How To Explore Moonta Bay And Port Hughes
Updated on 19th December 2021
If you’re looking for a beautiful, calm, family-friendly getaway an easy drive from Adelaide, Moonta Bay is perfect. In fact, it’s so perfect that Moonta was recently named South Australia’s Top Tourism Town!
Just two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Adelaide on sealed roads, Moonta will reward you with perfect sunsets, plenty to do, great weather, and friendly locals. Sounds just about perfect really.
I’ve mentioned before that our aim recently has been to “think global, travel local”. COVID has certainly made this happen for us! While Australia’s international borders remain closed, there’s no reason we can’t explore our State and other parts of our country with the kids. In this vein, we have been lucky enough to head over to Moonta several times over the past two years. We hire a gorgeous beach house each time and spend some time as a family exploring this pocket of the Yorke Peninsula.
Here are my tips for enjoying a lovely family getaway in Moonta.
We acknowledge the traditional owners of Narrunga Country, the land which is often referred to as Yorke Peninsula. We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded and pay our respects to the elders past, present, and emerging.
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The Yorke Peninsula is a region to the west of Adelaide. It looks sort of small on a map, but it’s actually quite expansive – to get from the top to the bottom can take between two to three hours of driving. It’s the bit that looks like a boot (like Italy!)
At the bottom, Innes National Park offers some of the most glorious beach views you’ll find in Australia as well as iconic Aussie wildlife, well kept campgrounds and excellent four-wheel-drive tracks. The rest of the peninsula is dotted with gorgeous little towns, each with their own character. One of those towns is Moonta.
The Copper Coast
The Copper Coast is the region of the Northern Yorke Peninsula that consists of Moonta, Kadina, Wallaroo, Paskeville and Port Hughes, with the Spencer Gulf to the West. The area within the confines of Kadina-Wallaroo-Moonta is known as the Copper Triangle. Funnily enough, this region is called the Copper Coast because of its history mining… yep, copper. The Copper Triangle is also affectionately known as “Little Cornwall” thanks to the large migrant population from Cornwall who came to work in the mines in the late 19th Century.
The town of Moonta sits just inland of the west coast of Yorke Peninsula. Moonta Bay is Moonta’s adjoining seaside suburb. From hereon in, I’ll refer to them both as “Moonta”.
Where to eat and drink in Moonta (and surrounds)
Taste the Yorke
Taste The Yorke was our favourite brunch haunt. The food is simple yet perfectly done and caters for a wide range of tastes and dietary requirements. My personal favourite was the tomato, bacon and lentil soup.
There’s a kid’s corner offering toys to distract the kids while you eat, and the staff are super friendly (as almost everyone is in the country!) Taste The Yorke is on the corner of George St and Henry St.
Capella’s is located on George Street, Moonta’s main street. Capella’s in Moonta offers delivery throughout the Moonta area as well as to Port Hughes (including caravan parks) – I can recommend their pizzas.
If we leave for Moonta on a Friday afternoon, ordering a pizza to pick up on the way through is an excellent option, and a nice cruisy way to start a holiday.
The Cornish Kitchen
Since Moonta is known as “Little Cornwall” it’s only fitting there should be a place to grab delicious baked treats such as Cornish Pasties. The Cornish Kitchen is that place. Grab a bite to-go or eat in. You’ll also find some delicious sticky buns here so ditch the diet for a day.
You’ll find the Cornish Kitchen on Ellen St near the corner of Ryan St.
Nook and Nourish
Moonta’s most Instagrammable café (notice the cute murals inside and outside!) serves great coffee and selected food including some great gluten-free options. Our kids are in love with their smoothies too.
They also sell some hip paleo-related items like bone broth concentrate if that’s your thing.
You’ll find Nook and Nourish on the corner of George St and Ellen St.
The Moonta Hotel, on the corner of George St and Spencer Highway, signals the start of the town proper. “You’ve arrived! Country town pub!” it sings at you just as any country town pub does.
Happy Hour is 5pm till 7pm every night – $5.50 pints aren’t bad! The Bistro is kid-friendly and the menu is decent, and I feel it’s a must-do when traveling around Australia to have a meal in the local pub. You’ll often find live bands playing too, and there’s a bottle shop attached for convenience.
The best bit? The Moonta Hotel runs a free shuttle service around the area, which means you can have a few drinks and have a safe, free way to get home without having to worry about a designated driver.
Port Hughes Tavern
The Port Hughes Tavern is a great option for a pub meal that offers more of a beachside vibe – it’s located on Minnie Terrace, right by the jetty. The sunset views as you eat are pretty spectacular.
If you’re staying at Port Hughes, walking to the Tavern means not having to worry about driving home, and you can walk of some of the calories from your Parmi!
Fish and chips at Port Hughes kiosk
In Australia, we take the proper salting of our chips very seriously. It has to be chicken salt, not regular salt, and you can’t skimp on it. Some of us, like me (but probably not the majority) also like a dash of vinegar on our chips.
I’m happy to report the Port Hughes Kiosk gets this important detail just right.
And the fish – not too oily, and it melts in your mouth. Perfection!
Where to shop in Moonta
I found the quality of the little boutiques along George St really surprising. My fave was Vivian Frank – on a recommendation from a girlfriend, I made sure to pop into this gorgeous boutique and I absolutely fell in love. No lie, I could have bought out the entire store. Not only that, but the girls working in the shop were so lovely I could have chatted to them all day. They even brought out a big box of toys and colouring books to keep the kids busy while I tried on clothes. I ended up buying a few items then bolting out of there before my credit card melted.
Stylish Bird boutique offers slightly older, but still very on-trend, styles and at the moment they have some beautiful sweaters, ponchos and throws for the upcoming winter.
The Miners Couch looks a little dated online but inside it’s an absolute heaven of coastal, French-inspired shabby chic, gorgeous ornaments and unique bigger pieces too.
Make It A Home is the perfect spot to kit out your beach house, or grab a few smaller items to take home (to remind you of your coastal holiday). They also stock a small but absolutely gorgeous collection of women’s clothes.
What to do in Moonta
Mining museum and railway
Moonta was one of the country’s most prosperous mining towns in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The train costs $12 for adults and $6 for children (kids under five are free). The train loops around on a 50-minute journey where you’ll learn all about Moonta’s history from its founding through to the end of the mining boom. Really little kids might find this one a bit slow-going, but older kids and adults will find it fascinating. There’s a separate play area with an old train the kids can play on too.
There’s a separate railway museum onsite but with the length of the train ride, this was probably a bit much for our kids.
Moonta Mines image courtesy of Callum Jackson
Fishing is a really popular pastime all over South Australia. Most kids grow up knowing how to fish and loving the experience of casting a reel with mum and dad or nan and pop on the weekends. While the Yorke Peninsula might be a summer playground, its fishing spots are awesome year-round.
Squid is the easiest catch but King George Whiting and Snapper are likely catches too. September to April is Blue Swimmer Crab season so bring the crab pots and rakes and give it a go. Just always be mindful of the Fisheries SA guidelines on the size of your catch – you’ll find signs on every jetty to guide you. Click through to read more on fishing on the Yorke Peninsula.
Right on the foreshore next to the Moonta Bay jetty is Splash Town. This is a fantastic, free water park that features racer slides, a kids slide, mushrooms and tipping buckets. It’s all enclosed with a big fence so it’s nice and safe for the little ones.
Splash Town is open from the last weekend in September to the last weekend in April. In school holidays Splash town is open from 12pm – 6pm daily; during term times it’s open 2pm – 6 pm Wednesday – Sunday.
Splash Town Moonta Bay. Images courtesy of South Australian Tourism Commission.
There are plenty of awesome swimming spots in Moonta and surrounds. The Moonta Bay Jetty is a popular spot and, if you head down the jetty for a bit, there’s a swimming spot enclosed with netting for a bit of added safety. The beach south of the Moonta Bay Jetty (at Possiters Point) is quite rocky, but head a little further south to Sim Cove and you’ll find more sand. A little firther south and you’ll find the silky sand of Port Hughes. The kids absolutely love this stretch of beach in front of the Port Hughes Tourist Park – with its various sand banks there are plenty of spots for the kids to get wet without worrying about them finding themselves out of their depth.
One thing you’ll find no matter which beach you head to, is absolutely crystal clear water. You can often walk along the jetties and spot Blue Swimmer Crabs with ease.
Walk The Yorke
There are plenty of stunning walking trails that criss-cross the Yorke Peninsula. You’ll find plenty of options to choose from, whether you’re looking for a short trail you can walk with the kids to a more challenging hike – or even a cycling trail.
You can find more detailed information on the various options on the Walk The Yorke website.
Kernewek Lowender Cornish Festival
Every two years, Moonta puts on the Kernewek Lowender Cornish Festival: a celebration of Moonta’s Cornish history. This is usually billed as the world’s largest Cornish festival!
If you’re lucky enough to join in (held late May on odd-numbered years) you’ll find traditional Cornish dancing, a street parades, Cornish pastry bake-offs, and all sorts of other entertainment.
Exploring the Copper Coast
Since the towns of Wallaroo and Kadina are only a short drive away, it makes a lot of sense to work them into your itinerary. Some of our favourite spots to eat and fish are in Wallaroo in particular, and Kadina is the biggest town on the Yorke Peninsula so great for procuring supplies.
Read our complete guide to Wallaroo and Kadina for everything you need to know.
Exploring further afield
If you don’t mind a bit of driving, it’s not hard to explore more of the Yorke Peninsula from Moonta. From Moonta, you can get to Ardrossan on the Eastern side of the Peninsula in about 40 minutes.
We went as far south as Warooka on this trip (which is getting quite close to Innes National Park) but didn’t quite make it to Innes this time. It’s definitely doable with some planning, but unfortunately with the size of our group and everyone wanting to do different things, time got away from us.
We did enjoy popping into Watsacowie Microbrewery in Minlaton for a tasting paddle. A live band played while we enjoyed the vibe, and come lunch time kebabs were cooked out the back.
Just outside of Arthurton you’ll find a delightful distillery called Sunny Hill. The farm it sits on has been in the same family for generations, and now they use some of their produce to make vodka and gin. They have a lovely “distillery door” where you can sample and buy.
When to go to Moonta and the Yorke Peninsula
Like I said above, the Yorke Peninsula is your typical summer seaside destination. November to March is when it really comes alive. Easter Weekend is one of the most popular times, where Moonta’s population grows exponentially. The weather is mostly mild, but you can expect temperatures to be a couple of degrees warmer than Adelaide.
In the winter, it does get cold and wet. But being a popular fishing spot, you’ll still find people heading to Yorke’s year-round. And a getaway is just needed sometimes, no matter the weather!
If you’re making the trek from further afield than Adelaide, save it for the summer months.
Where to stay in Moonta and the Copper Coast
This little seaside town is not the place you’ll find a Four Seasons. The vibe is really about renting a holiday home and having your own space, going fishing to catch your dinner getting to know the friendly locals.
Airbnb has some gorgeous places to stay in Moonta, Port Hughes and surrounds, and the pricing is so good – between $90 and $200/night AUD for a whole house. If you’ve never booked through Airbnb before, use this link to get $55AUD off your first reservation. Here is a whole bunch of Airbnbs:
The Port Hughes Tourist Park is super popular and right on the beach at Port Hughes. Check it out here. The Moonta Bay Caravan Park also has some delightful beachfront cabins here.
So there you go, all the key ingredients for a sunny and relaxing family holiday. I highly recommend taking the time to explore the Yorke Peninsula – it really is a bit of a gem.
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This part of SA looks so beautiful. We are planning our Big Lap of Australia in about two years and want to dedicate plenty of time to exploring the Yorke Peninsular.
Wow Suzy! That sounds incredible. I’ll be testing and posting about a few different SA road trips this year so stay tuned x
I love Moonta! Have so many good memories from when I was a kid. As life would have it, I’ve found myself living in the actual Cornwall… when I get home, I’ll have to return and see how it fares!
How lovely is it? That’s the kind of memory I want to build for my kids too. Can’t wait to hear your comparisons!