About 100km southwest of Port Augusta is Whyalla, a great city filled with friendly people, clean parks and a welcoming atmosphere. With a population of 22,500 people, it’s a growing city with a building boom in recent years and lots of new development, making it the third most populous city in South Australia.
The area was explored in 1840 by Edward John Eyre, who reported the presence of iron stone 50km west of Whyalla. The city started as a small camp atop Hummock Hill in 1901 and gradually expanded until it was officially proclaimed a town in 1914. With BHP extending its arm into Whyalla and building shipping yards and a blast furnace, the town grew to a city in 1961.
It was here that we celebrated Australia Day, and we couldn’t have hoped for a better day. The city had planned a whole afternoon of festivities that kicked off at 4pm – sandcastle making, thong throwing, and the Great Australia Day Dummy Spitting Championships. There was also a great live band, heaps of food stalls and free flags and tattoos so everyone could show their Aussie pride.
We participated in the thong throwing contest and Dave won second place by only a few centimetres behind the reigning champion! Dave was awarded a silver plated blue thong at the presentation ceremony later in the day. GO DAVE!
After the presentations, we left the dry zone of the city and found a nice park in the centre of town to finish off our cask of Banrock Station White Shiraz. We were supposed to go back into town at 9pm for the fireworks but we met a great couple who invited us into their home for drinks, nibbles and a great chat. A pair of Grey Nomads, Chris and Tina gave us a ton of advice, like how to stop the dust from accumulating in the truck and which towns to watch out for up north.
Chris and Tina, we had a wonderful night and thank you so much for your generous conversation and hospitality. Your stories and tips were fantastic to listen to and we hope to cross paths again in the future.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Ada Ryan Park
This green and shaded park is the most popular park in the city, offering soft, lush lawns, free electric BBQs, toilets, tennis courts and a playground. There is also a large aviary with talking parrots, budgies, cockatiels and a pied peacock. The birds provided a great soundtrack as we had lunch in the park, with the occasional “Hello Cocky!” echoing through the trees.
Whyalla Marina & Jetty
We had a stroll along the jetty and watched fishermen drop a line or crab net, and on the way back to the car, we noticed a boat coming into the marina, trailed by two dolphins. These playful creatures usually follow the fishermen into the marina and if you’re there, you can get close enough to pat them on the nose.
Flinders & Freycinet Lookout
This lookout overlooks Spencer Gulf and has two sculptures, one of Matthew Flinders and the other of Louis-Claude de Freycinet. Flinders was the first to explore the coastline of this area in 1802 aboard HMS Investigator, while Freycinet charted the area in 1803 for the Baudin expedition.
The sculptures were installed in 2002, and the spot was renamed the Flinders & Freycinet Lookout, which gives a nice view of the Spencer Gulf.
Hummock Hill Lookout
The place where Whyalla started – this lookout provides panoramic views of the town, the OneStell operations, the foreshore, marina and Spencer Gulf, with various lookout platforms to choose from. It was developed by BHP as a gift to the city to commemorate the company’s centenary year.
The Loaded Dog
Outside of the Whyalla Veterinary Clinic is a metal sculpture of a large dog holding a stick of dynamite. The sculpture was unveiled in 2008 and is based on Henry Lawson’s story, ‘The Loaded Dog’, about a cheeky retriever that drags dynamite through a campfire, causing the fuse to ignite with mayhem and hilarity to ensue.
Sempre Italian Market & Cafe
This great little café in the Civic Centre offers great coffee and Italian goodies. The business won Outstanding Business of the Month in December 2012, and the reason for this was evident in the quality of their food and customer service.
Dave’s strong latte came out as a skinny latte, and even though the manager offered to remake it, Dave still drank it and it was delicious.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Whyalla. The people were all friendly, there was a real community spirit which was vibrant and united, and we felt right at home amongst it all. We will definitely visit Whyalla again when we have the opportunity – maybe for Australia Day so Dave can challenge the thong throwing champ again!