 May.