Your Ultimate Guide to Port Pirie
1st August 2023
Port Pirie in a nutshell
Just 200km north of Adelaide, sat on the coast of Spencer Gulf is Port Pirie; a small yet vibrant settlement founded in 1845. The small town vibes and friendly locals here will make you feel at home, and the heritage – portrayed to guests through museums and galleries – takes you back in time.
Built upon a history of zinc, silver and lead smelting, the snug town of Port Pirie was once characterised by its industrial economy and port location. Whilst some of this continues today, there’s a great deal more to this historic town. Old colonial buildings, a lively main street, waterfront views and nature-rich surroundings offer a current and accurate description of this South Australian town. For more information regarding the history and culture of Port Pirie, click here!
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A short drive outside of Port Pirie will see you immersed in some of the most beautiful natural landscapes of South Australia. Green hills, pink lakes and lofty peaks will sweep you off your feet. Due to it’s location in the Southern Flinders region, Port Pirie is very conveniently located and offers a great base for exploring the region. With Mount Remarkable National Park only 30 minutes away, and Port Augusta and Clare Valley each found just over an hour away in different directions, you could spend a week in Port Pirie simply exploring the culture and nature-rich region.
National parks, seaside and outback as well as wineries, restaurants and plenty of culture are all found here. Whether you’re hoping to spend a weekend relaxing, hiking or indulging in wine and delicious treats, you’re in luck. Overwhelmed with the choice? We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to. Use this Ultimate Guide to plan your getaway. Here, you’ll find the best things to do in Port Pirie, the best places to eat and the best hotel to lay your head at night.
Things to do in Port Pirie
Take the kids to Port Pirie Regional Tourism and Arts Centre
Port Pirie Regional Tourism and Arts Centre is not your ordinary tourist information spot. Enrich your escape to Port Pirie by not only dropping in for some information, but bringing the kids and exploring the building. Inside, a handful of attractions such as art galleries, a virtual reality shark cage dive (not for the faint-hearted), the locally famous Shakka the Shark replica and the Port Pirie Rail Express. The latter, is a particularly exciting activity for the kids. On the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, the miniature railway offers rides for those of all ages. Allow yourself enough time here; this is a tourist information centre with a twist!
Head to Mount Remarkable National Park
Containing a peak of 960 metres – Mount Remarkable – Mount Remarkable National Park is without a doubt something to add to your to-do list during your stay. The drive from Port Pirie to Mount Remarkable National Park takes approximately 30 minutes and there’s more than enough to do here for the day. Impressive gorgeous such as bright red Alligator Gorge are absolutely worth the trip, whilst walking trails which trace the highest ridges allow for impressive views. From a height here, you can see all the way over to Eyre Peninsula. A vast network of walking trails can be found laced throughout the quintessentially Australian landscape and a handful of campsites and picnic areas are dotted the park. Ultimately, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature, there’s no better place for it.
Take the Port Pirie Self Guided Heritage Walk
The Port Pirie Heritage Walk is another great way to stretch your legs without driving out of town. Exploring the stories behind various buildings and people in history, the heritage walk takes visitors back in time. Head to the information centre in the centre of town, grab yourself a map and allow for up to two hours of exploration. After wandering the streets, you’ll have eve more appreciation for the history of Port Pirie.
Spend some time relaxing by the water
What with its coastal location and beautiful views towards the ranges, Port Pirie offers visitors a wonderful location for relaxation. Keep things simple and spend an afternoon enjoy the water. At Solomontown Beach, take a dip and bring a picnic to make the most of the views and small-town atmosphere. Otherwise, for those who prefer to take the plunge in a local swimming pool, a modern outdoor pool on Mary Elie Street is open throughout the summer months and offers some much needed respite from the scorching South Australian heat. At the Foreshore, use the BBQ or picnic facilities framed with a view overlooking the water and enjoy a tranquil meal on the coast. Also here, you’ll find a fully enclosed kids playground perfect for entertaining the younger members of the family whilst you sit back and enjoy the views.
Take a drive into the past
If you’re into history and haven’t seen enough during your weekend getaway, you might be interested in following a section of the Heritage Rail Trail. Driving from Silverton in NSW to Pot Pirie in SA, the trail follows the remains of a railway line completed in 1887. Ending its operations in 1970, the railway was used to export minerals extracted from what was found to be one of the richest mineral resources in the world at the time. Today, the trail still leads you through 15 towns. Download Daytrippa on your phone and use the app to discover the past.
Visit one of the many Port Pirie museums
Port Pirie is rife with history. Originally home to the Nukunu people who populated the coastal region around Spencer Gulf, extending inwards as far as Quorn, the region consists of endless culturally significant sites for Aboriginal people. In 1849, colonisation brought about the initial settlement of Europeans to the area and the materialisation of Port Pirie. What with its industrial economy and colonial past, today the historically rich town is home to a number of museums and galleries. During a trip to Port Pirie, drop into the National Trust Historic and Folk Museum to learn more about the history of the town and explore the Victorian pavilion-style railway station, as well as the Old Police Station. At Carn Brae named after a castle in Cornwall, England, explore the home of the Moyle family and admire its unusual features. Other museums include a military museum as well as a fishing boat museum.
Enjoy Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery
Located in Thalpiri, the Nukunu name for Port Pirie, the Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery is situated on Nukunu Country in Port Pirie. Nestled within the captivating landscape, the gallery offers breathtaking views of The Wapma Thura – Southern Flinders Ranges National Park, which holds significant cultural value as it is co-named after the Nukunu term for “snake people,” representing an important totem. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty that surrounds this unique art gallery
Visit bright pink Lake Bumbunga
Otherworldly Lake Bumbunga is a sight to behold in South Australia. The bubblegum pink lake located in Lochiel is known for its brightly coloured waters which can change from white to blue and famously, pink. The water here changes due to varying salinity levels throughout the year, and paired with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds it is truly a magnificent sight. Not yet remotely touristy, a visit to the lake here might involve simply a stop during your drive or a picnic by the waters edge.
Follow the Port Pirie Mural Trail
Embark on a captivating adventure along Port Pirie Regional Council’s thriving tourist attraction, the Mural Trail. This trail, initiated in 2017, showcases a collection of quirky, fun, and creatively narrated stories about the city. Begin your journey at the Port Pirie Visitor Information Centre on Mary Elie Street, where you can obtain a trail map and learn about the trail’s origins. The map highlights the locations of each mural and installation, offering suggestions for walking the two-kilometer trail in sections or as one continuous immersive experience. In August 2023, a magnificent artwork commemorating the region’s military history was unveiled at the Port Pirie Aerodrome, paying tribute to the base’s crucial role during World War II. As you explore, the visitor center staff will gladly point out coffee shops, specialty stores, parks, and serene spots to unwind, enhancing your unique and unforgettable journey through Port Pirie.
Take a day trip
As previously mentioned, Port Pirie makes for an excellent base when it comes to exploring a number of South Australian destinations. On top of discovering Port Pirie itself, you could choose to head out on some daily adventures too. Spend a week here and find yourself visiting a world famous wine region, Port Augusta (a well known outback town), a pink lake, a national park and an endless number of small villages and towns, all in under an hour and a half of driving. There’s no better location for a week spent exploring the Southern Flinders Ranges. Look into some more day trip ideas from Port Pirie, here.
Visit some local wineries
Port Pirie isn’t known for its wine, and nor is its immediate surroundings. Neighbouring Clare Valley is a world-renowned wine region after all, and famously offers visitors an ‘English countryside’ vibe paired with fresh rieslings and excellent food. However, just outside of Port Pirie visitors can visit a couple of wonderful little wineries. Don’t visit here if you’re looking for a Jacob’s Creek winery experience, but if you enjoy intimate, cosy wineries and chatting to friendly winemakers, you’ll enjoy a trip to the vines. You will want to visit Blesings Garden wines during your trip. Found between rolling hills and sporadic silver gum trees, the cellar door is open seven days a week and welcomes everyone. Whilst visiting wineries isn’t one of the most typical things to do in Port Pirie, it comes highly recommended.
Go mountain biking
Scattered across the Southern Flinders Ranges, you will find a great deal of mountain biking trails as well as road options and recreational trails ideal for families. Mountain bikers in particular will be thrilled by the option to take the Pirie to Napperby Cycle Track; a trail well worth a ride. Alternatively, the Melrose Trail Cycling Track offers some great exposure to the local scenery and wildlife.
Cafes and Restaurants in Port Pirie
Within the town, find multiple options for coffee and cake, sunset wining and dining, as well as hearty pub lunches. Plus, aromas from fresh bakeries wafting through the streets will tempt you to a delicious snack throughout the day. When it comes to restaurants in Port Pirie, a handful of great options can be found in the city. At Safavi – set within the walls of an old Scottish church – find the best coffee in town as well as a menu packed with delicious options. Try the impressive Aussie breakfasts or opt for one of their delectable salads.
Within the building, Caffe Primo Port Pirie offers steak, seafood, pasta, chicken and pizza and much more. At dinner time, enjoy a free pancake with every meal you buy. Alternatively, an Angus & Co promises a tasty treat for the whole family. This steakhouse restaurant with a modern twist offers all the favourites.
Bars in Port Pirie
The relaxed and laid-back atmosphere of Port Pirie makes it perfect for socialising and unwinding. Many bars here offer outdoor seating areas, such as beer gardens or courtyards, which are the perfect spot to enjoy the beautiful Australian weather while sipping on your favourite drink.
The Portside Tavern offers a lively atmosphere, delicious food and a great selection of drinks. It’s the place to be! They also offer a wide selection of drinks, including local and imported beers on tap, cocktails and a great wine list.
Black Pig Bar & Grill
Want another option for a night out? Head to the Black Pig Bar & Grill for some shaken drinks and food options made with the best quality meat and the freshest seafood in Port Pirie.
SA Weekend Escape’s top hotel picks!
John Pirie Motor Inn
Two and a half hours from Adelaide, Port Pirie is a wonderful South Australia Weekend Escape option. The friendly vibes, rich history and striking scenery ensure that all kind of travellers are catered for. Looking for hotels in Port Pirie? Take a look at our recommendation.
Located centrally in Port Pirie, the John Pirie Motor Inn is without a doubt the best hotel for your getaway. Rated number one on TripAdvisor for accommodation in Port Pirie, the cosy and intimate hotel offers guests an outdoor swimming pool, a BBQ facility as well as an on site Angus & Co. Bar and Grill. Rooms at John Pirie Motor Inn consist of standard, family rooms, spa rooms, and two bedroom apartments, amongst other options.
Choose to stay at the friendly John Pirie Motor Inn gem during your weekend getaway to Port Pirie.
Click here to book your stay and plan your escape.