Adelaide Plains and surrounds
Balaklava is the region’s service centre, a place where farming folk come together to share news, do business and socialise.
The town is famous for its racecourse, home of the 100-year old Balaklava Cup (August or September), the largest of South Australia’s country races and regularly attracting bigger crowds than the Adelaide Cup. There’s also an 18-hole championship golf course known for its six kilometres of manicured fairway, as well as its good old-fashioned country hospitality.
The Adelaide Plains Festival is an annual event that offers a glimpse of lives and livelihoods out on the big-horizon holdings. Held across the area (including Port Parham, Mallala and Port Wakefield), it features arts and crafts exhibitions, golf and clay-pigeon shooting competitions, museum open days and musical events. Part of the same festival is The Primo Australia Adelaide Plains Cup.
The Balaklava Courthouse Gallery has inspiring exhibitions by local painters and potters, while the Balaklava Museum, housed in the heritage-listed Centenary Hall building, is especially atmospheric. At the Rocks Reserve just south of Balaklava, you’ll find a unique formation of rock carved by the waters of the River Wakefield. Enjoy the flora and fauna along the reserve’s many walking tracks.
The town of Port Wakefield is undergoing something of a boom, not least since the new boat ramp has given better access to the Gulf St Vincent – and of course better access to the famous King George Whiting.
The town sits neatly between the inland attractions of Clare Valley and the marine attractions of Yorke Peninsula. Sitting at the head of the Samphire Coast, it enjoys great fishing and crabbing, as well as flourishing mangroves. New mangrove trails offer excellent access to this habitat and are proving very popular with bird-lovers – the area is one of Australia’s most important sites for migratory birds. Shorebirds fly from their breeding grounds in Siberia, Alaska and central and north-eastern Asia to spend their summer feeding on the rich food sources along the beaches of northern Gulf St Vincent.
Of course, owing to its location, Port Wakefield was very much a part of Clare Valley’s historic fortunes. Behind today’s string of service stations lies an attractive stone settlement with more than 30 heritage sites, the highlight of which is the fabulous old stagecoach stop of Bubners Inn.
Port Wakefield Visitor Centre is on the Main Road in Port Wakefield and offers self serviced information for visitors.
Snowtown provides essential services for the busy farming district. It’s home to artists Marek and Anna Herburt who have a small gallery; originally from Poland, Marek is known for his prize-winning abstract works.
Dublin, Middle Beach and Port Gawler
Dublin is the gateway to the ‘crabbing coast’ (and if you’ve never had freshly caught blue swimmer, you’re in for a treat). On the Middle Beach Samphire Discovery Trail you can view mangrove forests, samphire flats and seagrass meadows. Just before crossing the Gawler River, you can visit one of South Australia’s pioneering sites, Port Gawler. For an off-road thrill, four wheel drive vehicle enthusiasts can give their low-range gears a workout on the Port Gawler Off-Road Hire Park.
Although Mallala is primarily a farming community, it’s well known as a venue for many national and international motor sport events. These are held at the racetrack built on the site of a Second World War air force base. Mallala’s skies fill with the sound of engines being revved for the annual Konica V8 Superstars, the Superkart National Championships, the National Motorkhana Championship and many other events throughout the year.
At the heart of the town centre lies something rather unusual – the Southern Hemisphere’s only eight-lane traffic intersection.
This meeting of eight sealed roads at a single junction, (and note, not eight roads feeding a roundabout) dates back to the 1860s when the first surveys were carried out. Bullock tracks leading from outlying rural settlements happened to meet here and a town grew up to service the passing traffic.
The local Historical Museum (located on the intersection) is housed in the former flourmill and is a first-class example of a South Australian country museum. It’s crammed with donated treasures, staffed by volunteers, and every now and again, is visited by blacksmiths, seamstresses and dairy maids who get to work in bringing the old machinery to life.
A short distance from Mallala on the banks of the Light River is the picturesque Rockies Reserve.
Owen and Hamley Bridge
Head east from the Mallala junction and cruise along the roads that cut through plains. The grain and hay-growing industries lend piquancy to the huge spaces, not to mention seasonal colours that are surprisingly intense. The rural towns of Owen and Hamley Bridge are on the banks of the rivers Gilbert and Hamley.
Two Wells, south of Mallala, has a wealth of heritage buildings, all situated on the eastern side of the main street. This quaint town was named after two Aboriginal wells that catered for the bullock teams and shepherds of early days. Over time however, these came to be forgotten and filled in, lying undiscovered until 1967. Today the local community has restored the wells to their former condition and beautified the setting with gardens and picnic facilities.
To enjoy the town’s namesake, you can follow the Pudnarla Food, Craft and Medicine Trail, which is dotted with statues of the Kaurna people. A heritage walk through town will take you on a circuit of early buildings dating back to the 1860s.
The town is well served with restaurants, hotels, a motel and snack bars. Internet services and tourist information (including heritage trail guides) are available at the Two Wells Cabri Centre.
If you’re feeling active, Lower Light has South Australia’s largest skydiving club, which offers tandem-jumps for the inexperienced. Alternatively, from Easter to October you can share a round or two with the dry land natural flora and fauna on Two Wells’s 18-hole, par 69 golf course. Snakes and goannas may make for interesting ‘hazards’.
Known as the ‘Garden of the Plains’, the township of Virginia offers visitors a glimpse into the strength of community – even one built from very disparate beginnings.
From its early farming days in the 1850s, Virginia has played an important role in the farming prosperity of South Australia. During the 1950s and 60s the original sheep farming and cereal crops of Virginia were given over to horticulture.
This change was made possible by migrants who brought their skills, knowledge and hard work to a part of the world that must have seemed impossibly alien. At first it was the Greeks, Italians, Turks and Bulgarians who made the soils flourish with fruit and vegetables, olives and grapes, but in the 1990s, they were joined by Asian migrants, who contributed their own resources and insights in making this land among South Australia’s most productive.
Activites and Experiences at Adelaide Plains and surrounds
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