Do this!, is my first recommendation. The reason I loved this self drive tour is that you are given a key and a map and pretty much told to go for it. The key gives you access to gates and buildings and the map shows you the route to take and stops along the way, which you can do at your leisure over 48 hours.
This is an ideal way to discover historic Burra in South Australia’s mid north, where you plan your trip and how long you want to spend at each of the locations marked on the map.
On the way you will discover the history of the Cornish miners who came to Burra and mined copper from the mid 1800s, while you explore the remarkably intact engine buildings, powder magazine, chimneys and stone work that are amazing reminders of the skills of these settlers in the area.
The tour map also leads you to the old police lock up and stables and again the key lets you in to see these preserved buildings which also hold artefacts. You can continue on to visit the Redruth Gaol, ruins of other villages, and areas where miners dugouts were carved into the cliffs next to the river, making homes for the miners and their families during the boom time of copper mining.
I was amazed at the access you have to places, and the information you can read on the way is extremely interesting and eye opening, especially at the Redruth Gaol which was also a girls reformatory for a period of time.
It was really refreshing to be able to walk through these historic buildings, which in some cases had a lot of historic relics in them, and to do so without feeling like you’re in a museum.
The highlights for me were Morphett’s Engine House, (step outside if you’re game, for the views), Mallowen Lowarth Cottage, for a look at life inside a miners cottage, and the Unicorn Brewery Cellars – a maze of underground tunnels where you can really appreciate the workmanship of the era. Simply astounding. From the cellars you exit in a different spot from the entry via the underground tunnels.
The self guided tour took us best part of a whole day to do, with a lunch break in between sites, and we loved every minute of it. Some of the sites are outdoors so you need to wear good walking shoes, other sites are indoors and there are stairs involved but nothing too taxing,
The passport key tour costs $30 per adult or $25 for concessions and for that you also receive a bag full of brochures and a souvenir book on ‘Discovering Historic Burra’. To me it was worth the money for an all day tour at your leisure and a great way to put some money back into tourism in our rural areas.
My reason for stopping in Burra was also a personal one, as my three times great grandparents were the first school teachers in Burra when the town was proclaimed. From what I can gather they weren’t officially teachers (more like let’s say, entrepreneurs) but their school was registered as Burra’s first public school in 1847 and according to the Adelaide newspaper of the time, the Adelaide Register it was reported as:
‘Mr and Mrs Jolly who have long exercised the scholastic profession in Adelaide with assiduity and success have been induced to undertake the important duties of tuition amongst the rising generation in the new and important township of Kooringa at the highly productive and prosperous Burra Burra Mines’.
The offer was taken up by Mr and Mrs Francis Jolly who established Burra’s first school in makeshift premises early in 1847. An allotment of land was leased to them for a more permanent wooden slab building in 1848.
There is no sign of this original school but the plots of land they had, show on the original town plan with their names on them. The area now consist of shops in the main Commercial Street.
When in Burra we stayed at the caravan park which is in a lovely, convenient position backing on to the Burra Creek, and in easy walking distance to town,
Enjoy the journey,