The Mid North region of South Australia takes in the Clare and Barossa Valleys, the central wheatbelt, the eastern section of South Australia’s Copper Belt and the Southern Flinders Ranges. With the exception of Burra’s copper mining heritage and the region’s two major wine regions – the Barossa and Clare Valleys – the points of interest in this area are not well known and in the main are less obvious. But for those willing to take to the intricate network of back roads that criss-cross the region, there are some wonderful villages, ruins and abandoned settlements with long-forgotten stories to tell, just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
For example, there is the little town of Terowie, once a vital railway centre which has been allowed to mellow into quiet obscurity, largely unaltered since its heydey. It was on its station platform that General Douglas McArthur stood after emerging from the war-ravaged Asian islands in 1942 and made his famous “I will return” speech to the waiting ears of the world.
The village of Booleroo Centre, with its amazing collection of 50 tractors and 100 stationery steam engines, holds a Steam and Traction Rally every march. The legendary horse and rodeo rider, Curio and Alan Woods, are remembered at Marrabel; the old Bank of Adelaide building in Caltowie is the only reminder that the town centre is today not where it used to be.
Australian poet and writer CJ Dennis, of ‘The Sentimental Bloke’ fame, is remembered with a statue in his hometown of Laura; Eudunda was the birthplace of world-renowned author Colin Thiele (Storm Boy, Sun on the Stubble), whose bronzed statue (by Chris Radford) is in the Centenary Gardens. The ruins of an old church are all that remains of the village of Canowie Belt; the general store frequented by mens outfitter RM Williams as a child is the only building still standing at Belalie North. The book, Flinders Ranges and Mid North by Stuart Nicol, is an invaluable guide to unlocking the secrets of this fascinating region and is recommended if you plan to explore the region in any detail.
To visit the coastal regions, drive north from Adelaide along Port Wakefield Road via Gepps Crossing, towards Port Augusta.
To visit the Barossa Valley, take Great North Road at Gepps Crossing, passing through Elizabeth and Gawler to Hewett. At Hewett, take Sturt Highway Greenoch, Nuriootpa and Truro. Alternatively, take Barossa Valley Way at Gawler to visit Lyndoch, Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa.
To visit the Clare Valley and towns in the Wheatbelt and Copper Belt, continue on the Main North Road at Hewett and follow the signs to the towns you wish to visit.
At Giles Corner, take the Barrier Highway to visit Burra, Hallett, Terowie and Peterborough. Alternatively, continue on the Main North Road to the Clare Valley wine region and towns in the northern Wheatbelt/Southern Flinders Ranges.
Autumn to spring is the best time to visit when the weather is mild and vegetation and wildlife thriving. Summer visits can be rewarding, too, provided your activities are tailored to weather conditions.
The climate is typically Mediterranean with cool winters May to August ranging through 10-18 degrees, and warm to hot dry summers November to March ranging through 24-35 degrees. Coastal areas tend to have minimum winter temperatures that are several degrees warmer than those recorded by the inland regions, whereas in summer the opposite occurs.