Your Ultimate Guide to Whyalla
7th April 2022
Stretching coastlines, secluded beaches, marine wildlife and red-dyed conservation parks encapsulate what is today known as, Whyalla. As the fourth largest South Australian centre, and bigger than the famous Port Lincoln, this understated town has plenty of potential for a South Australian Weekend Escape. 300 days of sunshine per year and turquoise seas will tempt just about anyone to a visit.
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Whyalla is an industrial town, driven by local steel and petroleum industries. It therefore boasts an interesting history which is accessible to tourists via museums and local tours. Explorer Edward John Eyre in 1840 discovered the presence of iron stone just 50km west of the town, with the first attempts to mine beginning in the 1890s. With regards to Whyalla itself, the now city began as a small work camp at the foot of Hummock Hill in 1901. The settlement at this point was known only as Hummock Hill before gradually expanding and being renamed as Whyalla later on. The industrial town became a city in 1961.
Stepping back in time much further than this, history-rich Whyalla boasts a fantastic Aboriginal history dating back 6000 years. Barngarla people – the traditional custodians wore kangaroo skin cloaks and hunted both land as well as marine life for food. At Whyalla Maritime Museum, visitors can learn about Barngarla people and their connection to the sea.
In the current day, Whyalla exists as a nature-surrounded, wildlife rich and buzzing city on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula. Home to Australian Cuttlefish – some of the largest in the world – between May and August, Whyalla is perfect for fishing, whilst dolphin-spotting, snorkelling and swimming make for some of the best things to do in the area. Stepping away from the seaside, Whyalla is a city packed with events, shopping, museums and culture and surrounded by red earth and quintessential Eyre Peninsula scenery.
In this Ultimate Guide to Whyalla, we help visitors navigate the urban, coastal and natural landscapes of this wonderful city. There are plenty of things to do in Whyalla, and we’re here to show you the best of them.
Things to do in Whyalla
Embark on a steelworks tour
Whyalla is known for its iron and steel making history, so what better way to understand the city than to book onto a steelworks tour. After all, how may of us can actually say that we know how the industry works? A whopping 1.2 million tonnes of steel is produced here each year. During a tour, visitors will see various sections of the process which takes places across a 1000 hectare site. Coke ovens, a black furnace, steelmaking, reed beds and more are all explained to visitors as they walk around the works which have been in operation for 100 years. Whyalla holds the only public steelworks tour in Australia, so this is a particularly rare opportunity for those who are interested.
Explore Whyalla Conservation Park
Despite being a sizeable city by South Australian standards, a great deal of things to do in Whyalla come in the form of exploration in the natural world. Located only 10 kilometres from the centre of the city, the Whyalla Conservation Park offers a scenic walking trail which leads visitors to the top of Wild Dog Hill. Expect scenes of red earth and rocky wilderness throughout the short hike, which are best witnessed with the reds and yellows of Eyre Peninsula sunsets.
Take a trip to Point Lowly
Completed in 1883, Port Lowly Lighthouse helped keep an eye out for maritime traffic around Point Lowly. The lighthouse was manned for 90 years and originally 15 metres tall, it was extended eight more metres in 1909. The original lantern is still in place and the two lighthouse cottages nearby are the oldest buildings in the entire Whyalla region. Today, Point Lowly is a wonderful spot for keen photographers. Sat at the tip of the tiny peninsula north-east of Whyalla, a trip here doesn’t take long and is worth the journey if not just for a dip in the surrounding crystal clear waters.
Those seeking an active getaway might enjoy walking the Freycinet Trail which – depending on which way you follow it – begins or ends at Point Lowly. 12 kilometres in length (one-way) the trail takes you along the coast and provides informative signs throughout, which explain the Aboriginal and early settler history, as well as facts about local flora, fauna and marine life.
Discover local histories
Whyalla is blessed with a handful of museums, with its most iconic being the Whyalla Maritime Museum. Inside, visitors can learn not only about settler history and the importance of the sea to the city, but also Aboriginal histories. Notable features at the museum include a series of treasures as well as WW2 documentation, the HMAS Whyalla within which guests are free to enter and an exhibition about the local shipbuilding economy. A natural history section displays information about the marine wildlife of Spencer Gulf, including its huge population of sharks. Outside of the museum, guests will find an aesthetic Australian native plant garden and free barbecue areas.
Alternatively, Mount Laura Homestead Museum is an old home packed with artefacts and interesting information about Whyalla’s colonial history. Each room inside the home consists of a different theme and portrays photographs from the time of ‘Hummock Hill’. Whyalla Gaol – built in 1914 – also now sits at the Mount Laura Homestead Museum, making it easy to learn about multiple parts of the local history in one convenient location.
Visit Whyalla in time to see the cuttlefish
Between May and August, cuttlefish breeding season takes place on the coast of Whyalla. This unique event brings visitors from across the world. And it’s no wonder. Researchers from the University of Melbourne have suggested that Whyalla is home to “the largest aggregation of Giant Cuttlefish in the world”. During these months, cuttlefish perform strange rituals and ignite with different colours. Diving and snorkelling are highly encouraged during this time. All keen divers should witness this fascinating phenomenon once in their lifetimes.
Spot other marine life
Dolphins are also known to frequent the shores of Whyalla. For many years, local dolphins have followed fishing boats from the sea and towards the shore in hope of feeding off scraps of fish. Supposedly, some dolphins have formed friendships with Whyalla locals because of this unlikely scenario. Whilst this might not be the best known spot for dolphins in South Australia, dolphins here are known to come very close to shore, making it a very special experience for anyone who has the patience to wait for their arrival. If you’re interested in really immersing yourself in the experience and interested in gliding across the water on a kayak, Dolphin Treasure Hire is a good bet. Single and double kayaks as well as SUP boards for rent, will ensure that you get to experience the creature-rich sea here up close.
Swim and relax at Whyalla Foreshore
Decked out with a brand new and iconic round jetty and a dedicated swimming enclosure, as well as a playground for the kids, electric barbecues and beach shelters, Whyalla Foreshore is a convenient and centrally placed spot to spend the morning. The distinctive round jetty here above the clear Whyalla waters is always lined with local fishermen and women and makes for a beautiful morning stroll. Meanwhile, a walkway from the playground at the shore links visitors to the tranquil Ada Ryan Gardens which is complete with a duck pond and ideal for a wander or an escape from the South Australian heat.
Visit Jim Pollock Wetlands
Jim Pollock Whyalla Wetlands is the perfect place to take the family for a BBQ, a picnic or simply a walk. Toilets and a shelter here, as well as a children’s playground, make it ideal for family days out year round. Stroll around the paths, lakes and foliage and let the kids run wild in the playground where climbing, sliding and swinging are highly encouraged. The wetlands are home to numerous aquatic plants, animals and birds, so bird spotters often frequent the location.
Explore the white sandy beaches of the region
Aside from the Whyalla Foreshore, plenty of beaches in the region offer perfect swimming opportunities and relaxing beach days. From Port Bonython Road onto Sida Cove and also at Point Lowly vehicles are allowed onto the sandy beaches. Set up camp here for the day and enjoy the secluded beaches from the comfort of your own kitted-out 4WD vehicle. An alternative to this would be Fitzgerald Bay. With striking crystal clear waters and endless views, the blue gulf scenery here is framed by the Southern Flinders Ranges. South of Whyalla, Murrippi Beach is a somewhat secluded and private beach, which allows nude bathing. All visitors are welcome to use this beach, but should note that the route requires a 4WD vehicle.
Take the City Walk and learn a little more about Whyalla
In the north-eastern end of Whyalla, a number of historical sites and some of the areas’s first buildings are located. Take the City Walk and learn a little about the local history of the city. The walk takes you to the top to Hummock Hill where you’re find panoramic views of the city, Spencer Gulf and Flinders Ranges. Trail signs packed with information tell stories of settlement and and industrial history as well as the nearby natural attractions and maritime heritage. Red route markers guide the way!
Walk to Hummock Hill Lookout
One of the best things to do in Whyalla is to take the short walk to Hummock Hill. The moderate walk which can be steep in some spots, encompasses a great deal of the city’s historical sites. The hike is only 1.9 kilometres, meaning it can be done fairly quickly. At the top, walkers will witness gorgeous views of Spencer Gulf as well as the distant Flinders Ranges. In another direction, steelworks are also in view. Beginning and ending at the intersection of Jamieson and Horwood Streets, the return trail traces the fence of the steelworks before heading through the CBD and up to the top of the hill. Signage on the way informs walkers of local history.
Cafes and restaurants in Whyalla
During a trip to Whyalla, visitors will want to enjoy some local bites and most likely take away some morning coffees. Whilst there are a number of cafes in Whyalla, we have chosen just a couple to recommend. Whyalla Beach Cafe is the only cafe on the beach in Whyalla and it serves up pure deliciousness with views of the ocean. Coffees, teas and shakes as well as breakfasts and lunches are on offer throughout the day. Located just steps from the water, this might be your go-to cafe during a Weekend Escape.
On the other hand, City Plaza Espresso Cafe is another cafe which might tempt coffee lovers and equally those seeking a cold glass of white in the evening. Situated besides the serene Ada Ryan Gardens and the Whyalla Foreshore, the cafe is highly comfortable and serves fresh juices as well as hot drinks. A variety of meals are also available in this alfresco-style cafe. You might also like to try Whisk Away – a homely spot that reflects owner Elpida’s passion for baking. Treat yourself to cakes, tarts and meringues here.
Family friendly Breeze Bistro is a popular restaurant in Whyalla that caters for visitors and locals on a daily basis. Creative, fresh and flavourful food here across a broad menu makes this spot an easy choice during a Weekend Escape to Whyalla. For something special, Percy’s on Playford Restaurant and Bar is a modern Australian style restaurant serving quality meats and local seafood. Fresh local produce is the secret to their delicious menu.
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Whyalla Playford Apartments
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Explore Whyalla from the comfort of Whyalla Playford Apartments, just a short distance from the main attractions such as the Foreshore and Hummock Hill. To book an apartment at this luxurious spot, click here.