When considering a visit to a national park, walking through a ghost town is not usually the first thing that comes to mind.
Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park is home to the historic village of Inneston. Since the early 1900s, Inneston has been many things: a small settlement, a thriving company town supporting nearly 200 people, a ghost town of ruins, a national park walking trail, and holiday accommodation.
The town of Inneston began as a small settlement when William Robert Innes’ company began mining gypsum near Inneston Lake. Gypsum, which is used to make plaster and chalk, was in demand in the early 1900s for building construction. Originally, it was mined at the site and shipped to Melbourne.
As mining operations grew, they began processing gypsum at Inneston and the town grew to support it. By the 1920s, the town’s population reached its peak. There were 36 dwellings built for the approximately 100 men, 30 women and their families that lived and worked at Inneston.
Despite the growing population, the closest towns were a full day’s travel away by horse, so the town had to be self-sufficient. In addition to the facilities built to support the mining activities, the town had a public hall (which doubled as the school), bakery, bank, post office, cricket pitch and tennis court.
Like many company towns, Inneston’s fate was linked its industry. During the Great Depression, the on-site plaster factory was forced to close and the town slowly died.
The people left but buildings remained. Today Inneston is a ghost town and the only surviving example of an early 20th century gypsum mining complex. Without the park signage, the village would be hard to find. It is tucked 500m off the national park’s road, half-way between Marion Bay and Brown’s Beach.
The Inneston Historic Walk is a 2km loop through the town’s ruins with interpretive signs telling the story of the community and the mining operations. The post office still stands, the bakery’s walls and oven are still intact, and the tennis court boundaries are still clear.
The other way to see Inneston is to stay there. Several of the buildings have been restored and can be rented out for short-term, self-contained accommodation within Innes national park; a good option for anyone who wants to stay at the park but doesn’t want to camp.
Despite the impressive remains and renovated buildings, nature surrounds the town and has slowly reclaimed parts of it. Western Grey Kangaroos and Tammar Wallabies live near the town, replacing the people and horses that once lived there. Meanwhile, grass and bushes grow through the rusted hulls of mining machinery.
Luckily for history buffs, Inneston will stay preserved as part of the Innes National Park, just like the native flora and fauna that have reclaimed the area.
Other posts in the Innes National Park Series:
Innes is located on the south-western tip – or toe – of Yorke Peninsula. It is about 300km, or a three-hour drive, from the City of Adelaide.
Driving is really the only way to get to Innes.
From Adelaide, head north towards Port Wakefield via the Northern Connector (M2) and the Port Wakefield Highway (A1). Keep left past Port Wakefield to take the Copper Coast Highway (B85) for a few kilometres before turning left at the roundabout onto the Yorke Highway (B86).
Continue to follow the Yorke Highway as it heads inland after James Well. Pass through Minlaton and Warooka, following the signs to Marion Bay.
Alternatively, follow the east coast of the peninsula for a bit longer, staying left after James Well to take the St Vincent Highway (B88). After Stansbury, follow the signs to Yorketown then head towards Warooka and Marion Bay.
After Marion Bay, the Yorke Highway heads straight into the national park.
There are plenty of excellent small towns on the Yorke Peninsula. However, even if you plan to head straight to Innes, with a three-hour drive you are probably still going to need to stop for fuel, food or the bathroom.
- Port Wakefield: A popular spot to stop, it gets very busy on a long weekend as it is the jumping off point for several destinations. Port Wakefield has several petrol stations and a few bakeries. Follow the long lines for the good ones.
- Ardrossan: Has a good bakery and a Foodland.
- Minlaton: Home to Watsacowie Brewing Company
- Port Vincent: Has a good fish and chips shop on the coast and a small IGA for essentials.
- Marion Bay: The last fuel stop before the park. There is also a pub.
Opening Hours and Fees
The park is open daily, except on Catastrophic Fire Danger days. It may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.
The Visitor Information Centre is open daily from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Vehicle entry fees apply per day.
Regular: $11 per vehicle
Concession: $9 per vehicle
Campers only need to pay the entry fee once for the duration of their stay.
Food & Beverage
There are picnic areas and BBQ facilities available. However, as a national park, visitors to Innes should leave no trace. There is no water or food available to purchase in the park, and there are no bins – visitors are expected to take their rubbish with them.
Innes is quite remote. Mobile phone coverage gets spotty in areas.