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Moonta, South Australia facts for kids

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South Australia
Moonta Town Hall
Moonta is located in South Australia
Location in South Australia
Population 632 (2016 census)
Established 1863
Postcode(s) 5558
Elevation 44 m (144 ft)
LGA(s) Copper Coast
State electorate(s) Narungga
Federal Division(s) Grey
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
23.8 °C
75 °F
9.8 °C
50 °F
330.1 mm
13 in
Localities around Moonta:
Moonta Bay North Moonta Cross Roads
Moonta Bay
Port Hughes
Moonta Yelta
Port Hughes Kooroona Moonta Mines
Footnotes Climate

Moonta is a town on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia, 165 km (103 mi) north-northwest of the state capital of Adelaide. It is one of three towns known as the Copper Coast or "Little Cornwall" for their shared copper mining history.


Aboriginal use

Prior to European settlement, the Moonta area was occupied by the indigenous Narungga people.

European discovery and use

The Yorke Peninsula coastline near Wallaroo was separately navigated by Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802.

The first Europeans to explore the district were John Hill and Thomas Burr.

Large and rich deposits of copper were discovered at Moonta in 1861 by Patrick Ryan, a shepherd from Walter Hughes' property. This became a prosperous mine, named Wheal Hughes, with other mines soon to follow. The government town of Moonta was surveyed in March 1863, while an informal township of mining workers also grew at Moonta Mines. A horse tramway from Moonta to the port at Wallaroo opened in July 1866. Following advertising by the South Australian Government, Cornish miners arrived in Moonta in large numbers. The mines at Moonta proved to be the richest mines in the whole of South Australia by 1917, exceeding the total wealth created by all other mines since 1836, the year of establishment of South Australia. The population of Moonta in 1875 was 12,000. The main copper mining operations at Moonta Mines ceased in 1923, although a number of smaller mines continued to be worked for some years. Smaller-scale operations recommenced in the area in the late 1980s but had closed by the mid-1990s.

Heritage listings

Moonta has a number of heritage-listed sites listed on the South Australian Heritage Register, including:

  • Blanche Terrace: All Saints Anglican Church
  • Blanche Terrace: Moonta Masonic Hall
  • 21 Ellen Street: Bank of South Australia Building
  • 29 Ellen Street: Moonta School of Mines
  • Kadina Road: Moonta railway station

Geography and climate

Moonta exists in a semi-arid location, above Goyder's Line. Moonta is surrounded by mallee scrub. The centre is located four kilometres inland and is 20 metres above sea level. Moonta has a dry Mediterranean climate with seasonal temperatures about the same as Adelaide's temperatures. The temperature ranges are similar to those of Kadina and the weather patterns are similar to those of both Kadina and Adelaide.

Following the demise of copper mining, the district successfully merged into dry land farming. Moonta's surrounds are used for growing barley, wheat and other crops such as legumes, canola, chickpeas and field peas. Barley from the region is considered to be some of the best in the world.


Starting in the 1880s, agitation for conversion of the horse tramway to a steam locomotive railway commenced.

Local economy

Tourism is a significant local industry, focusing on the availability of beach-side accommodation, including several caravan parks, holiday houses, bed and breakfast and a motel. The nearby locations of Moonta Bay, Port Hughes and Simms Cove are on the foreshore and are rapidly developing. They are extremely popular locations for retirement and holiday makers. The beaches, with fine white sand, are popular with recreational anglers and sailboarders. The natural state of the coast has largely been retained. The popular three-day Kernewek Lowender Cornish festival is also held every odd year in May in the Copper Coast towns of Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo, with events staged across the three towns over several days. It was awarded South Australia’s Inaugural Top Tourist Town by TICSA in 2021.

The National Trust of South Australia operates a number of heritage attractions in adjacent Moonta Mines, including a narrow gauge railway through the former mining works, a museum in the former Moonta Mines Model School, a sweet shop, former mining cottage and surviving buildings associated with the mines. The former Moonta railway station is now a visitor information centre.

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