Major port and centre at the top of Spencer Gulf.
There is no other town in Australia quite like Port Augusta for contrasts. Arrive in spring and the journey over the mountains from Wilminton is a magical experience. The car cuts through Horrocks Pass down onto the seaside plains near Port Augusta. To the west lie the beautifully contoured, undulating slopes of the Flinders Ranges. They are magical in their beauty and, in spring, they are impossibly green and fertile. At sunset they are gently coloured with a purplish hue. Yet this is only one angle on Port Augusta. The town is literally on the edge of the desert. Drive north along the Stuart Highway and only a few kilometres to the north, the edge of town gives way to flat scrubby land which stretches to the horizon. To the west lie five huge plateaux and their are dry salt lakes beside the road.
Port Augusta is located 322 km north of Adelaide and is a genuine crossroads with roads heading north to Alice Springs and Darwin, west to the Nullarbor and the Eyre Peninsula and east to Adelaide.
The area was probably inhabited by either the Banggarla or Nuguna Aborigines prior to European settlement. 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 harbour was located on 24 May 1852 by Alexander Elder and John Grainger who named it Port Augusta after Lady Augusta Sophia Young, the wife of the then Governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Edward Fox Young. Two years later land around the port was being sold for £100 an acre.
Because of its strategic location at the head of the Gulf, Port Augusta quickly grew into a major service centre. By 1854 the first wool had been shipped through the port and by the 1860s it was a vital transport node with its own troopers barracks and brewery. In 1860 10,000 bales of wool were despatched from the port. The Town Hall was completed in 1866 and the first consignment of camels arrived from India. The Greenbush gaol was completed three years later and in 1872 the Overland Telegraph Line linking South Australia with Port Darwin and the rest of the world was opened.
For the next century Port Augusta was primarily a port shipping the wool and wheat from the surrounding area. This activity continued until 1973 when the port ceased to operate.
The town was officially proclaimed in 1875 and the railway from Adelaide arrived in 1882.
The first power station was opened in 1954 and was supplied with coal from Leigh Creek. This became the basis of an expansion which saw Port Augusta become a city in 1963.
Today the city's power generation lies at the heart of its prosperity. Port Augusta is a prosperous and interesting rural centre which is home to an excellent tourist information office which provides lots of valuable information for people planning to travel across the Nullarbor or north through the Northern Territory.