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Millicent, SA

Important service centre on the Limestone Coast

Millicent is one of the major service centres on the Limestone Coast. It is important for the surrounding farms and timber industry. Since the 1940s it has been known for its pulp and paper mills. The town known for its huge swimming pool (more a lake than a pool) and its impressive Museum. Nearby is the wild and beautiful Canunda National Park which edges the Great Southern Ocean and the charming small town of Tantanoola famed for its caves and its "tiger".


Millicent is located 400 km south east of Adelaide via Murray Bridge and Kingston SE. It is 49 km north-west from Mount Gambier. 


Origin of Name

'Millicent' was named after Millicent Short, the daughter of the Right Rev. Dr Augustus Short, first Bishop of Adelaide. She was born in Northamptonshire, England in 1837 and died in 1930 in Mount Gambier.


Things to See and Do

Millicent National Trust Museum
The Millicent National Trust Museum, located at 1 Mount Gambier Road, is based around the local primary school which was built in 1873. It is regarded as one of the best rural museums in South Australia with excellent displays of local history, a Shipwreck room, historic farm machinery, an excellent range of horse drawn vehicles and some interesting local Aboriginal artefacts. It has been organised thematically with separate sections on the history of Millicent, artefacts from the Victorian era, Aboriginal rock engravings and so on. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm weekdays, weekends and public holidays from 10 am - 4 pm. Contact (08) 8733 2417 for more information. Access is via the local Visitor Information Centre. Check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/millicent-museum.

Swimming Pool
Located at 9 Park Terrace, the unique Millicent swimming pool is probably the best described as a swimming lake and is surrounded by a pleasant park with lots of shade which is ideal for a picnic. It is unusual in the way that it has an impressive artificial beach and is much larger than most town swimming pools.


Other Attractions in the Area

Tantanoola Tiger and the Tantanoola Hotel
Trying to establish the correct dates and the actual facts surrounding the Tantanoola tiger is almost impossible. No two versions are the same although there is a kind of Here are the variations on the story: 

(i) It is claimed that the first sighting of the Tantanoola tiger occurred in 1883 when a young man riding near Tantanoola claimed he saw a large shaggy animal leap over a fence with a sheep in its jaws. 

(ii) A second version claims that “In 1884 near Tantanoola a Bengal tiger supposedly escaped from a travelling circus. A search was mounted, but the tiger was never found."

(iii) Over the next few years, there were many reports of missing sheep in the area and some suggested that the sheep had become the prey of the missing tiger. There was an on-going level of hysteria. Children were escorted to school by men with guns. People refused to leave their homes at night. Loaded shotguns were carried by virtually everyone. 

(iv) Eventually a local bushman, Tom Donovan, assisted by three other men, managed to shoot a large wild dog in 1895. There is some hard evidence for this version of the story because on 24 August, 1895 the Adelaide Observer reported:

Mount Gambier, August 21
The general subject of conversation in the town tonight is the shooting of an animal which is supposed to be the famed Tantanoola ‘tiger’. Mr Thomas Donovan came from Mount Salt this afternoon with the carcass of what is pronounced to be a large common European wolf, which he claims is really the Tantanoola ‘tiger’. He says that, accompanied by Mr. William Taylor, he left Nelson, on the Glenelg River, yesterday, and in the evening called at Mount Salt on Mount Schanck Station and obtained leave from Mr Watson, the Manager, to camp and search for the animal.
At Mr Watson’s direction they went to a range four miles west of Mount Salt, where the beast was recently seen. Before sunrise this morning, while on the lookout, he saw a lot of sheep showing signs of having been disturbed some 300 years away, and he then observed this animal worrying one. Creeping stealthily up they got within about 100 yards of it, and Mr Donovan with his rifle fired as it sat on its haunches looking at the sheep. It ran 300 yards before falling dead. They then took the carcass to Mr James Marks, of Mount Gambier, the local taxidermist, to stuff with a view to exhibiting it.
Mr Marks and some other good judges declare that it is a pure European wolf. Others, however, are inclined to doubt as to its species. Its height is about 2 ½ feet, its length from note to root of its tail 3ft 9in., tail 15 in., head 13 in. from tip of ear to ear, and its nose pointed. It also has a thick shaggy neck and brushy tail of wolf colour, dark brown along the back, gradually lightening to bright fawn. Belly, neck, and legs are smooth. Its paw would make a large track of the character of a dog.
Whether it is the supposed ‘tiger’ or not cannot be said, and how a wolf could have got into the country is a great puzzle to everyone.”
This is recorded by the State Library of South Australia on the SA Memory website. Check it out at http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=276&c=786. 
The stuffed animal was subsequently given to the Tantanoola Hotel which declared that it was the Tantanoola tiger. Amusingly, after the ‘tiger’ had been shot and stuffed sheep kept disappearing.
A policeman from Adelaide went to the area to investigate and in 1911 Robert Edmondson and David Bald were arrested for stealing and killing sheep. Was the mystery finally solved? Not a tiger/wolf/dog but some canny men. 
In the end the enterprising Tom Donovan, ignoring all the contrary interpretations, had the animal stuffed and kept it in a private museum in Nelson. In 1905 it was placed in a glass case and put on display in the Railway Hotel which had its name changed to the Tantanoola Tiger Hotel.

Tantanoola Cave
Tantanoola Cave, located 20 km south-east of Millicent via the Princes Highway, is a single cave which has been formed in an ancient coastal cliff. It is notable for its excellent columns, shawls and helictites and for the unusual fact that it is a dolomite, rather than a limestone, cave. This produces formations coloured brown, cream and peach and, most famously, a formation dubbed the "Chocolate Fountain". The cave was first discovered by 16-year-old Boyce Lane in 1930 and since then has been a popular local attraction. It was taken over by National Parks South Australia in 1983. The upgraded the facilities adding handrails, improving the lighting and providing wheelchair access. The downloaded brochure explains: "Tantanoola Caves is one of Australia's few wheelchair accessible caves. Upon arrival, enjoy a special hosted experience as a knowledgeable guide introduces you to the history and geology of the caves and explains how its spectacular array of formations has developed over thousands of years. You are then free to explore the large cavern at your leisure and take photographs." 
For opening times and cave tours tel: (08) 8734 4153. There is a comprehensive and detailed PDF on the park and the cave which can be downloaded at https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/find-a-park/Browse_by_region/Limestone_Coast/tantanoola-caves-conservation-park#about.

Canunda National Park
Located on the coast 18 km north-west of Millicent and stretching for 40 km from Carpenters Rocks to Southend. It covers an area of 9359 hectares and is a coastal park characterised by huge sand dunes which are covered by silky tea trees and coastal wattle. There are a number of access points. Two wheel drive can enter from Southend but most access, and certainly those attempting the sand dunes and beaches, require 4WD. The main reasons for visiting the park are the excellent beach and bushwalking; the rich birdlife and the ability to surf or snorkel although the coast is known to be dangerous.
The website notes that: "The northern section of the park is characterised by limestone cliffs, sea stacks, offshore reefs and low dense scrub, whereas the southern section is dominated by mobile sand dunes and stretches of beach which are backed by low foredunes. Evidence of the Boandik Peoples, who regularly camped along the coast, can be seen throughout the park."
At the Southend end of the park is Cullens Bay Blowhole and Boozy Gully Lookout both of which are excellent if the weather conditions are right. Be warned: the beaches in the Park are dangerous.
This is an important sanctuary where the endangered orange-bellied parrot, the rufous bristlebird and the olive whistler can be seen although it is more likely that you will see western grey kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, seals and white-breasted sea eagles. 
The South Australian government lists five places in the park as "treasures" worth exploring (check out https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/goodliving/posts/2016/12/5-treasures-canunda?BestBetMatch=canunda|a8c5e60a-b22c-4c51-b1aa-ab05fb1c393b|6105a875-84be-4301-9dbe-65020844864a):
1. Khyber Pass - a series of sand dunes covered in sandstone, sedimentary rock and calcified roots,
2. Seaview Hike - a 12 km cliff top and dune walk
3. Canunda Marine Park Sanctuary Zone -  - 25 square kilometres of reef platforms, bull kelp, sandy beaches and limestone cliffs
4.Coola Outstation Historical Hike - an 8.5 km loop past the Coola Outstation of the Benara run.
5. Number 2 Rocks - lagoon only accessible by 4WD.
Check out https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/find-a-park/Browse_by_region/Limestone_Coast/canunda-national-park for additional information. It also has a detailed, downloadable PDF for the park.

Wyrie Swamp
Located 7 km south of Millicent via Wyrie Road, the Wyrie Swamp, which is now on private agricultural land, is an important archaeological site. About 10,000 years ago local Aborigines visited the shores of the swamp. A peat bog which has yielded a number of important early Aboriginal artefacts. The wooden boomerangs found in the swamp are some of the oldest ever discovered in Australia. The Australia: The Land Where Time Began website (https://austhrutime.com/wyrie_swamp.htm) notes: "Among the tools were 3 complete boomerangs made from the drooping she oak (Casuarina stricta) and a 4th incomplete boomerang made from the root of  the drooping she oak. Later finds have increased the  number of wooden tools to 25, of which 9 were boomerangs. There were also a digging stick, a stake about 40 cm long, that was probably also a digging stick, a short simple spear and 2 barbed spears. These are the oldest known barbed spears in the world."

Lake Bonney SE
Located 10 km south of Millicent via Lossie Road, Lake Bonney covers an area of 5,056 square kilometres, is 23 km long, and is one of the largest freshwater lakes in South Australia. The South Australian Environmental Protection Authority has published a detailed history of the lake Lake Bonney South East, South Australia: Past, Present and Possible Future which looks at the history of the degradation of the lake (it was badly polluted by the paper manufacturing plants in the area) and the plans to revitalise it. It can be downloaded at https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/477358_lake_bonney.pdf. It notes of the decline of the lake: "Colonists saw the enormous agricultural potential of the area and quickly squatted there. But too much water on the land during wet winters limited cropping and people’s movements. Proposals to drain much of the region soon followed. Large drain excavations began in the Lake Frome area in 1863, and the formation of the Muirhead Drainage Board in 1867 led to the start of the Milne’s Gap, English’s Gap and German Creek excavations. These large drains carried freshwater runoff into Lake Bonney SE. Drain excavations continued into the mid 20th century, eventually draining 125,000 acres. In 1915, the 1.3 km Lake Bonney outlet to the sea was completed as a national drain to reduce the effects of severe flooding in the local area. Wetland drainage and the use of superphosphate and trace minerals to treat nutrient deficient soils allowed and promoted intensive agriculture in the region. However, although wetland drainage and agriculture must have had an impact on Lake Bonney SE, it continued to be used as a recreational waterway until around the late 1950s." During times of drought the lake is closed.

Lake Bonney Wind Farm
Located 21 km south of Millicent, just off the Canunda Frontage Road, the Lake Bonney Wind farm was the first major wind farm built in South Australia. The turbines are huge measuring up to 80 metres high with a rotor diameter of 90 metres. 
The Infigen Energy website explains (with considerable pride): "The wind farm was constructed in three separate stages:
Stage 1 (80.5 MW) – began commercial operation in March 2005
Stage 2 (159 MW) – began commercial operation in September 2008
Stage 3 (39 MW) – began commercial operation in July 2010
The combined capacity of the wind farm, 278.5 MW, means that the wind farms generate power for approximately 110,000 homes a year. It has 112 turbines and covers more than 22 square kilometres – with the turbines themselves only occupying less than 1 hectare of land.
The wind farm is located on the Limestone Coast, one of Australia’s most prominent wind farming regions. The coastal area benefits from consistently strong winds coming off the Southern Ocean – ideal conditions for wind energy generation.
Infigen Energy has spent about $700 million on the three stages of the project, with roughly half of that investment going into Australian goods and services.
The project includes towers fabricated by Keppel Prince at Portland, transformers from Wilson Transformers and cabling from Nexans Olex manufactured in Australia, as well as design work and civil, mechanical and electrical works at the site and at the substation.
Infigen Energy employed about 200 people over the six years of construction to build the three stages of the project. In addition we (and Vestas) currently employ 20 people directly at the site, as well as 25 local contractors and part-time workers.
We also contribute approximately $750,000 per annum to the local economy through rental payments to the 24 local families who host our wind turbines on their properties." It is possible to inspect the site - particularly in groups. Tel: (02) 8031 9900 or check out https://www.infigenenergy.com/lake-bonney.

The Naming of Millicent
'Millicent' was named after Millicent Short the daughter of the first Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide. When she died in 1930 the Adelaide Advertiser's obituary offered a fascinating insight into her life and how she came to be honoured by the town. 'The death occurred in Mount Gambier on Sunday,' it reported, 'of Mrs Millicent Glen. Mrs Glen was ninety-four years of age, was the eldest child of the Right Rev. Dr Augustus Short, first Bishop of Adelaide, and was born at the vicarage, Ravensthorpe, Northamptonshire, England on 29 September 1837. With her parents she arrived at Adelaide in December 1847. The Bishop chartered the Derwent, of 362 tons, to bring his family and several clergymen to Australia, the journey occupying 117 days.
'Mrs Glen had vivid recollections of the appearance of Adelaide at that time. She remembered seeing stumps of trees in Rundle Street, and had seen bullock waggons bogged there. Miss Millicent Short (Sir James Fergusson named the town of Millicent after her) married Mr George Glen, of Mayurra Station, at Trinity Church, when Bishopscourt, North Adelaide, was just being completed. Mr and Mrs Glen came back to Robe in the vessel Ant, and drove to Mayurra, a distance of sixty miles. With the exception of her two maids, Mrs Glen was the only white woman in that part of the country. She took great interest in the tribes of blacks who lived near the station.
'Mayurra Station at that time was an immense run, extending from Tantanoola to Rendelsham and occupying the whole of the land upon which the township of Millicent is now built.'



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Bungandidj and Boandik Aborigines lived in the area. 

* The first European into the district was Charles Bonney who, in 1839, overlanded cattle through the area.

* In 1845 Samuel Davenport established the Mayurra sheep run.

* In 1863 a major swamp clearing project began and the previously useless land was turned into rich wheat and barley crops by the creation of an elaborate and deep drainage system. The key development occurred when a drain was blasted which allowed the swamp to drain into Lake Frome. It is said that there are 1450 km of drains and 500 bridges in the area.

* A town was surveyed in 1870 and built on land previously owned by Mayurra Station. 

* In 1872 the first hotel, the Somerset Hotel, was constructed. 

* By 1873 the local primary school had opened. 

* In 1876 a barque, the Geltwood, was wrecked on the coast nearby. The next morning saw the beach littered with bodies and cargo from the ship. 

* The railway arrived in 1879.

* In 1915 the 1.3 km Lake Bonney outlet to the sea was completed.

* In 1942 the first pulp and paper mill began at Snuggery.

* In 2014 discharge from the paper and pulp mills into Lake Bonney stopped. 

* Today Millicent is a rural service centre with timber and milling as well as agriculture and fishing industries. It has a paper and pulp mill and is also a popular tourist destination.


Visitor Information

Millicent Visitor Information Centre & Living History Museum, 1 Mount Gambier Road, tel: (08) 8733 0904.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out https://www.wattlerange.sa.gov.au/tourism/millicent.

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  • My name is Henry Bogman, born in Holland 1935 and migrated in 1960 with my wife (cook in the former drive in theater in Millicent) and 4 daughter girls to Australia and lived in Millicent til 1963 and worked at the South Eastern Times, a.o. Printing The South Eastern Times. We have 7 children and sadly enough my dear wife Beatriz passed away. I love to read about all the interesting points you mention and right now, 18 dec. 2022 my daughter Henrietta Millicent is visiting Millicent, here birthplace, were she was born in the former Thyne Memorial Hospital in 1963. Our only son Frans lives in Glenelg. Due to ill health we returned to Holland in 1965. I suffered severe from home sickness to Australia and till now I visited Australia and Millicent twice. I wanted you to know about this and consider myself as a promotor of Australia, specially Millicent!!