Moonta on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula is known as Australia’s Little Cornwall. This name was given due to the large quantity of Cornish miners that immigrated to Australia during the mid to late 19th century. This is known as the Cornish diaspora. Today you can see the results of this immigration in the Methodist church’s in the district and also in the names of the local people of the district generations later.
The Moonta mines opened in 1861 the colony of South Australia had only been proclaimed and white settlement commenced 25 years earlier. In 1876 The Moonta Mining Company was the first company in Australia to pay over 1 million pounds in mining royalties. As a free settlement South Australia had been settled to make a profit for the British Empire and without this mining it would not have been possible. The mine royalties ploughed back to the colony and they were then able to build the Adelaide University. Within a few decades most of the ore had been extracted and Moonta Mines were closed in 1923. For a time Moonta was the 2nd largest town in SA, today the population numbers about 3,000-4,000.
Moonta today is a State heritage area and a number of buildings from the mining days remain such as Richman’s Plant, Hughes’ Enginehouse, School of Mines and Moonta Mines Museum. To see these sights its best to have a car however you can see a lot of the Mines area on the local Tourist Railway.
More relevant to today’s visitor, the area has magnificent family friendly beaches (no surf) and no crowds that you get at Adelaide metropolitan beaches. There is also a 9 hole Greg Norman designed golf course The Dunes at Port Hughes for those that love to golf.
For backpackers there a couple campgrounds at Moonta Bay or Port Hughes probably better accessed by those who have a car but you can get to Moonta by bus that leaves from Adelaide. Unfortunately there is no forward bus so you would have to return to Adelaide or Port Wakefield to board another bus headed north.
For nightlife there are a few pubs in Moonta but this is a town with mostly older people and 10 backpackers with beer will be more lively than anything you’ll find in Moonta.
Really this area has very little tourist infastructure. There are a lot of holiday homes for people in Adelaide but very little else. So if you want to see Moonta and more of Yorke Peninsula you will need a car and be quite self sufficient, you will find supermarkets, but you won’t find good nightlife or very good restaurants. So it’s camping or caravaning near the beach and enjoying beach life that will bring you to Yorke Peninsula.