“Australia’s Little Cornwall”
Visiting Moonta is a fascinating journey back into the mining history and heritage of the area.
The name Moonta is derived from the aboriginal word Moonta-Monterra meaning impenetrable scrub.
Copper was discovered in 1861 and was then settled by the famous Cornish Miners renown for their unique skills in the mining of Copper. They came directly from Cornwall and quickly turned this area into what is now known as “Australia’s Little Cornwall”.
You will find remnants of the way these world famous miners lived, worked, worshipped and the way they honoured their dead.A ride on the Moonta Mines Tourist Train is a must do – this train will take you through the National Heritage Listed mining precinct with detailed commentary along the way telling the story of this famous mine – once the backbone of the South Australian economy. Enjoy a unique experience in an authentic heritage place.
Things to do and see in Moonta
Moonta Tourist Office
The beautiful old Railway Station was erected by Gambling & Son and opened in 1909. In 1985 the Moonta Railway Station became part of the Moonta Mines State Heritage Area and is a stately and very special part of Moonta’s history. The Old Railway Station now houses the Moonta Visitor Information Centre, which provides a comprehensive range of tourist information and is manned by a group of friendly, experienced and knowledgeable volunteers. There is also a large variety of affordable, high quality souvenirs and giftware available through this venue. There is ample car, coach and caravan parking in the area.
On special display, located within the grounds is the 1914 Moonta Memorial Gun. The display holds a fully restored 105mm Light Field Howitzer used in WWI, and a number of other articles with historical significance.
The area received National Heritage listing in 2017.
The building is open daily from 9 am until 5 pm.
Moonta Miners Cottage & Gardens
Built around 1870, this Cottage in the Mines Settlement is typically Cornish. The land on which the Cottage was built is only one third of an acre, similar to other blocks allocated to miners in the 1870s when they arrived to mine copper, after its discovery, so that they could build a home for their family. It is considered an excellent example of its kind, and was opened to the public by the National Trust in October 1967.
The kitchen and dining room were built of sun dried mud and grass bricks, and the next two rooms were of wattle and daub. Thereafter the parlour and main bedroom were built by ramming clay and mud mixed with lime stones between two building boards about half a metre high and 300 mm apart. This was repeated until the appropriate height was reached – not too high as fortunately the Cornish were of short stature! The walls received an outer layer of lime and sand plaster and finally a liberal coating of lime wash, repeated yearly to keep them weatherproof.
Floors were of compressed earth and later, boards from old packing cases were used. Cement floors caused problems with rising damp and deteriorating plaster. Linoleum became the eventual solution.
The roof was originally split wooden shingles, but were later replaced with corrugated iron. The original shingles are visible through a skylight in the passageway ceiling.
Primitive laundry facilities and ever present dust caused the women of the mines constant work keeping the lovely white bed linen and handiwork clean.
The interior of the cottage now contains furniture, clothing and artefacts donated by descendants of mining families still in the district, giving authenticity, as do old photographs of original family members.
The garden is surrounded by a heritage stick fence – built to keep the children in and the goats out! Original plants are still in evidence as old stumps and vines, but the ancient agonis flexuosa and strelitzia nicolai tower over all in the front garden, needing regular attention, but giving good afternoon shade to the house. “Modern” plants add colour and structure, but where possible, the present volunteers try to maintain integrity of an old heritage garden by using cuttings and seedlings from original plants, also mingling these with drought tolerant varieties.
During term time, the cottage is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1:30 PM until 4:00 PM
During SA Public and School Holidays the cottage is open daily from 1:30 until 4:00 PM
Moonta History Centre
The southern portion of this building was erected as a Baptist Church in 1866. The adjacent residence is the original Baptist Manse. The church was purchased by the government in 1891 and converted for use as a School of Mines, the first one outside of Adelaide.
The Moonta School of Mines building now houses an extensive collection of medical equipment from the early days of Moonta, and an apothecary display.
The School of Mines houses the Moonta History Centre. Here you can research your family history; as well as the history of Moonta and its residents, since the establishment of the district. The collection housed here includes a range of newspapers on microfilm; including the Wallaroo Times, Yorke Peninsula Advertiser and People’s Weekly; all newspapers from the Copper Coast region dating back well over 100 years.
The Moonta History Centre is located at Ellen Street in Moonta, in the School of Mines Building and is open Tues, Wed, Sat, Sun 1:00pm – 4:00pm.
Moonta Mines Sweet Shop
This building, the former Moonta Mines Post Office, was built in 1946 and operated until it closed in the mid 1970’s.
The building was bought by the Moonta Branch of the National Trust for $200, and was used as a store room. A shop named “Refreshments” was set up in the building just in time for Easter 1979, and ran until 1983 when Keith & Sheila Crosby bought it and established The Old Sweet Shop.
The Old Sweet Shop closed in 1998, and the name was transferred to a shop in George St Moonta. The National Trust decided to upgrade the building and it was renamed the Moonta Mines Sweet Shop, operated by former owners Bob & Pat Haywood until 2000, when it was taken over by the Copper Coast Council and run by volunteers. In 2002 the shop was transferred back to the National Trust, and is still run by volunteers.
Featuring a large range of old-fashioned sweets and drinks, a trip to Moonta is not complete without a visit to the Moonta Mines Sweet Shop.
Items to purchase include home made spuds, bliss bombs and a range of delicious candies. Shop some of our delightful candies now.
The sweet shop is open daily form 10 am until 4 pm
Moonta Mines Tourist Railway
Departing from the platform adjacent to the Moonta Mines Museum, the Moonta Mines Tourist Railway is a guided tour of the historic Moonta Mines State Heritage Area.
Featuring extensive commentary, passengers are taken past many historic landmarks of the former mining operations, including the reservoir, ore sorting floors, and through a tunnel in Ryans Tailings Heap. It visits the former Precipitation Works, which was set up in 1900 to recover additional copper from the tailings heaps, a process which continued until 1943.
Proudly maintained and operated by volunteers of the National Trust of SA Moonta Branch.
The journey takes about 50 minutes by narrow gauge train.
Non School Hoildays & Public Holidays: Wed 2 pm and Sat & Sun 1 pm 2 pm & 3 pm
SA Public & School Holidays 10:30 am 11:30 am 1 pm & 2 pm
Adults $12 each and Children $5 each
PLEASE NOTE: during extreme weather conditions the train will run at driver’s discretion (temp 37c & over / very wet weather). Check with Tourist Office on the morning of your trip for confirmation if temperatures are extreme, or weather is very wet.
Moonta Mines Museum
The museum is located in the former Moonta Mines Model School, built in 1878. The school remained an active and important centre for the Moonta Mines community for ninety years and closed in 1968.
The National Trust of SA, Moonta Branch took over the building and established a museum which now tells the story of Cornish pioneers who came to South Australia for the copper mines 1861-1923.
The museum has 14 rooms and houses thematic displays on the Cornish miners’ lifestyles – mining, lodges and friendly societies, sports and pastimes, death and hardship, extensive displays of costumes, china, silverware, photographs and memorabilia and a classroom furnished c.1900.
Open daily 1 PM – 4 PM
SA Public Holidays and School Holidays 11 AM -4 PM
Blacksmiths Shop- aka Smithy
Blacksmith shops were an essential part of mining and rural life.
Tipara Forge re-enactment facility originally formed part of the large workshops of the era which also encompassed a Farrier shop, Iron foundry smelting works, Pattern shop, Carpenter shop, Wheelwright & Fitting & machine shop.
Learn about the art of Blacksmithing- talk to the Volunteer Blacksmiths who will be very keen to tell the stories of those Blacksmiths past and share their knowledge. There will be souvenirs to purchase to remind you of your visit to the Tipara Forge Moonta Mines Blacksmith.
The Blacksmith Shop is run by volunteers and open 1st & 3rd Sundays & most Public Holidays 10am – 4pm – at the Munta Wheal Train Station. Entry by gold coin donation is welcomed to assist in the preservation & improvement of this working demonstration facility.
Bus Groups and tours by appointment.