A giant night-time illuminated canvas of South Australian artists. Tick.
A day-time homage to the Mallee’s rural history. Tick.
A giant Merino Ram. Tick.
And country hospitality that’ll make you want to stay a day or two longer. Tick.
There’s never been a better reason to come for a stay in the South Australian Mallee town of Karoonda. Thousands of people have travelled from the city and nearby towns to check out the new towering painted silo artworks in the main street. However, it’s the visitors who know to stop and stay for the evening’s illuminated show who are getting the most of out of their trip.
Karoonda is the first of its kind in Australia. Not for the brilliant farming-focussed silo mural painted by the much-loved street artist @Heesco (which is equally amazing), but instead for the night-time illuminations that flash up works of art EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK! That’s right, you come for a drive on the weekend, or even a mid-week trip with the family – and you’ll still be able to set up the deckchair and watch the light show that begins every evening from sunset.
The launch of the project back in June 2019 captured national media attention, as colourful artwork which reflected the history of the region was on display across the giant canvas. The local community celebrated with a two-day festival of colour and fun. Since then, Karoonda has welcomed hordes of travellers to check out ‘what’s showing now’ on the silos. During the Christmas break, the creative crew from the local Council even flashed up pages of John Williamson’s famous Christmas in Australia book – a nostalgic tribute for those who remember the bush-style themed illustrations from the ‘Aussie-as’ book, and something completely new for the younger crowd who love discovering icons from the past.
Illuminations coming up during 2020 include exhibitions from 10 x South Australian artists, plus many other special features that will surprise you throughout the year.
This being said, you can understand why spending a night in Karoonda should be on your to-do list this year! But it’s not just the illuminations you’ll want to come and see – there’s a few other little gems and some seriously good country hospitality to take in while you’re here.
Let’s start with the striking painted mural on the silos.
A kelpie sheepdog (named ‘Whiskey’ by the locals) and Merino sheep are a nod to the region’s farming heritage, while the steam train honours its past and the Mallee trees its unique natural environment. Thanks to one of Australia’s leading mural artists @Heesco, the mural is so large, you can spot it from kilometres away as you approach the town from a distance. The rolling hills frame the brightly coloured silos, in a driving view only those authentic country towns can really offer.
A popular stopping point linking the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong tourism regions. Karoonda is enjoying the spotlight as a destination in its own right – thanks to the innovative and colourful new attraction. This giant artwork alone is enough to inspire your day, but with upgrades to Karoonda’s Main Street there are even more reasons to pull up.
Just alongside the silos, the savvy local Council has set up a phone charging and wi-fi station under a seated shelter,just nearby the public loos. Across the road from here, you’ll find the local deli serving up tasty pastries and freshly brewed coffee. The local craft shops are also worth a browse for all your homemade goodies and handcrafted knick-knacks. A short stroll down the main drag and you’ll be welcomed in to the Karoonda Hotel. The quintessential Aussie pub will treat you to a warm and welcoming atmosphere and delicious meals before you settle in to watch the night-time silo show a few metres away.
The evening illuminations make for a great excuse to stay the night and experience some true country hospitality.
The Karoonda Cabin and Caravan Park is centrally located and offers cabins, powered and unpowered campsites, plus the all-important wi-fi hotspot. It’s also just a stone’s throw from the town’s oval and two playgrounds, which makes it an ideal spot for families to pull in during their travels across the State. In other good news, the town is RV Friendly – so if you’re in the big bus or towing the van, you know there’s everything here you need for a good stay.
If you love seeing new things, then you’ll love spending a moment with the town’s famous ‘Big Ram’ – another sight along the main street. Just over 20 years old, the big ram celebrates the significant sheep and wool industries in the region which supports local families and a large portion of town’s economy.
A few strides away from the big Merino is another art installation known as the Karoonda Shuffle Screens. Created by renowned SA artist Garry Duncan, the sculptures portray the rhythm of the grain crops grown in the Mallee and look particularly amazing on sunset or sunrise (if you’re standing in the right spot – just like photographer Dave Hartley was, see image below) – yet another reason for a sleepover in Karoonda!
Next door you’ll find the recently installed, metal art sculpture by Mallee Boy Art. The ‘Where is he?’ art installation is a tribute to the hard-working women of farming communities. The project used a wide variety of farm metal scraps and took a staggering 320 hours and 11kgs of welding wire to construct. You’ll find words hidden amongst the sculpture that the artist created as a visual representation behind his work.
Karoonda’s ‘big windmill’ is another feature worth adding to the list. The giant replica, located along the town’s Centenary Walk is a tribute to the pioneers of Karoonda, and was unveiled in 2011 during the centenary of sinking the town’s first bore. You can follow the remainder of the walk, by downloading the map right here. This will lead you past the town’s Pioneer Park as well, another tribute to the distinctive history of the district.
Did you know Karoonda also had a meteorite fall in the town in 1930!? Crazy right!? Just 3.6 kilometres from the centre of town, it shattered on impact, and the largest piece, weighing in at 3.2kg, is now on display at the local Council office – and there’s a small monument recording the event in the RSL Park in the town’s main street (not far from the big ram!).
There’s a lot to explore in Karoonda, but you’ll need to stay the night to make the most of it. Find out more about the town and everything it has to offer here (and why not come for a trip to one of the most surprising, friendly and unique little country towns in South Australia!).
Here’s a few other things to do on your way to Karoonda…
1. Swing past The Bend Motorsport Park (about 60km south west of the town) and get your adrenalin pumping.
2. Drive through Murray Bridge, cross the historic bridge and spend time at the beautiful Sturt Reserve.
3. If you’re coming from the south west, go via the Coonalpyn Silos for another incredible artscape and taste the famous waffles!
4. From the opposite direction, spend a night or two in Mannum (another RV friendly town) and soak up the paddlesteamer history and riverside culture.