Whyalla is a city on northeastern Eyre Peninsula, which was developed around the steelworks, port and nearby iron ore deposits in the early 20th century. Today it is a modern and vibrant country town, with good weather, beaches, fishing and boating, and is the third largest city by population in South Australia.
Hummock Hill, the hill adjacent to the current town centre, was named by Matthew Flinders in 1802, during his voyage in the Investigator. The first population came to develop the nearby iron ore deposits in 1900 and developed into a small town soon after.
With the establishment of the steelworks in Newcastle Whyalla developed into a major port for iron ore shipments to the east, and in the 1950s a steelworks opened in the town. BHP started operating dual steel works in Newcastle and Whyalla, shipping coal from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales to Whyalla and returning the ships laden with iron ore to Newcastle.
The town also has a history of shipbuilding, and the naval ship Whyalla, now on display at the museum, was constructed in the town.
Whyalla is about 1 hour drive south of Port Augusta. The road is sealed, well travelled and maintained.
- Regional Express (REX) operates at least twice daily flights to Whyalla from Adelaide. Car hire (Avis, Budget, Hertz) is available in the terminal. The airport terminal is located at the southern entrance to the city, about 6km from the city centre, and about 3km from Westgate.
There is a local bus service, operating three bus routes. All three operate between Westlands shopping centre and the city centre every hour during the day on weekdays, offering a reasonably frequent service for this trip. Anywhere else will require a taxi, which are available on the national 131 008 number.
The foreshore, marina, city centre, and Hummock Hill are within reasonable walking distance of each other.
Whyalla is the ideal size to traverse by bicycle, there are cycle facilities out to the museum, and the city roads are wide and flat. There are no bicycle hire facilities in the city.
- Hummock Hill Lookout. You can drive or walk to the top. There are covered picnic facilities and lookouts when you get there.
- Dolphins. Dolphins often follow the boats back into the marina in the afternoon, and come right up to the boat ramp.
- Museum. Located at the visitors information centre, the museum includes the navy ship Whyalla. You need to join a guided tour to see the ship.
- Swimming. There are three main choices of swimming locations in Whyalla. The main town beach is has long stretches of white sand and warm water, and is very much affected by the tide, with sandbars up to a kilometre out to sea at low tide. The protection of the gulf means there is no significant surf. The marina has a swimming enclosure with a pontoon, with deep water, but no beach to speak of. North of the marina is a beach often preferred by locals. It isn't as aesthetically pleasing as the other swimming spots, but it has a sharper drop off, so if wading through knee deep water isn't your thing, this may be a better choice.
- Steelworks Tours. Tours of the OneSteel steelworks are conducted at 9:30am several times a week. Check times and book at the Visitors Information Centre
- Iron Knob. The original ore deposit that created Whyalla is visible on your right as you drive the Lincoln Highway down from Port Augusta. It is a short drive from Whyalla, and you can do tours of the mining site for a small fee. There is a small community and a park out at the town or Iron Knob, that are worth a visit if you are heading out that way. The landscape is quite harsh and desolate, but if you are making the drive on the Lincoln Highway, it isn't that different to what you will see from the road.
- Fish. Fishing charters are available, or you can fish off the pier by the marina. Whyalla is known for its snapper fishery.
Whyalla has an unusual scattering of shops for a city of its size.
Westlands Shopping Centre is a modern shopping mall, around 4km west form the city centre. It has chain stores and supermarkets. The city centre has a strip of shops, but perhaps less than you would expect in a city of its size, and no large stores except for a Harvey Norman furniture/electrical. There is also a small group of shops on Playford Avenue (Lincoln Highway), and several other small clusters in other parts of the city.
The town centre of Whyalla is not a restaurant or cafe precinct. After the shops shut at 5pm the town centre will be totally deserted. Restaurants, clubs and pubs are distributed around the city, and it is best to do some research before you set out. There is not a huge selection of restaurants, and pubs may end up being your best choice for dinner out.
There is a cafe on the town beach, open daily until 6pm. There is fast food and roadhouses on the Lincoln Highway.
There are four hotels in Whyalla with bars. The Spencer Hotel is located in the city center. The Playford Hotel is located on Playford Avenue. The Westlands Hotel is located behind Westlands Shopping Center on McDouall-Stuart Avenue. The Sundowner Hotel is located on the Lincoln Highway.
- Playford Lodge, 55 Rudall Ave Whyalla Playford, ☎ . Two 3 bedroom short term A/C holiday rental villas for up to 5 people, with appliances, a separate spacious living area, modern bathroom, shower and laundry. All linen, crockery and utensils are supplied.
- Sundowner Hotel. 37 newly renovated ground floor A/C motel units, separate from the main hotel with extra parking for boat, trailer or caravans. King sized bed, some with large sized singles as well. A/C, LCD TV in each unit with free AUSTAR, telephone and internet access, tea/coffee making facilities, refrigerator and mini bar. All motel units are non-smoking indoors and some units have a small courtyard.
- Point Lowly, north of Whyalla, about 30 km from the main road. A lighthouse, and the spawning place of the cuttlefish in winter. A nice, shallow scuba diving spot, but there are no dive shops near by, so you'll have to bring your own gear.