Willunga, an historic township, retains much of the atmosphere of bygone days. It is just 5 kms south of McLaren Vale township and certainly worth a visit. It was established three years after the settlement of South Australia. High Street, the main road through town is lined with lovely heritage turn of the century buildings. There is an abundance of restaurants and cafes, three hotels and interesting galleries and shops. There are numerous historic cottages and buildings around the town marked on a walking trail. Willunga is about 50kms south of the GPO.
On Saturday mornings, the Willunga Farmers' Market (winner of Best Farmers' Market in Australia 2008) is in full swing. It’s well known for the fresh fruits, vegetables and other organic products grown locally. The Willunga Quarry Market is held fortnightly on Saturdays and is noted for all manner of crafts.
One of Willunga’s delights is the park known as the Rose Garden, just 5 minutes walk from the town square. Its interesting format is shaped like a maze with a large scenic pond and there are barbecue facilities with tables and seats and a children’s playground.
The name Willunga is thought to come from the Aboriginal word 'willangga' meaning 'the place of green trees' although some believe it means 'black duck'.
The Hundred of Willunga was surveyed in 1839 and purchased by Edward Moore. The town was surveyed the following year although there was a police station in the district. By 1840 the town's first 'Bush Inn' – a slab hut was built.
Slate The discovery of slate that year by Edward Loud on his property near Willunga put the district on the map. It was an important industry for the new colony and became a valuable export. Loud was able to employ about a dozen families and cottages were built. Soon a second quarry started production.
Slate was used for shingles, flooring, mantle pieces steps, fencing, kerbing, tombstones, blackboards, horse troughs, tanks and many other uses. Four more quarries opened and business was good. Slate was shipped from Port Willunga.
The slate was used used for buildings all over Australia including a cathedral in Perth, Melbourne’s GPO and the Adelaide Town Hall. The Slate Museum showcases the story of the slate mines in the old police station.
Almonds Almond orchards were a major industry for Willunga and although many orchards have given way to vineyards, there are still remant orchards. Almond blossoms signal spring is not far away and the Almond Blossom Festival is celebrated each year.