Innamincka is a small town with big dreams but with a deep dark history and has been enduring 90-year decline. Although from the air it looks like there's nothing there but around 25 blocks, the true Innamincka is silently sitting in the vast Strzelecki/Outback region of South Australia with only a population of only 15 people. Its unaffected pastoral feel makes a comfortable base from which to explore the majestic natural landscape, parts of which you can be sure no other non-indigenous Aussie has ever set foot on.
Innamincka is one of the few Aboriginal communities in Australia; home to Yawarrawarrka and the Yandruwandha people. It is sometimes also referred to as "a ghost city" due to the abandonment which occurred in the 1950s due to severe drought and poor access to the town.
Looking at any street of Innamincka; it looks like just a bunch of blocks with no civilisation anywhere in sight. Just lakes and outback in every single direction you look at.
Although the town has only 15 people, that doesn't mean nothing exists. In fact, it's one of the more unique Aussie Outback towns. One of two places in the entire nation to have airboats, along with Kakadu National Park but a place where you can peacefully airboat with no salties around.
Innamincka has been traditionally inhabited by the Yawarrawarrka and the Yandruwandha people and still is today. When the first European, Charles Sturt, visited it in 1845, he called it Hopetoun after the governor of Victoria and Earl of Hopetoun, but neither name stuck.
In 1882 a police camp was set up that allowed a small settlement to develop. Commencing 7 April 1889, a Royal Mail coach ran fortnightly from Farina, operated by merchants Davey and Pilkington. Innamincka was proclaimed as a town on 17 April 1890.
In the late 1960s, increased tourism and discovery of gas and oil reserves led to the formation of Cooper Creek Hotel Motel Pty Ltd, which opened a hotel and a store in the abandoned town (the store has since closed).
In 1994 the Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home was restored and was used as an interpretive centre for South Australian Parks and Wildlife. The nursing home was listed on the South Australian Heritage Register in July 1985.
Between 2016 and 2021, the town's permanent population decreased from 44 to about 15.
The town common, on the banks of the Cooper, is popular with campers, as is the town's public coin-in-slot toilet and shower facility.
Visitor information centre
Although Innamincka has no visitor centre, there is a visitor centre in the relatively nearby town of Birdsville, 550 km away in Queensland.
Innamincka can be accessed from Lyndhurst, a town 465 km away via the D96 Strzelecki Track. It can also be accessed via the 283-km Adventure Way/Innamincka Rd from Julie Kate's corner near Nockatunga, which is 326 km away from Cunnamulla so in total Innamincka is 612 km away from Cunnamulla. If you want to minimise your use of unpaved roads, coming from Tibooburra would be your best option.
There are no commercial flights into 1 Innamincka Airport (INM IATA). . However, on rare occasions, chartered flights like Air Central West or Outback Spirit Tours land there as part of outback tours in the region. The same applies for 2 Innamincka Township Airport. , Innamincka's second airport.
Car is by far the best way to travel, especially in summer. Most of the roads in Innamincka are paved however, there are no paved roads to Innamincka. There is also no car hire in Innamincka so the only way to drive is by bringing your car into Innamincka via the Strzelecki Track or Adventure Way. There is a car hire at the 2 Budget Car & Truck Rental Moomba, Cooper Basin Fuel Company, Bonython Rd, Gidgealpa, South Australia, ☏ . , a 155-km drive away.
- 3 IOR Petroleum, Innamincka Earthmoving Depot, ☏ 1300 457 467 (local rate).
Walking is also a great option and the quickest point from end to end is 1.5 km long. However, if you choose to walk, it is usually under the circumstance that you came on a chartered flight; otherwise, you'll be stranded in Innamincka for about a week. If you choose to walk in the summer months, it can get up to 55˚C. Drink sufficient water and always carry water with you.
Many visitors will wonder how much there is to see in a town this small. The answer is — it depends on your interest. Aside from a few man made attractions, the rest are all natural. But why would you travel this far to such an isolated place to see the outback that you can see in any other outback town? Innamincka's real draw is the undulating tangle of rivers, valleys, waterholes, flood plains and gorges scattered in the surrounding landscape that stretches out for many hundreds of kilometres uninterrupted by anything boxy.
- 1 Innamincka Town Sunset Lookout (although there is no address, it can be found when going about 1 km northeast of the town using Browne Street).
- 2 Innamincka Station, Innamincka Station Road (use Innamincka Station Road, an unpaved track). One of the most driest cattle farms anywhere in Australia, and it's no surprise why.
- 3 Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home, Strezlecki Track, Park Headquarters. Once a nursing home, then an interpretive centre for South Australian Parks and Wildlife. Now listed on the South Australian Heritage Register.
- 4 Queerbidie Waterhole, Queerbidie Waterhole. One of two significant waterholes in the area.
- 5 Coongie Lakes, Coongie Road (do not use the coordinates here; follow local signs as weather may affect the road to get to Coongie Lakes). One of South Australia’s most stunning natural attractions, the 1.9-million-ha lake features some of the most diverse features anywhere. One of the best spots for camping, photography, canoeing, bushwalking and uncovering more and more evidence of Aboriginal occupation in the region.
- 1 Starlight Cinema, LOT 1 South Terrace, ☏ . Like the outback? Like the movies? Like astrography? Starlight Cinema is a small cinema run by the Innamincka Hotel, right in the heart of Australia. And what's better than watching an Aussie movie under the stars in the heart of Australia. Oh, and don't like watching the ads at the start, well why not have a game of 18-hole golf?
- 2 Cooper Creek Tours, LOT 1 South Terrace (the coordinates aren't correct; to go, go to LOT 1 South Terrace and you will be directed to your tour guide), ☏ .
- 3 Cooper Creek Crossing, Cordillo Downs Rd. Try crossing Australia's second longest inland river; the only problem is that the river has to be in a good mood for you to cross.
- 4 Innamincka Golf Course, LOT 1 South Terrace (enter the Innamincka Hotel and you'll be guided from there; the golf course is across South Terrace but only some courses are), ☏ . Welcome to Australia's most remotest golf course. Unlike Coober Pedy, the grass is green, despite being so far inland into the outback. The 18-hole golf course is free, and can be played by anyone who chooses to stay in Innamincka Hotel. Free under certain conditions.
As of March 2021, there are only two servos in Innamincka, and they are the only shops in the town. If you have travelled by car, it is essential that you fuel up your vehicle as the closest fuel stop after Innamincka is 465 km away.
- 1 Ampol, LOT 2 South Terrace, ☏ .
Are you a fussy eater or flexible eater? Well, Innamincka has only one restaurant/bar, so you have no choice unless you're happy with snacks from Ampol. Marrying the best of a traditional outback pub with all the conveniences of a modern city hotel, the Innamincka Hotel provides outback travellers with contemporary dining and very friendly service, even for the fussy eaters.
- 1 Innamincka Hotel, LOT 1 South Terrace, ☏ , email@example.com. The one and only restaurant and bar in the entire region. Although with a traditional looks and the conveniences of a modern restaurant, there's nothing better that you could ask for.
- 2 Ampol, LOT 2 South Terrace, ☏ . For quick snacks and an energy drink or two.
- 1 Birdsville Hotel, Adelaide St, Birdsville, Queensland. Another classic 1800s style pub but in Birdsville. Commonly used by travellers going back up to Queensland or the Northern Territory and for the truckies that use National Route 83.
- 2 Innamincka Hotel, LOT 1 South Terrace, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. The only bar in Innamincka; again run by the Innamincka Hotel.
There are three places to stay in Innamincka. Two are motels/hotels, and the other is a camping spot.
- 1 Cooper creek home stay, 173 Stuart St, ☏ . In the late 1960s, increased tourism and discovery of gas and oil reserves led to the opening of this hotel and to this day, it's still standing.
- 2 Innamincka Hotel, LOT 1 South Terrace, ☏ . Innamincka Hotel is the most popular place to stay. As there are no restaurants outside this hotel, it's best to stay in this hotel.
- 3 Innaminka Town Common, Old Strzelecki Track. The one and only camping site to have toilets.
Innamincka is mostly covered by 4G on Telstra with a 7-km radius. No other provider has any coverage in Innamincka. However, if you choose to drive, no provider has coverage in those areas. Carry a satellite phone with you if you're driving to Innamincka, which is almost your only option.
If you ever have any health issues on this island, the RFDS would probably come and take you to either Broken Hill, Adelaide, Port Augusta or Longreach.