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The Yorke Peninsula: An Endless Coast with a Vibrant History

The Yorke Peninsula has long since been a holiday hotspot for South Australia’s families. But before the Peninsula became a hub for seaside getaways, Cornish miners struck gold (or, more accurately, copper) in the region. Travellers interested in local history will find their share of heritage buildings, abandoned mines and restored Victorian homes on what is now called the Yorke Peninsula’s Copper Coast. At the southern end of the Peninsula is Innes National Park, with its secluded beaches, trails overlooking the coast and numerous opportunities to spot wildlife. Holiday homes are as diverse as the Yorke Peninsula itself, from seaside cottages to four-bedroom homes overlooking woodlands.

700 Kilometres of Beaches

With over 700 km of coastline, the Yorke Peninsula has beaches to spare. From calm, protected waters to rougher waves, visitors can take their pick. Families usually opt for the safe swimming beaches in the sleepy towns of Stansbury, Port Vincent or Marion Bay.

Meanwhile, the beaches on the Peninsula’s Southwest are best known for their surf breaks. Chinamans Hat has gained international fame for its surf break, arguably providing some of the best surfing opportunities on the Peninsula.

To avoid the crowds, spend the day at secluded Collins Beach. If you’d like to stay close to the action, visit North Beach in Wallaroo. North Beach is the setting of the Yorke Peninsula Big Day Out. Play volleyball and golf in the sand, watch cricket matches or peruse the stalls at the waterfront market.

What can families do on the Yorke Peninsula?

Traveling to the Yorke Peninsula with the kids? Start off on the Home Grown Trail, a network of local farms and family-run businesses who have opened their doors to visitors. Call ahead to schedule a tour of an alpaca farm, watch a live paper-making demonstration or get up close and personal with the Gulf’s aquatic species.

For some free entertainment, take the kids to one of the Peninsula’s many playgrounds. If you’re in the Edithburgh area, make a stop at the community’s large playground, which has equipment for kids of all ages, as well as shaded BBQ and picnic facilities.

On the odd rainy day - or just because - head to Kadina’s Copper Coast Indoor Play Centre, a large interior playground with slides, tunnels, and many other activities for younger children. There is a cafe on site for parents.

Exploring Innes National Park

Spanning over 90 square km, Innes National Park is the largest green area on the Yorke Peninsula. The park covers the southwestern tip of the peninsula; as such, visitors will be able to take in stunning seascapes as they get their daily exercise. Strap on your hiking shoes and conquer the park’s trails.

Keep an eye out for dolphins or whales as you take the sandy path to Cape Spencer Lighthouse. Veer further inland for a chance to spot kangaroos, western pygmy possums, echidnas and many other species.

The park is bordered by several good surf beaches, so bring your board and hit the waves, or set up camp on the sand for a night under the stars. As you make your way around the park, you will see a number of restored heritage buildings, reminders of the area’s gypsum mining craze of the early 20th century. 

Delve into the Copper Coast’s Cornish History

In 1861, a Cornish explorer found copper traces leading out of a wombat’s burrow on the northern side of the Yorke Peninsula. The resulting copper rush lasted until the early 20th century, bringing prosperity to all of South Australia. As you travel to the towns of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina, you will find many reminders of the area’s rich heritage.

History buffs can visit several museums, which tell the region’s story. Start off at the Matta Matta House, once belonging to the manager of the mines and exemplifying late Victorian architecture. Get a glimpse into a copper miner’s life at the abandoned Wallaroo Mines, close to Kadina. See Moonta’s original school house, now transformed into the Moonta Mines Museum.

Each odd numbered year in May, the towns of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina come together to host the most important Cornish festival in the world.

How to Get to the Yorke Peninsula

Numerous visitors to the Yorke Peninsula arrive from Adelaide. The Peninsula officially begins just a 90 minute drive from Adelaide, but it will take you 3 hours to get to Innes National Park, which is at the southernmost tip. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, you can take a bus to most major towns, leaving from Adelaide’s central bus station.

For more travel information on the Yorke Peninsula, see our article on Things to do on the Yorke Peninsula.