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Port Wakefield, South Australia facts for kids

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Port Wakefield
South Australia
Uniting Church at Port Wakefield
Population 476 (2006 census)
Postcode(s) 5550
Location 99 km (62 mi) North West of Adelaide city centre via Australian National Route A1.svg
LGA(s) Wakefield Regional Council
State electorate(s) Goyder
Federal Division(s) Wakefield
Localities around Port Wakefield:
Port Arthur Port Arthur
Gulf St Vincent Port Wakefield Bowmans
Gulf St Vincent Proof Range
Footnotes Adjoining localities

Port Wakefield (formerly Port Henry) was the first government town to be established north of the capital, Adelaide, in South Australia.

Port Wakefield is situated 98.7 kilometres (61.3 mi)* from the Adelaide city centre and lies on the Port Wakefield Road section of the A1 National Highway. Port Wakefield is situated on the River Wakefield, at the head of the Gulf St Vincent.


European discovery

The town was originally named Port Henry by William Hill. The name of the town was, around 1849, changed to Port Wakefield, after the Wakefield River.

The Port and the Railway

In 1848, the Patent Copper Company agreed to build and operate a smelter at Burra. Seeking to reduce cartage costs, a track was surveyed to its port established at the mouth of the River Wakefield. By securing leases of the appropriate Crown Land, the company obtained a monopoly of the port. The Government declared the track the Great Western Road. The wharf was constructed along the bank of the river and cargo was transferred between the wharf and ships at anchor in the Gulf on lighters.

With the opening of the railway from Adelaide to Gawler in 1857, the Copper Company's traffic came to a sudden end, leaving only pastoral produce to flow to the port. Mixed farming was established on lands opening up by the Government along the River in the mid-1860s and this called for improvement in transport to the Port.

William Hanson, Manager for Railways, selected a route for a horse-drawn tramway terminating at Hoyles Plains, later renamed Hoyleton. The enabling Act provided for a tramway of 28 miles 41 chains (45.9 km) in length to a gauge of 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), the first line in South Australia built to that gauge. Subsequently, the Government agreed that the line should be operated by a private body. The successful tenderer was one Paul Badcock who opened the line to traffic on 4 January 1870. Horses were worked in three relays between the stations on the route.

The choice of gauge was influenced by the argument that costs varied with the cube of the gauge. As this railway had its own port, it was not expected to link up with any broad gauge railways which avoided of course any break of gauge problems.

Following a surrender of the lease, the line was taken over by the Government at the end of 1870.

On 1 March 1876 the line was extended from Hoyleton to Blyth. Steam locomotives were subsequently obtained and, by August, 1876, the entire line was being worked by steam power. The line was extended at the other end from Port Wakefield to Kadina on 9 October 1878.

In 1927, these railways, and the remainder of the Western system that grew from them, were converted to the broad 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) gauge.


Port Wakefield is a major stop on the Adelaide – Yorke Peninsula and Adelaide – Port Augusta road routes. Just north of the township there is a major forked intersection where the Yorke Peninsula traffic diverges west onto the Copper Coast Highway from the main Augusta Highway. The intersection is notorious for road accidents and traffic delays, especially at the end of holidays and long weekends.

Located thus, Port Wakefield is known mostly for its roadhouses and trucking stops, including Shell, United, Tucker Time and BP. Travellers between Adelaide and any of the Flinders Ranges, Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula or the Nullarbor Plain will likely travel through Port Wakefield.

Port Wakefield has several adjacent beaches and caravan parks. Accommodation is available at several places in town, including the Port Wakefield Motel (located just off the highway) and the Port Wakefield Caravan Park.

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