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Copley - Cities, Towns and Localities

A town with an identity crisis, Copley appears on some maps but not on others, vying as it does with nearby Leigh Creek mining town for a spot on the map.

Another ‘Ghan Railway town which seriously declined after the closure of the railway, it clings defiantly to the past, effectively eviscerated by the railway which bisects the town and carries one train per day en route to and from the Leigh Creek coal mine.

The main action takes place on the western side in the main street, Railway Terrace West. At the south end of Railway Terrace, Copley’s friendly caravan park offers four star cabins as well as camping sites, excellent facilities and a nightly bonfire for visitors. Up the road the inexplicably named Leigh Creek Hotel – the town’s pub - provides meals, an ATM and accommodation if only you could find your way into the place.

Packsaddle General Store has Post Office services and most other basic necessities including fuel.

There’s an excellent garage and RAA repair and rescue service in the town. Cooke’s Outback Motors is run by a quirky old African hand with an eye-glazing repertoire of stories and a collection of mysterious and erotic wood carvings for sale. Don’t offer to help with repairs incidentally.

The beating heart of the town is the Quandong Café, decked out in ocean blue at the north end of the street and selling ruinously fattening but irresistible cakes and pies. The Copley pasty and the allegedly aphrodisiac quandong pies and quandong cheesecake are legends at the campfires of grey nomads. With a proprietor reminiscent of a female Basil Fawlty, the café is a mecca for visiting oddballs, activists, artists and backpackers and has the friendly high-energy feel of a Now-age hippie oasis.

Enquire here too for guided trail rides with Boundary Riders. Situated at Angepena Station, 50 km east on the Arkaroola Road, local bush legend and horse whisperer Bob Dillon takes visitors along the spectacular Frome Creek in the Gammon Ranges. Ask about the family of dingoes which adopted him during his time up on the Strzelecki Track, about his work on banding raptors and monitoring yellow footed rock wallabies.

Next door is the Copley Art Space or Copley Space Art. Depending upon which reality you are standing in at the time, it may or may not house an exhibition of local art and craft.

Just across the road is Kelvin’s food stop caravan selling good, plain roadhouse fare. When the Quandong Café closes, it’s a signal for Kelvin to fire up the chipper and put out his shingle. A truckie’s mecca, it’s the only late night tucker stop between Momba and Port Augusta.

At the northern corner of the main street is the biggest eyesore in South Australia, the famous Agnew Spread and scrap yard owned by town patriarch Tom Agnew. Enter at your peril and don’t expect to buy anything. Worth a passing look, it’s a good example of why a town needs a Municipal Council. With no powers to order a cleanup, Copley is run by a Progress Association in collaboration with the Aroona Council, comprising representatives of the local Adnymathanha Aboriginal people, “The People of the Stones”.

On the eastern side of the railway call in on Railway Terrace at Rick’s Place, housing a B&B in an old railway carriage and the former Smithy and Wheelwright’s workshop in a surprisingly original state, sepia dust included. Further north along the road is the Overland Telegraph art and craft shop.

The entire town has a surreal energy and a strange attractor factor which draws people in. Boasting three churches, Copley is also home to a surprising number of practising shamans. One such is Yankuntjatjara Adnyamathanha… Senior Man Ken McKenzie, a Christian Bushman and artist who often frequents the Quandong Café and is warmly generous with his traditional stories, songs and laughter. A charming little town despite its wallflower appearance, somehow you just don’t want to leave.

Check out the rogue’s gallery on the town website:

How to get there?
Gulf Getaways in Port Augusta operate a weekly bus service to Copley. Otherwise by car, your own private jet to the Leigh Creek airstrip or hitch-hike.

As the great British comedian Peter Sellers once said “it’s a difficult place to get into, and even more difficult to get out of”.

by Luigi Mole

Ideally situated midway between Adelaide and many of the popular Outback destinations such as Birdsville, Coober Pedy, Innamincka, Leigh Creek, Oodnadatta and Roxby Downs. It is also a great place from which to visit the magnificent northern Flinders and Gammon Ranges National Parks, Arkaroola, Lake Eyre and Marree.

Information to the area can be had from the visitor booth picnic area, Copley Cabin and Caravan Park and the Quandong Café & Bush Bakery. Check out our listing of Copley accommodation, Flinders Ranges accommodation and other Outback accommodation.

Information Centre icon

Copley Cabin and Caravan Park
Ph/Fax: 08 8675 2288

Quandong Café & Bush Bakery
Ph/Fax: +61 8 8675 2683

GPS (Copley): S 30º 33.508’ E 138º 25.170’


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