Brisbane, QLD

Monday, January 30, 2012


The Visitor Centre
After stopping at Peterborough and Terowie we finally arrived at the town of Burra for our overnight stop on our tour of South Australia with friends. We wanted to stop here because on our last tour by bus through here we only stopped for 30 mins and we were disappointed as it is a very historical town and still alive with about 1,200 residents.
Burra became famous when shepherd Thomas Pickett found copper in 1845. By 1850 Burra had one of the worlds biggest copper mines and saved South Australia from bankruptcy. The mine closed in 1877 but was reopened in 1971 to 1981.

The main street in Burra

Burra is now a State Heritage Area and boasts a big collection of buildings from the 1850's which have not been radically changed. 

Most country towns have an old rotunda.

It so happens that I have an old friend living in Burra. Val and I used to room together when we attended teacher's college (ASOPA) in Sydney. She is also a friend of my avid reader, Colin. They taught in the same village in New Guinea. She owns and lives in this very old hotel called "The Smelters Home" built in 1849. It has 17 bedrooms and was used by travelling sales men to display their wares to retailers.

It is the oldest hotel in Australia with the original floor plan. It is like stepping back into the mid 19th century when you enter this building. Unfortunately, Val is not well enough to continue refurbishments.

We visited the old Burra Burra Copper mine, which started as an underground mine in 1845 but in 1870 it became one of the first open cut mines in Australia. It is full of water now and musical concerts are held by the side of the lake.

Overlooking the old mine.
Besides tourism, Burra is a farming and grazing centre. The surrounding country was cleared of trees to feed the huge smelter during the mining era. 

The rapid development of the mine in 1847 led to a housing shortage for mining families. So the miners excavated dugouts in the steep banks of the creek. They stretched for 3 miles along the creek, housing 1800 people. One third of them children. Due to poor sanitation, disease and floods, they were forced to move into company supplied housing in 1870. There are only a few dugouts left today.

Ouch! They had low roofs. Even though we paid for a key at  the visitor centre, it only allowed us into the property but would not let us go deep into the dugouts as George discovered here.

Ann checks out an upmarket dugout.
It was reported that some had one room and others more. Some had carpets inside and whitewash outside. They had chimneys coming out of the top of the creek bank and some had a porch. They were cool in summer and well protected in winter.

There were many more interesting places to visit but our day was coming to an end and we were heading off to Hahndorf for our next sleep.


  1. Goodness - first in again. My great perception of a Diane blog!

    That pit as shown photo #6 is used for the training of submariners and underwater explorers - they come from all over the World for this training. Amazing when you think of it.
    The town "rotunda" is where the local musical and band society plays on festival days.
    They are EXCELLENT - ragtime, charleston, jazz and excerps from musicals (The King and I, Westside Story etc) are played with great enthusiasm! Tourists and visitors on my last visit there were dancing and singing in the street. Anyone here in Australia who wants a country "shin-dig" should check when the annual Burra Antique Fair and Festival is on. The town is amass with visitors and it is only a two hour drive from Adelaide. Accommodation in Burra would have to be booked probably years in advance!
    Great post Diane and NO Purple paddocks ( thank God) or other pictures except I think Ann's hat!
    I forgive you Ann - beautiful on your head - ha ha!
    Colin (HB)

  2. That's my special 'Annoy Colin' hat. You like yellow, I LOVE lilac.

  3. Ah my dear Ann
    Yes Lilac is a pretty colour, and it suits you and I think your hat is smart and sensible - wide cowboy brimmed for sunshade.
    Actually I really like RED or Light Sky Blue far better, rather than the "Yellow Mellow" stuff!

    Here: For interested persons on Burra.,_South_Australia

    Burra sure has a history!
    Unfortunately and this is only my view/opinion, the South Australian Government is sitting on an area as has been brilliantly displayed by Diane (Port Augusta, through the Clare Valley and then to the Barossa Valley, yet to come) and really hasn't done or assisted in promotion! The area is full of surprises - even Ghost Towns like "Terowie". "Terowie" and where General Douglas MacArthur after the flight from the Phillipines in WW2,announced "I shall return", somewhere in this area should be promoted!
    Sign posts and KLMS distances are few and far between???? You do, as a tourist, need a GPS tracker in SA!
    Well I will now get off my soapbox and let others decide.
    Colin (HB)

    Ps: Get Diane and Bill to organise another visit to that delightful Swiss Restaurant in Michleton - OK?
    I might even wear PURPLE - the colour of the Cardinals and the Emperors of Imperial Rome. But not the colour for pastoral land!

  4. Every time I come to visit your blog I am in awe of how beautiful your country is.
    Thank you for showing us around.

  5. Great to visit this place again with you. I didn't see all of the mining stuff so very interesting. Living in that hotel also sounds terrific but renovations are not fun at any age I reckon.

  6. Among the many country towns I have learnt about from you and Red Nomad, this one stands out above the rest.

  7. OMW Diane, the photos of the town, Burra could be taken in any Karoo town in South Africa. (Have I said this before!LOL!) I loved the old open pit mines and that they use them for musical concerts nowadays. I'm so glad you saw your friend again this time. Fascinating the old hotel she owns.Thanks for a wonderful tour around your country. Greetings, Jo

  8. i really like the smelters home and those are great photos of it. a beautiful place to live or visit.

  9. That's really a very interesting tour ! The architecture in the South is so very English only more colorful ! Must have been a hard life to work in those copper mines !

  10. It is so fun getting to travel with you!

  11. A fun filled visit indeed! I love the house and we'd enjoy the mines tour. (

  12. The copper mine is very nice. Australia has a lot to offer.


  13. Thanks again for some great armchair travel. I really enjoy your blog, Diane.

    I was in Burra once, when Adam was a pup. Of the two things I remember the most significant was that it took me 5 tries to find the road which would take me to Adelaide. [I'm sure the signs have improved since then.]
    So this visit to your blog has been extra rewarding.

  14. Oh dear, what a trip you're making...
    Great to see the country through your lens...

  15. What a lovely little town. Your friend's hotel is a lovely quaint abode.
    The dugouts are amazing. I'm not sure I'd want to live in one but I see that they had to do with what they had.
    We call your rotunda's gazebos. They are usually situated in the 'town square' and often as Colin suggests a place for music to take place. The one in your photo seems pretty ornate for the rest of the surrounding buildings.
    Another wonderful day spent Diane. Thanks for letting us tag along.

  16. No, FruitCake, I must tell you that the South Australian road signage is still as bad as it was when Adam was a pup. We had a job finding the road to Birdwood to see the Motor Museum.

  17. Burrs looks like a fascinating place. It's not often that a town 'dies' and then comes back to life for a few years. The dugouts are very interesting. What a way to live.

    Many towns in our Midwest from this era have bandstands in public areas similar to the one you showed. I would love to. Isit that hotel.

  18. Hear hear Bill (Wilbo43).
    FruitCake - the signage couldn't be worse???? - But it has not got any better than when Adam was a "pup"!
    The number of cars with Interstate number plates I saw when I was visiting Val (Burra) on our many trips around that area which were stopped on the roadside with the occupants analysising road maps on the bonnets was amazing - LOST!
    It becomes more so due to the many off roads in that area. Even Val got "lost" twice going and coming from one particular town in the Clare area, where Bill and Diane stayed on one of their "vineyard" tours, we arrived in this township one way and I was shown the
    motel/resort, we surprisingly came out past it again when we were supposed to be going in another direction. Talk about going around in "Ever Widening Circles"!!!
    That was just one incident - many times I saw the same homesteads and cattle or sheep TWICE when we were only supposed to go past once!
    And Val lives in the area!!! So what hope do tourists have unless they have a GPS thingy attached?
    My theory is that SA wants to confuse people so much that they will decide to stay and buy those abandoned homes in the many Ghost Towns like "Terowie"??? The houses would be cheaper to buy than the petrol/gas!
    Colin (HB)

  19. Wilbo don't think you should have used the Royal "WE" in your comment - perhaps "I" may have been more appropriate! Just jokin'

  20. Yes it's full of history Diane and you have captured the essence of the place beautifully ..... Wonderful photography..Bravo!

  21. Yet another lovely bit of arm-chair traveling for me Diane. thanks for this great tour, beautiful photos!

  22. WOW! These are such lovely photos, Diane! What a beautiful town. I would love to visit South Australia. There is so much history.

  23. So interesting; it looks a very attractive old town. What an amazing home your friend lives in, but quite a responsibility to have a place that big.

  24. Hi Diane, Burra is a lovely town. I like the rotunda or gazebo, it is colorful. The mine area is pretty, I can see why they would have concerts by the lake. Wonderful tour and photos.

  25. These buildings look a lot like ones in my town... same time frame. No dugouts here that I know of, but lots of mines. Love your photos and writing. Love the hotel... glad you got to visit with your friend.

  26. I like such places like Copper mine where lived and worked poeple for a long time ago.
    Have you seen the green stones (last picture)?
    An interesting post, Thanks.

  27. What a wonderful old stone hotel! You have shared so many interesting examples of colonial architecture on this trip.
    The men digging into the side of the creek bed reminded me of KS pioneers who built sod houses into a small rise. Or the Ingalls family living in a dugout in 'On the Banks of Plum Creek' . People had to be resourceful to provide shelters for themselves back then.

  28. Spouse and I are always driving around 19th century towns in Victoria South Australia and NSW, so Burra is a town I will have to add to the list. The stone work in the buildings looks soft and beautiful - is it sandstone?

    I have added a link to your post because I have photos of many Federation bandstands, but Burra's looks special. Many thanks