'Where the outback meets the sea'
I spent a week in Whyalla, a seemingly quiet, peaceful town with lots of parks and gardens. I stayed at a nice, quiet caravan park on the shore where I could just about step out of the van into the water. As well as allowing easy access to the beach, foreshore and marina, the caravan park is also close enough to the town to enable walks to the town's gardens and to Hummock Hill, which, interestingly, was the site of the first settlement in 1901 and was the name of the area until the town of Whyalla was proclaimed in 1914.
Whyalla, population 23,000, is the regional shopping centre for the north and west of South Australia and is the second or third largest town in SA - it battles with Mount Gambier for the title of second largest after the state's capital of Adelaide. It is situated on the western shore of upper Spencer Gulf, 394 km north of Adelaide by road, it's climate is described as 'Mediterranean', with 300 days of sunshine and 271 mm of rain per year (in other words 'hot and dry'!).
The town uses the slogan of 'where the outback meets the sea'. The surrounding countryside is flat, almost featureless and of the red soil for which the outback is famous.
The town owes its existence to the presence of iron stone, first reported in 1840 in the Middleback Ranges, 50 km to the west, by explorer Edward John Eyre, which led to mining in the area in the 1890s. It's an industrial town dominated by the Steelworks, with its dust covering large areas of the town, but its the steelworks that is the lifeblood of the town, responsible for employing a large percentage of the population since it began operations in 1965. During my stay I took the bus tour of the steelworks. Photography is allowed on the tour, which surprised me, as it wasn't when I toured the Port Pirie smelter a few weeks earlier. But on my tour the bus was full and very cramped making it difficult to take photos - I need a smaller camera for such tours! Luckily the bus did stop, allowing us all out for a walk. Very worthwhile tour, resulting in a few reasonable photos.
The town has a number of attractions that I can highly recommend. Starting with the Maritime Museum, which is part of the visitor centre and is set in attractive gardens. The museum contains an interesting history of the area and specialises in naval, shipbuilding and maritime heritage as well as the natural history of the upper Spencer Gulf. It also has one of the largest 00 gauge model railways in Australia, which is built on a replica of the local landscape.
The shipyards operated in the town from 1940 to 1978, constructing 66 ships, including 4 corvettes used in World War II - one of which (the 1941 corvette, HMAS Whyalla) is now located at the museum and is the largest permanently land-locked warship in Australia. A tour of the ship is very worthwhile.
The town has a number of other attractions that I didn't get to see in my week there - it really is not enough time to do it justice and I would recommend a longer stay.
Population: 21,991 (2011 Census)
Elevation: 6 metres
Latitude: -33.0348 | Longitude: 137.586