A weekend in Steamtown – Peterborough
Located in the beautiful Southern Flinders Ranges, approximately 2.5 hours’ drive from Adelaide, is the historic railway town of Peterborough.
by Katrina Gogel
Train buffs big and small will particularly enjoy visiting here. Peterborough (formerly known as Petersburg) is a country town full of beautiful old buildings and is well-known for its preserved South Australian railway history. Visitors can relive the glory days of steam by spending time enjoying one (or all!) of the many attractions and experiences on offer in town.
We took our young boys for a family weekend getaway recently, and our stay was loved by all. Master four (a little steam train enthusiast) especially liked it, declaring it the ‘best weekend ever’. Here’s what we checked out during our visit, and what made it one to remember.
Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre
The main draw card to Peterborough is without a doubt Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre. Housed in the original railway depot and workshops, Steamtown offers visitors daily guided tours of the historic railway precinct, as well as a fantastic Light and Sound show that runs every evening. Both the day tour and night show are kid-friendly, so we went along to experience them both with our boys. They loved being able to hop aboard all of the restored locomotives and carriages during the day, and by night were in awe of the heritage listed roundhouse that comes to life with colourful lights, steam and sound- which we viewed from the comfort of an old train carriage.
While we all enjoyed our Steamtown experiences (the boys can’t wait to go again!) some young ones may find the Sound and Light show a tad uninteresting. The colourful lights and sound only last a short while, before a movie detailing the regions railway history is screened for approx. 45 minutes. My husband and I found the movie interesting and informative, but our 7 and 4-year-old became fidgety at times. Rest assured the lights and sounds do come back on at the end for a cheery train song, which our kids thought was great!
Steamtown is also home to the town’s Visitor Information Centre, so be sure to give them a call or visit their website for further details and booking information.
Town Entrance Signs
These are an attraction in itself! The township of Peterborough has four main entrance points, and located at each one is a beautiful miniature steam train adorning the town’s name. Our boys were excited to check all of these out, and have a photo beside one (see main image at top of page).
‘The Burg’ at Peterborough Newsagency
Located in the multi-award-winning Peterborough Newsagency, ‘The Burg’ is definitely worth a visit. ‘The Burg’ houses a large working model railway (based on the Peterborough railway yards circa 1968), a 22-metre-long mural depicting the town’s history, numerous visual displays and a giant 7-foot teddy bear called Murdoch. Kids will enjoy spending time here! It’s free to visit and open 7 days per week, which we thought was wonderful as it allowed us to pop in a couple of times during our weekend stay, and give two excited young boys the chance to see the little trains whizz around not once, but twice. We highly recommend placing a gold coin in the donation tin when you visit.
Town Carriage Museum
The new Town Carriage Museum is a free-of-charge tourism experience that explains the history of Peterborough through wonderfully researched and presented information panels, objects and a “virtual” train ride. We enjoyed spending some time looking through here and sitting back in one of the carriage compartments for a virtual ride along the old Peterborough to Broken Hill line. The museum is located in the main street of town and is open seven days.
Bob the Railway Dog statue
A trip to Peterborough would not be complete without having your photo taken with Bob the Railway Dog. Bob was a delightful character that was loved by all the railway workers in town in the late 1800’s and spent his years riding the steam trains of South Australia. Located in front of the Town Carriage Museum, you can admire the statue of Bob and enjoy his garden. We highly recommend googling Bob or picking up one of the books written about him prior to your visit to learn about his fascinating history. Our boys particularly love the children’s book by Corrine Fenton titled Bob the Railway Dog.
Old Y Class Locomotive
On display in the centre of town is an 1880’s Y Class Steam Locomotive, which was one of the first steam trains to operate between Silverton, Peterborough and Port Pirie. Children, and the young at heart, will enjoy climbing on board for a look.
Peterborough Railway Station
Plenty of trains still thunder through Peterborough so keep an eye (or ear) out for one. We took a walk through the tunnel beneath the railway tracks in the centre of town, and once out on the station platform were lucky enough to see a freight train pass by.
Greg Duggan Nature Reserve & Lookout
A short drive out of town following Government Road will take you to Greg Duggan Nature Reserve. The reserve covers 10 hectares of land and offers a few short walking trails, a range of flora and fauna and an elevated lookout. It’s the perfect place for little legs to explore and for all to enjoy the panoramic views of Peterborough and Southern Flinders Ranges.
Skate Park and Playgrounds
Peterborough has an excellent skate park, located in the main street of town. We visited a few times during our stay with our boys enjoying a scoot and skate there. The town also boasts two playgrounds – one small, enclosed play space located in the main street next to the Town Carriage Museum, and a larger one on the outskirts of town adjacent the caravan park, called Victoria Park. Victoria Park has lots of grass to run around on, toilets, picnic facilities, shade and plenty of car parking.
Where to Eat
We dined out at the Railway Hotel for dinner one evening, and also enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea + coffee at the Duck Duck Goose café. For a full list of places to eat in town, check out the Peterborough website.
Where to Stay
We took our caravan along and camped at the Peterborough Caravan Park for the weekend. It is a basic caravan park, but we liked our stay and the rural views of the ranges in the distance were lovely. There are a few motels in town, and also a free RV camp on the outskirts for the self-contained traveller. For serious train buffs I’d recommend checking out Off the Rails accommodation, where you can sleep in restored train carriages!
For more information on things to see and do, places to stay and places to eat check out the Peterborough website here.
Things to Note:
- Make sure to grab a ‘30 things to see and do’ list from the Visitor Information Centre.
- There are no train ride experiences at Steamtown or in Peterborough. If you wish to incorporate a train ride into your getaway, we recommend heading further north to experience the Pichi Richi railway, or driving via Clare and hopping aboard one of the fabulous miniature trains that are run by the Clare Valley Model Engineers.
- It is very chilly in Peterborough in winter. Take jackets, beanies and gloves!
Peterborough is approximately 2.5 hours’ drive north of Adelaide in the states Southern Flinders Ranges region.
For more information and all enquiries please visit the Peterborough website here.
At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.
Image Source: All photos by Katrina Gogel
Want to get all the latest events and activities straight to your inbox?
Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter below to keep up to date with our latest posts and find out all the best events & activities for Adelaide families. Newsletters are only sent once a week, and you may sometimes get a special offer exclusively for our subscribers only!