Before white explorers came to what is now known as the Cooper Basin, the traditional owners of the Innamincka area, the Yandruwandha people lived with other neighbouring tribes speaking dialects of the same language for more than 40,000 years. The name Innamincka comes from the Yandruwandha words ‘Yini’ and ‘mingka’ meaning ‘your waterhole’.
In 1845, explorer Charles Sturt was the first white man to visit the Cooper Creek and passed through the Innamincka area. Augustus Gregory followed in 1858 searching for fellow explorer Ludwig Leichhardt.
Burke and Wills: An Ill-Fated Expedition
The area’s most famous link with Australian pioneering history is with the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition.
After setting off from Melbourne in August 1860, Burke and Wills reached the Cooper in November and set up camp on the banks of the creek north of Innamincka. After reaching the top end and returning in April 1861, both Burke and Wills perished along the Cooper Creek a few months later.
Soon after, white settlement in the area saw the establishment of the Innamincka Station in 1872. Ten years later, a police outpost was set up followed by a general store two years later and the pub a year after that.
The town was actually proclaimed as ‘Hopetoun’ in 1890 after the Governor of Victoria. However, it was officially changed to Innamincka in 1892 after intense opposition to the proclaimed name.
The town continued to flourish and at one time included a blacksmith, school, hotel, police station, saddler and a few small houses. Until Federation in 1901, Innamincka prospered as a customs depot where state taxes were collected from increasing numbers of drovers who moved cattle from Queensland into South Australia and down the Strzelecki.
An Inland Mission Hospital/Nursing Home and Flying Doctor Base was established in 1929, but eventually, all facilities closed, and the town was abandoned in 1952.
Abundant Natural Resources
It wasn’t until the discovery of gas and oil by Santos in the 1960s and a sharp increase in 4WD adventurers trying their luck on the Strzelecki Track that prompted the revival of the town.
In the early 1970s a trading post and a new hotel along with accommodation provided a welcome respite for visitors to the area.
Today, Innamincka is still a tiny outpost of a town with around 12 permanent residents, but also services visitors with:
- Unsealed airstrip
- Trading Post/General Store
- Homestay Accommodation
- Coin-operated Hot Showers for Campers
- Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) Regional Headquarters
- AIM Museum and Visitor Interpretive Centre
The Innamincka Hotel is, of course, the focal point of the town and is well established as an iconic outback watering hole worthy of any bucket list.