Mount Pleasant is a pretty little town at the junction of three of the most beautiful regions of South Australia. It’s just 55 kilometres from Adelaide and sits at the northern end of the Adelaide Hills. It’s considered to be a gateway to the southern Barossa Valley and is also just a short trip over the hill from the wide expanses of the Murraylands region. Let’s delve into some of the history of Mount Pleasant, what it looks like today, and the best things to see and do in and around the town.
Why am I qualified to tell you all about Mount Pleasant? Because I’ve lived in Adelaide and roamed the hills and Barossa most of my life. From fishing trips chasing trout along the Torrens or transiting to the Murray River, to day trips with the family, to researching the history and recording the state of the old railways in the region. I’ve visited Mount Pleasant more times than I can remember. It’s taken years of visits, many hours spent wandering, and reams of research to get to this point. I hope you enjoy reading.
History of the town and region
The hills around Mount Pleasant are filled with wide scenic vistas that change colours with the seasons and in spring are laced with vibrant swathes of flowers – all set among the towering trees of what they call Big Gum Country. Farming-wise, the land is mostly used for sheep grazing, dairying, and cropping. The township itself straddles the very upper reaches of the Torrens River as it begins its winding path through the hills and down to the centre of Adelaide and on to Gulf St Vincent.
The original inhabitants of the region are the Peramangk Aboriginal people and the first European settlers arrived with flocks of sheep in the late 1830s. The township that exists today was originally three little ‘towns’ that merged into one over time. Mount Pleasant township was surveyed by Henry Glover in 1856. This was followed with Totness (now the main part of town) in 1858, and Hendryton in 1865. As of 2001, Mt Pleasant had a population of 529 people.
The name Mount Pleasant is thought to be taken from the name used by James Phillis, an early settler in the region who literally rode his horse from Adelaide to settle there and plant a wheat crop. It’s thought that the name Mount Pleasant may come from his recollections of his homeland near Kent, in England – it’s also thought that the name was inspired by his sister, Pleasant… or it was inspired by a Mrs Pleasant – there are a few stories. What IS known that there was a nearby peak named Mount Pleasant in the 1840s.
There’s lots of heritage buildings for architecture fans – like the old police station, bank, and many other bungalows and cottages. Wander along Melrose Street to soak up the historic atmosphere of a prosperous old country town. It’s a classic town main street lined with plane trees that burst into life with their welcome greenery through the summer. There’s plenty more to see and do than just wandering the pretty streets around Mount Pleasant so read on to plan your next visit no matter if you’re just passing through or wanting to stay a while.
Things to see and do (and eat and drink)
Mount Pleasant was the terminus of the Mount Pleasant railway line which branched from the Adelaide to Murray Bridge and made its way north through the hills. The line operated from 1918 to 1963 and nowadays nothing remains at the site of the old station in Talunga Park. But if you wander around and look carefully you’ll find a commemorative plaque at the old station site and maybe a few mounds where cranes or loading ramps once stood.
Talunga Park is now a collection of showground facilities, ovals, and playgrounds. It’s a popular place for equestrian events and the Mount Pleasant Country Show is held there every year. There’s a long-running and popular farmers market held every Saturday at the showgrounds – fresh and local is always best.
One of the big sheds at Talunga Park hosts murals depicting the kind of country scenes that occurred nearby, providing a colourful backdrop and historical context to the area. It’s worth a wander around the park to soak up the historic ambience of the area.
Mount Pleasant Caravan Park is near the front of the showgrounds – stop by with your RV or caravan and stay a while. It’s got excellent facilities and is close to everything to see and do.
Star Books is another of those country town surprises. It’s chock full of books and memorabilia with a focus on movie and celebrity books. You’ll definitely find something that you’ll connect with and you’ll want to take home. It’s the same deal at The Bohemian Garden next door with their flowers and country chic homewares.
If you’re up that way from Monday to Saturday, do yourself a favour and get into the Mount Pleasant Butcher. Who doesn’t love a country artisan food producer? Especially when they’re not even trying to be artisan in the trendy sense of the word. Everything in there is country made and worth stocking up on to take home.
The Mount Pleasant Hotel Motel (formerly known as the Talunga Inn) is at the time of writing is the only pub in Mount Pleasant. The current building was built in 1859 to replace the Mount Pleasant Inn which burned down earlier that same year. Now this 160 year old pub is an authentic place to enjoy country pub grub, cold drinks, and country hospitality.
Mount Pleasant Bakery has been around for ages and is always worth a stop. They make a great range of hearty and delicious meals and the range of pies at this bakery is one of the best in South Australia. Surf and turf pie anyone?
Fancy a tipple? Check out Robber’s Dog Distillery. There’s a long and interesting story behind the old bank building and the name. You’ll be sure to hear it if you step inside for a tasting.
Behind the CWA Soldiers Memorial Garden and playground, the Rex Amber walk crosses the Torrens River on a small bridge. It takes you to the former Talunga Park with an old school playground and various sporting and community facilities.
For full on history buffs, the history room in the Soldiers Memorial Hall is open every Thursday from 1pm to 4pm. Step back in time and explore the rich history of the area.
Looking for something with a bit of a hippie vibe? Recreate is quirky shop with a focus on upcycling and sustainable community with a beaut little nursery. It’s heady with alternative vibes not often found in South Australia. Have a wander through and grab a bargain to join the race to save the planet – one recycled knick-knack or plant at a time.
The grand old building of the former Totness Inn is just a bit further up the street. Sadly, it’s now closed. Established as a hotel in 1918, this grand old building was a popular holiday destination in its heyday. It was up for sale at the time of writing and hopefully it returns as a pub and a road trip destination in the future.
Lovells Bakery is the new bakery in town and is situated in the old Totness Roller Flour Mill which burned down in 1923. The collection of old stone and wood buildings has been carefully restored. It’s a great place to enjoy a cuppa and a donut before a walk along Melrose Street. This bakery is a somewhat recent addition to the town but it’s very popular nonetheless.
The Pound Picnic Area is on the corner of Glen Devon Road and Melrose Street at the eastern end of town. In the early years of settlement, pounds were constructed by councils to control animals found straying too far from anywhere they were supposed to be. It closed in 1945 after feed for the animals ran out after a long drought. What you see in this location today is a re-creation of the original pound with some informative signs and places to sit and relax. Hang around for a while and you might even spot a wild kangaroo grazing nearby.
Just out of town and short drive up Glen Devon Road is the Mount Pleasant Summit Walk. If you’re up for an easy hike with country views then check it out.
Take a longer walk (or a short drive) out of town towards Springton past the old church and graveyards to check out Kent Farm. Kent Farm is a heritage listed building built around 1843 by one of the districts original settlers, Henry Bushell.
You have two choices of road to take from the north-eastern side of town and both are just as agreeably scenic. The drive east out of Mount Pleasant toward either Eden Valley or Walker Flat is through beautiful country with signs of a long and sometime arduous history. These days it’s a serene scene of grassy rolling fields cut by long stone walls and barely dotted by tall gum trees.
Head up to Springton the see the locally famous Herbig Family Tree. Friedrich Herbig, a young and desperately poor migrant, and his new wife lived in the trunk of this huge 300 – 500 year old tree for four years before finally being able to build themselves a wooden house. Springton is situated in the lesser known wine region of Eden valley and is home to some excellent cellar doors.
Not far from Mount Pleasant towards Walker Flat – you can see the old shearing shed and quarters at Rosebank from the roadside. It’s one of those iconic big old stone and tin sheds with a long working history. It’s still a working farm so you can’t get closer but the owners may one day open it to the public.
Mount Pleasant is a pleasant place for a road trip destination or even a weekend away. There’s lots to see and do – so next time you’re nearby, why don’t you stop and explore this cute little town a little bit more?