Lake Hamilton Eating House: Eyre Peninsula region on the West Coast of South Australia
On the Flinders Highway about seventy five kilometres north of Coffin Bay you pass a quaint but rather nondescript little cottage set on the banks of a lake. Nearby the local sheep rummage through the pastures over stony country bounded by dry limestone walls that stand as proof of the tenacity of the early settlers.
The stretch of water is known as Lake Hamilton. It was named after George Hamilton, the Commissioner of Police in South Australia back in 1839 when the legendary Edward John Eyre first set off north to explore the Peninsula which now bears his name.
When he arrived here he described this country as a "succession of low grassy hills, but dreadfully stony". It's not a very flattering description but it didn't stop the first pastoralists from moving in and establishing massive sheep runs and homesteads at what must have seemed like the end of the earth. Bill Nosworthy of Lake Hamilton Station explains:
“It was a very hard life. We can't really visualise the isolation and how hard it was for them.”
In the very early days a handful of sheep stations stretched from where the grand old woolshed and jetty at Mount Dutton Bay now stand all the way west beyond Fowler's Bay to the edge of the Nullabor Cliffs at the Head of the Great Australian Bight. That's a staggering distance of more than 400 kilometres and interspersed along the way were establishments like this one the Lake Hamilton Eating House.
“There was another building over there as well. Effectively this is like the first motel on the route.”
The coaches which took passengers and the mail up and down the West Coast covered about 60 kilometres a day. And every so often passengers were treated to a stop at one of these establishments were they could freshen up and grab a meal. Built in the 1860s the Lake Hamilton Eating House is the last one of its type still standing on the Peninsula. It also played a vital role in early communication.
“The mail used to come through about once a fortnight. It used to arrive in Port Lincoln and it would then take a week to get to Fowlers Bay and about a week to come back.”
And while this was a welcome stop on a very long and hard journey the pioneer cemetery just down the road remains the final resting place for many of the early locals who would have called in here to pick up mail and news from far away places like Port Lincoln and Adelaide.
If you make it over to the West Coast keep an eye out for this poignant reminder of our pioneering past. The Lake Hamilton Eating House is on the Flinders Highway near Sheringa between Coffin Bay and Elliston. If you have any further questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org