European settlement

The Kaurna people were the original inhabitants of the eastern shores of Gulf St Vincent. Their territory included fertile plains and rivers and an abundant coast. These same features attracted the first European settlers. Although European explorers, whalers and sealers visited from the early 1800s, it was not until British settlement in 1836 that Europeans moved into the region. An area of surveyed land covering Glenelg to Witton Bluff (Christies Beach) known as District B, was made available for settlement in 1838, with more land surveyed within District C, covering Witton Bluff to Aldinga Bay, made available for settlement one year later.

European settlement brought with it a different relationship to the land than that known by the Kaurna people - the concept of land as property that could be held in individual possession and traded as a commodity.

The earliest European settlers farmed the land as they had done in their homelands. In 1840, the South Australian Company laid out the town of Noarlunga while, in the same year, Edward Moore surveyed the township of Willunga. The district quickly became known as a fine wheat-growing region up until the 1860's with the establishment of many farmsteads. Inland at Clarendon, Coromandel Valley and Kangarilla there was an emphasis on orchards, market gardens and timber production. The concentration of cereal crops to the southwest of the district created a need for flour mills with several townships including Noarlunga, Aldinga and Bellevue (McLaren Vale) containing at least one. The flourishing of the cereal and flour industry of the district throughout the 1850's resulted in the construction of jetties along the coast at Port Willunga and Port Noarlunga to assist in the more rapid transport of goods.

Bad land management practices and over-farming reduced soil quality resulting in poor yields throughout the 1860s. This forced settlers to rethink their farming practices and incorporate mixed farming such as grazing sheep and planting vines and olive trees. Industries such as the booming slate quarrying industry at Willunga brought other sources of income. The wine industry in particular came to the fore with wineries at Clarendon, Morphett Vale, Reynella, Happy Valley and McLaren Vale producing and exporting wine. By 1890, the region was known for its fine wine, profitable farms, inns and holiday houses.

By the early twentieth century the district's wine making, natural beauty and magnificent beaches enticed holiday makers from Adelaide. Coastal townships of Port Noarlunga, Moana, Port Willunga, Sellicks Beach and Aldinga became popular tourist towns with tourism becoming a seasonal support for these communities.

Throughout the 1950s to 1970's the urbanisation of the district began with the establishment of the Lonsdale industrial area and residential subdivisions at Christies Beach, Morphett Vale and Hackham. Throughout the 1980's and early 1990's residential subdivision continued into the foothill areas of O'Halloran Hill, Happy Valley, Flagstaff Hill and Woodcroft.

With slower population growth and Government policy now aimed at limiting urban expansion and protecting prime agricultural land, the rate of urban expansion is declining.

For a more detailed examination of the history of the land, people and buildings within the City of Onkaparinga, please visit the following links:










Built heritage - High Street, Willunga




Built heritage - Moana beach 1920s



Built heritage - aerial - Morphett Vale 1961