Station Museum with the floral display
in the median strip
Large industrial centre on the shores of
Located on the eastern shore of Spencer Gulf 229
km north of Adelaide, Port Pirie economy is
driven by the huge silver, lead and zinc
smelters which process the raw ore brought from
Broken Hill and the large port which provides
transportation for both the metal and rural
industries which dominate the town.
Port Pirie proudly announces itself as 'The
City of Friendly People' although the first
sight one has is not of people but of the huge
oil tanks on the outskirts of town and the grain
silos and the chimney at the smelter. It would
be easy for the traveller to feel that here was
a big smelly industrial city and keep driving
but this would be to miss some fascinating
buildings and a genuinely beautiful and gracious
Prior to European settlement the district was
known as 'tarparrie' (possibly meaning 'muddy
creek') by the local Nuguna Aborigines. The area
was first explored by Matthew Flinders who came
up the Spencer Gulf in 1802. In 1839 Edward Eyre
led an expedition from around Port Augusta north
to Lake Eyre and in 1846 J. A. Horrocks
discovered a pass (Horrocks Pass) through the
Flinders Ranges and down onto the coastal plain.
The muddy creek upon which the town's port
was based was originally known as Samuel's Creek
after its discoverer, Samuel Germein. Around
1845 the schooner John Pirie (it was owned by
John Pirie one of the directors of the South
Australian Company) made its way up the creek
and managed to take on board a flock of sheep
which is transported across Spencer Gulf to near
Port Lincoln. It was as a result of this that
Governor Robe named the site Port Pirie. In 1848
some 85 acres were sold in the area for the
modest sum of £85.
Settlement of the town was slow and it wasn't
until 1871 that the town was surveyed and five
years later it was declared a municipality.
The critical event in the town's history was
the construction of the smelting works in 1889.
This ensured the town's continuing future. It
was greatly compounded by the completion of the
Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd smelting
works in 1915. By 1934 it was the largest
single-unit lead-smelting works in the world.
Around the turn of the century the connection
between Port Pirie and Broken Hill was so strong
that the author Ion Idriess recalls 'lucky
families from the Silver City enjoyed their
Christmas holidays at Port Pirie ... Dad somehow
managed nearly every year to scrape the few
pounds together and send us entranced kids and
harassed Mum by train to the long-dreamed-of
fairy land by the shore of the sea'.
In 1937 the broad gauge railway line to
Adelaide was completed and by 1953 Port Pirie
was declared South Australia's first provincial
city. Today it is South Australia's second
largest port and is characterised by a gracious
main street and some interesting and unusual
Things to see:
Port Pirie Regional Tourism and Arts
Located on the corner of Ellen and Mary Elie
Streets the Port Pirie Regional Tourism and Arts
Centre is an ideal starting point for anyone
wishing to explore Port Pirie and the
surrounding region. It has plenty of tourist
information as well as galleries which have good
examples of local, national and international
art. It is possible to get a Heritage Walk
brochure here which provides a map and
information on the town's major historic sites.
For more information contact (08) 8633 8700.
National Trust Historic and Folk Museum
By any measure this is an extraordinary
building. Located in Ellen Street in a
combination of buildings which include the old
Customs House, the Victorian pavilion-style
railway station and the Old Police Station. It
is a good quality National Trust museum which
interesting displays of local history and
The old Customs House (1882) has been
developed so it looks like a house from around
1900. the old Railway Station (1902) contains a
scale model of Port Pirie's smelters and a
blacksmith's display. And the old Police Station
(1892) has been developed so the south side is a
series of miniature shopfronts.
Located at 32 Florence Street 'Carn Brae' was
built in 1905 for W. H. Moyle who named it after
Castle Carnbrae in Cornwall near where the Moyle
family had lived. It has a number of unusual
features including valuable stained glass
windows and a tall widow's walk dominating the
roof line. It is not open to the public.
looking towards the bulk handling
Located in Norman Street, and with the anchor of
the 'John Pirie' (after which the town was
named) as its centrepiece, the Memorial Park was
dedicated to veterans of recent wars - the
Korean, Malayan, Borneo and Vietnam wars. It is
believed to be the first Memorial Park in
Australia to commemorate those battles.
Located at 134 Ellen Street There is a great
deal of charm about the small Family Hotel
(built in 1904) in the main street. It has some
very attractive with well preserved lace
ironwork on the verandah.
Port Pirie Festival of Country Music
Each September/October Port Pirie is host to one
of Australia's largest and most successful
Country Music Festivals which features both
local and international artists.
Blessing of the Fleet
On the second Sunday in September the statue of
Madonna Dei Martiri is carried to the local
wharves by members of the Italian community and
the town's fishing fleet is blessed.